24 November 2001 | dbdumonteil
Riffraff Beau Geste.
"La bandera" is one of Julien Duvivier's most famous movies,but it seems a bit dated now.People who saw a version of "Beau Geste" cannot help but be struck by the similarities between the two stories:the "legion etrangere" ,as a way out when the police is hot on your heels.But whereas Beau Geste characters are noble,distinguished and chivalrous,Duvivier's hero and his mates are riffraff .The main character,played by Gabin ,is a good guy who committed an unpremeditated murder.
The best part of the movie ,in my opinion,is the description of the fort,the barrack-rooms,the brothel .Here,the hero falls in love with a morrocan girl.There's the rub:she's played by Annabella (who was Tyrone Power's wife) who does not look like a North African,not at all,hence the necessity to make her up outrageously ,with ugly results.
Like in "Beau Geste",the Arabs are the baddies,period.The courageous legionnaires always call them "les salopards" (the bastards).Duvivier achieves a real tour de force here:we never see the enemy when they attack the little fort!The poisoned water is a good dramatic idea and the final echoes Edith Piaf's song "le fanion de la légion".
However,"la bandera",with its military stereotypes, does not equal Duvivier's other pre-war works "la fin du jour" ,"carnet de bal" , "la belle équipe" or "pépé le moko" ,the latter taking place in North Africa too.