3 March 2008 | dbdumonteil
The shameless old lady
Although Pierre Fresnay is at the top of the bill,the actual star of "Le Briseur de Chaines" is sixty-year-old Marcelle Geniat portraying a centenarian with a lot of make -up and an absolutely extraordinary talent.A lady the average viewer of French oldies has seen many many times without perhaps noticing her (notably Duvivier's "L'Homme Du Jour " and "La Belle Equipe" ).This lady had her day:it was her triumph and she outshone all the cast ,be they Pierre Fresnay,Blanchette Brunoy or Ginette Leclerc.
Although labeled "comedy" ,"Le Briseur de Chaines" is a harsh work,sometimes verging on human tragedy (the old lady dying while the youngsters are dancing a farandole ).
A village is about to celebrate their centenarian's feast.In fact,she is only an attraction,something the inhabitants want to show to attract the tourists (the sign which reads:"to see the centenarian,follow the arrow),they do not really care about her.
Around her ,the family begins to fragment at the edges.The old woman's son wants to choose his children's and nephews's spouses .
Then comes a circus with a handsome tamer (Fresnay) riding his horse ,like some hero of a faraway land.These people mean getting away from this place ,sailing away from this cupid narrow-minded bourgeois mean word.The old lady remembers her hundred years and realizes that a life does not measure out in years :hers was a monotonous humdrum life ,and the only moments of pleasure she knew were those she spent long ago with a man from that circus "LE BRISEUR DE CHAINES "(chain breaker).And she will break the chains ,the ties that bind ,and rebel against her family: she "marries" one of the girl to the tamer but she fails with another boy ,Laurent,who cannot make up his mind to follow the lovely brunette of the circus (Ginette Leclerc).
This shameless old lady her family wants to take to bed on the night of the circus show (A circus comes every thirty years,I can't afford the luxury to wait!) ,and make a honorable speech in front of her 147 descendants had to wait to be a hundred years to take a rebel stand .As the lovers are riding away from this mean place,she waves goodbye at her window,after her own grandson has tried to close all the shutters of the inn ("I'm not still dead!") This is a wonderful movie of the Occupation years ,this side of 'Le Corbeau" or "La Vie De Plaisir")
Like this? Try these....
"Make way for tomorrow" ,Leo McCarey 1937
"La Vieille Dame Indigne",René Allio 1970
"Buon natale,buon anno" Luigi Comencini 1989
"Stanno tutti bene" Giuseppe Tornatore ,1989