5 May 2003 | dbdumonteil
A great movie a decade!
George Lautner ,a very prolific director has produced mediocre films by the dozen.And however,there are three works ,in his monumental filmography,which indicates that he could have been so much more.
In 1963,"le septième juré" a film noir which is on a par with the best Clouzot and Duvivier.
In 1970,"la route de Salina" , a weird story of madness,one of Rita Hayworth 's last parts.
In 1988,this "maison assassinée" which ranks among the best French films of the decade.It remained ignored I hope that some day people will give it the place it deserves.
"La maison assassinée" came aside as a shock in the eighties:they did not make movies like this one any longer.It is return to the nineties melodrama -because we're closer to black melo than to thriller- which was thriving at the turn of the century with Xavier de Montépin("la porteuse de pain" ) or Adolphe D'Ennery ("les deux orphelines " which became Griffith's "orphans in the storm").But inside melodramatic elements,we 've got to notice the strong presence of the murder mystery à la Maurice Leblanc (and his hero Arsène Lupin).And this kind of rural detective melodrama ,this is what Jacques Becker (his masterpiece "Goupi Mains Rouges" ) or Christian-Jacques ("l'assassinat du père noël" did in their time ,but it was forty years before Lautner. Jean Becker ,(Jacques's son) tackled the genre but his movie ("l'été meurtrier",1982) suffered from a weak screenplay.
"La maison assassinée can boast a very strong screenplay.Adapted from a contemporary writer ,the story will grab you till the end.
So much for the prelims:in the darkest night, a man asks for refuge in a remote house ;outside three masked men are waiting :are they murderers?
A whole family is slain,and the only survivor(Bruel),twenty years later,comes back from WW1,to be confronted with the inhabitants of the village's hostility:they say he brings bad luck .He becomes an outcast.But he won't give up:he wants to know what happened to his parents and to avenge them.
The post-WW1 atmosphere is wonderfully recreated with his women left alone during the war,its draft dodgers who used to work behind a desk (the judge in the scene with Yann Colette,who was disfigured),its girls in search of a husband ,because of the dearth of young men.
THere's everything in this far-fetched by absorbing story: bewitchment complete with needles and dolls ,a castle with ferocious dogs , an old woman who resembles a witch (a remarkable Maria Meriko),and strange death that happens without the hero's intervention.Who is working behind the scenes?Everything revolves around the number three: three masked marauders,three letters,three girls who moves around the hero, three places (the village,the doomed house and the castle)..
This movie was far from the routine of the dull French cinema from the eighties.Add a marvelous cinematography which enhances the splendid rural landscapes and you wonder why Georges Lautner did not make more movies like this one.