4 August 2018 | boblipton
Raymond Bernard Flies Annabella in a Saint-Expury Script
Raymond Bernard may not be one of the great names of French cinema today, but he was considered at the front rank of directors in the 1930s when it came to high-brow commercial films, and this one was calculated and executed for that. With a script by Antoine de Saint-Expury and the titular character played by Annabella in her last role before she crossed the Atlantic to conquer, if not Hollywood, then at least Tyrone Power Jr., it was made to please the people who handed out awards, and did so, being nominated at the Venice Film Festival Award that year for Best Foreign Film.
Annabella learns how to fly, taught by five vteran fliers, but is loved by another man, who invents things, and plays the piano and raises roses. The problem I have with the script -- although it was au courant when Saint-Expury was writing it -- is these are not human beings. Instead, they are each granted nicknames which describes their principal attribute: the Thinker; the Inventor; the Detective; the Peasant; and so forth. Saint-Expury was never interested in the details of humanity. He was more entranced by big ideas ad mechanisms.... I suspect a mild case of objectophilia. Certainly, when I was studying French and forced to read him, I found his attitudes curious, but then I felt the same way about Jean-Paul Sartre.
In the same way I find Saint-Expury's indifference to human individuality unappealing, I find this movie unengaging. Yes, the issues it explores are Important. However, even a pilot cannot live with his head always in the clouds, but must come down to the earth occasionally, This movie makes that point --- but only after a hundred minutes. I suppose in 1936 that made it a big, important movie. today, to me, it just seems long.