ulicknormanowen

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Reviews

Le orme
(1975)

The dark side of the moon
A slow-moving film which retains a certain cult ; it seems it's all in a dream ,or a nightmare more like ; few special effects,no gore, but a great sense of mystery,with an open ending which will make all viewers interpreting the meaning of this bewildering story according to their own sensitivity .

With its deja vu feeling, its bizarre characters (Lila Kedrova) , its strange experiments on the moon , one can wonder whether the heroine is losing her mind, or is it a recurrent nightmare ? Its atmosphere sometimes recall "carnival of souls" ,probably the first important indie in the history of cinema .The beauty of Florinda Bolkan and the threatening face of Klaus Kinski add to the fascinating and deadly charm of this offbeat work.

L'indompté
(2014)

The answer is blowing in the wind
Based on historical fact, the story takes place in 1634 , in the reign of Louis the Thirteenth ;at the time,in the south of France ,scientists were very interested in meteorology .A former monk,converted to Protestantism, is put in charge of carrying out an investigation into the origin of these winds which blow around the Mount ventoux,particularly the Pontias .

The cinematography is splendid , the story is told with a sense of mystery , dealing with science and religion ; when science was not able to explain some phenomenons ,shall one call them miracles?And even if one finds an explanation , God's hand can be felt everywhere in the nature.

The torments of the flesh -which is weak - come to visit the hero who could marry as any Reformed minister;his life is as elusive as the wind.

The hero,Gabriel Boule ,would come back to Catholicism later on;he's mentioned in Lionel Baillemont's following effort "Mademoiselle de la Charce ". Not for all tastes ,but this director will be a name to reckon with in the years to come.

L'île du bout du monde
(1959)

Heaven knows, Mister Patrick.
Edmond T Greville was nothing but a beginner when he made the most risqué movie ( the Office Catholique Du Cinéma forbad the movie to their flock at the time ) of his career ; some of his previous works may have predicted such a work (who relegated " et Dieu créa la femme ,in which Christian Marquand already co-starred as one of Bardot's lovers ,to kindergarten) :"remous" "le port du désir" and mainly "le diable souffle" .

"Le diable souffle" almost entirely took place in a house on an island (in the middle of a river),almost cut off the world, where a surgeon , escaping from the Spanish dictatorship wound up;"remous" ,in the thirties tackled a taboo subject :impotence!

Unlike many movies about shipwrecked , there 's no real danger on the island; they have found plenty of tinned food ,and there's game and even she-goats on the place ; probably due to the presence of another shipwrecked ,who wrote a diary ; another weak point :although there are two French ,one English and one Italian (born in Tripoli) ,there's no problem of languages .

But it does not matter,for the story focuses on the characters ,a hunk and three babes (one of the girls is a mentally disordered person );it's a fantasm come true : and as they do not really struggle for their life,sex comes to the fore ;and it might be their doom ;told in voice over by Christian Marquand ("le diable souffle" used the same device to introduce its character),slowly but inexorably , the relationships deteriorate ; intimity is impossible on a tiny island ,and the story becomes some kind of lesson in survival ...Who will survive?

Mademoiselle de la Charce
(2016)

Joan of Arc comes alive.
A sprawling but austere movie, easy to admire, much less so to enjoy .

Based on historical events ,during the reign of the Sun King ,it depicts the attacks of the duke of Savoie against the Dauphiné and the consequences of the revokation of the edict of Nantes which granted freedom of religion for the Protestants : many of these "Huguenots" left France for Canada, or other European countries, notably Switzerland .Among those who remained in their native land ,some became the "little prophets" preaching repentance ,and predicting disasters .

Our story begins when the marchioness of la Charce (Marie -Christine Barrault) sees her lands threatened by the invasions of the Savoyards ; an authoritarian woman, she's got her daughter ,Mademoiselle de la Charce under her thumb .When an injured young man takes refuge in their castle ,he becomes the young woman's protégé , although the catholic priest warns them against these " little prophets" who announce disasters for the kingdom of France ,as well as the end of aristocracy (it would take another century).

One day ,some Italian musicians come to the castle to entertain the marchioness and her daughter ; but one of the musicians is a woman dressed up as a man ;for the mother ,it's a sacrilege ,but for the daughter ,it could be a way to defend the marquisate against the invasions.

So ,dressed up as a man ,she urges the peasants to strike back : many plunderers will invade their land in the wake of the duke of Savoie 's war against the Sun King ; being commoners ,they are not allowed to carry a sword ,they are not even allowed to hunt (the Lord's privilege till the French Revolution)What can their scythes, their axes ,their knives against them?

Very slow-moving , and in spite of sometimes admirable pictures,well-chosen music and the presence of seasoned actress Barrault , the movie remains very cold and even the scenes between the little prophet and the heroine fail to move us ;and what's the point of using slow motion for the fight sequences ?

Lionel Baillemont (he has made three films to date)still lacks the focus to develop his ideas (or select well among them)he appears as a minor director, albeit perhaps one with major potential in a field which has rarely been exploited in the French cinema (the non-spectacular non-storylike historical cinema ,in the tradition of René Allio ("les camisards" ;"moi,Pierre Rivière.....)

Trois milliards sans ascenseur
(1972)

Tower not so inferno.
Director Roger Pigaut was once one of the most famous romantic male leads of the French forties : "douce" (Autant-Lara) is a masterpiece ,and Christian Jaque's "sortilèges" and Becker's "Antoine et Antoinette " are not far behind . As a silver screen actor, his career was on the wane in the sixties and he became a director :his first effort "le cerf-volant du bout du monde" was aimed at the children's market ,and his third one "compte à rebours " a thriller which featured creme de la creme of French actors : Jeanne Moreau ,Simone Signoret,Serge Reggiani, Michel Bouquet,Marcel Bozzuffi and Amidou; the male actors are featured again in "trois milliards sans ascenseurs ", but the atmosphere is downright different .Whereas "comptes à rebours" was dramatic, this one is a spoof on thrillers which involve jewels thefts .

Most of the actors are middle-age ,and even the old generation is present ,represented by glorious Françoise Rosay in one of her last parts.The lines are often witty, and one feels the rapport ,the camaraderie they have between us ; this is ,should we believe the screenwriters ,the new age of robbery :scientific plans to thwart the high electronic technology supposed to protect the precious stones .The first "attempt" is a good idea,which creates an unexpected twist and ,not to let the cat out of the bag,I 'm not going to write more.

Ils
(1970)

Us and them.
Jean -Daniel Simon (who died this very month) made his first movie when he was 24 ,then the youngest director in France ;this first effort "la fille d'en face" (based on a screenplay written by Roman Polanski) was a romantic affair and a rather accessible film ,even though he commercially flopped .His sophomore effort , "Adelaide " seemed to indicate that the young director was going in a good direction.

It did not seem that way in "Ils " an overambitious attempt at exposing the "cutural Malthusianism of the bourgeoisie "in which Simon set his standards too high :even considered an experimental work ,and featuring talented actors such as Michel Duchaussoy, Alexandra Stewart and Charles Vanel , this film is uncompromisingly highbrow stuff , sometimes heady (the dreamlike sequences) often a headache .A screenplay very hard to decipher ,blending thriller ( the hero's father's dead :suicide or crime) ,sci-fi ( a scientist who uses him as a guinea-pig for his dream machine ) ,and social exposure (mercantilism and critics' triviality in the world of art).

I 'm not able to assign it a rating , for this art is beyond me.

Comme des rois
(1997)

In Poland ,all Romans are not Polanski.
Roman and Edek have emigrated to France to taste the French dream ; and they succeed -for a short while- beyond all expectations!

This is a marvelously precise spoof on the world of cinema ; because they are mistaken for an Icelandic director who made a would be masterpiece "nuit blanche sur la banquise" (=sleepless night on the ice field), both Poles are given the royal treatment : de luxe hotel,gourmet meals, limos ; and director François Velle (son of famous actor Louis Velle who essentially works on stage and on TV and who appears bearded in the movie )does not miss an opportunity to laugh at the world he depicts (and to make us heartily laugh at the same time ) : the question of the highbrow journalist who "analyzes " the movie in a way nobody can understand a word of his logorrhea; the screening of the movie during which the "interpret " falls alsleep; the smug self-satisfied producer (the always reliable Thierry Lhermitte) whose only worry is to make money ; the jury who deliberates ,before giving the awards : as the festival takes place in Reims ,capitale of Champagne wine , the highest prize is the "bouchon d'or" (=golden cork) , a horror which the impostors ( it's an alternate title to "come des rois" )win hands down with their nordic movie.

Stephane Freiss and Marius Pujszo are riotously funny in the grand tradition of Stan and Olie , overtaken by the events , but taking advantage of the crazy situation ,playing their role of usurpers to the hilt.

Back Door to Heaven
(1939)

Equal opportunities?
Aline McMahon as Miss Williams : few other American actresses expressed compassion as she did : from Wellman's "heroes for sale " to Zinnemann 's "the search " , she would bring sympathy ,tenderness and emotion to any movie she was in ."Back door to Heaven " is also one of Van Heflin 's first part ,an actor on the theshold of a brilliant career.

The beginning of "Back door to heaven " reminds of that of Wellman "s"wild boys of the road" : the graduation is cause for celebration ; in "wild boys" ,the young hero and his pal cannot afford a ticket to the ball;he's forced to sell his old car .In "back door" , Mom has bought a hat "which almost fits" ;but alcoholic dad does not agree and the boy reluctantly brings back the gift to the store.

The garduation fete is revealing as the former students perform a little act before their beloved teacher and the man from the board of education ; the future banker ,smug and haughty , shows off his total mastery of arithmetic ;some declaim poetry,some sing ,some play the piano or the violin ; but the young hero picks up a modest harmonica (he's just stolen)and he runs through a shortened version of a folk song . Since this scene, the die is cast : the writing's on the wall ;some boys are born to endless night ; had he come from a decent background (one sees him caress the dog,and rejoice when he puts his hat on) ,he would have had a decent life .

His wild years ,with his pals ,are a little derivative and the script is not always satisfying ,with plot holes all through the film .

But the movie regains its strength as soon as the action takes us back to the native town :Miss Williams receiving cards from her former students , the banker trying to "help" his former schoolmate who got a raw deal , the deeply moving plea of the lawyer ( it does not cut ,though, the young hero of "wild boys of the road" 's own plea when he tells the judge about the trials he's been through) .

The final echoes to the beginning:it was the first time since graduation that they'd return to the old school: equal opportunities are a myth , and some will go the Heaven through the back door.

Burnt Offerings
(1976)

Black is black
It was better than I expected; there are few special effects , not much gore , and acting is excellent ,coming from highly talented actors such Oliver Reed , Karen Black and Bette Davis -although her part is pointless- .

The main influence here is Shirley Jackson whose "the haunting of Hill house" remains the standard reference book as far as the haunted house is concerned (twice transferred to the screen as "the haunting" ,once masterfully by Robert Wise (1963) ,and once appalingly by Jan De Bont)

Therefore, it 's the house which slowly but inexorably comes to possess its owners ; the characters change ,dad almost drowns his son,mom takes care of a mysterious old lady one never sees , mysterious disturbing laughing persons appear now and then; dad's attitude and the photographs may remind you of "the shining" but remember that "burnt offerings" was made four years before it .

The atmosphere and the actors playing may justify one watch ,but certainly not more.

Dominique
(1979)

Diabolique Dominique?
With such a great cast how can a director be wrong? Cliff Robertson, Jean Simmons, Flora Robson .....plus Simon Ward whose angel face can sometimes work wonders (see "holocaust 2000" ,in which he played opposite Kirk Douglas ). "Holocaust 2000" was a "Rosemary's baby "cum " the omen " rip off ,but it sustained interest till the end.

"Dominique " is also a multiple rip-off ;it borrows from too many movies ,from the sixties Hammer productions to classic French thriller "les diaboliques ", with snatches of "hush hush sweet Charlotte",and an ending recalling "straightjacket" ; some scenes may give the jitters ( Robertson discovering his own grave in the cemetery with his date of birth and a date of death which reads "soon"and later he and his chauffeur opening the coffin in the cemetery) but as a whole it suffers from its too many borrowings and plot holes.

Le motorizzate
(1963)

Baby you can drive my car.
At once feminist and non-feminist , "le motorizzate " is a film made up of sketches about "women and cars" . In the prologue,one is told that the car was to man a way to escape from women;but little by little , they have taken their driving licence and now they meet their male counterparts on their own ground .

1."Carmelitane sprint" : two nuns have to take a grumpy old man ,a commie, to the hospital ;sister Maria is modern, she does not let anyone tread on her shoes ,and she uses words and sentences which scandalize sister Teresa who is out of time and who ceasessly quotes the Holy Writ.The young sister,who carelessly drives ,may have inspired the nun who appears in all the "gendarmes " movies starring Louis De Funès .

2.la roulotte squillo A prostitute uses a trailer to "work ";it begins well enough with her triumph over a Civil Service which demands a mountain of bumf .But the rest is disappointing.

3.La signora ci marcia : a female driver helps a runner for his training ; the ending is funny but it's a bit overlong.

4. "Un investimento secure" : a pedestrian gets knocked down by a female driver ;he is not really injured ,but he pretends his foot hurts and he wants to see a doctor to get an indemnity ; a true doctor could not do the trick ,so he phones his friend Righetto.This is the funniest segment , with many sudden new developments, Billy Wilder's "fortune cookie" (1966) in miniature.

5.Il vigilo ignoti: to make some money ,a guy (Toto) passes himself off as a policeman (vigile ) ,but his uniform leaves a bit to be desired and he winds up in the court :but a female lawyer defends him and tells he's the only cop who treats women galantly.Besides ,he's got a very fair idea : the fines should be in proportion to the bad driver's income ; they are hard on the poor and next to nothing for the rich: an idea to remember.

Les mains nettes
(1958)

The office
Although taking place in the late fifities Canada , "les mains nettes " has a contemporary feel ;it's a very pessimistic work,depicting the "dog eat dog" boss-and -staff world in a manner which excludes cardboard characters, pathos,end sentimentality ; halfway between documentary and fiction, it's almost nouvelle vague before their French cousins , filmed in stark and white mostly in an office where the manager,a newcomer ,wants to modernize his subordinates' work .

"Divide and rule" could be his motto ; he takes one of his inferiors as a secretary and the woman's attitude is women's lib at a time the word was unknown : however much he's the boss-although he confesses he's not really handsome!- , however much he promises her good prospects ,Marguerite refuses to sleep with him;the man's behavior is ambiguous too: he considers himself a failure, he's no longer in love with his wife ,emotional blackmail ,but is he sincere?

He tries to attract an educated young guy as his right-hand man .And the old employees (he's been working in the factory for 45 years!) are in the way , they are dead weights ,they must go !

The subordinates try to react to these ominous events ; they try to form an union, to show some class solidarity.But they do not know what terrible fate lay in store for them : the older employee is a naive man who still believes in old values which are trampled on in the new world they are to build.

In a short movie (hardly 75 min) , the director succeeds in creating non-carboard characters ; and even a false happy end : Marguerite's last phone call leaves her desperate , having lost her faith in the human race.

The Hoodlum
(1951)

What a dump!
Another variation on the Abel and Cain theme , with two real-life brothers .And a desesperate one ; since the beginning , after the glimpse of the electric chair , one knows that bad lot Vincent's fate is sealed ; the deeply moving plea of the distraught mom who gave it all to put her son back on the straight and narrow ominously predicts her final words on her deathbed .Her black sheep has a chip on the shoulder and his brother 's gas station is not enough for a man who has already spent five years in jail :as if it were not enough ,there's the bank across the street which is an irresistible temptation;so is his brother's fiancée he shamelessly steals from him and does not shed a tear when she throws herself off the roof .

The director and the screenwriters made a true film noir,with a small budget ;the final scene in the dump ,which echoes to leaves no hope to the viewer.

Impulse
(1954)

Diamonds and rust.
The detective story is trite but the real meat lies in the hero's everyday life ; the film owes a lot to Arthur Kennedy ,too often relegated in supporting parts; this excellent character actor is credible as an American emigrant who gets used to taking the five o' clock tea with his realtor partner but who does not renege on his orange juice for breakfast ;he has also a fancy for Dubonnet (an aperitif created by French Joseph Dubonnet in 1846).He seems sick and tired of his routine life, his spouse and his small town where nothing happens .As if it were not enough ,his next-to-door neighbor ,a spinster in love with him sticks as a leech.The scenes with Jean St John (including a card game in which she longs to be his partner) are worth the admission.

This diamond smugglers story is never really exciting ; actually ,it's a "north ny norwest" in miniature : the man in the street confronted to unusual events and who rises to the occasion -which is credible ,for he is a former marine-;and it's the contrast between these eventful adventures and this daily grain is somehow endearing.

Flight That Disappeared
(1961)

Klaatu barada nikto
"Flight that disappear ", with a small budget -it shows in the scenes with the men of the future - could teach a lesson or two to the disaster movies of the seventies ,with their cardboard characters and their special effects.

It actually belongs to the tradition of the fear of the Bomb ,already expressed in "the day the earth stood still" (1951),in which the E.T. warned the human race the way the "jury" does here or in "on the beach" (1959) ,the last pictures of which look like those men-who-might-never show to the threesome as far as the future of their planet is concerned .The tradition would continue in "Dr Strangelove...." (1963) and "planet of the apes" (1967). The cold war is hinted at when the passenger urges the doctor to build his bomb and wipe "them" out.

The screenplay is solid and makes up for the lack of means ;there's really a sense of mystery and interest is sustained throughout.

Signpost to Murder
(1964)

And the wheel keeps on turning.
This is based on a play and it shows :all the action tales place in the heroine's house , in a stifling atmosphere in which the ceaseless turning wheel lapping creates a tension ; it is sometimes slow-moving ,but a little humour gets into the lugubrious atmosphere (the gossip woman who phones ; the vicar and the incongruous little help he provides ) and acting is excellent : you can't be wrong with Joanne Woodward ,a character actress who portrays a hostage ,a victim of an escapee from a mental hospital ; little by little ,doubt creeps into one's mind : is she so innocent?Stuart Whitman is credible as well as this lunatic who's seeing things (a dead body on the wheel)and who perhaps might not be really guilty :the circumstances of the crime which sent it to the asylum remain mysterious.

There's of course an unexpected ending ; although it's not as strong as such "in camera " thrillers as Levin/Lumet 's "death trap" , it is an unqualified must for people fond of suspense films.

La vendetta
(1962)

In Corsica,they are not the people you can have a joke with!
There's one funny sequence at the beginning of the film: in the cemetery , the captain delivers a speech supposed to pay a tribute to the late mayor but which quickly turns into his own election campaign.

The rest is a festival of camp,Francis Blanche becomes tiresome in the long run ,and De Funès left to his own devises hams it up in her part of a father who does not want his daughter to date boys and who has already killed twelve persons:in Corsica ,should one believe the screenwriters ,they are not the sort you can have a joke with .It takes someone like Gérard Oury to direct De Funès.

Filmed on location ,on the island , unfortunately in black and white ;as the story is tedious, it's too bad for the landscapes could have made up for it.

Tanganyika
(1954)

If Abel were Cain.
"Tanganyika" is an adventure movie in which one finds two plots:

All that concerns John and Peggy is derivative to a fault : the grumpy rugged adventurer and the brave gorgeous girl ,how many times has one seen them? As soon as they appear ,one knows what lays in store for them .One unusual thing just the same : the children who have lost their daddy do not shed a tear ,and as they ride their pet donkeys ,they seem to have completely forgotten him .Afterward ,no hint at this tragic loss ,life goes on ,but for children this age ,it's downright implausible; John may play the role of a surrogate father,but nothing shows it .Ditto for Dan.

All that concerns the bothers is the real meat of the movie,and it should have been more developed ; the outcast who escapes from civilization is a derivative subject ("swamp water" remade as "lure of the wilderness" "run of the arrow" ) ,but it is given here an interesting treatment ; thus Howard Duff's part is much more intriguing than Roman's and Heflin's ones; the viewer is given a clue early in the movie : the watch .Halfway through one does not know whether Dan is a virtuous gent or a baddie ; ironically,the screenwriters called his criminal sibling Abel!A misnomer for their first meeting (after nine years) shows a man who might be sympathetic and who urges his tribe to kill the white men because he was unfairly treated (crime is self-defence?).In spite of everything, Dan loves his brother and desperately urges him to give himself up and stand a fair trial :unfortunately the script is botched and soon Abel becomes a cartoon baddie .

Moineaux de Paris
(1952)

Sing children sing...
"The little singers of the wooden cross" were a choir who would sing religious stuff ,but their repertoire widened as years went by , tackling classical pieces and even old chansons françaises ( a medley of these old songs such as " frère jacques" "il pleut bergère" "il était un petit navire" is heard in the film).They appeared in several movies ,notably briefly in Duvivier's masterpiece "un carnet de bal" ,and in the weepie "la cage aux rossignols" which spawned a remake ("les choristes") which was lauded far beyond its station ;their most cinematographically consistant film is arguably "Le Visiteur" by Jean Dreville.

Therefore the main interest of "moineaux de Paris" lies in the music : the 10-15 young boys" art is still today quite impressive although it might sound a little old-fashioned to some ears.

A priest warns the audience :"it's not a documentary about "the little singers of Paris" , it's a fantasy .But this fantasy is not really full of imagination ;aimed at the fifties children 's market, it 's going to make today's brats yawn their head off : this story of a locket which Napoleon would have sent to his son le roi de Rome (see precis) in Austria is repetitive and often dull ;the locket contains a message ,urging Napoleon II (who never reigned) to rule the land towards peace -which was not exactly what dad did .Jean -Pierre Aumont cast a campaigner who comes back from the dead as a ghost only the boy whose grandma owned the locket can see is not what you call dynamic and the real stars are the places in which the action take place :It's filmed in location in the château de Chambord ,in Mont-Saint -Michel or in the Invalides where one can see Napoleon's and his son's tombs .

Strictly for fans of the singers.

The Nest
(2020)

The English dream
The American dream in reverse : a young Turk , confident of his experience of the world (America) comes back to his native land to be confronted to people who are not as naive as he thought.

He feels like a king and a king is not satisfied till he owns everything : a desirable huge mansion which could accomodate four or five families , the best school for his son , an ambition which knows no bounds , a de rigueur snobbery about culture -"he' s never set foot in a theater ",a desire to sever all links with his modest background :the contrast between the hero's manor and his mom' s humble house is striking and the son/mother scene is perhaps the strongest in the whole movie ("I invite you" " a mother has not to be invited ");this woman and the taxi driver are the only people who belong to the working class and their words ring truer than Rory's claptrap in his executives meetings.

An update of Clayton's "room at the top" (1959) in which Laurence Harvey was a go-getter ,a pusher ,who finally succeeded.

The conclusion is different here : Allison ,his wife ,soon discovers the cracks in the mirror ,the boy is bullied at school and the daughter throws a rave-up when her parents are away.They won't live happily ever after in their nest .

Fear No More
(1961)

Stranger on a train .
Although French ,Jacques Bergerac made only two movies in his native land :"un homme se penche sur son passé" and a small part in "Marie-Antoinette Reine De France "where he is virtually unknown ; is it because of that that his name in the movie is Colbert (like Claudette ,who is famous both in the US and in her native land)?

"Fear no more " is an excellent Hitchcokian thriller , with a solid screenplay,and good acting ,particularly by Mala Powers ,lost in a nightmarish set -up : as soon as they arrive in her boss's house, there's no more letup as the story continues to build in suspense and intensity as the interventions become more and more overwhelming for the heroine -who spent some time in a mental hospital- who thinks she's losing her mind -and her only ally does too;Helena Nash's face recalls several hitchcock's villainesses (" the man who knew too much" 2nd version ,"notorious" )

And the screenwriters had not forgotten Hitchcock's lesson:expect the unexpected ; the sudden new developments are numerous all along the movie ,and the supporting characters are not cardboard ( the child's mother is not so petulant, Seymour is not so strong);but the movie belongs to Mala Powers ,whose facial expressions ran the gamut from pain to terror to rebellion.

Le tombeur
(1958)

A poor man's ladykiller.
Paul Vandenberghe wrote the dialog ,so I decided to have a look at "le tombeur" ; this writer was responsible for Berthomieu's "Gringalet" based on his own play and in which he played the lead.A pleasant bittersweet comedy which also featured Charles Vanel.

Unfortunately "le tombeur" is based on a novel he did not write and his dialog is not up to scratch ,by a long shot ;this story of a heir of a refinery owned by his fond of sports auntie who demands he be married to inherit the factory is never funny,let alone witty.Not really handsome, and self-conscious , the hero -Jacques Jouanneau is better on stage- ends up with two fiancées .And that's it.

The story is dull, repetitive and derivative; the good gags are few and far between (the car which seems driven by nobody; the butler masquerading as the old dying aunt) ; Raymond Bussières saves something from the wreckage ,but wasting ninety-minutes for this heavy-handed farce is too much.

The House in the Square
(1951)

Time does not move fast enough.
Filmed in black and white (the present?) and in color (the past ?) the subject of the time warp (or the time traveler) was unusual at the time; one may think of Dieterle's "portrait of Jennie" (1949) as far as the Power/Blyth love affair which 's stronger that time is concerned , but "the house in the square" aka "I'll never forget you" has another dimension : the scientist who comes from another age tries to show people from the past new inventions or new notions which would change and improve their lives; but ,remember what happened to Galileo : these guys from the eighteenth century are not prepared to accept what they think is black magic, sorcery :after all ,the Bible tells them that there's a time for everything.

The beginning movie shows Power and Rennie (whose time screen is very short) in their highly scientific milieu ;it's not the average twentieth century's man ;the gap between him and the men of yore is all the more huge.

But did he really travel through time?

Le sauveur
(1971)

What lies beneath
Michel Mardore directed two movies : the second "le mariage à la mode" was a shameless exploitation of the "freedom " in the wake of the events of May 68 and sank without a trace ; this one,much more interesting ,and which promised good things is almost unknown in its native France ;when it was released , more than the horrors it depicted , it's the swim in the nude which relegated the film to NC-18 ,hence its commercial failure .

Horst Buchholz was ,along with Hardy Krüger , the most gifted German actor of his generation ; he worked with Julien Duvivier (Marianne mein Jugendliebe) , Billy Wilder ("one two three") John Sturges ("the magnificent seven" ) ; almost forgotten in the nineties ,his reappearance in Benigni 's "la vita e bella" (1997) as a nazi doctor was stupefying .

Muriel Catala ,who portrays the fourteen-year-old girlie (in real life she was 18),specialized in undressed parts (André Cayatte's "verdict" )and her career suffered accordingly .

Buchholz had already played opposite a teenager ( in the moving "tiger bay" starring Hayley Mills) ,but this is completely different ; a multilingual actor, he spoke fluent French and English -he was married to a French actress,Myriam Bru -,which explains he's got no accent (which may puzzle some viewers)

An UFO in the early seventies French cinema, it depicts the rural occupied France circa 1943; brainwashing is rampant at school where the girl is about to take her certificat d'études (certificate formerly obtained by pupils at the end of primary school;it does not exist anymore): the Marechal (Pétain)is the savior of our homeland, it protects us from attacks of the terrorists ( the resistant fighters) ,from our enemy's bombing ( the English) who in days of old burned patriot Joan of Arc on the stake ,and from Bolshevism (the peasants were afraid of communism and in the occupation days sufffered less from the dearth of food)

The coming of a handsome young man ,who tries to show her that what she learns is false , that the hymn ("Maréchal ,nous voilà") is a masquerade (it 's one of the rare movies in which it's sung), that he was sent by the English to save the country ,to help the resistant fighters who often die to free their homeland, means the end of childhood and innocence and sexual awakening : the girl thinks she met the hero (her prince charming) every girls long for ; and in a threatening world ,it's thrilling to be in love with a man she feeds ,she hides, it's par excellence the romantic adventure .

The low angle shot , which starts from the boots ,reveals the horrible truth ; perhaps both parts do not hang well, but it inspires the disturbing immorality of the movie ; the horrors of the barbaric nazis were obviously inspired by the Oradour sur Glane historic massacre (which took place on the 10th of June , a year after the events depicted in the film ); the awful fire of the church is only suggested.

The epilogue is a little far-fetched (Danielle Ajoret ,essentially a stage actress, plays the grown -up girl ) but it does not spoil this offbeat work , extremely different from what the French cinema had to offer at the time.

Sandokan, la tigre di Mompracem
(1963)

Sandokan has a tigress by the tail
Unlike movies such "lives of a Bengal lancer " ,the English are the villains ,who drive the legitimate sovereigns away from their land ;prince Sandokan is not only a noble who fights for a just cause , he's also endowed with a Herculean strength (Steve Reeves who leaves the sword and sandal world for the exotic landscapes of Sri Lanka)

The screenplay looks like a comic strip : it seems that some scenes (concerning the hero's father ,the sultan ) were intended but not filmed -they are told ,a convenient economical way);the story is very conventional :a group lead by a charismatic hero makes his way through a hostile luxuriant jungle ,with the usual dangers :snakes , wildcats ,headhunters ...and for good measure a traitor in the pay of the enemy ,the cruel English Lord ; and it's obvious ,a girl , precisely the lord's niece whose attitude is ,to put is mildly ,predictable :Geneviève Grad seems ill-at -ease in this genre,although she played with Reeves' alter ego Gordon Scott in "L'eroe di Babilonia" the very same year ; she's more efficient in Louis De funès ' s comedies , "Le Gendarme" -she's featured in three of them -.Here ,she is relegated to the part of the damsel in distress shrieking "Sandokan !help !"

The only character who is not entirely carboard is Yanez the stateless person (Andrea Bosic).The cinematography is nice, the movie takes advantage of the beautiful landscapes of the island.

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