29 October 2015 | guy-bellinger
Red Wine Blues
"Philippe" is a little-known short by Edouard Molinaro ("My Uncle Benjamin", "La Cage aux Folles") addressing the difficult question of alcohol consumption, a regular scourge back in 1958 when it was made.
Helped by two specialists (psychiatrist Philippe Paumelle and Doctor Pierre Jean), Molinaro wrote a story of a kind-hearted man who managed to open his own garage but whose efforts may be ruined because of his propensity to booze. Although a respected specialist in his trade, Maurice works less and less reliably, abuses his two apprentices (one of whom is Philippe, an orphan he has taken in) and winds up scaring his clients off. As for his wife, who can't reason with him, she lives a living hell.
The resulting movie, as filmed by Molinaro, proves fairly good, even if it could have been better. The psychology of the characters is relevant, the director's technical skills are obvious and the cast of professionals (Georges Poujouly, Yves Brainville, Loleh Bellon) competent. But what "Philippe" lacks to be really memorable is style : don't expect something as powerful as "Lost Weekend" or as heartbreaking as "Days of Wine and Roses". For the simple reason that, unlike Billy Wilder or Blake Edwards, Molinaro is content to illustrate his subject without giving it enough relief. The goody-goody ending does not help either.
Despite these reservations, "Philippe" remains quite watchable, especially on account of its serious approach of the problem of alcoholism and its psychological correctness: Maurice's gradual taking to drinking (setting the bar too high makes him fear he will not live up to the challenge) is quite believable; his sudden changes of mood, his aggressiveness, his fits of bad tempers are true to life; and the treating physician's diagnosis and advice ring true. A positive balance, when all is said and done.