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Frank would continue to specialise in these pieces, varying the approach with each one: thus, for the comedy The Ex-Mrs. Bradford , the narrator was the despairing butler; for My Man Godfrey a telephone call by the distracted mother of the errant heroine; for Fury , the plea put forward by the defence counsel; for the Thin Man series, the story as told by Asta, the dog. In L'Intransigeant , there were reminiscences by Mickey Mouse, on his eighth birthday. He quickly showed himself even less willing to suffer poor film-making gladly, than he had been before his illness, and although he was anxious to promote French films whenever possible, he would do so only where he perceived them to meet his fundamental criterion: to ring true.
In the theatre, perhaps, this insignificant story can be diverting for easily-pleased spectators; but in the cinema They had already made a film in America. As if that wasn't enough, they wanted to make a new version in France. In his opinion the director, Marc Allegret — one of the most promising young directors of the time — had not been able, try as he might, to lift the flatness of the material, or to make it either interesting or funny:.
I admire Marc Allegret's good intentions. He has done all that was humanly possible to prevent his film being completely empty You know perhaps that Les Amants terribles describes the agreements and disagreements of two couples. This squabbling among four people is a story for naive young girls But sacred tradition demands our indulgence in the summer season: so perhaps not only adolescent girls, but also other spectators, lulled by the heat, may find something to their taste in this tale.
The humourless banality of their conversation expressed perfectly Coward's view of the emptiness of the lives of all four characters, but also the impossibility of translating his theatrical wit to film, especially in translation:. You've been dropped like a hot potato. It's true you were the model of a silly goose — a man like Daniel couldn't do anything but dump you. I would add, to your credit, that you've certainly changed: two days of misfortune have been enough to change you completely, and for you to become, like all women, an insane egoist.
Later in the autumn, he was merciless in his review of a sentimental French 'B' film, La Joueuse d'orgue , epitome of the superficiality of in his opinion too many French films:. Since my earliest childhood, I have been told, endlessly, that I had no heart. I have just discovered this once again: in the presence of one of these melodramas which make Margot weep, my eyes have remained obstinately dry I tell you, I am a man without a heart. By contrast, his review of the English remake of Griffith's Broken Blossoms was appreciative and considered.
As well as praising the director for his skill in making the more melodramatic elements of the story seem real, he mentioned particularly the heroine, played by Dolly Haas:. Some of her expressions are unforgettable, so that you don't think about the aspects of the situations which are gratuitous and extreme. The London setting strikes a deep chord, and for him is the real star of the film: the London to which Pierre Mac Orlan was passionately drawn, the port of London where Nino himself had first become ill:.
Broken Blossoms unfolds in Limehouse, the Chinese quarter of London, centre of a land of misery All the settings in the Port of London, the fire in Chen's little shop, the scenes which create the atmosphere, are of an extraordinary, spectral vividness. It is the London which lives in the imagination of all those who love this unique city.
The film Broken Blossoms had been, to Nino's eyes, a deeply moving tale of the sufferings of many inhabitants of London's East End. He had visited the docks, albeit only very briefly, and felt that the film was true to the experiences of many who lived there. As a counterpoint, in the following months he saw two English films about Paris which he felt to be inaccurate and false, and did not hesitate to mock them.
However, since the action unfolded in Paris — the Paris of an American operetta — he tried to give it a certain French accent, 11 orig. The heroine is found in. This film easily bears comparison with our worst French productions. Indeed, it beats them by a short head.
These two films, and several press announcements about forthcoming French films, gave him the idea of a more general piece for his column in L'Intransigeant , which he called 'Le vrai et les faux Paris' [The real Paris and the false ones]. This brief piece is important not only in its own right, but also because reviewers of the films which came out during the winter built upon the broader ideas Nino had opened up. Indeed, it can be seen as an early precursor to his famous article on "noir" films, where he started a train of thought which others seized on and developed further. The full article in the original French is included as an Appendix to this chapter, but its main points are also discussed below.
She is always both new and old, deliciously alive. The mysteries of Paris are far from being explained, and the eye of the camera will uncover them better than our own. And to emphasise again the kinds of gross factual errors being made, he returns to the points in his earlier reviews:.
In Carlotta , they show us a bal-musette which has been sited in the peaceful Rue Saint-Didier, apparently frequented by 'apaches' [dandified hooligans] and characters of a " bohemian" type. In Sleeping Car , we saw a marriage ceremony at the town hall of the 14th arrondissement that you could only marvel at.
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He lists a number of French films currently in production, hoping that they will do justice to Paris, and that they will be shown abroad and correct some of the false impressions conveyed to foreigners by earlier films. As they found, his hopes had been only half realised: the images of Paris, the star, were inspiring — after all, these directors knew their Paris well — but all were let down by the banality of the subject-matter, which had not progressed beyond melodrama or sentimental comedy.
They win through in spite of obstacles from corrupt local politicians. In Jeunes Filles de Paris , caricatures of Parisian types are thrown together with no real attempt at a plot. And in Paris , a medical student from a good family falls for a taxi-driver's daughter, and when the father has an accident, he helps him to recover and is then able to marry the daughter. The spectator learns how to gamble in bars, going on to the game of love, of chance, of night-clubs and bachelor-pads.
Jean Choux, who conceived and directed this romantic tosh, can't possibly be expecting compliments, since we know we can hope for works of a very different quality from a man of his talent. He paid French directors the compliment of recognising their wish to show the different sides of their beloved city, while also understanding the enormity of this task:.
In French cinema we have always wanted to express the face and the soul of Paris.
An ambitious aim, so tempting and so difficult! Paris is a whole world, it is a synthesis of the Universe. Paris does not have only one face and one soul. It has so many aspects born of its past, its glory, its traditions!
Related Le fil ténu de l’âme (French Edition)
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