Tag Archives: Serge Regianni

Manon (Henri-Georges Clouzot, France, 1949)



What a wonderful movie this is. The story of Manon Lescaut but now with a dual setting, ordered through flashbacks: the immediate post-war Paris of black-market profiteering (of all kinds) and Jewish boat people bribing their way into Palestine, the latter having a particular resonance today. The film is very frank about what Manon (Cécile Aubrey) does to get the finer things she can’t live without. It’s super-romantic about how Manon and Robert (Michel Auclair), the man she loves and one who can’t stop loving her no matter what she does, deal with the effects of her actions.

She’s a tramp, he rescues her; she lies, he suffers. He’s jailed, she sells herself so she can touch him. The ending is a delirium of sentiment..Beautifully directed with compositions in depth that feel original and striking. A rather atypical film for Clouzot though one finds echoes of Manon in the character played by Brigitte Bardot in La Verité. Serge Regianni is suitably callow and slimy as Manon’s brother, Léon. A gorgeous blu-ray production from Arrow.

José Arroyo

A quick note on revisiting Visconti’s The Leopard

The Leopard is so beautiful and resonant to me. It really is every frame a painting, but also so much more than that. A simple image of Lancaster and Serge Regianni, in long shot, walking down a hill after the hunt, as shot by Giussepe Rottuno, is enough to move me. I thought it beyond great the first time I saw it, so I can´t honestly say it gets better with each viewing, but my understanding of it does, though, like with all great works of art, it´s so rich it always remains that little bit out of my reach.

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The landscape above moves me, partly because it reminds me of my childhood, but partly also because they are so beautifully lit. The screen-caps above don´t do justice to the gorgeous blu-ray I saw, with the gradations of light and the dense texture of the image.

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The mise-en-scène of the ball sequence, almost the last third of the film, is exquisite. If you look closely, it´s beautifully lit, shot in depath, with each minor bit part player offering major characerisation. It´s a thing of wonder.

José Arroyo

Marie Octobre (Julien Duvivier, France, 1959)


Marie Octobre is now the name of Marie-Helène Dumoulin´s coutoure house. But it was once her code name in the French resistance. This evening she´s organised a get-together with all her former in colleagues the resistance group to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the death of their former leader, Castille,; killed when the Gestapo instigated a raid in the very room they are now reminiscing in. But was it a random raid or did someone turn them in?

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The film feels like a theatrical adaptation of the last segment of an Agatha Christie mystery, where everyone gathers in the drawing room and each is questioned about their whereabouts, alibis, motivations etc. Like an Agatha Christie adaptation, it´s got an all star cast: Danielle Darrieux, Bernard Blier, Paul Meurisse, Serge Reggianni, Lino Ventura. Each star is given their moment to shine, and all are excellent, with Regianni standing out not only for his emoting but for his charm (and to do credit to the others, apart from Darrieux, Regianni has the best role).

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To be fair, Marie-Octobre is thematically richer than the average Christie: What was collaboration with the Germans? Is it an absolute or were there degrees? How much choice did people have? Who behaved ethically and who didn´t? What is the intersection of individual and collective choice and action? Does any of this matter 15 years after the fact when even the statute of limitations has lapsed?   It´s an address-the-nation exercise in historical remembering with practically all the sections of society represented (the maid, the butcher, the doctor, the priest, the tax inspector, the printer, the plumber, etc.)

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Except for a few exterior shots at the beginning and end Marie-Octobre takes place all in one room. Duvivier shot chronologically, which certainly seems to have paid off with the actors, and keeps the whole thing moving well: it never feels static. Though it never looks particularly great either: Duvivier conscious of movement and rhyme but not really making the most of framing and composition in widescreen (1.66). One need only compare this to one of Hitchcock´s formal exercises to see how Duvivier here falls short. It´s a piece that works well —  it´s never boring — but that one can imagine working even better on stage, rather damning for a film.

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Sometimes I think the French New Wave ruined a whole history of French Cinema for subsequent generations with their condemnations of ‘quality cinema’, ´white telephone films´and ´cinema de papa´. Oops, to the critical dustbin go the marvellous Gremillons and Carnés and Duviviers and films by other great filmmakers of the 30s, 40s and 50s. And for several generations.

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But then one sees a film like Marie-Octobre and one understands. It´s stagey, lacks poetry, lacks depth, compositions and lighting are proficient conveying a sense threat and of things being off-kilter….but at a price (see how inelegant the compositions are in practically all the image-capture that illustrates this piece) . I know that Duvivier fans esteem this one highly, probably for its theme and the clever way the screenplay keeps one guessing. But as film art, it doesn´t add up to very much. If this is what the new wave directors were watching, then their position is very understandable indeed. But is this all they were watching. Did they not see Panique, La Belle Equipe, Pepe le Moko, La Bandera et?

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It is worth mentioning that Lino Ventura plays to his persona as a former wrestler, which he was before he took up acting. and worth noting also that Lucien Marinvale, the  butcher played by Paul Frankeur, keeps being glued throughout the narrative to a wrestling match taking place on screen, a commentary on what´s taking place in the drawing room as well as a domment on a society that seeks forgetting in spectacle. Perhaps it´s no surprise that Wrestling was something Roland Barthes felt compelled to write on.


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Marie-Octobre is one of the Collection Fondation Jerome Seydoux releases by Pathé, with English sub-titles, a lovely shiny print with rich blacks..

José Arroyo