17 December 2007 | dbdumonteil
We're captive on the carousel of time.....(Joni Mitchell)
....we can't never return ,we can only look behind
From where we came And go round and round and round in the circle game.
When I began to watch "La Cavalcade des Heures" ,I was not expecting much!I was almost immediately enthusiastic about it.La Cinémathèque Française owns a copy and it's really too bad this work should not get out of that place and at last be screened on the French cultural channel Arte.
"La Cavalcade des heures" ,like Carné 's "Les Visiteurs du soir" (in spite of veiled hints at the Occupation),Cocteau-Delannoy's "L'Eternel Retour" or Lherbier's "La Nuit Fantastique " is escapist stuff.And it magnificently succeeds.Probably inspired by Fritz Lang's "Dër Müde Tod" ,it is ,along Albert Valentin's contemporary works,the lost gems of the French cinema of the days of the Occupation.
Prologue:An expressionist film set (which ,again shows Lang's influence ("Metropolis"))sets the tone: the one thing man will never master is Time.It reigns over the world and from time to time an hour comes to man's rescue.We will follow one of them,Hora.
Segment one or "If life's for living then what's living for?"A working man is sleeping.Rude awakening .First the alarm clock then the clocks ...ticking ...Ticking...It's just a routine day ,but the man begins to think that he is caught in a trap....four minutes for breakfast...Then the tube (subway) ...then the factory where he repeats the same gesture 3,000 times or more a day...
Segment two or "Getting old and running out of time" :A state employee realizes how empty his life was with a shrew of a wife (portrayed by the marvelous Jeanne Fusier-Gir)
Segment three or "The time has come" .A glorious champion was given flowers by a lady (Hora) every time he won the race.But one day she makes him comprehend his time is almost through and he 's got to hand the torch to someone else.
Segment four or "these precious minutes".A lady (Gaby Morlay)comes to visit her (very young) son in a boarding-school.She's in a hurry ,eager to meet her lover,but Hora holds back the hands of the clock and she is an hour late.Too late for her lover who is about to be arrested.
Segment five or "Brother can you spare a dime?".In spite of Fernandel's presence ,this sketch is the weakest ,some equivalent of the game of golf in "dead of night" ,a comic relief which is too derivative.
Segment six or "time waits for no one" .A rich owner of a night club feels sick when he comes home late at night.He takes to his bed ,Hora is here ."It's your last hour" she says.The man(Charpin) is only fifty and he wants to live more ("Half a century" she says " think of it! many men are not so lucky).Like in the old Egyptian religion,then begins some kind of weighing of the soul where even the ghost of his late mother comes back....There's nothing to do about it when your time has come...Depressing
Segment seven or "Where have all the good times gone?": this one is the most brilliant .Charles Trénet was never as moving,as good and as charming ...He portrays a man who seems to have everything:fortune,fame,women aplenty ;one night he invites a poor old woman ,who is begging for food in the streets .He treats her to the delights of champagne and caviar.He opens up and tells his frustrations,his regrets ,he calls her "Grandmother" and longs for a childhood long gone .Then the haunting melody of "Que Reste-t-il de Nos Amours" is not far from driving the viewer to tears.That's here that the song belongs ,not in some of Truffaut's flicks (that new wavelet director even stole the title of his movie from that superb song ("Baisers volés"))
Segment eight or "You can't beat time" .A man was sentenced to death and he waits for the executioner in his cell.Then comes Hora.The desperate prisoner asks for a reprieve ,crying it was not his fault and he was a victim of destiny.We're closer to Lang's "Der Müde Tod" than ever.Hora helps him to escape but she knows that his attempt is doomed.As he drives his car at a dizzying speed,she gives him a cigarette.The condemned man's last smoke....A wheel rolls on the road (Claude Sautet will use this picture for the first scene of "Les Choses de la Vie" )
Hora comes back there where time reigns over man,eternal captive on the carousel of time.
A great film!Should not be missed .I'd like to see more films of Yvan Noé!!