29 December 2008 | dbdumonteil
I'd like to be under the sea....
...not in an octopus's garden ,but in a huge cave beneath the waves.
Henri Calef was an underrated director:after "Jericho" and "Les Chouans" ,he achieved a hat trick with "La Maison Sous La Mer".All of these movies deserve to be watched by people interested in the oldies of the French cinema ,provided that they are not New Wave die-hards of course.
Based on a Paul Vialar novel,the movie depicts the iron miners' tough life (they do not even have showers ).The first ten minutes is almost documentary:silent scenes show the miners at work,then they return home or to the café where they talk solidarity (" we've got to help our fellow man's widow,the bosses want to throw her out of her house "),women or trade unionism.
Flore has married Lucien ,a minor.He is a pretty good man,a bit indolent mainly in bed.The ticking of an alarm clock comes back several times,insistent ,and Flore feels that time is passing her by.She's a good housewife :Ginette Leclerc had begun to be sick and tired of her parts of bitches and she had already played a cast against type role in "Nuit Sans Fin" (1946).In "La Maison Sous La Mer" she used a sweet wistful voice,and her eyes were longing to find true romantic love .When Constant ,a newcomer to the village,takes her beneath the sea ,to a cave he calls "his house",it's love at first sight.Flore is not a bad woman,she does not want to hurt her husband ,but she can't help it.Lucien and Constant become friends too,and there is a wonderful scene when they talk about the woman of their dreams without knowing they have the same person in mind.
Claude Renoir's black and white cinematography is also an asset.The cable-cars ,under an ominous sky and over a sea so dark we hardly see it ,are filmed in a way that gives goose-flesh (one thinks of Jacques Tourneur's scenes on the derricks in "nightfall" (1956)).The final scene when the horizon seems to go up in smoke is one of these Renoir's tours De force.
Yes Henri Calef is definitely a director whose works should be rediscovered.