15 Chapters
Medium 9780253016966

1934

Colin Crisp Indiana University Press ePub

(Street without a Name)

France, 1934, 82 min (now 78 min), b&w

Dir Pierre Chenal; Asst dir Roger Blin and Louis Daquin; Prod Les Productions Pellegrin; Scr Chenal, Blin, and Marcel Aymé, from the novel by Aymé; Cinematog Joseph-Louis Mundwiller; Music Paul Devred; Art dir Roland Quignon; Sound Jacques Hawadier and A. Puff; Edit Chenal; Act Constant Rémy (Méhoul), Gabriel Gabrio (Finocle), Paul Azaïs (Manu), Enrico Glori (Cruséo), Pola Illéry (Noâ), Dagmar Gérard (La Jimbre), Fréhel (Madame Méhoul), Paule Andral (Louise Johannieu), Robert Le Vigan (Vanoël), Marcel Delaitre (Johannieu), and Pierre Larquey.

This is a typical instance of “the street film,” a subgenre inherited from the German cinema of the 1920s (e.g., Karl Grune, The Street, 1923; Georg-Wilhelm Pabst, The Joyless Street, 1925; Bruno Rahn, Tragedy of the Street, 1927).25 It was to flourish in 1930s France, and the titles of surviving films are indicative of the genre’s focus on harsh street life in the poorer quarters of Paris: Faubourg Montmartre (1931); Dans les rues/On the Street (1933); La Rue sans nom (1933); Jeunesse/Youth (1934); Ménilmontant (1936); La Rue sans joie/The Joyless Street (1938); and L’Enfer des anges/A Hell for Little Angels (1939). Typically this genre exploited the standard melodramatic conventions of such films as Les Misérables and Les Deux Orphelines but combined them with a raw realism often labeled “naturalism.” The teeming, seething squalor of “the street” rendered all too credible the inevitable corruption of innocent youth that was often a central theme, and aimed to evoke not pity for the vulnerable poor, as in melodramas, but rather a sort of fascinated horror.

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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 9780253016959

Part I. 1940–1945

Colin Crisp Indiana University Press ePub

PART I

1940–1945

1. La Fille du puisatier

The Well-Digger’s Daughter

Filming began May 1940, then resumed 13 August 1940; released Marseilles and Lyons, 20 December 1940; Paris, 24 April 1941

190 min, b&w

Dir and Scr Marcel Pagnol; Prod Films Marcel Pagnol; Cinematog Willy; Music Vincent Scotto; Art dir Cot and Marius Brouquier; Sound Marcel Lavoignat; Edit Jeannette Ginestet; Act Josette Day (Patricia), Raimu (Pascal Amoretti), Fernandel (Félipe Rambert), Milly Mathis (Nathalie), Line Noro (Marie Mazel), Fernand Charpin (Monsieur Mazel), Georges Grey (Jacques Mazel), Claire Oddera (Amanda Amoretti), Roberte Arnaud (Roberte), Raymonde (Éléonore Amoretti), Rosette (Marie Amoretti), Liliane (Isabelle Amoretti), Félicien Tramel (waiter), Marcel Maupi (shop assistant), and Charles Blavette (dyer).

La Fille du puisatier is often listed as the first French film to have been made under the German occupation. In fact, it was begun in May 1940, before the invasion, and resumed on 13 August, barely two months after the fall of France and the entry into Paris of German forces. Marcel Pagnol had established his production unit in Provence, which was by that time in the (somewhat optimistically named) zone libre (ZL, free zone). In the zone occupé (ZO), there was to be a drastic reorganization of the film industry, as of so much else, and filmmaking did not recommence until February 1941. In the ZL, by contrast, there was as yet little regulation, and shooting began on some seven films before that point, most of them in Pagnol’s Marseilles studio. Of these the first, and the only major, film was La Fille du puisatier. Pagnol was able to proceed so rapidly not just because of the lack of regulatory hindrances in the Midi but also because he had already prepared and initiated shooting, and because, unlike his Paris colleagues, he was in total personal control of production.

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Appendix: Prizes and Awards

Colin Crisp Indiana University Press ePub

Grand Prix du Cinéma Français (GPCF)

Awarded by the Société d’Encouragement à l’Art et à l’Industrie under the patronage of Louis Lumière. Effectively taken over by the state in 1937, it became known in 1939 as the Grand Prix National du Cinéma Français (GPNCF). By then some felt it had become a prize less about quality than virtue. Usually presented in January for films released in the preceding year, it was in 1939 (wisely) awarded in July. The changing terms of reference as to what constituted an eligible French film (e.g., “all collaborators must be French”) often eliminated likely contenders (Les Bas-Fonds, Mayerling, Jenny, Le Crime de Monsieur Lange, etc.) and would retrospectively have eliminated Maria Chapdelaine and La Kermesse héroïque.1

1934

Maria Chapdelaine (Julien Duvivier), over Itto and Zouzou

1935

La Kermesse héroïque (Jacques Feyder)

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Medium 9780253016966

1930

Colin Crisp Indiana University Press ePub

Miss Europe

France-Germany-Italy, 1930, 92 min, b&w

Dir Augusto Genina; Asst dir Edmond Gréville, André d’Ollivier, and Fernand Lefebvre; Prod SOFAR (Société des Films Artistiques); Scr Augusto Genina, René Clair, Bernard Zimmer, and Alessandro de Stefani, from an idea of Georg-Wilhelm Pabst; Cinematog Rudolph Maté; Music Wolfgang Zeller, René Sylviano, and H. Shephard; Art dir Robert Gys; Edit Edmond Gréville; Act Louise Brooks (Lucienne Garnier), Jean Bradin (Prince Grabovsky), Georges Charlia (André), H. Bandini (Antonin), André Nicolle (secretary), Yves Glad (Maharaja), Gaston Jacquet (Duc de la Tour Chalgrin), Alex Bernard (photographer), and Marc Ziboulsky (manager).

The bewildering list of credits for direction and script above give some idea of the complicated origins of this film, but the reality is even more astonishing. The film was begun in 1929 as a silent film. Most sources say the scenario was primarily René Clair’s, from an idea by Georg-Wilhelm Pabst, and that Clair intended to direct it himself, but the final scenario departed significantly from the original proposal and was rejected by the producer. Meanwhile, Clair had seen the first talkies and had revised the script to include sound. It was still rejected, however, perhaps for financial reasons, and was finally allocated to the experienced Italian director Augusto Genina. SOFAR was an Italian-German-French production company, so it decided for tactical reasons to shoot the film silent, then postsynch it in four languages, dubbing with different actors. Louise Brooks’s voice, for example, was dubbed in the French version by Hélène Regelly. It is astounding that such a multi-sourced film should be so coherent and so powerful, and no less astounding in that sound seems integral to the design of the film as it now stands. The climactic final scene, which had been central to Clair’s scenario, must nevertheless have been conceived in its present form after the decision to sonorize.

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