Considering that it was made during a bleak and distressing period for France, Le Ciel est à vous is an astonishingly uplifting film with a message of unfettered hope for the future. It is not difficult to read director Jean Grémillon’s allegorical call to arms behind the rather anodyne tale about a Lindbergh-esque exploit, based on the real-life story of Andrée Dupeyron, the wife of a garage owner in Mont-de-Marsan. Released in February 1944, a few months before the Liberation, the film was enormously popular in France, galvanising the efforts of the Resistance and their covert supporters with its inspiring subtext. Although Jean Grémillon would go on to make three more notable films, Le Ciel est à vous was his last commercial success, the highpoint of his career before a rapid decline into obscurity.
Le Ciel est à vous is significant for two reasons. Firstly, it is a rare example of a French social drama, using a strikingly neo-realist approach, with real locations and down-to-Earth characters to convincingly depict a French community in the mid-1940s. This makes a stark contrast with the contrived studio-bound melodramas which were far more prevalent at the time. More significant is its distinctly feminist slant, which is unusual, if not unprecedented, for a film of this era. As in many of Grémillon’s previous films, it is a woman who is the prime mover in the story whilst the main male character plays a lesser, more subservient role.
This portrayal of women is in direct opposition to the opinion of the Vichy government, which insisted that the woman’s place was in the home, looking after the husband and children. In this film, the woman, Thérèse Gauthier (magnificently portrayed by Madeleine Renaud), is a free spirit who dominates her husband and neglects her children in order to pursue her own dream. Whilst this is perhaps not the most positive portrayal of female independence, it effectively makes the point that women have a right to be accorded equal status with men and, like their male counterparts, should be allowed to pursue their ambitions rather than feel obliged to tie themselves to the kitchen sink. It’s a provocative statement when you consider that, in France, women were not eligible to vote until July 1944, some months after the film was released.
1.50GB | 1h 47mn | 720×540 | mkv