30 June 2003 | dbdumonteil
Before the flood.
That was the beginning of the era when André Cayatte was championing all the good causes.Coming after "justice est faite"(about euthanasia) and "nous sommes tous des assassins" (about the death penalty,a subject which was unusual at the time),"avant le déluge" showed the youth's anguish after WW2,when they talked about a third world war in the fifties. Unable to relate to their parents,and frightened by the bleak future that was left for them ,a girl and four boys want to do what Noah did:escape to an Island in the sun on a boat.But their disposable funds are low and they get involved with robbery and murder,which leads them to their standing trial.
In fact,Cayatte put the parents in trial,and if his plea was unsubtle and devoid of nuance,it was a heartfelt account of an utterly distraught generation.
ANOTHER LOOK AT "AVANT LE DELUGE"(2006)
Given the rating on the IMDb board,and the very poor reviews it gets in French books,it' s obvious that this movie needs reassessment.
"It is a dated movie, sneer French critics,forgetting that it's its greatest quality:it is a film which was made in the early fifties and it does belong to that era.one cannot think of such a screenplay in our (troubled however) times.and nevertheless ,the movie had problems with the censorship which found it hard to believe such youngsters could turn into criminals.the movie repeats it twice "he is only 17" "he's just turned seventeen" "she's not seventeen".The movie got a PG 16 although ,except for one sequence ,it is not violent,even compared to its time's standards.
these are not natural born killers.they became murderers by chance.with a little luck,things would have worked out fine.and there are the parents....
....blame it on mama ,on papa! Cayatte holds the parents responsible for everything.Once again,it was trendy to laugh at Cayatte in those fusty Cahiers du Cinema .The parents are caricatures ,stereotypes,but the director wanted them to be so.....WW2 collaborator whose hate for Jews verges on paranoia ....liberal father whose naiveté predates May 68 and the post-81 disappointment (left/right/left/right,it is all the same)....wealthy parents whose concern is to make sure their fortune will be safe when the flood comes....over possessive mother whose son has difficulties finding his sexual identity.....and no parents at all ,as far as the young Jew is concerned....
These parents are afraid...they fear that the Corean war might turn WW3.They never stop talking about this impending war.That's why their sons and daughter are beyond their command: fifteen years later,they would have gone to India ,or become hippies.In 1953,it is still the old dream of sailing away to the islands in the sun (see " Quai des Brumes " or" les Portes dela Nuit" )A critic noticed that the film the young Jew shows to his friend ,a shy boy under his mom's thumb, (one of the other boys even uses the word "minion" )features only male natives;their relationship is certainly homosexual,even if the repressed young man cannot take the plunge. This is really a lost generation,the generation who will be sacrificed in another dirty war in Algeria.The last pictures ,even if WW3 will not happen , pack a real wallop and are not telling the audience "we've had a narrow escape" but "watch out it's not over,it has just begun"
those parents are in fact no more stereotypes than Nicholas Ray's families in "rebel without a cause" .when Philippe screams "Mom ! please help me" behind her locked door ,he is not more ridiculous than Dean or Wood in the American movie.
Best scene: the killing of Daniel.Remembering what his crazy father said about the Jews ,in his black raincoat ,Jean does what the Gestapo used to do ten years before.
For this is a film noir,full of despair and pessimism;Cayatte's most complex work, admired by Bergman and Bunuel,it has worn remarkably well,just because it is a dated work:unique.