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

André Cayatte – Justice est faite aka Justice Is Done (1950)

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Quote:
Justice Is Done (French: Justice est faite) is a 1950 French drama film directed by André Cayatte. It tackles the subject of euthanasia by depicting a court case in which a woman is tried for killing her terminally ill husband at his request.

The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the Golden Bear for Best Crime or Adventure Film at the Berlin Film Festival. Continue reading

Jacques Tourneur – I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

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A young Canadian nurse (Betsy) comes to the West Indies to care for Jessica, the wife of a plantation manager (Paul Holland). Jessica seems to be suffering from a kind of mental paralysis as a result of fever. When she falls in love with Paul, Betsy determines to cure Jessica even if she needs to use a voodoo ceremony, to give Paul what she thinks he wants. Continue reading

Akira Kurosawa – Ichiban utsukushiku AKA The Most Beautiful (1944)

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The Most Beautiful is a wartime propaganda film depicting the efforts of female factory workers in a precision-lens manufacturing plant. It is episodic and anecdotal and very documentary-like. Donald Richie records specific instances of documentary techniques borrowed principally from Russian filmmakers such as the austere and static composition of its scenes. This need not be entertained to any considerable degree: the point is, holistically, the overwhelming impression is one of a document. We see many shots of the lens-making equipment, and through these learn the process of lens manufacture itself. Nearly every scene is segmented with shots of a parade (a military band, a marching platoon of young soldiers, etc.) and the film itself was shot in a real factory, a length to which Kurosawa would rarely go in later work. Continue reading