10 April 2019 | dbdumonteil
Valjean in Romania.
Henri Colpi's career was very short ,but certainly off the beaten track : "UNE AUSSI LONGUE ABSENCE" and "HEUREUX QUI COMME ULYSSE " (Fernandel's last movie) are his most known works :the first is a strong psychological drama with a haunting music which is known all around the world ;the second is a fine graceful film .
"CODINE " has fallen into oblivion in Colpi's country ;both reviews he gets come from Romanian users ,which makes sense ,for it's a French-Romanian production ,filmed on location in beautiful Romanian landscapes ,using local actors ; some French thespians are included : Françoise Brion (Irène) ,Nelly Borgeaud (Adrien's mom) ,Maurice Sarfati (Alexis) and last but not least Germaine Kerjean many remembers as Gabin's mother in "VOICI lE TEMPS DES ASSASSINS "as Anastasie (she whipped Gabin's wife, here , I won't tell what she does, it's worse).
The screenplay could be trite melodrama : two brothers,the good and the bad, a woman comes between them and tragedy is around the corner.But Colpi transcends the code of the genre ;the story is less important than the atmosphere of a poor outskirt of Bucarest .The luxuriant landscapes sharply contrasts with the people's plight :not only they have to face poverty every day of their miserable life (Irene is a semi-whore ,who sells her body for a beautiful garment) ,but they are also decimated by a cholera epidemic : note how colpi's directing avoids spectacular scenes ,the virtuosity of his camera when he films the death of Alexis.
Codine is an ambiguous character : a Cain of sorts, for his mother hates him (in the Bible ,God accepted Abel's offering but turned His back on his doomed sibling),an ex-convict ,like Victor Hugo's Jean Valjean, he's good and evil at once ; he remains a brute but he becomes friends with young Adrien and he redeems himself by protecting his mother he probably secretly loves because she represents the woman he longs for;Irène sleeps with him when he gives her presents .
Definitely off the beaten track on the French scene then at the beck and call of the Nouvelle Vague , "Codine" should not be missed.Told in voice over by the young hero turned adult.