4 August 2003 | dbdumonteil
Another Duvivier triumph!
Spoilers Just back from the USA,Duvivier was beginning the second part of his French career.His post- war work was relegated to purgatory for a long time,because of the snobbery of the nouvelle vague die hards .That this powerful movie has already several positive reviews is proof positive that there is ,at times,justice in the universe."Panique" means more to me than ten "à bout de soufflé".
"Panique" is one of the best Simenon adaptations for the screen.But when Duvivier tackles a book ,he makes it his very own.Elements of his past and future work emerge:the fortune-teller and the predictions were already here in his American gem "flesh and fantasy"(1943)Viviane Romance's double-dealing(playing a double game) character resembles Danielle Delorme's Catherine in "voici le temps des assassins" (1956).
A girl (Romance ,who portrayed a bitch in "la belle équipe" (1936)) is released from jail and she meets up her lover who has just committed a murder:he killed a woman to steal her money.But a strange man ,a Jew,saw the whole scene and he's got an evidence .This witness is masterfully portrayed by Michel Simon (who was part of the cast of "la fin du jour" ) one of the giants of the French cinéma.
M.Hire ,the Jew, has always been a solitary man .He's never had a friend,either at school or in the army;he's been an outcast for all his life. Simon gives a subdued ,restrained performance ,as powerful as when he portrays colorful characters.The satanic lovers have found the ideal scapegoat ,and the whole town will have its culprit.
Duvivier's directing is awesome :the lovers , talking about their future near a church where the congregations is singing heavenly canticles is pure film noir genius;Simon pursued by a madding crowd is filmed with stunning mastery;it compares favorably to Fritz Lang's "fury"."Panique" indeed !And the dialogue follows suit (the center of the action revolves around a fair )"I can stop the music",the fairground man says, "now the show is in the street".nothing will stop the crowds who want to take the law in their own hands.
Duvivier knows how to grab his audience and he will not leave you till the final scene where a final clue packs a real wallop.
Let this movie be an introduction to the other Duvivier films noirs of the forties and the fifties :"sous le ciel de Paris" "l'affaire Maurizius" and the incredible "voici le temps des assassins".
Ingmar Bergman was rapturous about it.
Remake in 1988 by Patrice Leconte,in which Michel Blanc and Sandrine Bonnaire take on Michel Simon 's and Vivianne Romance's parts.