20 July 2012 | dbdumonteil
The silent/talkie war was already lost.....
.....when Duvivier released his final silent work,which came just before "David Golder" in which ,with the notable exception of "Poil De Carotte",the true Duvivier ,the poet of the dark soul of man,began to appear;unlike Jules Renard's work,the director did not bother to remake "Maman Colibri" later ,but Jean Dreville did ,in 1937,and many tears were shed then.
The story switches abruptly from the bourgeois life in Paris to the desert and his "Beaux Légionnaires and I wonder if there might be a sequence or two missing;this is a very moral story :a woman leaves her home and follows a handsome officer in Algeria ;Duvivier's nasty side appears now and then in the few subtitles (very few)when the superior says to the dashing legionnaire "behave yourself! a mistress is not a person to be proud of" or the younger girl and her egregious gaffe "why didn't you bring your mama with you?She's charming!"
The problem of this melodrama is that of a woman who wants to be still young "you shouldn't dress like that" says the husband as she gets ready for the ball.Flirting like an ingénue in the scene of the reception,she 'll turn into a grandma in the end.
Duvivier's command of image reveals consummate artistry:for instance he shows the socialite dancing withe her young boy ,as a busker in the street plays the barrel organ;the ball is filmed with a great virtuosity ,and Duvivier takes advantage of his numerous extras;the desert scenes show a sense of space which would emerge again as Duvivier made his way through the thirties ("LEs 5 gentlemen Maudits" "la Bandera")
Impact is lacking :Duvivier had always needed a compact screenplay and his story weakens in the splendid settings by Christian -Jaque (himself a director from 1932 on )
In short,this is technically impeccable,with a god use of music;but it was not a strong story in the first place,and Duvivier ,in spite of the leading actress who really tries her best ,was not able to liven his sinner's life up.But the main problem was that the talkies had happened and "Maman Colibri" was already a thing from the past when it was released.