6 July 2015 | dbdumonteil
A passage to India
Released the same year as "lives of a Bengal Lancer" ,"La Route Imperiale" has not the same assets :it is totally devoid of humor and of poetry,and Pierre-Richard Willm ,though very handsome ,is no match for Gary Cooper or Franchot Tone .Both movies are hymns in praise of English colonialism,both feature a strict but fair colonel,both feature a treason (PR Willms should not have trust an enemy's friendship,Richard Cromwell could not stand torture,both have mitigating circumstances),both feature heroic redemption.
Unlike Hathaway's work ,which features a secondary female character,"La Route Impériale " is a military melodrama -and thus predates L'Herbier 's contemporary works such as "Veille D'Armes" and "La Porte Du Large" (all were made in 1935,L'Herbier was prolific!)-:the colonel's wife,lady Stark is none other than the hero's former passionate lover;if Willm shows a tendency to overact -and is nevertheless credible as a dashing officer all the same-,the actress is totally bland and listless and it takes a lot of imagination to believe that this woman is eaten with desire and passion.
This is an uneven exotic adventures movie:the death of the young sergeant and the funeral vigil ,as well as the card game where the officers are represented by jacks (and not Kings,that's reserved for colonels) are stand out scenes ;the final attack is well directed . And the final pictures ,though colonialist to the core ,are almost as moving as those of Hathaway's .
This tribute to British heroism may be a forerunner of the propaganda movie made in 1939 by L'Herbier :"Entente Cordiale".