14 September 2020 | ulicknormanowen
We three were born on the 25th of October.
Jean- Paul le Chanois was an educated man , a resistant fighter and a member of the thirties "groupe d'octobre", which aimed to entertain the working class (free shows which expressed their thoughts,their longing for a square deal ).It was a pacifist occupation of the factories, "never in France artists were closer to their audience ,in harmony with their era" (Roger Boussinot)(the 1936 Front Populaire" ) :Renoir,Carné, poet/screenwriter Jacques Prévert ,and Le Chanois , among others ,...
A Leftist , a communist more like , Le Chanois's pre-war works were disjointed ( "le temps des cerises" , "la vie est à nous" -the latter a collective movie, notably with Renoir-);after the war ,from 1946 onward, he gave a handful of graceful films ,today ignored because when you mention the director's name ,you've signed your own death warrant for the true connoisseurs of the French cinema ;but the tables are starting to turn and famous director Bertrand Tavernier championed,in his "voyage dans le cinema français" ,several of his works.So did demanding critic Jacques Lourcelles in his "dictionnaire des films"
These worthwhile movies are to be found in the early period , just after the war : the movie I'm going to talk about ,"Messieurs Ludovic" "L'Ecole Buissonnière ", " Sans Laisser d'Adresse" "Agence Matrimoniale ",and even later on ,"les évadés", "le cas du docteur Laurent " and "par dessus le mur"; certainly ,many of his other movies were more than dispensable ,but it is to these unfairly dismissed works ,mainly the first three ones ,that any review must adress itself.
"Messieurs Ludovic" is perhaps his best,with the exception of "L'Ecole Buissonnière "(=playing truant);three men were born on the same day , and were named Ludovic (hence the title); in an admirably succint style , Le Chanois found an excellent way of telling their childhood and their adolescence :three photo albums ,displayed in parallel .
The threesome grew into men ,but depending on their milieu , they become outlaws( the boy whose mom was unwed) or weathy businessmen (the boy who was born silver spoon in hand)
The main character was nurtured in a modest milieu,but studied in the prestigious college of engineering(one can notice that his sister remained a simple typewriter ,most of the time,girls were denied higher education then);
This Mister Ludovic is the director's spokesman -although Le Chanois's father was a GP- :for him ,to build a dam is to bring electricity to villages and to give people a better life; when he decides to create the club , uniting all the man born on the same day and called Ludovic , it's to form a human chain of solidarity :when one of them is in trouble ,the others come to his rescue .
The wealthy Monsieur Ludovic laughs at these "leftish " utopic ideas ; his cup of tea is profit and to have the fellow men work for his selfish self :a revealing picture shows the tycoon dining in a luxury restaurant whereas working men are sweating outside ; his unlikely repentance is the weakest link of the film though.
The third Monsieur Ludovic got a raw deal : deprived of a father ,he could not follow the straight and narrow and wound up in jail ;when his father returns , it will be worse and he will lose his last chance to lead a life worthy of the name.
The three men are attracted by a lovely girl : she got a raw deal too,because she was born in a mining village where his dad died well before his age,because of the hard living and working conditions : she tells her mom she won't become a miner's wife ; it's the most ambiguous character in the whole movie : the engineer may mean a safe life ,but the hoodlum is more handsome and women love outlaws and romantic adventure ; as for the businessman, he represents the life of luxury she 's always longed for.
Bernard Blier shines in this part of the generous engineer ; the actor would never display as much human warmth as in Le Chanois' s works: the teacher in "l'école buissonnière" and the taxi driver in "sans laisser d'adresse" are just like him ,people who get out of their way to help their fellow men .
Jean Chevrier is the doomed Ludovic ,born under a bad sign ,cheated by a
shameless father (Jules Berry who is a long time coming ,but steals all the scenes he's in).
Marcel Herrand is the selfish ruthless magnate who's got a wallet by way of a heart;he represents all that the director hated :the toiling masses' exploiter.
Odette Joyeux is excellent as Anne-Marie , because she succeeds in turning a false ingenue into a calculating go-getter ,who forgets the warm atmosphere of the engineer's apartment and throws away her most precious things .
Unlike many received ideas , Le Chanois 's directing was not conventional ;take the scene of the suicide : a door slams , a woman screams ,one sees the body falling down on her window.