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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

POIL DE CAROTTE / CARROT TOP (aka THE RED HEAD) (1932)

Julien Duvivier’s sound remake of Jules Renard’s classic French novel doesn’t quite equal his 1925 silent beauty, but is plenty good all the same. The story, slightly more compacted, remains largely the same as in the earlier film, following the downward emotional path of young Carrot Top, a late, unplanned, unloved 10-yr-old rural kid who is only noticed by his parents & siblings when they feel up to scolding someone. Yet the film, set during summer school break, is hardly all doom & gloom, finding time for pastoral hijinks to show Carotte’s basic irrepressible nature. Beautifully observed in character and locale (Marcel Pagnol would have approved); and very striking technically for a 1932 film shot on location (Pagnol wouldn’t have noticed). Too bad that Duvivier lets his already theatrical cast press too hard for effect, it can feel over-rehearsed. That's especially the case for Robert Lynen’s otherwise physically perfect Carotte and Simone Aubry’s grim hysteric of a mother. The 1925 film is also overplayed, but it works better in silent film context. Regardless, the climax & epilogue remain just as devastating.

DOUBLE-BILL: Excellent release of the silent version on Lobster/Facets. Try it first.

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