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Le secret d'Hélène Marimon

Why didn't he mention my name?
Henri Calef is perhaps the most underrated director of the pre-NV era whose best works ("Jericho" "les chouans" "eaux troubles" "l'heure de la vérité ") have stood the test time.

This splendid war melodrama avoids pathos ;the last scene is silent,just a smile , and that's it .Well acted by Isa Miranda , Frank Villard and Carla Del Pioggo ,although the latter was perhaps too old for her part.

A cultivated man, Calef was always interested by history and it's only natural his long flashback takes place in the trenches in WW1 ; the way those memories are introduced into the movie is particularly elegant: in the window of a bookshop ,Taillandier sees a book ,its title reads :" memories of Marimon";this man was a brother in arm in WW1. During a furlough,he had an affair with his wife.

After the war, when Taillandier reads his killed in action pal's book , there's no hint at him though he saved his life once. He suspects his wife who never wanted to see him again when she learned he knew her man ,of erasing the passages where he mentions his name. Then begins a journey through the past in which his former lover's daughter is involved .

The film depicts camaraderie in the trenches :"we were four ,(like the three musketeers ?)and we did believe that our bonds would help us to escape unharmed "; the old guard waging war by spreading maps over a desk (Noel Roquevert) ; the daughter who has never known her father and wants to learn about him ; the secret which justifies the title.

Watch out for two short appearances by Louis De Funès as a gardener (not a comic relief).

This is another fine film by an unfairly unsung French director.

Soleil noir

The dark side of the sun.
"Soleil noir" represents one of the nadirs of the French cinema of the sixties;it has to be seen to be believed.

The outline was not uninteresting though: a patriarch has just died ; as the family is arguing about the inheritance , Beatrice hints at her older brother she has never known and who had to escape to Africa because of his collaboration with the Nazis in WW2. Nobody wants to hear about that black sheep of the family and she decided she would go to join him across the sea and bring him back home.....

Then things begin to go wrong :it's absolutely impossible to believe that Beatrice (Michèle Mercier,)who probably goes shopping in the Faubourg Saint Honoré, becomes overnight a raider , and winds up in a real dump in the middle of the desert where a bunch of former Nazis, crooks on the run and other assassins hide .Her brother (Daniel Gélin ,why did he get involved in that business?) does not want to go home ;she tries and she tries to convince him to come back with her, to no avail .In desperation, she puts on her vamp act because of course she knows she's coveted by all the guys around .But Beatrice 's hair is never messed up ,never a pearl of sweat on her forehead ,and always elegant in her bourgeois clothes .And when men try to enter her room ,she yells "out!" and they stay away! The only time she was almost raped,big brother came to her rescue.

The actors overplay to be sinister-looking , the action drags on ; the title "black sun" indicates that under the blistering sun of the desert ,dirty people conceal their shady past ; but it does not hide how dreadful the film is.

Sins of Jezebel

If ever the Devil was born without a pair of horns....
In the Bible ,there's no love interest between the heroine and Jehu. So he has no regret when he has the wicked queen thrown out of the window .

The Biblical story is sandwiched between sequences which will remind you of your old Sunday school days : one deals with the creation (it's perhaps going too far back in time) ; the other one makes the viewer think that maybe the budget was too low to film certain scenes ,so a voice over would do the trick.

Paulette Godard is gorgeous as a wicked queen who makes life difficult for everybody around , urging the Israelites to turn their back on Jehovah ; John Hoyt is impressive as Elijah the prophet who curses them : Jehovah 's wrath will be ruthless. He predates bearded Charlton Heston in "the ten commandments" and the ten plagues of Egypt.

The stoning of Naboth was told in the BIble ,the queen wanting to latch onto his vineyard .

The movie cannot compete with high budget movies such as "Samson and Delilah " ,"the ten commandments" "Solomon and Sheba " or "Esther and the king" ; made in a slapdash manner ,it's only a curio for sword and sandals buffs.

L'étrange nuit de Noël

Silent night,deadly night.
Second investigation by private eye Carter ,a Hercule Poirot ersatz , after "le château des quatre obèses ".

A wealthy stingy uncle is absent from his desirable castle ,and his nephews take the advantage of it to entertain their friends during the Reveillon on Christmas Night; the unexpected return of the squire spoils the party but shortly after , the wicked uncle is murdered and all the people in the place are suspects .

The first half is passable ,with the first scene using the telephones and a relatively mysterious atmosphere ; but the investigation is tedious , Yvan Noe's directing lacks in invention and when the private gathers all the suspects a la Hercule Poirot , the viewer doesn't really care anymore, as far as the identity of the killer is concerned ,in spite of a red herring , which tries to enliven things a bit.

Yvan Noe's best works would come later ,particularly "la cavalcade des heures" and "une mort sans importance ".

Le lys de mer

Audry takes a bow .
Between the French silent age and the coming of Agnès Varda , the importance of Jacqueline Audry cannot be overstated :she was the very first woman director and her best works (notably "Olivia" which broached the lesbian subject, "la garçonne" and her excellent adaptation of Sartre's "Huis Clos") should have been considered classics of the fifties ,had the cinema of the era been less macho.

The early seventies found Audry lost in Sardinia ,to be precise in Rohmer's navel-gazing. The prologue, very violent , deals with the heroine's childhood trauma .But the rest is insignificant :its subject was already passé in 1971 and the girl does not look like ,to the slightest extent, a neurotic girl traumatized by the horrible events of her awful past ;she sets her heart on a native in order to lose her virginity :this extremely original plot sees her wander in the island before taking the plunge ; she makes the young lad wait , going as far as to paint her body in gold,a la "Goldfinger" .

Carole André and co-star athletic Christine "Kiki " Caron ( a swimming champion in the sixties,silver medal in Tokyo Olympic games 1964) give monotonous and even irritating performances. It was to be Audry's last effort.

A young person who would like to discover Audry' s work should go back to her fifties works.


Death cap.
Another cheap movie by Mocky which can boast a good cast : Richard Bohringer as a shrewd guardian of his deadly (check the title) nieces, and Jean -François Stévenin as a listless superintendent.

Thoroughly immoral ,this screenplay is a true wholesale slaughter in which everybody dies. The lines are often funny and witty,full of black humor ;one can regret some coarse scenes : the love-making after the escape, the naked girl with the police around....but the inmate blackmailing the prison governor and the priest turning into a gas station man ,then becoming a priest again to save the hero's soul make up for it.

The screenplay is not as strong as those of "noir comme le souvenir" or "la bête de miséricorde" but Mocky's fans can have a look.

Herrin der Welt

The yellow peril strikes again.
Micheline Presle ,one of the luminaries of the French cinema, turned 100 last August ;after the disappearance of Daniel Darrieux ,she 's the last French legend of the golden age ; she saves something from the wreckage in this cock and bull story :her Mata Hari is larger than life :she's cruel ,ruthless, distinguished ,chic and deadly handsome ; her playing is very tongue in chick,the best thing to do when you deal with such a part.

Did Dieterle direct that? Is it the same man who made the best version of Hugo's "hunchback of Notre Dame " or "portrait of Jennie",to name but two? You have to live!

The first part is burdened by tons of voice over , to make sure the audience did understand this far fetched yarn who tries to imitate "north by norwest "(the ending is obvious) and whose McGuffin is a formula the yellow peril covets .Implausibilities abound:after an explosion which destroys all the area , the scientist came out with a heart attack and his daughter and his assistant unharmed!

The second part is disjointed ,but it's the scenes in the jungle which take the biscuit ,particularly that one when a boa constrictor coils up around Carlos Thompson's body whilst Martha Hyers is sinking in the quicksands : enough is enough and it's guaranteed to net nothing but horse laughs .The magnificent temples of Angkor might have provided the movie with a splendid background and the monks could have brought back wisdom , peace and love in a world gone wrong ,but it's too little too late. The French audience will appreciate Lino Ventura short but effective appearance as a hard nut to crack.

Agence matrimoniale

Too many lonely hearts
Jean-Paul Le Chanois was the bete noire of the nouvelle vague ;but now there's a tendency to restore to favor his best films , championned by Bertrand Tavernier and Jacques Lourcelles. And the scorn they pour on his work comes from people who never saw a Le Chanois movie ; certainly ,his post "agence matrimoniale " efforts are dispensable, but his best works ("Messieurs Ludovic" " sans laisser d'adresse" and the marvelous "l'école buissonnière" )are endearing works and it's to these that any sensible review must address itself.

Bernard Blier was the hero of all these movies;he epitomizes the director's humanism , his love for simple people ;populist to the score , his sincerity could not be called into question:Le Chanois was a communist intellectual .

"Agence matrimoniale " begins with a prologue about marriage/divorce in the early fifties ; later on,the director interrupts the action with a voice over dialogue between the matrimonial agent and a bashful school teacher dealing with the lonely people 's situation:what do they do during these endless days on their own ;today ,they are still among us and they spend their time watching TV or surfing on internet ....But they are on their own, perhaps lonelier than ever. Virtual friends have replaced their imaginary ones.

Blier portrays a bachelor , who inherits a matrimonial agency. Against all odds, he manages to run his office ,with small victories and big defeats; by helping the others on their way to happiness, he eventually does soul-searching and realizes that his over possessive mother wanted to keep him for herself. She has always done her best to prevent him from marrying his childhood's friend (Michèle Alfa)

This is a time capsule of the days after WW2 : the hero has always felt he was in a prison: first school , then barracks, then POW camp; but it will take all the others' problems to make him become aware that the most dreadful jail was his mom's love.

Plenty of characters , beginners who would become very famous later on (Louis De Funès ,Pierre Mondy),"agence matrimoniale" features people you do not meet everyday: a deaf girl, another one who conceals her strawberry mark behind her headscarf , a pregnant girl who desesperately tries to find a husband in the agency before her formidable father knows of her condition .....

And an upbeat playful ending ...

Le dolmen tragique

Celtic curse?
In spite of an appealing title (tragic dolmen ), this is a trite whodunit , which involves a curse (beware of the dolmen , death awaits on you all) , secret documents , kleptomania ,a medium and a mysterious murder with a gun full of nitroglycerine near the Celtic remnant; in the castle ,everybody's a suspect for the cop who investigates as a so-called squire 's friend .The whodunit is the screenwriter's wish but it's Agatha Christie 's reality .

The plot is a muddled affair,with too many characters ,none of whom particularly interesting (with the exception of the always reliable Paulette Dubost), and too many subplots (thefts, an air force lieutenant about to marry a divorcee , a vicious uncle, a naive servant,you name it... )

When the two-bit Poirot reveals the truth ,nobody cares anymore.

La bête de miséricorde

They shoot horses ,don't they?
It was the second time Jean-Pierre Mocky had directed a Fredric Brown work ; in the seventies,there was " l'ibis rouge" (based on "knock three one two" ) ;then this "bête de miséricorde " ( based on "the leniant beast )

Well I love Brown ,his novels ,and a genre he probably invented ,the short short-story , his story-telling ,his famous black humor ;Jean-Pierre Mocky's cinema,it is a horse of a different color :what's amazing is the incredibly huge bulk of movies he made ,few meeting commercial and critical success;I was skeptical.

Against all odds, Mocky's cheap directing and low budget work wonders when it comes to creating Brown's gruesome macabre atmosphere ; the lines hit home , and do the great American writer justice:one often heartily laughs .

After finishing off his wife ,suffering torture , Mardet (Mocky)discovers that he can relieve the desperate people who cannot stand their earthly ride anymore by slaying them .A religious man, he prays and praises the Lord and asks Him what to do.

More a farce than a thriller , the director gambles on black humor and caricatures (the cops ,mainly Bernard Menez ,are heavily made up ) and makes his movie an unsung winner. To crown it all, one of them could be a bait to catch this mysterious killer, he becomes a victim;after his wife walked out on him he declares: " My pain will last as long I live" ;"It's already over " says the leniant beast while doing him in.

There are plenty of hilarious scenes :have you ever seen a man in a phone booth calling his wife buried in the cemetary (a long-distance call!) ? Then you've never watched "la bête de miséricorde".


Philip's and Teresa's search.
"Teresa " is akin to other Zinnemann's movies: "the search "was about a relationship between a German kid and a private (Montgomery Clift) who taught him English so that they could communicate ; "the men" dealt with "the soldier has come home" subject :but he's sometimes disabled (Brando) and the doctor had to tell the wife (Teresa Wright ) that she would have to arm up with patience.

"Teresa" combines the clash between two languages -although the fact that two persons can speak English in Teresa's family is hardly gullible- and two ways of life and the soldier's life after the war ; when he returns home, Philippe (Ericson) finds it hard to adjust himself to the land and the over possessive mom he left behind ("you treat me like a two- year old"); and his difficulties to find a new job because he's got a wife to feed (thus the impossibility to go to college). As for the heroine(Angeli) ,not only she left her homeland and her own family but in New York ,she becomes a rival for the mother and soon she realises she's outstayed her welcome.

I have a tendency to prefer the sequences in Italy ,influenced by the Neo-realism of De Sica , Visconti and Rossellini ;the depiction of Teresa's family with the macho brother who displays hostility ; the food the private spoils and the starving children gathering among the soldier to get their share ; the wedding in a church in ruins.

Death on the Nile

Special appearance by Cleopatra.
Sarah Phelps,in her TV adaptation of "the ABC murders" had already revealed some obscure facts of Poirot's life in the war; here ,in the prologue which has nothing to do with the novel,the screen writers registered the same desire: one sees private Poirot in the trenches where his grey cells are always at work in war strategy;furthermore, one learns why Poirot never got married (Billy Wilder did the same with Holmes in "the private life of Sherlock Holmes" ). Actually ,in Christie's books, Poirot was a Belgian refugee in WWI when he appears in "the mysterious affair at Styles",and that's it.

A lot of people read the book and more saw the John Guillermin 1978 version which was successful ,so they know the whodunit and the murderer 's savoir faire. Christie's trick is as usual,brilliant. However , like he did in his remake of "murder on the orient express" , Brannagh ,against all odds ,almost makes new things out of old. His make up is horrible ,but his grey cells are as effective as ever ;even though you know the end ,you can enjoy it because it's shorter than the Ustinov version ,which remains unsurpassed though.

Vendetta en Camargue

Annie Oakley comes to Camargue .
As French has no wild west , the "westerns " are filmed in Camargue; as the gypsies go every year to a pilgrimage to the Saintes -Maries -De -La -Mer (the legend has it that Mary Magdalene and two companions would have landed in this lovely town ), they would play the part of the Indians with gusto. All the more dangerous for the gardians /cowboys that there's a bad guy and a bad girl (Rosy Varte! ) among the gypsies,and to make the matters worse ,there's also a shrewd traitor among the "Whites" .

When she arrives to the mas (farm or ranch in Provence),the new boss , a woman is exposed to the sly comments of her macho cowboys ;but actress Brigitte Auber was a sportswoman, an acrobat ,which would give her an important part in Hitchcock 's "to catch a thief" .The hackneyed trick of the quicksands (scientifically impossible ,she would remain stuck but would not get drowned ) is once more used and no one bothers to fake the Provençal accent!!

Treize à table

Thirteen is only a prime number.
Okay ,it's André Hunebelle , and it's considered polite , among the French cinebuffs ,to heap scorn on this non-intellectual director .

But why deny you some fun? The play ,full of sudden new developments and witty lines, was often played on stage (and part of the series "Au theatre ce soir") and Hunebelle's adaptation for the screen is quite satisfying .

Micheline Presles is as talented an actress in the comedy as she is in drama ; Fernand Gravey who was the star of the first version of "some like it hot" ("fanfare d'amour",1934) is excellent as the wet husband ,at the beck and call of an authoritian missus ; it makes it hard to believe that he was (or might be) a South American hero ,El Caballero, whose passionaria (Germaine Montero ,in an Elvire Popesco-like part) comes to chastise for he betrayed the imaginary state of Santa Rosalinda and was sentenced to death by the revolutionary court afterwards.

It happens on the Reveillon De Noel where the guests have a wild time whereas the hostess frets because ,in spite of her (often cynical)tricks ,the number of the guests for the meal always goes back to thirteen;and although she claims she's not superstitious ,she could not,would not bear the curse of the Last Supper.

Anyway,the Office Catholique Du Cinema blamed the film because the general atmosphere was unpleasant for the Christian audience .

But don't worry ! It's an entertaining comedy you'll enjoy!

Le miracle des loups

Another Joan of Arc from the fifteenth century.
In France ,many people know the color version of the story (1961) by André Hunebelle starring Jean Marais which had undergone lots of changes ,particularly concerning the female character ; although fairly entertaining , it cannot hold a candle to the silent version by Raymond Bernard who later made the best version of "les miserables " which had ever been and a great war movie ("les croix de bois" ).

Bernard 's screenplay focuses on the historical characters :Charles Le Téméraire ,duke of Burgundy , the last of the powerful French lords , Louis the Eleventh and Jeanne Hachette who urged men to strike back during the siege of Beauvais. In Hunebelle 's movie , Jeanne was a noble ,Jeanne De Beauvais , a damsel in distress, whereas she's a true heroine in the silent film,which had a strong feminist side just the same! Her attentive escort only intervenes when the assailants are about to surrender.

Made with a high budget ,the film contains battle scenes,crowds movements that are quite impressive for the time ,but the most memorable sequences are not war scenes:

-a "mystere" (a play based on the holy Bible)which shows Adam's temptation and his fall from grace,with hell flames galore ....the director interrupts his telling during long minutes to depict this show which in the Middle-Ages ,generallly would take place in the cathedrals .The sequence ,visually stunning ,is not gratuitous for all that: it's the villain 's desire for Jeanne who is almost raped .

-the "broken crown" scene ,an omen of the things to come ; Charles Dullin overplays but it makes sense.

-the piece of resistance , the miracle worked by the wolves that surrounds Jeanne and protects her against her ennemies who try to steal the precious letter from her .

No unfair accusation of witchcraft ,like in the color version, but a heroine who carries on with the fight and Jeanne Fouquet becomes Jeanne Hachette,a heroine dear to the inhabitants of Beauvais ,still today .

And the final scene is extraordinary, showing the king's victory in admirably succint style.

Jeunes mariés

US go home ????????
Between 1950 and 1967, US air force created 11 bases in France. 15 Years later,De Gaulle dedided to evict non NATO French forces from his country.

Few movies deal with these air bases ,with the exception of the critically-acclaimed Melvin Van Pebbles' " la permission"aka "the story of a three -day pass" (1967) ;but it was a drama , the story of the love between a black soldier and a French white girl.

"Jeunes mariés" is a harmless comedy by Gilles Grangier whose thrillers in the late fifties were sometimes underrated;even talented François Périer and Anne Vernon can play their game well , in a far-fetched not really funny story.

It begins well enough when the just married (that's the title) come to a town where the people they meet speak English ("we may have crossed the Channel without noticing it") ;then the American GI trying to help them when they are in trouble on the road bit is mistaken for their aggressor.

Then the story becomes dull and repetitive; the mayor do not want to fall out with the Americans who are a good source of income in the country. Opinions differ,among the villagers .But the movie never really takes off.

Pour un sourire

A walk with love and death.
Filmed on location in an Italian town destroyed by an earthquake, "pour un sourire"belongs to the kind of movies which is easy to admire but very hard to like ,par excellence the art house cinema,influenced by early works by Alain Resnais ,based on a novel called " saute Barbara" (jump, Barbara ; it hints at a jumping rope ).

Bruno Cremer , cast against type for he is known for his parts of manly military man , par excellence the firebrand , portrays here a desperate deserter , who has lost the track of time (hence the comings and goings between present and past ;or is it present and future?) and who wanders in ruins ,holding a little girl's hand ,a little girl who might replace the one he might have lost in the bombing ; the baffled soldier cannot relate to the nightmarish world which surrounds him : he only speaks to a man eating canned sardines (Philippe Clay) ,but when he 's in a huge hall where refugees gather, showing their papers to a faceless clerk behind a desk , searching for relatives or a place to live (or to hide), he 's like a sleep walker ; the movie creates a hypnotic effect ,like in Resnais's early efforts ,but it may also remind you of Robert Enrico's unsung masterpiece "au coeur de la vie" (a segment of which "la rivière du hibou" aka "an occurence at Owl Crick bridge "was included in "the twillight zone" series): the last sequence notably. François De Roubaix, who was Enrico's favorite composer ,wrote the score. Marina Vlady 's appearances as the late wife are brief and ghostly .

Le couteau dans la plaie

Airplanes do funny things before they crash ..
"The suspense starts in the first five minutes" the film poster claims ;well,it's not exactly that and the movie is too slow-moving and the ending may seem interminable to some.

For Perkins ,who was fluent in French (but is dubbed here) it was the first film in a country where he would often work : Welles '"masterpiece " le procès" ,Cayatte's unfairly maligned " le glaive et la balance ", Chabrol's "le scandale " and " la decade prodigieuse "and more ....

The original French title means "knife in the wound ",but "remuer le couteau dans la plaie" does also mean "add insult to injury ".

Sophia Loren is miscast and her character's attitude does not make much sense ;it's hard to believe that this attractive sexy woman can become a puppet in her husband's hands and -as she works in a shop de luxe where the customers have lunch at the Ritz- not being interested in the insurance hefty sum ! Besides ,she's got Gig Young at hand .Perkins' boyish look may inspire fear ,but Litvak ,-a very good director though ,see "sorry wrong number ",admired by Hitchcock and de Havilland's triumph ,"the snake pit"- only succeeds in getting the best of him in the scenes with the kid who will play the "game" till the very end , and play a prominent part in the denouement.

For a very short while ,the director meets again Jean-Pierre Aumont he had already directed in "l'équipage" (1935)

The Full Treatment

The Frenchiest of Guest's movies;one of the principals and a supporting actress are legends of the golden age of the French cinema:Claude Dauphin and Françoise Rosay oddly cast as his mother (she's hardly 12 years his senior); half of the action takes place on the côte d'Azur,and there's a lot of Hugo 's language in the lines .

The main problem is that the movie is too slow moving and it is overlong (20 minutes could easily edited out); Hitchcock's influence is glaring :close shots on Diane Cilento's hair ,a la "vertigo" , strings which might be deadly weapons; the Mother-and-son couple is typically hitchcockian ,but unfortunately it is only skimmed over whereas much time is given over to repetitive scenes.

Although the ending is predictable , it's entertaining stuff , but suspense is not constant ; on the other hand ,the shrink who pretends to help the psychopath is a good idea , reversing the roles was not usual at the time .

Si on chantait

Pizza plus!
By and large,I do not go much for the feel good French movies ,but this one redeems itself by championning the chanson française whereas this kind of film generally includes songs in English whose connection with the plot is thin,to put it mildly.

Okay,the film poster is an imitation of the Beatles' "Abbey Road ";but how many pastiches are there,across the universe ,of this iconic cover??So many you couldn't count them all.

Apart from this , "si on chantait" is some kind of tribute to the chanson française which is,dans un film français, fine with me.

People on the dole launch their song delivery company :an improvement on the old tradition which consists of dedicating a record to a dear one, via radio ; the employees of the company come to your door and perform live before the lucky recipient.

It spawns very good scenes ,some moving (but a tendency to overplay sometimes) ,some riotously funny: Clovis Cornillac singing Gainsbourg's "je suis venu te dire que je m'en vais " to his hateful foreman before resigning is a great moment ;AlIce Pol serenading her lover's wife before the legal couple ;but Artus steals the show when he begins to sing in tune after understanding the double entendre of songs such as " banana split" and Gainsbourg's "les sucettes"!

It's uneven though ;the older cast has a tendency to hog the stage,particularly Henriette ;the grannies and their vibrators , it's crude and ridiculous ; the overpossessive mom who wants to do her bashful clueless boy away from the house because she's got a brand new beau is a cliché to end all the clichés .

The title is taken from a memorable Julien Clerc's eponymous song (=shall we sing?) ; and once more ,hats off to you ,Jeremy Lopez and your pals, for your welcome tribute to the chanson française :pizzazz plus!

Grand gala

Will he marry a ballerina or a cowgirl?
Third and final effort by François Campaux ,a listless but not uninteresting story ,part ballet ,and part what you can call "Moroccan western" .

A légionnaire,Pierre, (Yves Vincent) attends a ballet the prima ballerina of which , Monique, is an old flame of his ;he follows her to Paris after his discharge ,but cannot adjust himself to his new life ; finding no job ,he decides to go back to Morocco where he becomes a horse breeder ...He has really found his way in life ; besides ,he meets a widow,Anna, herself a horse breeder ,and when the ballerina comes to join him in his new homeland , not only she does not like the farmer's life and finds it hard to ride a horse ,but she also considers Anna a rival.

Ludmilla Tcherina was a dancer,and she does not need any stand-in for the superb ballet sequences; the excellent Odile Versois, who was featured in Campaux's previous effort " bel amour" , portrays a determined woman ,doing what they would call at the time "a man's job" ,helping his friend to find back his stolen horses. Moroccan western indeed! Bad title .

Le veau gras

Bring hither the fatten calf !
Serge De Poligny's best efforts belong to the fantasy genre ("le baron fantôme" and "la fiancée des ténèbres") ; these were the best he had to offer.

"Le veau gras" which came just before his towering achievements ,is a pleasant comedy , loosely based on the parable of the prodigal son. Harmless stuff.

The chemist's bad son is a princess' gigolo but when he returns home ,he's welcomed with open arms whereas his brother who stayed to help his daddy is ridiculed and almost blamed .

Elvire Popesco ,unfortunately ,has a relatively small time on the screen and the movie suffers accordingly. But eventually she reveals herself smarter than her beau thought. One of the first parts of François Périer ,then on the threshold of a brilliant career.

La moucharde

The reluctant stoolie.
Guy Lefranc's career got off to most auspicious start , although his first two works ("knock" " un histoire d'amour" )owed a lot to Louis Jouvet;some entertaining comedies ("suivez-moi jeune homme" "capitaine pantoufle" ) some less so ("elle et lui ") follow.

"Chantage "(1955) which depicted a blackmail organisation seemed to indicate that the director was going in a good direction.

It did not seem that way with the following thriller, which got bogged down in the worst tricks of melodrama ; a screenplay which has enough plot holes to fill the Albert Hall, a truck driver whose behaviour takes naiveté to new limits -would you give one million francs to the first to come?-, the convict's testament , the discovery on a cheesecake magazine , the good sister who ,in spite of a poor background , became a deserving nurse and stayed on the straight and narrow.

Dany Carrel saves something from the wreckage :she portrays a girl escaped from a reform school who does not want to follow her sister's footsteps and work for a meager wage ;she dreams of a luxury life,with furs, jewels,champagne and the whole kit ;abetted by a nice -but bad- boy ( a cast against type Pierre Vaneck), she sinks into shady business .He and Carrel could have been an ideal romantic couple,had they been given good material to work with.

Alerte au sud

How a legionnaire becomes a secret agent.
Jean Devaivre 's work essentially consists of two good thrillers :" la dame de onze heures " and "la ferme des sept péchés " ;the rest is eminently forgettable .

"Alerte au sud" sandwiched between two "Caroline Chérie" episodes also featuring Jean-Claude Pascal , is relatively interesting because it looks like the cheap eurospies , which throve in the wake of James Bond. And the genre did not exist in the fifties .Hence its (relative) originality.

Like all the great men,Mr Von Stroheim keeps the audience waiting and it's one hour before he appears !His character looks like a cross between Dr No and Goldfinger, and the story sometimes reminds you of the very first Bond , with the villain's lair which looks like a poor James Bond's setting .Add a gorgeous Bond girl-like Gianna Maria Canale who falls in love with the hero and betrays her boss .

Filmed in color (rare in the French early fifties)and on location in Morocco .

Week-End with Father

Trouble at the holiday camp.
Perhaps the only Sirk movie which was aimed at the children's market ; the grown -up children would play an important part in his canon ;and they would often become selfish and even cruel when they grew up;in "all that Heaven allows" , they buy Jane Wyman a TV set so she will have the whole world in her hand and not marry the undistinguished uneducated gardener; in "there's always tomorrow" and "All I desire",children epitomize "adult moral" and keep their elders on the straight and narrow;"they keep the adults in the cages which society has prepared for them"(Sirk);in "imitation of life" a daughter disowns her mom because she wants to pass off as white and it leads to tragedy.

Already, in "week-end" ,children impose their vision , models provided by the society: the girls dream of movie stardom ,so a glamorous TV star is more attractive than a simple mother of two ; as for the boys ,virility is represented by beefcake counselor Don : what can oafish Van Heflin do against this dynamic superman? In spite of his unbearable self-assurance ,one can note that Don is ahead of his time,as far as health food is concerned : the future would prove him right.

Sirk's movie is thoroughly enjoyable and more meaningful than it may appear at first sight: when Brad boasts about his prowess as a boy scout, the boy removes the markers ;it becomes symbolic: their would be future parents take the wrong way ,whereas they think they are on the right way,they do not have to heed their own children's call .

The more Brad tries to resemble his children's model,the more he fails : during the sports contest , Van helflin loses on all accounts ;the girls discover that their icon is in love with herself , only interested in the autographs she signs and in her stardom ;she's a career-woman where children have no room.

And do not miss the ironical final slap at the so-called he-man.

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