ulicknormanowen

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Reviews

Le trèfle à cinq feuilles
(1972)

Four -leave clovers are better good luck charms.
This "five-leaf clover" belongs to Philippe Noiret's country movies,which include such works as "Clérambard" and "Alexandre le Bienheureux ";he is the raison d'être of a mediocre flick ;the scenes,towards the end,between him and the girl show that the movie could have been poetic ,a la "Poil De Carotte" (another role of Noiret) ,but definitely without the excess luggage ...

That is to say without this unbearable gallery of weirdos, the worst being Jean Roger Caussimon 's so called vampire and Jean Carmet's ex-legionnaire .

The "viager" subject ,that is to say to sell a house in return for a life annuity was much better applied on Pierre Tchernia's "le viager" ,released the very same year .

De loteling
(1974)

Blood tax
The beginning of the movie bears more than a distant resemblance to Jean-Pierre Denis' s "champ d'honneur" (1987) ;both movies begin with the draft lottery when the conscripts draw sorts ;if a rich man has drawn a bad number ,he can buy a "replacement", generally a poor boy who finds it hard to make both ends meet.

But the Flemish 's attitude is diametrically opposite to those of the French ,particularly the peasants ,who think that to be a soldier is a sacred duty and they laugh at the cowards who try to duck service ;the Flemish are much more reluctant ,they fear that they may be drafted and leave their family on their own (see Jan's girlfriend on the plough );one of them even rebels against that blood tax: what's the point of fighting an enemy they don't even know (there's an officer's very brief hint at the Hollanders and that's it)?

"The laws are good to the rich " says the hero ;for the people,beasts of burden at peace ,cannon fodder when their power-to -be demands it ; and religion as a solace :when their prayers remain unanswered , the parents ,who accept the draft ,ask their conscript to obey his chiefs even if they are wrong ,and mom asks him to remain pious.

Jan is a willing conscript,but he's ignorant : urine to cure a VD ! In the second part of his martyrdom ,Jan is joined by his fiancée ,and she,too , will share his sufferings ; then again religion and the pilgrimage are a delusion ,the opium of the people. The "good" commander's wife does something to help the poor couple,but her bourgeois conscience can be eased at little expense ;ditto for the doctor who mentions philosophers Voltaire ,Rousseau and Montesquieu who should have ruled the countries ,but finally leaves them to their own.

This is a classic movie, simply told ,without today's pretensions : beautiful pictures ,restrained but convincing acting ,enhanced by fine classical music .

It is a tale of suffering and it's almost a miracle that after such an agony,Jan can still find a reason to believe.

The Man Who Cheated Himself
(1950)

The first case is the hardest.
Now broadcast in a color -computerized version which does not do this good film noir justice ,(the pictures are sometimes bluish), it is a movie you can watch again with pleasure ; lee J. Cobb and John Dall -who did not make the career he deserved, considering works such as "rope " and "gun crazy" - make a very interesting pair as brothers both apparently on the right side of the law .More than the sometimes confused detective plot ,it's their relationship which is the real meat of the story : for the elder, who's been led to do very bad things by a femme fatale(Jane Wyatt) he's got "under his skin" ,this rookie cannot investigate with success; but little by little, the harsh truth becomes more and more obvious to the inexperienced cop .

The color-blind trick is rather original and the final scenes in the desert buildings are breath-taking.

Corentin, ou Les infortunes conjugales
(1988)

Trial by congress ,1664.
This is not bawdy legend ;it is fact ; during a hundred years "l'épreuve du congrès" (= trial by congress) was imposed by the Church :sexual relations with one's spouse was meant to beget children ;should the husband be impotent , it was an act against religion ,so the marriage was dissolved and his possessions went to the wife .

The husband was put on trial : he had to make love with his wife in front of note-taking witnesses. This hateful practice ,which turned human beings into animals ,was abolished in 1677.

Corentin's wedding takes place in 1664 and his marriage has not be consummated, if we are to believe the unfortunate wife ; but it might be a mother-in-law 's trick to latch onto the husband's estate .

One can dream of what Pier Paolo Pasolini would have made with such a lewd subject ; Roland Giraud and Andréa Ferreol are ideally cast ,but the former has a tendency to underplay whereas the latter hams it up ;director Marboeuf 's treatment is heavy-handed, devoid of any finesse ,and the screenplay is repetitive ;some gags are hackneyed : the obligatory " ceiling and bed which shake" scene was used many times before,notably in the superior Alberto Lattuada's "la mandragola" (1966);the French are indeed no match for the Italians in this field.

Joan of Arc
(1948)

Great performances in an underrated work.
In France ,it's hip to put down Victor Fleming's movie, which is thoroughly unfair ; with hindsight ,it's much better than Luc Besson's "the messenger"(1999) which looks more like a video game (the battles) than the story of the most famous heroine of French history.

Although inevitably too old for the part, Bergman was so great an actress that she makes us forget than she was not eighteen :they say the movie has no spiritual vision ,but Bergman's impressive performance easily makes up for it ; one never hears the voices ,which is a good thing because the audience is not supposed to hear them. Ditto for the mysterious conversation with the king in le château de Chinon. Jose Ferrer physically resembles his character (check the paintings ) and he displays all the nuances of this indolent king,under the influence of his chief conselor La Trémouille.(sly tricky Gene Lockart );among Joan 's brothers-in -arms , Ward Bond stands out as La Hire ,who should not ,must not ,swear ; Gilles De Rais ,later a children serial killer ,has the sinister face of Henry Brands (but hardly a line to say). And Francis L Sullivan a film noir habitué ("night and the city") is perhaps the best Cauchon -in French it is an homonym of "cochon" =pig- I have ever seen.

Make sure you watch the entire version,not the digest one; and if you come to France ,do visit le château de Chinon where you can see a wall of the room with a fireplace where the meeting took place (now restored by the UNESCO) ;in Rouen , you can see the place of the stake.

La bataille du rail
(2019)

Funny title,but the movie is less so...
Borrowing its title from a classic by René Clément depicting the railroad men 's resistance fighting in WW2,(1945) this battle is a horse of a different color. "rail " here does not mean "railroad" but "line" ,to be precise "coke line" .

The hero is dealer for one night ,to help his pal who's sick .All happens in the short space of one night ,and there are pretty photos of underground Paris by night; Pierre Lottin is good as a clueless dealer but his character is a bit hollow ;sex scenes are filler.

One wishes there were more humor; "Paulette " starring Bernadette Laffont as a shameless old lady turned dealer was more fun to watch. This one is pleasant but ,although short,drags on a bit.

Andreaskorset
(2004)

Menage à trois
First a realistic depiction of a man 's tragedy after a car crash : in a wheelchair for life , the events just after the hospital are passed over : the discovery of his new condition by the disabled (and impotent) husband ,the physical therapy ,the wife walking out on him and trying to start over with another one ,all the clichés of this kind of story are smartly eschewed .

It turns thriller in its second part ; sexual desire is the main concern of the movie, with the reappearance of a manly father supposedly working to make the house convenient for a handicapped man : under a genial façade , this man is a monster , an ogre who "ate " his son as a boy and now imposes his company (and a menage à trois) on the couple ;as far as sex is concerned, the movie treads a tenous line between simulation and reality .

The ending may be crazy but at least it's original and makes "Andraskorset" a special case in a hackneyed genre.

Conflict
(1973)

New rules for old ceremonies
When I was a child,the mass was in latin and of course I did not understand a single world.

Vatican 2 changed everything : I remember quite well pope Jean XIII :from now on, the priest would be allowed to celebrate the mass in the language of their country and they would have to face their congregation ;priests and nuns checked their habits in favor of clothes similar to those worn by the people they served ;the Church acknowledged their Jewish roots and Jew's covenant with God.

But many fundamentalist Catholics ,not only in Ireland ,did not approve of those ungodly reforms .One often finds them in far-right movements .

Such is not the case of the abbot of the remote island ,wonderfully played by the great Trevor Howard,who is totally non-political and whose only devotion is the realm of God; according to him ,they lost many people from their flock when they tried to celebrate the mass in English for "it had lost its mystery and its sacred side ", the symbolic eucharistic compromise (are the host and the wine really the blood and flesh of our savior?)

"Conflict" , a far better title than its pedestrian alternate one ("the Catholics" ) is just that : a traditionalist Catholic who has never accepted Vatican 2 ,and with a bunch of non-juring priests (term used in the French Revolution) acts as though nothing had happened at the turn of the sixties ; it pits the old abbot against a young modern priest ( Martin Sheen ,known for his liberal ideas ,ideally cast) sent by Rome ( a cardinal played by legendary Italian actor Raf Vallone) to investigate (and to get rid of a "not very kosher" priest)

Not a very accessible movie,talky and slow-moving , but very well acted ,often absorbing and different from everything you could see in the seventies .

Les gangsters du château d'If
(1939)

Monte Cristo sells well.
Plot:Jean Mariole wants to cause a stir to draw the editors' attention to his lover's book "la fille de Monte Cristo" (= Monte Cristo's daughter° ) and thus to get rid of her cause he has found another girl:so he feigns her abduction: headlines in the newspapers!

Based on an operetta ,directed by a specialist of the French coarse comedy of the thirties (" trois artilleurs ": two movies) , these gangsters have little to offer to a contemporary audience :even the exuberant Betty Stockfeld, who's got plenty of go,is wasted here in an anemic part.

Pierre Larquey steals the show as the Chateau d'If attendant : as a guide,he sells autographs of Dumas 's famous fictive characters Edmond Dantès and l'Abbé Faria ; there's even a haunted tower with a ghost but the tourists are requested to pay a supplement if they wish to experiment terror.

The Severed Arm
(1973)

Why didn't you wait for a few more minutes?
One of the unfortunate heroes hints at the sixty sailors lost at sea;but there's also a French nursery rhyme ("IL était un petit navire" =once upon a time a little ship )which goes like this :

"They drew straws To know who would be eaten.

The lot fell on the youngest, The cabin boy who set to crying Next they ponder with what sauce The poor child will be eaten."

With gore kept to the minimum,the scene in the cave (which follows the plot of the folk song ,so to speak ) ,and the terrifying ending (which will make your hair stand on hair ) make stuff like "saw" almost look like fairytales. Remember it was made in the early seventies!

There's a slight sag in the tension towards the middle of the movie which has a tendency to become repetitive ,but it regains its strength in the final sequences .

A must for horror movies!

Le chemin du paradis
(1930)

Gas station men
In the first half of the thirties ,some movies were made in both languages ,German and French at the same time ;not only Wilhelm Thiele ,but also French Julien Duvivier and German Robert Siodmak; "die drei von der Tankstelle " (whose title became :"le chemin du paradis " =the way to paradise )was such a success in France that a color remake was made in 1956 starring Georges Guétary.

Lilian Harvey starred in both versions (with a slight accent in French) ,and René Lefèvre and Jacques Maury served as foils to chanteur Henri Garat who was the French star of the operettas ;the film includes many popular tunes ("avoir un bon copain " "fauchés comme les blés" ) and the plot is entertaining :three pals ,without a penny to their name ,sell their car and buy a gas station (hence the German title) ;the three of them date the same girl ,without knowing it .Towards the ending ,both principals directly address the audience who's supposed to expect a grand finale.

Hergé , who created Tintin ,was reportedly a big Lilian Harvey fan and I'm almost sure he borrows the cigarette lighter gag in " Tintin au pays de l'or noir" from this movie.

House of Mortal Sin
(1976)

Judas' priest.
An original thriller ,still relevant at a time the Catholic church runs into serious difficulties; the young priest hints at celibacy -whereas protestant ministers can marry- and his final attitude makes sense.

But the central character ,father Xavier Meldrum , under his compassionate smile , hides a dark soul and an unspeakable perversity : recording his penitents' confessions to blackmail them , making them feel guilty till some commit suicide ; on the other hand , one could have done without the housekeeper who uses the priest 's mother as a punch(ing) bag :enough is enough .

But all that concerns the priest is effective and scary :the best scene is perhaps the one in the hospital : the bedridden terrified patient sees his fiend near his bed when the girl is dragged out of the room by the nurses who think she's having a nervous breakdown.

Française
(2008)

Mainly for Miss Herzi
Hafsia Herzi ,thirteen years after "Française" has enjoyed a brilliant career ,notably in "un homme et son chien" ,Belmondo's swansong , "ma compagne de nuit " in which she matched seasoned E. Béart and the overlooked 'Jimmy Rivière",to name but three.

In "Française ",she 's cast as the determined young woman ,who comes up against the Moroccan traditions where the only way for a girl is marriage and children ;when she was a child ,her parents would live in France ,where she was a brilliant pupil -note the teacher's gaffe when she asks her pupils the country where Sofia comes from ; she unwittingly hurts the girls' feelings:she was born in France ,she's French,period .

Apart from Herzi ,the rest of the cast is not really convincing ,particularly the father and the boyfriend .

It's certainly an estimable work ,a hope for oppressed women , and for their future .But docked one star for the denouement ,which seems facile and botched : France (and I know what I'm talking about ) is not an Eldorado where you have to cross the street to find a job ; the director took the easy way out :to vainquish without peril,one triumphs without glory .

Un monsieur de compagnie
(1964)

A male lady's companion .
First sequence : a worker sweats in smelting works .Then he awakes in the luminous country landscape : -Grandpa ,I dreamed I was working!

-It was only a nightmare ,sonny ,don't worry.

An orphan , Antoine was carefully taught by his grandfather : you shall never work, laziness is the best way of life.

After the death of his guardian , Antoine discovers that grandpa's line of least effort led them to financial disaster ; a penniless orphan ,left in the cold , what can you do my poor child? The notary says .From then on, one might expect a classic melodrama.

Pas du tout .

De Broca's film is a delightful comedy,sparkling like champagne .Jean-Pierre Cassel is dazzling and effortlessly wins over the viewer ;the story only knows one tempo :accelerated .A paean to sloth , inconsiderateness with consummate skill , and a good deal of luck :as Belmondo looked like Tintin in "l'homme de Rio" , Cassel is some kind of Carl Barks' Gladstone Gander (=Gontran Bonheur).

"Un monsieur de compagnie" looks like a film made of sketches,but when it's over ,it's actually a seamless whole , with an absolutely mind-boggling last sequence ,which I will not spoil ,of course .

Memorable scenes :

Antoine , hired by a (gay?) prince as a station master of ....a huge model train set ; but Jean-Claude Brialy , true to form, takes schedule seriously and is ,so to speak, a workaholic, and work is a nuisance to the hero who , taking advantage of a strike(!) ,takes to his heels .

Antoine, pretending to be a mourner during the funeral of a wealthy lawyer (Adolfo Celi) 's son ,and to be the late young man's best friend ,so he can be given room and board in a luxury mansion.

But there 's more to be savored in this excellent satire with the most immoral conclusion you can get ;there's even poetry thrown in for good measure :the fleeting appearances of Catherine Deneuve all along the movie are lovingly filmed and Georges Delerue's score highly enhances them.

Too often overlooked in the sixties, De Broca's works ,in the adventures field ("l'homme de Rio" ,"Cartouche" and its dazzling finale) ,or in the comedies (which have nothing to do with the dominant genre such as Oury's works), have remarkably stood the test of time ; "le roi de coeur ", considered his most ambitious works ,is more known and praised abroad.

John Lennon: Love Is All You Need
(2010)

Mainly interesting for Cynthia's interventions.
Like the countless documentaries dealing with subject ,this one is merely a repetition of facts that have already been digested by millions of fans : Beatlemania , the Christ incident and the fans' reactions, the meaning of " Lucy in the sky with diamonds" etc

But this one has something new to offer :Cynthia Lennon plays a prominent part and all her interventions are really absorbing : not only her view of her rival Ono (she's not my kind of person) but also her scenes with son Julian : one sees them flipping through a photo album and Julian remembers the car crash in Scotland (which happened in "Abbey road " recording time ) ; he remembers his sufferings after the divorce trauma and the death of a father he hardly knew ("you knew him better than I "). In all Lennon's biographies ,Cynthia was always praised ,and for all she had to cope with , she's not rancorous.

Feminist writer Camille Paglia blames Ono for Lennon's creativity decline ,which is questionable (his songs from the White Album were among the best he had ever released);and she contradicts herself when she considers "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band " a masterpiece ; much time is given over to Lennon and Ono talking about art ,then their crusade for peace ; hatred for Ono in England is not passed over in silence ( "Cynthia's better than her!");a short-haired Yoko also talks about her relationship with Lennon.

Journalist Paul Gambaccini talks about the musical side , and particularly about the shock "tomorrow never knows" was ;he insisted that when he died ,Lennon had still much to offer and he passes over in silence (like many people) the name of his murderer .George Martin also participates, but it's more interesting to watch him in his own doc ("produced by" ).

This doc does not feature a single note of Beatles (or Lennon solo) music : it's more about Lennon's persona ,his vision of art,and his involvement in politics .

Les caprices de Marie
(1970)

US go home!
Borrowing its title from Alfred De Musset 's "les caprices de Marianne" , the screenplay has nothing to do with this nineteenth century play; it was never the first time De Broca had cast Swiss Marthe Keller ("le diable par la queue") ,and this gorgeous actress is given support by the crème de la crème of French actors: Philippe Noiret ,as the shy schoolteacher who's got only three pupils ,François Périer as the village poet, Jean-Pierre Marielle as the commie cafe owner,Fernand Gravey as the retired military man ; all live in the imaginary village of Angevine (renowned for its mildness,should we believe poet Joachim Du Bellay )The depiction of the village is not realistic ,but who cares ? Demy's and Pagnol's were not either.

The biggest flaw is the American : Bert Convy hams it up and it's not entirely his fault : American way of life ( for a millionaire) is nothing but a spate of clichés and it's only when he wants to re-build the village in America (becoming a French reserve for tourists) that the satire works .

The film features numerous good scenes ,mainly in its first part : -the small movie theater ,where Marie is a ravishing usherette who sells "chocolats glacés" (=choc-ice,ice cream bar "),at a time popcorn had not yet invaded the theaters .

-The lousy beauty contest with its parade in the rain absolutely nobody watches , the miserly meal in the restaurant before the millionaire's intervention.

George Delerue's score is superbly nostalgic and conveys this charm of things of long ago ....(but not far away!)

Anatomy of a Psycho
(1961)

The mark of Cain.
The title combines the names of two classics of the era ,but the story has nothing to do them.

It's a thriller cum melodrama ,in which the most interesting character (Chet) is not given enough time : since the every beginning , from the moment he's given the brother's small belongings , he is doomed ;the attack and the scar the broken bottle left on his face sealed his face ;consequently ,the most convincing scenes are those which show his rebellion against the law : the beating up of the DA's son ,then the picture he burns with his cigarette ,then the arson of the judge's son''s desirable mansion make sense in this context ;had the film focused on this character , this would have been a real "anatomy" ,in spite of the so-so acting and the obvious lack of means .

Richard III
(1955)

An actor for eternity.
Recently restored with beautiful colors, the movie will allow everyone to watch outstanding Sir Laurence Olivier in his mind-boggling performance forever ; the cast around him is the creme de la creme of British actors, and all of them should be mentioned; I would simply say that Sir Olivier marvelously directed his children-actors in their small parts .This is a must.

L'argent fait le bonheur
(1993)

It's hard to be a saint in the city .
First a MTV work,which channel 2 refused to broadcast -the cultural Channel Arte did it -, this Guédiguian movie was finally theatrically released.

It's not a comedy , the director said , it's a fable ,nothing is realistic. It's not even filmed on location ,only the façades are real ;and had it been realistic ,at the end of the film ,blood would have been shed.

This might be an optimistic counterbalance to the desperate "ki lo sa ", the ending of which ,the most desperate of all Guédiguian's movies told the viewer : "no use carrying on, class struggle is over ,so let' s call it quits ".

All the action but the sequence of the bank hold-up takes place in a cosmopolitan public housing project (estate)where emigrated people and others of French extraction cohabit in a world where drugs and aids run rampant (it was the early nineties and there still was no cure for this lethal desease) ; unemployment , poverty, and even desunity :an inhabitant draws a line which divides the "territory" in two : in an interview,the director said that ,when he was a child (born 1953) ,people would fight for their rights together ,the working class has become "the poor " ,it's the unions sundown.

The main character is a priest (the extraordinary Darroussin) who every morning finds syringes near his seedy "church" in sheet metal ;a realist ,he buys condoms and seringues for his flock .And when he sees all those armoured vans full of dough ,he realizes that the famous "give back to Caesar what is Caesar's " does not mean anything in a place where the only future is prison, unemployment, prostitution, or violence , thus he urges the underdogs to rebel.

It's something to hear Darroussin,Ariane Ascaride disguised as a nun and the children dressed up as well-mannered young bourgeois singing a canticle while heading for a hold up .

The events are depicted in voice over by the vicar ;it's only a fable .

Lady Jane
(2008)

......when I see you again....
The subject of the friends who meet again and whose friendship is put to the test was often broached by the director,notably in "ki lo sa " and "Dieu vomit les tièdes " ;what the heroes did not do in the latter (a square deal for the underdogs) , the threesome (instead of a foursome) did it , a la Robin Hood : they stole jewels and furs and gave them away to people from the wrong side of Marseille town : this is the first sequence when "lady Jane " dreams of her past ,all wearing masks of Jean Marais in "le bossu " (the hunchback).

But Guédiguian's art does not favorably apply to the thriller : he and Philippe Lioret are directors who shuns the feel good ,the politically correct side which mars the French scene;it works in the psychological drama with social and/or political concern ( "les neiges du kilimandjaro" " gloria mundi " "voyage en Arménie" "une histoire de fous" ) . It's much less effective in a thriller : the plot is hackneyed ("something you did long ago ,now you've got to pay the price ), the story hard to catch up with ,and Ariane Ascaride ,a highly talented actress and the more compassionate face of the contemporary French cinema ,here reminds me of an expressionless Annie Girardot ,another great actress of yore , losing her own personality in the process.

It's obvious that the whodunit, the thriller , does not interest the director ;but the frames of mind (all in all,what are we living for?) , the characters' soul-searching and their friendship are only skimmed over .Always using the same actors (and I like Meylan and Darroussin is one my favorite contemporary actors)is a double edged sword :with weak material ,they have a tendency to repeat their tricks.

Orders to Kill
(1958)

Why?
"Cadet Rousselle" is an old French folk song from the eighteenth century ; it laughs at a bailiff ,which is very appropriate in Asquith's movie; it became a marching song for the Armée Du Nord in the French Revolution;in the film , not only the nurse ,serving quiche lorraine ,sings the first verse ,but the hero himself also invents new words for the tune ....

Based (reportedly) on true facts,it's an excellent thriller happening towards the last days of the Occupation in France .It's a gripping movie,from start to finish ,very well written and very well acted, mainly the supporting cast .A quarter of the time is given over to the training ,with a documentary side often botched in this kind of movie,,in which the excellent James Robertson Justice talks about the guilty feeling which ,according to him,did not exist formerly,but is characteristic of the civilized country :it leads the hero to soul-searching (did his former bombings spare the innocents?) ,which would continue when he met Leonie , who remains straight-faced in front of her sewing -machine when he tells her that this informer he has to do away with might be innocent ;the brave resistant fighter 's answer is cynical but true: at war ,both innocents and culprits are killed .Like the psychiatrist before ,she soon realizes that the killer is too jejune ,too sentimental (she's not : her own tragedy is represented by a photograph of her dead son killed in action,and that's it ).

Irene Worth is remarkable as the apparently cold-hearted adamant resistant .

Another good support comes from Leslie French , as the traitor: a family man, who takes care of a cute cat ,Minou (= Pussy);cats and dogs were not eaten , this occured during the siege of Paris in 1870,but in the occupation,if it happened ,it must have been very rare .Till his last moment, he makes us think that perhaps it was a mistake ;brilliant performance from a brilliant actor.

One of the best cliffhanger I know : after the scene in the cemetery (Le Père Lachaise) ,the action abruptly takes us to the Liberation ,complete with Marseillaise,forgetting the young soldier and his contact (in jeopardy) ; the very last scene is deeply moving and proves that the cocky boy has finally understood his elders' words.

Dieu vomit les tièdes
(1991)

So, because you are lukewarm-
"...-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth." (the Bible)

With hindsight "Dieu vomit les tièdes" looks like a follow-up to "ki lo sa" ;like it ,it's among Guédiguian 's less accessible works .

The situation is the same as in "ki lo sa " ;four children swore that when they grew up ,they would meet again. But they would change the world , a world where there would be no poor anymore , a land of milk and honey ; in "ki lo sa " they remained " lukewarm" ,hence its horrible unexpected denouement.

It's no coincidence if the meeting takes place during the bicentennial of the French Revolution (1989): the first sequence lays the cards on the table: a plastered Darroussin does not want to talk about revolution ,the celebration is a deception.

The four characters ,who stayed in their garden in "ki lo sa" have to face the world, and in spite of their (discreet) rebellion against the society ,they remain "lukewarm" : one of them (Darroussin) is educated and has become a famous writer ,but he's lost all his illusions ; his three mates (Ariane Ascaride, Gérard Meylan,Pierre Banderet) try to come to terms with the adult life ,to no avail .

There's a thriller side :now and then ,there's a dead body floating on the sea, hints at drug-trafficking ,but all of this takes a back seat to the heroes' frames of mind; the whodunit does not interest the director and the criminal 's identity ,although revealed ,seems only a detail ,lost in the fireworks of the bicentennial of a revolution which won't be theirs.

Flashbacks from their childhood appear now and then ,but it's no longer the Paradise lost of "ki lo sa " : a sequence involving a dog is almost unbearable .

Ki lo sa?
(1986)

ki lo sa ? = who knows?= qui sait?
This Guédiguian movie was never theatrically released and it's sure easy to see why : the screenplay is very thin, some scenes seem impromptu ,it's almost experimental cinema;some of its scenes were used again as flashbacks in "la villa "; so was Dylan's "I want you" ,a great song ,but which sounds inappropriate in Guédiguian 's provençal background .

Four friends used to play in the garden of a bourgeois house ; they swore they would meet again when they grew up and here they are again , now three men and a woman ; they try to find again their simple joys of childhood , but realize how painful it is growing up ;even in this magic garden (the cinematography is luminous) , they can't come to terms with a fulfilled adult life .Now and then ,children appear by the gates of the lost paradise and increase their nostalgia .

Thanks to the excellent foursome , one can sit it through ; Darroussin is the stand- out in my book .

Guédiguian would resume the same situation in "Dieu vomit les tièdes" , but this time , his characters (played by the same actors)would have to face the outside world ; this one is perhaps the director's non-political work ,as though he were afraid for his characters .

Ten North Frederick
(1958)

Imitation of life.
John O'Hara's novel transferred to the screen,half valid drama,half soap opera ; it was the fifties ,and with directors such as Sirk and Minnelli,the apex of melodrama. Philip Dunne is not in their league but his cast carries the movie on their shoulders and makes it a winner .

An aging Gary Cooper , towards the end of the career, is deeply moving as a man whose ambitions are relatively modest (he only wants to be a lieutenant governor) but whose life will be ruined by a selfish wife ; his scene with Suzy Parker,when he speaks of the children they'll never have (because of his age) ,goes straight to the heart ; note that in his scene with Stuart Whitman (then an up-and-coming actor who considered Cooper a model ),he only intervenes towards the end ,as though he reluctantly approves of his collaborators' advice (and blackmail)

Matching him every step of the way is Geraldine Fitzgerald' s cold self-centered socialite who does not care about her children 's happiness. A woman who never loved anyone but herself.

Diane Varsi is convincing as the sacrificed daughter ,but her affair with Buongiorno is a little botched ; Ray Stricklyn who,unlike Whitman , never became a big star, shines in his last scene when he takes a rebel stand against these hypocrit "friends " ( the first scenes ,notably with the journalists ,were revealing )

Nu comme un ver
(1933)

(Just like) starting over
A wealthy businessman ,whose canned food industry is thriving and who was just awarded la légion d'honneur ,is challenged by his hypocrit friends : "you always got lucky, you would never have made it, hadn't you inherited your papa's canned sardines factory , you could never have become a lawyer (like me) ,a doctor (like me) or a psychiatrist (like me) " Cut to the quick, the canning industry tycoon ,decides that he can prove them wrong: he will start over ,"naked as a worm" ( but he will keep his properties and his bank account , but he simply won't be allowed to enjoy them ,his servants will act as if they 've never met him ,hence "just like ")

The first half is the best : the ex-millionaire ,naked in a barrel , with only a blanket on him,"not to frighten the ladies" ;his meeting with the gendarmes ; the astute use of his surname "Adam" ,a suitable new name for his situation ; the insane asylum where the only cure is a good shower; the dream. The second half is derivative ,and the waiter who becomes the toast of the town is neither funny nor convincing.

Leon Mathot began his career in the silent era and it shows :sometimes his movie would be better without the lines and Georges Milton's obligatory optimistic ditties; the hero ,with his hat and his dog shows Chaplin's influence.

There are things that have never passed away :commercials on the radio are still exasperating today ;and the "légion d'honneur" does not impress anyone today. Did it at the time?

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