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  • This film is highly recommended for those people who have an appreciation of an elusive quality called charm. Charm is in short supply in today's cinema be it French, American or other. Charm is difficult to define, but you know it when you see it. The daydreams of a young composer may seem like a frivolous topic, but an actor of the caliber of Gérard Philipe make it all seem so worthwhile. The essence of the story, for me anyway, is the collision between dream and reality - our hero is constantly reminded of how ordinary life is, how unsatisfying compared to his luscious fantasies. He is constantly brought crashing down to earth. But these scenes are precisely the funniest ones. I recall especially the scene in the classroom where the kids mock him to death - how humiliating, but still it's hilarious.

    Gérard Philipe said that the director René Clair left nothing to chance. Every tiny detail, every nuance was carefully thought out in advance. The greatest problem for René Clair was that of rhythm. Apparently they were always trying to shorten certain scenes by a few seconds in order to heighten the comic effect.

    One of the greatest of all directors and an actor of unquestioned skill, conscientiousness and charm collaborate on an effort that reminds us of what French culture used to be. It may seem dated or even corny to some, but I hope that for others it serves as an image of cultural values that will not be seen again.
  • I have been puzzled by some of the other comments so I am adding one of my own. I think your reaction to this movie comes down to two words: fantasy and charm. It is a fantasy, and it has a very great deal of charm. If those appeals to you, you will enjoy this movie immensely as I did. If they don't, well the movie is so good you will probably still like it anyway.

    I rated this film a 10 because I couldn't find a thing not to like. Gerard Philipe is charming (that word again) and appealing. All the women are gorgeous. The supporting cast is excellent. And since Phillip's character Claude is an aspiring composer there is a great deal of beautiful music in his dreams.

    What I noticed especially about the film was how Clair kept inventing ways to keep the idea fresh. You might think that a movie which basically shows a man's dreams would fun out of steam pretty fast but Clair is clever enough to keep it fresh and entertaining. For example, Claude constantly says that all he wants to do is sleep--and given his dreams, who wouldn't--and his friends interpret this as expressing a desire to commit suicide! So the efforts of his friends to prevent his "suicide" throws a new wrinkle into the story.

    My only complaint with the VHS version I saw were the English subtitles. First, they were in white, so that anytime they were in front of a white background you didn't know what the speaker was saying. And second, even though I don's speak French I am sure that the English subtitles came nowhere near doing justice to the original French dialog.

    This is a worthy candidate for a Criterion DVD. An unhesitant 10 out of 10.
  • This is a brilliant Frech-Italian comedy by René Clair. Extremely innovative, it divides the leading character's life in two moments: when he is awaken and while he sleeps. The former is - pardon the pun - a nightmare, as he hates to teach music in the school or in private classes. Even that is not regarded as something to be respected and his neighbors think that he should have another job, such as a car mechanic. His dream of being a successful musician and composing an acknowledged opera is far from coming true. Therefore, he wants to sleep all the time, as in his dreams his life is as interesting as he wants: not only he is a successful musician but also he has the most beautiful lovers in many different moments of History. That is the most remarkable achievement of the film: the dreams are exactly how we dream - crazy, incoherent, changing suddenly from a situation to another completely different, full of altered references of events in our daily life. Besides that, Gérard Philipe and all the actors do a great job. Gina Lollobrigida is particularly beautiful as the orientalist-style Algerian girl named Leïla. The unrealistic scenario works quite well in order to increase the environment of fantasy. Hilarious situations happen while Claude travels through French imaginary history in his dreams. This film makes me want to check out other movies made by René Clair.
  • The protagonist's situation is similar to Walter Mitty's, expect that his fantasies are not waking ones, but rather, occur when he drops off to sleep, and they don't always go the way he'd have them go. The device of dream narratives shows Clair's fidelity to his surrealist roots, especially during the dream debut of the main character's "opera". I was surprised at how low other users rated this film, but I guess it's in keeping with Maltin's opinion that Clair's films after WWII were not up to his prewar standards. Ignorance is bliss, I guess: I thought it was great! Perhaps the character development is somewhat superficial, but the film is funny and fast-paced, with good production values and appealing principals.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Despite having read praise for his adaptation of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None,I've somehow found the chance to see a title from René Clair to always escape me.Talking to a DVD seller,I found out that they had recently gotten hold of a fantasy movie by Clair,which led to me getting ready to meet the beauties of the night.

    View on the film:

    Believing that "sound" undermined the style which had developed in Silent Cinema,the screenplay by co-writer/(along with Pierre Barillet/Jean-Pierre Grédy & Gian Luigi Rondi) director René Clair delivers sly,satirical shots with this belief,by blocking Claude from being able to express himself,as loud "modern day" sounds drown out Claude's attempts to make his voice heard.

    Jumping from real life to the dream world,the writers thread a dazzling patchwork,that hops from wild flight of Fantasy to hilarious mad-cap Comedy-with added catchy songs,in a manner which makes Claude's world a joy to enter.

    Blending the real and surreal together,director Clair & cinematographer Armand Thirard weave spectacular "in camera" spells making Claude go from a dusty pub to taking on cavemen (!) appear as ultra-stylish, continuous shots.

    Bringing Claude's desires to vivid life, Clair makes Claude's dream girls look ravishingly beautiful,via smooth circling tracking shots making them each stand out of the desert of Claude's dream.

    Meeting Claude in both worlds,the elegant Magali Vendeuil gives a superb performance as Suzanne,whose caring side Vendeuil brings out as Suzanne tries to channel Claude's imagination into reality.

    Joyfully entering every lightning fast dream spot, Gérard Philipe gives an excellent performance as Claude,via Philipe hitting everything with an irresistible wide smile,as Claude discovers the beauties of the night.
  • I have just watched Rene' Clair's delightful musical comedy romp LES BELLES DE NUIT/NIGHT BEAUTIES (1952) for the first time. I had recorded it off an Italian TV channel a couple of weeks ago, but today, August 17th being my 26th birthday, I decided to treat myself to this little gem from one of the masters of French cinema.

    It tells the story of a misunderstood and idealistic composer forced to teach music to unruly schoolchildren to scrape a living. His daily attempts at composing his opera are repeatedly disrupted by the cacophony of modern day appliances – the trademark of an industrialized and progressive society: car horns, vacuum cleaners, radio transmissions, etc. He finally gives up his musical ambitions to retreat in a dream world in which he inhabits various historical epochs and where he, invariably, is the toast of the town: a leader of the French Revolution, a decorated hero of the Franco-Algerian War, an up-and-coming composer of La Belle Epoque who is conducting his first opera, etc.

    But just when his dreams are reaching the climactic realization of his desires, the inevitable interruptions of his real surroundings bring him back resoundingly to the 20th Century. While for the most part the film concentrates on the three distinct ages mentioned above, towards the finale there is a hectic progression of time traveling in which our hero has to rush to Paris by car for a vital interview which may finally open the doors to his musical career which had up till now remained resolutely shut. This chase takes him all the way through the Prehistoric Age (complete with a couple of hilariously phoney dinosaurs), the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages (in which he also manages to get entangled in a duel against the Three Musketeers) and so on and so forth.

    Despite the film's relatively short running time (89 minutes), there is such an abundance of incident and inventiveness in Clair's screenplay that my synopsis above fails to do the film justice. Visually, the film is extremely polished and it manages the improbable premise of having the characters jumping from one time-frame to the other (sometimes within the same sequence) with great skill and elegance. However, where the film really delivers is in its inventive use of sound which harks back to Clair's celebrated experiments at the very beginning of the Talkie era with SOUS LE TOIS DE Paris/UNDER THE ROOFS OF Paris (1930), A NOUS LA LIBERTE'(1931) and LE MILLION (1931). In one particular sequence, our hero, played with his usual graceful charm by Gerard Philipe, is so distraught at the continuous interruptions by clamoring neighbors, disgruntled creditors and concerned cronies that he imagines them in the orchestra playing his symphonic work on car horns, tins and kettles and their ilk instead of musical instruments.

    The film, on first viewing, may seem merely an enjoyable piece of fluff to the uninitiated. But taken in the context of Clair's entire oeuvre it shows how consistent his cinematic ideals have remained, not the least being the way he has his characters (played by Martine Carol, Gina Lollobrigida and Paolo Stoppa amongst others) sing their dialogue, as they did in his deft musical comedies of the early Thirties which sealed his reputation, influenced other film-makers (including Chaplin) and proved that the Sound Revolution, rather than being detrimental to the art of cinema, could aid in effectively telling a story if used judiciously and imaginatively.

    Regrettably, I have only managed to watch six other movies by Rene' Clair so far: LE MILLION (1931), THE GHOST GOES WEST (1935), IT HAPPENED TOMORROW (1944), AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (1945), LE SILENCE EST D' OR/MAN ABOUT TOWN (1947) and LES GRANDE MANOUVRES (1955). One of my earliest DVD acquisitions was in fact The Criterion Collection's DVD of LE MILLION. I also purchased Image Entertainment's AND THEN THERE WERE NONE as soon as it came out and I currently have Criterion's discs of UNDER THE ROOFS OF Paris (which also includes Paris QUI DORT/THE CRAZY RAY [1923]) and A' NOUS LA LIBERTE' (coupled with ENTR'ACTE [1924]) on pre-order. I also have THE GHOST GOES WEST, LES GRANDES MANOUVRES and PORTES DES LILAS (1957) – which I have yet to watch - on PAL VHS. I say all this to illustrate my admiration for this undeniable master of the medium whose critical standing has unjustly diminished somewhat over the years.

    There are many another Rene' Clair film that I would love to watch: LE VOYAGE IMAGINAIRE (1926), UN CHAPEAU DE PAILLE D' ITALIE/AN ITALIAN STRAW HAT (1927), QUATORZE JUILLET (1932), LE DERNIER MILLIARDAIRE (1934), THE FLAME OF NEW ORLEANS (1941), I MARRIED A WITCH (1942), LA BEAUTE' DU DIABLE (1949) and TOUT L' OR DU MONDE (1961). Hopefully, Criterion will issue some of them on DVD in the not-so-distant future. The only other film of Clair's that is available on R1 DVD is Image's FOREVER AND A DAY (1943), but he was only one of seven directors working on this episodic saga made for the War effort. There is also a French R2 edition of LES GRANDES MANOUVRES but it has no English subtitles.

    One reason why I think I like LES BELLES DE NUIT so much is because I felt an affinity with Gerard Philipe's reaction to the incomprehension of his artistic sensibilities by the people he meets in everyday life. As he retreats to his bed to dream of his exploits in the orchestra pit (and the bedroom), so do I shun the world outside for hours at a stretch and retreat to my darkened room to watch films on DVD; as he demands stillness and quiet while he is composing his symphonies, so do I crave it when I am reading a book or writing my screenplays (with my like-minded brother); as he dreams of being a successful composer and conductor, so do I envisage myself directing my own work for the screen! We have written two screenplays so far, both of which have gone through numerous drafts, and we have also managed to set out a shot-by-shot template (i.e. what is referred to in the industry as a shooting script) for the first of these, besides beginning preparatory work on two other subjects. Incidentally, we plan to go off on a two-week trip to London at the beginning of September and we intend to hustle our scripts around in search of a potential backer! Wish us luck!

    By the way, my viewing experience of LES BELLES DE NUIT on Italian TV set me wondering if there were any of you who also have a habit of taping films off the TV just for a chance of watching them for the first time. Although I admit that dubbed versions are not the ideal way to watch movies, I'd rather watch them that way than wait for them to show up on DVD in their original language. At any rate, not all of them would actually make it into my DVD collection even if they were released!

    For the sole purpose of taping and erasing such films, I keep two four-hour video tapes which have taken a lot of battering lately. Some recent examples of this practice give a fair indication of the eclectic bunch of movies which crop up on TV nearly every week: Fritz Lang's THE BLUE GARDENIA (1953), John Frankenheimer's I WALK THE LINE (1970), Peter Yates' THE DRESSER (1983) and Samuel Fuller's quirky swan song STREET OF NO RETURN (1989) – which I never even heard of before I saw it announced as an upcoming DVD SE from Fantoma. On my 'To Watch' list, I currently have Anthony Mann's DESPERATE (1947) and Jacques Tati's TRAFFIC (1970) – very ironic in view of my failure to secure copies of his films on DVD when they went out-of-print a couple of weeks ago! But I wasn't too keen on acquiring them in their present, mutilated condition anyway, even if they had the bonus short films to make up for it somewhat!

    For this week, I plan to tape Carol Reed's adaptation of Graham Greene's OUR MAN IN HAVANA (1959) and Ronald Neame's HOPSCOTCH (1980). I usually wouldn't have given the latter a second thought but due to its recent and unexpected inclusion in the Criterion catalog, I'll give it a look. Most of the time, these films are shown in the dead of night making it impossible for me to watch when they are aired, but sometimes, like yesterday for instance I make an exception. I gave up on two-and-a-half hours of sleep to catch two delirious Anti-Red films of the Fifties: William Cameron Menzies' THE WHIP HAND (1951) and Robert Stevenson's I MARRIED A COMMUNIST/THE WOMAN ON PIER 13 (1949). They also showed Abraham Polonsky's FORCE OF EVIL (1948) and Martin Ritt's THE FRONT (1976) in the same line-up but since I had watched them before, I went to sleep at 03:30 a.m!
  • Beautiful, dreamy, magical, funny romp through the ages of French history, though the ending is predictable. *** out of 4.
  • A splendidly madcap yet romantic depiction of the lure of the dreamworld on a down-at-heel composer. All told with a lot of vim and vigor but it still ends up dragging a little, never really engages the emotions, and as usual with Clair, the songs are poor.

    The recurring joke from progressively older and older historical figures about how things used to be better when they were young is brilliantly executed, and the representations of the slipping in and out of the dream world reminded me of Eternal Sunshine as much as anything else.

    A little too random and hit and miss overall but it's still an amazing idea for a story, perfectly realized on the technical level, and lovely to look at.
  • Gérard Philippe is, as ever, great to watch and one is constantly reminded of what a great loss it was that he should have died of a heart attack in 1959 at the comparatively young age of 37.

    Otherwise, it is a rather pointless and wishful movie that ultimately saps the musician/artist portrayed by Philippe of any sympathy the public might still have for him. The script appears to go all over the place and one is never sure whether the screenwriter actually sat down and thought it through or just typed it all in one sitting. As for the director, René Clair cannot have been too personally involved if he allowed such a shoddy job to be the result.

    I love French culture, and French films and music in particular, but I am afraid this is a most disappointing specimen that -- for its sins -- even manages to suffer from pretentiousness.

    I must make it clear that my views on this film have nothing to do with the reviews of Leonard Maltin or anyone else. The movie is so poor that even some great visual moments and Philippe's bravura performance cannot rescue it (though they earn it my very kind 6).
  • ....when France used to colonize (and civilize it)!When you know how that story ends ,such words make you wonder....

    Gerard Philipe precisely plays a music teacher who 's dreaming his life away.His daydreaming takes him back to the French revolution -with all the usual clichés- ,to 1900 and to French Algeria .THe moral of this story is that you haven't got to travel far to find happiness cause it's always near you.

    Two gorgeous ladies ,Gina Lollobrigida - he met the precedent year in the highly superior "Fanfan la Tulipe"- and Martine Carol give Philipe adequate support.

    Probably inspired by "the secret life of Walter Mitty " (1947)
  • It could remind Fellini. But it is special. For naivety, the trip across historical periods, for lovely eulogy of love and friendship, for delicat humor and for charme. Explanation - the genius of Rene Clair. The talent of Gerard Philipe. The art to create an entire world in seductive manner, with sweet game of cliches. . The plot. And...the magic. To create a dream atmosphere is always a challenge. In this case is an impressive victory. And premise for a lovely film.
  • I'm so happy I was able to find this extremely obscure movie; it's adorable! If you've never seen the Woody Allen gem Midnight in Paris, don't keep reading my review of Beauties of the Night, since I'm going to spoil the surprise of that modern comedy.

    You've probably never heard of this one, but if you're in the mood for something light and funny, or if you're suffering from insomnia, you'll really appreciate it. It's a comedy about a young composer, Gérard Philipe, who lives above a garage in a small town. All he wants to do is sleep, but the noises of the town and townspeople keep him awake. When he's finally able to doze off, he gets transported into an interesting, engaging dream. By day, he's an unknown, unimportant musician, but in his dreams, he's a revered opera composer who can get any woman he wants. Now here comes the spoiler alert, so if you haven't seen Midnight in Paris, I'm giving you one last chance to stop reading: In Gérard's dream, he talks with an older gentleman who says a paraphrase of, "Things were better in my day!" Instantly, Gérard finds himself in a different time period, hairstyle, and costume. This continues in dream after dream, until eventually Gérard winds up walking around with dinosaurs!

    This movie is hilarious. It's stylized and funky, and of course it's over-the-top. That's the point! If you've gone without sleep, you're going to dream up some ridiculous things. If you're a composer consumed with a wish for your music to become famous, of course people in your dreams are going to start randomly singing. If it sounds cute to you, you'll like it. I have no idea if Woody Allen ever saw this obscure movie and wanted to tweak the storyline to change a composer into a writer and add in a bunch of artistic icons, but if he did, he owes a lot to writer-director Réne Clair. Ladies in particular will like this cute comedy, since the leading actor is so gorgeous and energetic. He didn't make many movies in his brief career, so treasure him while you can.