Friday, June 29, 2012

Pattes Blanches / [White Shanks]

Intohimon kuilu / Zampe bianche. FR 1949. Year of production 1948. D: Jean Grémillon. SC: Jean Anouilh, Jean Bernard-Luc. DP: Philippe Agostini. ED: Louisette Hautecoeur. AD: Léon Barsacq. M: Elsa Barraine. S: Jean Rieul. Ass. D: André Heinrich, Pierre Kast, Guy Lefrant. C: Fernand Ledoux (Jock Le Guen, un cabaretier), Suzy Delair (Odette Kerouan, la maîtresse de Jock, qui passe de couche en couche), Paul Bernard (Julien de Kériadec, dit Pattes Blanches, un noble amoureux d'Odette), Michel Bouquet (Maurice, le demi-frère haineux de Julien), Arlette Thomas (Mimi, la bossue du village), Louise Sylvie (la madre di Maurice), Jean Debucourt (il giudice), Betty Daussmond (la zia di Julien), Edmond Beauchamp (il gendarme), Philippe Sergeol, Paul Barge, Madeleine Barbulée (la cugina), Geneviève Morel (Marguerite). PC: Majestic Films. Premiere: 14. aprile 1949. 35 mm. 103’. B&w. From: CNC – Archives Françaises du Film. Friday 29 July 2012, Cinema Jolly (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in Italian / English.

Roberto Chiesi: “After 18 months of preparation, Grémillon was compelled to abandon Le Printemps de la liberté, a period film on 1848, and accepted to substitute the playwright Jean Anouilh at the head of Pattes blanches, a film that the latter had written but was forced to abandon for health reasons. The director moved the setting from the nineteenth century to the present and shoots the first outdoor scenes in ‘his’ Brittany, where the story centers around five characters: Odette, femme fatale that followed her lover Jock, a hotelier, in a village on the coast where there is a castle inhabited by the secluded Julien De Kériadec, nicknamed ‘pattes blanches’ (white spats) by the villagers. The man, who soon falls madly in love with Odette, is revered by the young hunchback servant Mimi and is hated by his step-brother Maurice (the young and feverish Michel Bouquet). Kériadec decides to sell the castle to win over Odette, but she chooses instead to marry Jock, thus guaranteeing her economic stability. Maurice persuades Odette to humiliate Kériadec, who, in a fit of rage, chases her through the mist and ends up strangling her and throwing her off a cliff.

“The dark and desperate universe of Anouilh inspires Grémillon’s imagination, as he finely crafts the features of each character, enriching them with contradictions and subtleties. In particular little Mimi, with her angelic face and a deformed body, who tries to help the wretched lord of the manor, and Odette, a more aggressive and carnal version of a femme fatale when compared to Madeleine/Mireille Balin of Gueule d’amour.

“The theme of degradation as a consequence of lustful passion also makes a return in Pattes blanches. The sick and sensual atmosphere that gathers around the exuberance and malice of Odette is rendered by Grémillon with an increasingly distressing and dark mood. The art direction of Léon Barsacq (who had collaborated with Grémillon on Lumière d’été) contributes to the already baroque dimension of this noir mélo. The castle with enormous yet desolate and empty rooms, which in the final sequence (when Kériadec plots to set the manor on fire and commit suicide) are filled with dry hay, is a prime example. The sequence of Odette’s murder is of particular visual beauty, especially the shot of Kériadec holding in his hand the veil of the woman he dropped among the rocks.” Roberto Chiesi

AA: A tragedy. A strange movie about the poisoned atmosphere of a Breton seaside village which has been dominated by the Kériadec castle, now about to be closed down. The innkeeper Jock (Fernand Ledoux) marries his mistress Odette (Suzy Delair). The barmaid Mimi (Arlette Thomas) idolizes the dreamy, estranged master of the castle Julien (Paul Bernard), called Pattes Blanches. Idly spending his hours in the hills and in the bar is Maurice (Michel Bouquet, for me unrecognizable here in one of his earliest film roles). The atmosphere is so dark and bitter that it is hard for me to relate to the story and to connect with any of the characters. Yet there is a lot to admire. There is a powerful visual concept in the movie. The cinematogaphy and the topography are constantly exciting. Grémillon's sense of atmosphere and composition are magnificent. The actors and the performances are original and memorable. Pattes Blanches is yet another example of cinema's obsession with the cancelled wedding. The climax of the movie is Jock and Odette's wedding party which Maurice and Julien are not attending. Maurice seduces Odette to leave the party, and during a violent showdown at night, Julien strangles Odette to death and lets her fall down from the cliff.

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