Michel Simon

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L'Atalante Review


Very Good
This quiet little French number is a gossamer confection, but for a film of its era, it's gorgeous to look at. The story's a throwaway, involving a girl who gets bored of her simple life and longs for the glorious lights of Paris, but for it's pioneering camerawork alone L'Atalante merits a look from any film buff.

Port Of Shadows Review


Excellent
The opening scene of the 1938 French crime classic Port of Shadows takes place at night on a gorgeously fog-bound stretch of highway 12 miles outside the port city of Le Havre. A truck speeds down this tree-lined road, the only sign of life on a moonless night; in its headlights a hitchhiker in a soldier's uniform looms up on the wet road suddenly, and our adventure is begun.

The style is poetic realism, but viewers will be forgiven for confusing it with film noir, which followed a few years later in America. The "realism" can be hard to spot amid the clouds of man-made fog, street sets built in forced perspective, and heavily stylized exteriors; the word here refers less to the look of the film than to the fact that its characters were criminals and its "heroes" of dubious moral standing. (Contrast the outsiders of Port of Shadows with screen contemporaries such as, say, Astaire and Rogers, done in up in evening wear, dancing the night away at a glittering Art Deco nightclub, and the difference becomes clear.) The "poetry" figures into both the exquisitely evocative feel of the film and its writer's and director's conviction that even ordinary lives - that of their deserter hero, his licentious young love, a suicidal artist - sometimes traffic, however transiently, in the sublime.

Continue reading: Port Of Shadows Review

The Passion Of Joan Of Arc Review


Excellent
A silent classic, Carl Dreyer was using modern cinema tricks decades before his contemporaries. The tale of the trial and burning at the stage of Joan of Arc in 1400s Inquisition-era France, the highlights here are Maria Falconetti's anguished portrayal of the saint, a thankless role that earned her no acclaim at the time. But Falconetti burns (no pun intended) as the tortured young woman -- if only the rest of the movie could keep up with her and the cinematography.

Continue reading: The Passion Of Joan Of Arc Review

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