17 November 2013 | zetes
Michel Simon is the reason to watch
Good, not great Clair, in my opinion. It's his take off of the Faust legend. I'm afraid I'm not familiar enough with the story (and sadly cannot even recall most of the plot of Murnau's Faust to compare it), so I don't know how it changes anything. Michel Simon stars as Professor Faust, an ancient man trying to perfect alchemy. Mephistopholes (played at first by Gerard Philipe) exchanges forms with Simon, allowing Faust to become a young man again. The plot felt a little murky to me, but eventually Faust agrees to stay in the form of Philipe. With the help of Mephistopholes, he figures out how to turn sand into gold and becomes rich and famous. It all comes at a price, though, and Mephistopholes is a tricky demon. The main reason to watch this is Simon. My God, this is one of his best roles ever. He seems so decrepit at the beginning - he was 55 at the time, but you'd swear he was 90 - and then, when Mephistopholes takes his form, he becomes this spry creature. It's truly an amazing performance. Philipe (the star of Fanfan La Tulipe) is quite good, as well. Nicole Besnard isn't much of an actress, but she's very adorable as the young gypsy girl Faust falls for. I thought the twist at the end of the story was quite stupid and too easy (again, it could be straight from the original story, but I don't know).