Alfred Hitchcock – Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)

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Quote:
Mr. and Mrs. Smith represented a change of pace for director Alfred Hitchcock. Out of his 50+ films, this one was his only comedy. Sure, The Master of Suspense usually added humorous touches to all of his films, but Mr. and Mrs. Smith was his only out and out farce.

The plot revolves around the Smiths, an otherwise happily married couple (Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery) who have a shocking conversation over breakfast in which Mr. Smith reveals that if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn’t get married. This sends Mrs. Smith into a huff and she starts PMSing on him. Then the Smiths learn through some contrivance that their marriage isn’t legal and after Mr. Smith doesn’t propose right away, Mrs. Smith goes into a snit and starts seeing other people. From there, the couple vie for each other’s affections by making the other one jealous until they finally realize they’re still in love. Continue reading

Robert Bresson – Les anges du péché AKA Angels of Sin (1943)

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Synopsis wrote:
A well-off young woman decides to become a nun, joining a convent that rehabilitates female prisoners. Through their program, she meets a woman named Thérèse who refuses any help because she says she was innocent of the crime she was convicted for. After being released from prison, Thérèse murders the actual perpetrator of the crime and comes to seek sanctuary in the convent. Continue reading

Marcel Carné – Les visiteurs du soir AKA The Devil’s Envoys (1942)

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Synopsis
Two wandering minstrels, Gilles and Dominique, arrive at the castle of the Baron Hugh just as he announces the engagement of his daughter Anne to the knight Renaud. However Gilles and Dominique have really sold their souls to The Devil and have been charged with traveling throughout the land and tempting mortals into damnation by causing them to fall in love with them. Dominique causes both Renaud and Hugh to fall for her. Meanwhile Gilles seduces Anne but then falls for her himself. And so The Devil arrives in person to visit a cruel punishment on the two lovers. Continue reading

Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger – The Small Back Room [+Commentary] (1949)

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The Small Back Room details the professional and personal travails of troubled, alcoholic research scientist and military bomb-disposal expert Sammy Rice (David Farrar), who, while struggling with a complex relationship with secretary girlfriend Susan (Kathleen Byron), is hired by the government to advise on a dangerous new German weapon. Deftly mixing suspense and romance, The Small Back Room is an atmospheric, post–World War II gem. Continue reading

Marcel Carné – Les enfants du paradis aka Children Of Paradise [+Commentary] (1945)

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Synopsis
©Hal Erickson
Even in 1945, Marcel Carné’s Children of Paradise was regarded as an old-fashioned film. Set in the Parisian theatrical world of the 1840s, Jacques Prévert’s screenplay concerns four men in love with the mysterious Garance (Arletty). Each loves Garance in his own fashion, but only the intentions of sensitive mime-actor Deburau (Jean-Louis Barrault) are entirely honorable; as a result, it is he who suffers most, hurdling one obstacle after another in pursuit of an evidently unattainable goal. In the stylized fashion of 19th-century French drama, many grand passions are spent during the film’s totally absorbing 195 minutes. Amazingly, the film was produced over a two-year period in virtual secrecy, without the knowledge of the Nazis then occupying France, who would surely have arrested several of the cast and production staff members (including Prévert) for their activities in the Resistance. Children of Paradise has gone on to become one of the great romantic classics of international cinema. Continue reading

Marcel Carné – Les portes de la nuit AKA Gates of the Night (1946)

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S y n o p s i s:
February 1945. In the Paris metro, manual worker Jean Diego is accosted by a tramp, who introduces himself as Fate and lets slip the tragic future that awaits him. According to Fate, Diego is destined to meet a beautiful young woman he once encountered in the past. Sure enough, within a few hours, Diego runs into Malou, the woman he has long dreamed of. Malou is grateful for Diego’s company, particularly as she has just walked out on her husband Georges, a man for whom she is ill-suited. Ignoring a warning from the tramp that he is heading for an unpleasant death, Malou’s cruel brother Guy sets out to stir up trouble for his own amusement. Having told Georges that his wife has fallen for another man, Guy hands him his gun. The trap is sprung and the outcome is just as the tramp predicted… Continue reading

Jacques Tati – Jour de fête AKA The Village Fair [1964 re-edited version] (1949)

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Synopsis
Jacques Tati’s award-winning feature début – a dazzling blend of satire and slapstick is early evidence of his unique talent. Acclaimed by international critics as an innovative comic masterpiece, Jour de fête is an hilarious exposé of the modern obsession with speed and efficiency, set amidst the rural surroundings of a tiny French village. Tati plays an appealingly self-deluded buffoon a postman who, impressed by the bristling efficiency of the American postal system, makes a wholly misguided attempt to introduce modern methods in the depths of rural France. Continue reading