Pépé le Moko
Cromwell’s Algiers is no whit inferior, though it is a very close copy, or even a translation. Duvivier’s lenses are parlayed into the script for Hollywood, that’s about all. A great deal of nuance is missed on one level, and must be made up elsewhere. Pépé and Gaby recall the thirteenth arrondissement and pine for the ninth. These Frenchmen overseas use English words like “business” and “sex appeal”. Pépé’s girl tells him, “T’es comme t’es.” Régis studying Pierrot’s letter says, “Même ‘m’,” and then repeats himself.
Duvivier’s tragic landscape of figures is occasionally enlivened by an Algérienne, or by huge formulations in brief scenes. Many developments followed Algiers, including Casablanca and The Third Man and Smiley’s People, as well as The Time of Your Life, To Have and Have Not, Bob le Flambeur, and the rooftop concert in Let It Be. It might be said that Borges’ “Story of the Warrior and the Captive” is the ultimate reflection of the theme—or is it the famous Surrealist photograph of a young woman in a Paris doorway, called Versailles?
Countless subtleties make up the tissue of this work. Thus the rendezvous of the lovers is euphemized as an Algérienne whitewashing a column, a man lathering his face, and the inspector twirling his cane down the street. A French equivalent of “You Belong to Me” on the gramophone transcends nostalgia to become Rimbaud. Pépé’s flight as a process shot is a novelistic device. The model steamship in the travel agency window was borrowed by Hitchcock, Duvivier’s beautiful compositional style concludes with an image related to the spectacular opening of Leisen’s Swing High, Swing Low.
The Great Waltz
A very firm basis of Russell’s form of the biopic, entirely fantastic (i.e., musical) in Duvivier’s conception, a prevenient response to French discontent with Renoir over La Règle du Jeu, and most certainly an evocation of Wien as a desideratum.
From the very first, Duvivier places himself under Hollywood lighting free to exercise his precision (note the opening shot—which looks forward to Anna Karenina—of a bank ledger secreting musical notes) as a kind of organized dream, in which high and low exert themselves with the complete artistry of black and white in the ballet sequence.
Two rapid cutting sequences accomplish the attractions of Strauss’s music on its first appearance, and the establishment of his stage fame. A straightforward musical representation (along the lines of the swing musical) becomes a dazzle of process shots also surpassing the crane’s abilities, but dollying perfectly.
Hugh Herbert as the publisher Hofbauer joins Leonid Kinskey and an expert cast in comic rings around the whimsy, with Lionel Atwill and Henry Hull as Count and Emperor surprisingly cast to great effect. The magical tonalities of Miliza Korjus are supplemented by costumes to match, and in opposition is all the skill of Luise Rainer as the wife of the composer.
Tales of the Vienna Woods begins with sublimity and rips into comedy of a dry and blatant sort. Sunup, landsmen, trees, birds, the effort of composition (in Mozart’s carriage). The epic montage of The Beautiful Blue Danube is the transcendence of fame, the ubiquity of inspiration, and a specific performance by Duvivier involving the river views rapidly with a spectrum of inviolability, the tourist shots are made into a permeable vision of habitation, and this is Duvivier in Hollywood.
A studio system with a conscious style is the métier of a comprehensive reverie on the artist’s life, and he is saluted in a grand gesture signifying the work.
Flesh and Fantasy
“A club bore tells three strange stories” is the strange summation in Halliwell’s Film Guide, exemplifying the critical stasis, choosing “the middle one” like Capra’s Uncle Billy.
A good year to be nervous on two fronts, which is the point of Doakes and Davis.
Truth and beauty, the fatal gift of prophecy, the fall from a certain height that is a felix culpa more or less, in a way of seeing things, in a manner of speaking.
Following the plot and discerning the technique with its sterling use of background plates in a coordinated mystery that excited the admiration of even the dullest critic was too much for the general run, though Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone makes abundant use of the material both directly and indirectly.
Variety found it overall “a decidedly novel and unusual picture,” Duvivier’s masterpiece is nevertheless described by Tom Milne in Time Out Film Guide as for the most part “tiresomely... icky... negligible.”
Edward G. Robinson descends from the bridge and finds the King Lamarr Circus, naturally the star performer is Charles Boyer, one of a hundred unobserved jokes.
Agee saw and was dazzled by Clarence Brown's version, and rightly so, one should think. Naturally, we must admit, he did not see that the difficulties had been fully estimated by Duvivier, who brought in no less than Jean Anouilh to overcome them. And so we have, in contradistinction to Brown's utterly brilliant formal deployment (like a Cubist flower opening), a sober, staid, realistic setup and delivery of a really sublime joke.
Where Brown was followed by Citizen Kane, The Best Years of Our Lives and le marteau sans maître, Duvivier has received the honor of The Go-Between and The Romantic Englishwoman.
It’s more a cinematic blossoming than an analysis, and it’s especially remarkable for the copious amount of information it conveys, so that several possible lines are indicated. There is some fine play, for example, with a little theme adumbrated at the end of Peter Glenville’s The Comedians, and this is inwrought with the other themes without losing a stitch.
The lighting achieves great success with daylight projected onto interior walls through windows. Duvivier’s evocation of Venice is a rare sight, benefiting from an Impressionist perspective. The steeplechase scene is evidently the model of Ascot Opening Day in George Cukor’s My Fair Lady.
Voici le temps des assassins...
The ex-wife was a horror, now her daughter comes to Paris after the restaurateur in Les Halles.
M. le Président lunches there with Agriculture and Finance, Au Rendez-Vous des Innocents.
Charming Duvivier-Wiener title song.
A reminder like Blithe Spirit that the Second Thirty Years War (1914-1945) was a number in two parts.
Naturally, in this state of siege young Dr. Delacroix is out in the cold.
Great chef, Chatelin, “none other in the world could pull this off.”
The opening sequence, morning to noon at the restaurant, is a serene and masterful tour de force.
She divides and conquers.
“A taut and compelling drama,” in the view of Bosley Crowther (New York Times), “even if it never is explained.”
Hitchcock concerns himself with Marnie some time later, the mother’s Marseille drug habit is still further along, in Friedkin and Parrish and Frankenheimer.
Chair de poule
Two old chums, factory locksmiths, decide to knock over a client’s safe.
Nothing looks quite so appetizing as bills neatly stacked in a safe, not even the smoldering wife of a nice guy who runs a mountain rest stop, “nobody is worth such an amount,” not even an old chum.
The title signifies goose flesh or bumps, to accompany the disastrous consequences.