19 April 2019 | dbdumonteil
To think that many Gerard Philipe fans do not even know that this movie exists.Oddly ,and although he plays the main character ,his name does not appear at the top of the credits ,because he was relatively unknown in the world of cinema whereas he was already famous on stage.
In the French cinema,there was a time when a solid screenplay ,wonderful actors and painstaking directing were all that counts;but in the late fifties or early sixties ,I do not remember exactly well ,a wicked fairy came and said :
-Listen to my spell, you lousy old directors,prick your finger and sleep for a hundred years!
Thus ,many of the great movies of the forties and fifties became sleepers ,waiting for their prince charming ....or for some imdb reviewer such as Writer's Reign to wake them.
Pierre Very's screenplay is absolutely stunning : in this forsaken work ,there are two stories ,cunningly told in parallel ,which become one in the last fifteen minutes ; some curious warnings, an impending curse ,the hero seeing things ,bizarre names (the village of Tournepique ):it was meant to be.Georges Lacombe,who had already displayed flair for film noir ("LE DERNIER DES SIX " 1939),excels himself here : it might well be the best French fantasy film of the forties (along with Tourneur's "LA MAIN DU DIABLE "); he creates an eerie atmosphere in everyday life : the local train ,the cemetery , the old diary , the deja vu feeling of the hero who might have lived another life ...
The acting is first-class:Gerard Philipe is par excellence the romantic actor ,the man with the child in his eyes;his routine life in a notary's office does not satisfy him,even though he has good propects :he longs for something else and his premonitory dreams and his visions ,although they scare him ,fascinate him .
The girl he meets (Jany Holt ) may be the great love he is waiting for;but the first scene is revealing : they meet on the village square and they do not notice each other ; this girl was once the village teacher but she eloped with a shady painter ;she returns home to be confronted with a shrew of a mother (the always reliable Sylvie)and a deaf grandma ;the viewer sides with her , and expects that the young dreamer will fall in love with her and save her from the
old greybeard her shameless mom wants her to marry.But it's not as simple as that...Holt gives an ambiguous performance,and she is attracted by....
.... another character , the hero's friend , played by Pierre Brasseur at his most cynical;in spite of his nastiness ,he brings a lot of humor in a dramatic story :see him using his hands to express himself when his friend tells him he will refund the money he stole from a wealthy man ;hear him tell the story of the doomed lovers a long long time ago ,how he laughs at pure romantic love :a real tour de force!
A riveting story which will keep glued to your seat till the very last picture ; it is essential viewing for people interested in the old French cinema, the extraordinary cinéma de papa!Break the spell!