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Archive for the ‘Simone Simon’ Category

Girls’ Dormertory

25 Jul

Girls’ Dormitory – Directed by Irving Cummings. Light Drama. A sexy 19 year old French girl seduces her headmaster, who does not notice the woman who really loves him. 66 minutes Black and White 1936.

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Filmed by Meritt Gerstad to give splendor to the banal, thus were the films of this era made glorious in our eyes if not in our minds. You have to hand it to Hollywood. They knew how to make things appear. Here we have a top flight cast brought into attack upon material that requires a flyswatter. Constance Collier is the redoubtable tank launched against the morals of the girl. Her skirt keeps falling off. This provides neither comedy nor relief. What does count is Ruth Chatterton, here coming to the end of her big career in the 30s at Fox. Have you more than heard of her? Well, she was once married to George Brent, when he was sexy – you know – before he became a talking suitcase. And she resembles with astonishing verisimilitude our own Bette Midler – same face shape, humor, features, figure, and height. She’s very impressive as a power-performer. Opposite her we have that razor strap of an actor Herbert Marshall, smooth, soothing, supple even in a stuffed shirt, innocent, embarrassed, wounded, true. Easy to sympathize with him, no? Opposite him debuts the incredibly seductive young Simone Simon. The film stops dead and your heart stops dead at every close-up of that irresistible upper lip. You want to utterly shame yourself with her. At one of the windows of every Hollywood movie of that era, it would seem, appears the mug of John Qualen, born to sentimentalize, and here wigged out like a codger and playing the janitor. We wait, through the trials and tribulations of the main characters, for a door to open, which in the final scenes it does, to expose to our astounded eyes the first appearance on a screen of the shining animation of the gorgeous face of Tyrone Power. While the movie clumsily stumbles to the wrong ending, our eyes cannot wrest themselves from this beauty, and why should they? Hollywood existed to provide ourselves with such gifts. His talent is in order from the start: he is perfectly in character, plays to the right size of the role, and has a marvelous actor’s voice. He is 22 or so. Unbelievable. All you long for is lodged in wondering did he even look like this when he was 21, 19, 17? Never mind. Here he is at last.

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La Ronde – Ophuls

14 May

La Ronde – Directed by Max Ophuls. Satire. Eleven stories of French lust promiscuating until they circle around and meet up once more. 93 minutes Black and White 1950.

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By the merest chance I saw this picture immediately after The Marriage Circle, a silent of Ernst Lubitsch. Both films have the same title and the same temperament of approach to the material, which is seriously humorous. They both deal with promiscuity, which in the French version is carried out and in the American version, of course, is not carried out. In both versions the women are the sensitive ones and the men the fools. The treatment is quite different, but the idea that lust is important is held up to the deracinating light of a wise smile. Ophuls’ movie is based on a play of Schnitzler which caused a riot, and a scandal, and an outrage, for it illustrated how sexual disease is transmitted. Ophuls’ version knows nothing of this. His version uses the word, l’amour, but it has nothing whatever to do with love; lust is the subject. 11 congresses link arms, but each one is told by the camera so luminously that nothing particular is actually illuminated. The sheen both allures and monotonizes the material. But we do have the wonderful décor, the fabulous lighting, and Ophuls’ terrific dolly shots which give us a barrier through which to peep at the principles. His placement of actors in motion, his symmetry, his fancifulness, his artifice and artificiality – all serve his turn. He has many superstars in this film, but the real superstar is his camera. His camera is the actor, the strong one, who reveals the forgivable nothing of l’amour. His cast is brilliant, particularly when you realize that some of the women playing teenagers are completely convincing although well into their thirties. Gerard Philipe is perhaps the best, as a chocolate soldier count in full regalia, entering the dressing room of a renowned comedienne and looking about sensitively at a setting which he judges to be far from noble. What a perfect decision for an actor to make. Simone Signoret, Simone Simon, and the magnificent Danielle Darrieux are wonderful. I saw this film when it first came out. I thought I was going to a dirty picture that would tell me something about sexual attraction, and I left feeling poisoned by it. Now I can see the truth of it. Which is that sexual attraction is simply a movie camera: it glamorizes, it luminizes what it lights on, and leaves it impenitently when the light moves on. This for me now is the masterful truth of this film.

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