- 1h 40min
A ballet producer returns to his native town and schemes to avenge himself on the family who tried to murder him 20 years before.A ballet producer returns to his native town and schemes to avenge himself on the family who tried to murder him 20 years before.A ballet producer returns to his native town and schemes to avenge himself on the family who tried to murder him 20 years before.
Some have suggested that it is too clever for its own good but that is a moot point.
It is a beautifully crafted piece of cinema and the last thirty minutes or so represents film at its best. Arthur Honegger's haunting score and the atmospheric cinematography of Louis Page add to the films effectiveness.
It is essentially a tale of retribution in which ballet producer Sauvage, played by Louis Jouvet, returns to Lyons in order to exact revenge on those who tried to kill him twenty years ago. His targets are rapacious businessman Jerome Nisard and his wife Genevieve. He dupes Genevieve who left him for Jerome and is trapped in an arid, loveless marriage, into believing that he still loves her. Jerome happens to be in hot water financially and is trying to arrange for his idealistic son Francois to marry the daughter of wealthy, influential parents. Sauvage sabotages this scheme by engineering a meeting between Francois and his prima ballerina, the tantalising Ludmilla Tcherina, knowing that she will probably hang him out to dry which she proceeds to do.
Good writing makes good actors even better and the cast has the advantage of brilliant, trenchant dialogue by Henri Jeanson. Jouvet is an actor touched by genius and along with his trademark air of mystery he subtly shows us the pain that motivates his actions. Francois Périer in his breakthrough role as the young Nisard captures brilliantly the emotional torment of one who loves not wisely but too well. The most touching scene is that in which the Genevieve of splendid actress Gaby Morlay is left standing on the platform watching Sauvage's train pull away knowing that with it goes her last chance of escaping her dreary existence. Jean Brochard is immaculate as Jerome and as Gonin his business colleague, Louis Seigner is always good value. One cannot fail to mention doyenne Marguerite Moreno, as imperious as ever as Francois' wily old aunt.
True cinephiles will always appreciate this film's qualities but one is mystified by its general neglect. Perhaps it is just too cynical and bleak in its portrayal of human nature. Interestingly enough it also questions whether revenge, although a natural instinct, is ever really justified or indeed gives satisfaction. As Robert Louis Stevenson observed: "Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences."
- Jan 1, 2021