A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Friday, August 3, 2018

Les Grandes Manoeuvres (René Clair, 1955)

Gérard Philipe and Michèle Morgan in Les Grandes Manoeuvres
Marie-Louise Rivière: Michèle Morgan
Armand de la Verne: Gérard Philipe
Victor Duverger: Jean Desailly
Félix Leroy: Yves Robert
Lucie: Brigitte Bardot
The Colonel: Pierre Dux
Armand's Orderly: Jacques Fabbri

Director: René Clair
Screenplay: René Clair, Jérôme Géronimi, Jean Marsan
Cinematography: Robert Lefebvre
Production design: Léon Barsacq
Film editing: Louisette Hautecoeur, Denise Natot
Music: Georges Van Parys

René Clair's first film in color is a pretty pastel confection set in a French village at the end of the 19th century, a period many French filmmakers were drawn to in part because it held a kind of autumnal glow before the harsh winter that would set in during the second decade of the 20th century. A handsome womanizing lieutenant, Armand de la Verne, stationed in the village before the beginning of the army's summer maneuvers, wagers that he can seduce the first woman to enter the room. She happens to be Marie-Louise Rivière, a divorcée who has opened a millinery in the village. And they happen to be played by Gèrard Philipe and Michèle Morgan, two of the biggest French stars of the day, both of them in middle age and endowed with a kind of gravitas that means the movie is not going to be a frivolous sex farce. For sexiness, we have a parallel flirtation between another lieutenant, Félix Leroy, and the saucy young Lucie, played by the saucy young Brigitte Bardot. Yet the film is weighed down by the more mature couple, to the point that Clair's romantic nostalgia never quite comes off the screen and engages the audience. It's lovely to look at, and it has admirers who defend its bittersweet tone, but it feels to me more like an exercise in period filmmaking than a fully committed work -- even though it was one of Clair's favorite films.

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