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Thursday, July 16, 2015

LE CIEL EST À VOUS / THE WOMAN WHO DARED (1944)

Something of a cult figure in France for his wartime Occupation pics, Jean Grémillon remains little seen outside Gallic circles. This film, made after censorship problems with LUMIERE D’ETE/’42, while unsatisfying, is intriguingly odd even when it doesn’t seem know what it’s about. Madeleine Renaud & Charles Vanel have just moved their auto-mechanic garage into town when they’re offered a chance to work for a big outfit in the city. Business savvy Madame takes the plunge, while Monsieur, more of a dreamer with his head in the clouds (literally, he’s an aviation buff), stays put with their two kids. The once happy marriage is ready to collapse when Madame hits the airfield looking for her errant husband and winds up taking a flight on a dare. It’s a life changing experience that renews the couple’s passion . . . for chasing record-setting flights. The two ignore everything, even their gifted piano-playing prodigy, to bet the bank on a record-setting flight and possible catastrophe. Grémillon, working from Charles Spaak’s script, seems to approve each time the couple reverse course, sending on & off behavior signals that let them have their cake and eat it too. Ultimately, there’s something vaguely monstrous about the selfish behavior, yet it’s consistently rewarded. And all during wartime. Technically, Grémillon is more comfortable handling Spaak’s conventional cause-and-effect storyline than the scripted poetic realism of Jacques Prévert’s LUMIERE D’ETE, but the total effect remains underwhelming.

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