15 Slices
Medium 9780253016966

1933

Colin Crisp Indiana University Press ePub

Bastille Day (The Fourteenth of July)

France-Germany, 1933, 97 min, b&w

Dir and Scr René Clair; Asst dir Albert Valentin; Prod Tobis; Cinematog Georges Périnal; Music Maurice Jaubert, André Gailhard, and Jean Grémillon; Art dir Lazare Meerson; Sound Hermann Storr; Edit René le Hénaff; Act Annabella (Anna), Pola Illéry (Pola), Georges Rigaud (Jean), Raymond Cordy (Raymond), Thomy Bourdelle (Fernand), Paul Olivier (Monsieur Imaque), Aimos (Charles), Jane Pierson, Maximilienne, and Odette Talazac.

Whether because of the relative financial failure of À nous la liberté (#12) or because, as René Clair himself claimed, after two films in which fantasy reigned, he wished to return to the Parisian world of which he was so fond, Quatorze juillet has neither the ideological substratum of À nous nor the reckless fantasy of Le Million (#9), but resembles to a remarkable extent his first sound film, Sous les toits de Paris (#2).1 In it we find again the “little people” of Paris, the street scenes where those people meet and interact, the class contrasts that promote them as more human than the bourgeoisie and less ridiculous than the effete upper class, and the music that expresses their vitality and sentimentality. And again we find a lack of depth in all characters, such that the narrative lacks motivation and drive, depending largely on chance encounters and patterns of repetition and variation.

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Medium 9780253016966

1938

Colin Crisp Indiana University Press ePub

Hatred

France, 1938, 91 min, b&w

Dir Robert Siodmak; Asst dir Rodolphe Marcilly and Pierre Prévert; Prod Corniglion-Molinier; Scr Charles Spaak and Oscar-Paul Gilbert, from the book by Gilbert; Cinematog Eugen Schüfftan; Music Darius Milhaud and Jacques Dallin; Sets Alexandre Trauner; Edit Léonide Azar; Act Harry Baur (Mollenard), Albert Préjean (ship’s mate), Jacques Baumer (director of shipping company), Pierre Renoir (Bonnerot), Gabrielle Dorziat (Madame Mollenard), Elisabeth Pitoëff (Marie Mollenard), Robert Lynen (Gianni Mollenard), Maurice Bacquet, Marcel Dalio, Gina Manès, and Foun-Sen.

Francis Courtade includes Mollenard in his canon of five Popular Front films—Le Crime de Monsieur Lange (#46), La Vie est à nous (#49), La Belle Équipe (#51), Les Bas-Fonds, and Mollenard—“which are powerfully expressive of the social effervescence of the time and of the aspirations of millions of working men.”91 Few would question the other four, some would wish to add to the list, but most would be greatly bemused by the inclusion of Mollenard. Geneviève Guillaume-Grimaud, in a useful book devoted specifically to the cinema of the Popular Front, does not once mention Mollenard. Certainly there is in the film no direct reference to political events, class conflict, cooperatives, or the plight of the workers. Courtade defends its inclusion on the grounds that Captain Mollenard, a man of the people married as chance would have it to a representative of the propertied class, is “a sort of rock standing out against the interests of the great trading merchants, the hypocritical façade of official ceremonies, that ‘respectable bourgeois society’ whose collusion with the Church had never since Lange been so openly decried.”92

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Medium 9780253016966

1931

Colin Crisp Indiana University Press ePub

The Threepenny Opera

United States–Germany–France, 1931, 113 min (German version), 104 min (or 93 min, French version), b&w

French version: Dir Georg-Wilhelm Pabst; Asst dir Solange Bussi; Prod Warner Brothers–First National and Tobis–Nero Film; Scr Leo Lania, Ladislaus Vajda, and Bela Balazs, from the 1928 opera by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, based on The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay (1728); French adapt André Mauprey, Solange Bussi, and Ninon Steinhoff; Cinematog Fritz Arno Wagner; Art dir Andrej Andrejew; Music Kurt Weill, arranged by Theo Mackeben; Edit (German) Hans Oser, (French) Henri Rust; Act (French version) Albert Préjean (Mackie), Florelle (Polly Peachum), Jane Marken (Mrs. Peachum), Gaston Modot (Peachum), Jacques Henley (Tiger Brown), Antonin Artaud (a beggar), Margo Lion (Jenny), and Bill Bockett (hand organ).

L’Opéra de quat’sous was filmed in Germany in two versions, with the French cast featuring Florelle, Albert Préjean, and Gaston Modot. The practice of importing French actors to Germany, England, or America to make “French” films had been normal when French studios were not yet equipped for sound, but continued throughout the early 1930s for French versions of local films (see L’Étrange Monsieur Victor, #77). L’Opéra de quat’sous was the first of Georg-Wilhelm Pabst’s films to be so made. It was the second in what is sometimes called his pacifist, or more accurately “social,” trilogy, coming between Westfront 18 (Quatre de l’infanterie) and Kameradschaft (La Tragédie de la mine). The first of the trilogy was a war film calculated to incite a detestation of all wars, while the last was set in a mine deep below the Franco-German frontier, where during a disaster, German miners come to the help of their French colleagues. Class sympathies are stronger than national rivalries, but after a brief period of fraternization, the grills come down once again and national differences are officially reasserted.

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Medium 9780253016959

Appendix: Festivals and Prizes for French Personnel and Productions

Colin Crisp Indiana University Press ePub

APPENDIX: FESTIVALS AND PRIZES FOR
FRENCH PERSONNEL AND PRODUCTIONS

National Recognition

Cannes Film Festival

Grand Prix du Cinéma Français

Instituted in 1934, but the conditions, name, and date changed several times. In 1937, the government took it over and it became the Grand Prix National du Cinéma Français. It was not awarded during the war, but in 1942–1943, a substitute was created called by some the Grand Prix du Film d’Art Français, awarded by a jury consisting of three state representatives and three critics elected by their colleagues (Lucien Rebatet, Alexandre Arnoux, and Roger Régent). It recognized the following (the first two years retrospectively):

In 1944, the Société des Auteurs awarded an equivalent, which they called the Grand Prix du Cinéma. to Goupi Mains-Rouges with an honorable mention to Douce.

After the war, it was reinstituted as the Grand Prix du Cinéma Français.

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1936

Colin Crisp Indiana University Press ePub

(Mr. Lange’s Crime)

France, 1936, 83 min, b&w

Dir Jean Renoir; Asst dir Pierre Prévert; Prod Films Obéron; Scr Jacques Prévert, based on an outline by Renoir and Jean Castanier; Cinematog Jean Bachelet; Music Jean Wiener, with a song by Joseph Kosma, to words by Prévert; Art dir Castanier and Robert Gys; Sound Guy Moreau; Edit Marguerite Houllé-Renoir; Act Florelle (Valentine), René Lefebvre (Lange), Jules Berry (Batala), Nadia Sibirskaïa (Estelle), Marcel Levesque (concierge), Sylvia Bataille, Odette Talazac, Claire Gérard, Janine Loris, Marcel Duhamel, Henri Guisol, Maurice Baquet, Jacques-Bernard Brunius, Jean Dasté, Sylvain Itkine, Edmond Beauchamp, René Génin, Guy Decomble, and Fabien Loris.

Monsieur Lange’s crime is to kill his boss, a strategy that the film finds perfectly comprehensible. This is a great film, that every film-lover should see, whatever his or her political orientation. Made by left-wing film personnel at a time of high optimism, “It is,” as Noël Burch and Geneviève Sellier note, “a utopian film par excellence, proclaiming the end of capitalist exploitation and the dawn of a new era.”1 Initially entitled “Sur la cour,” it deals with a close-knit community of working men and women living around a courtyard, many of them employed in Valentine’s laundry or Batala’s printing shop. Batala, the emblematic capitalist boss, is played with genius by Jules Berry at his most sinister—voluble, slimy, gesticulatory, exploitative. To evade financial ruin, he takes advantage of a providential train crash to exchange his identity for the vestments of a dead priest, thus allowing the film’s anticapitalism to flow over into anticlericalism. In Batala’s absence, one of his workers, a mild-mannered fantasist called Lange, reorganizes his printing shop as a workers’ cooperative, which flourishes on the profits from Lange’s Arizona Jim tales. Batala reappears (still as a priest) and demands the proceeds; Lange shoots him. The story is told in flashback at an inn on the Belgian border, where Lange and Valentine are seeking refuge. The innkeeper and his clients have understood and wave them through.

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