Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Remorques / Stormy Waters

Tempesta. FR 1939-41. D: Jean Grémillon. Based on the novel by Roger Vercel. SC: Jacques Prévert, André Cayatte, Roger Vercel, Charles Spaak. DP: Armand Thirard. ED: Yvonne Martin. AD: Alexandre Trauner. M: Roland Manuel. S: Joseph de Bretagne. C: Jean Gabin (il capitano André Laurent), Madeleine Renaud (Yvonne Laurent), Michèle Morgan (Catherine), Charles Blavette (Tanguy), Jean Marchat (Marc), Nane Germon (Renée Tanguy), René Bergeron (Georges), Henri Poupon (dottor Maulette), Anne Laurens (Marie Poubennec), Marcel Duhamel (Pierre Poubennec), Henri Pons (Roger), Sinoël (l’armatore), Fernand Ledoux (Kerlo), Alain Cuny (marinaio del Mirva), Jean Dasté, Marcel Pérès. PC: SEDIF. Premiere: 27. novembre 1941. 35 mm. 85’. B&w. From: Cinémathèque de Toulouse per concessione di MK2. Wednesday 27 July 2012, Cinema Jolly (Bologna, Il Cinema Ritrovato). E-subtitles in Italian / English. Introduced by Paul Vecchiali.

Paul Vecchiali:  “What could be simpler than the story of the sailor André Laurent, the owner of a tugboat who divides his life between the sea and his wife, the delicate Yvonne? And what could be more insipid than a couple splitting up out of weariness? What could be more banal than an affair? Yes, André encounters Catherine, brought in by a storm after being trapped on a ship in distress, and everything begins to fall apart. But fate dictates: Yvonne dies, Catherine departs. From the water’s bright reflections, to the final spells that lure André toward his boat to go back out to sea and save more ships, the film, take after take, continues to evoke deep emotions. It beats like a heart, albeit a tired one, worn out to the point of no longer being able to perform its basic functions. Just like Yvonne’s. […] "

“Remorques is a love film about Love. Deep, violent, raw. Emotions are expressed head-on, with the only exception being a sarcastic poem that questions and criticizes unhappiness. Not far off in the background a sort of lyrical opera where the Parable introduced vibrates, clearly supported by music and articulated around an original theme: the Summoning. The film opens with flare: lights quiver on the water, everything is calm. […] The sailor has two women. One, he nurses and protects. The other, is the Sea, busy and demanding. One waits, one can’t wait. The sailor lives between the two women, held back by one, summoned by the other. The ‘summoning’ therefore is represented by the sea, which also represents his potential livelihood (nothing is ever simple in the work of Grémillon). To go to the sea means assuring the livelihood of one woman, while betraying her with the other. And Catherine, in fact, comes from the sea. From the sea and from hell. When she decides to leave both the ship and her husband, a siren rings timed perfectly with the action […]. While the Sea, Hell, and Catherine call to Gabin, death claims Madeleine Renaud. The exemplary couple is torn between these representations: Sea, Death, Love, a trilogy that epitomizes contradictions. The Sea, a source of Life. Death, the dark side of Life. Love that nurtures and generates Life… the references […] relate to both sound and images: violent and painful backlit shots where water mixes with fire. The lighting on Morgan’s face and her smile during a flash of thunderbolt where exasperated beauty is threatened… the sound of heels walking in an empty villa… a phone ringing… all are a sort of heralding music that does not depend on Fate but rather signals a muted but savagely destructive tragedy. There is a spectacular contrast between the mythical Gabin-Morgan, the Siren, the Sailor, and the everyday.” Paul Vecchiali, L’Encinéclopédie. Cinéastes ‘français’ des années 1930 et leur oeuvre, Éditions de l’oeil, Montreuil 2010

AA: A tragedy based on the conflict between love and duty, or, "les affaires et les sentiments". The captain André Laurent (Jean Gabin) has found his soulmate in his wife Yvonne (Madeleine Renaud), but Yvonne is very unhappy in the sea town of Brest with its rainstorms. Yvonne's heart is weak, and she is having heart attacks. As the captain of the tugboat Cyclone that rescues boats from the storm André gets to see tragedy constantly, and he has often witnessed insurance fraud when callous captains and ship owners let ships get wrecked on purpose. From one such boat André rescues Catherine (Michèle Morgan), another potential soulmate. The dialogue is superb. "When two people are silent they have a lot to say". "In this house there are only bad doors". "No one can understand what goes on between two people". "You were smiling. You had a sparkle in your eyes. What's going on?". "This is my S.O.S." "Unhappy people easily recognize each other". Yvonne hates thunderstorms, but Catherine loves them. Catherine loves ghost movies, and she may be a ghost from the sea, herself, an impersonation of the lure of the sea. André and Catherine's walk on the beach, and Catherine's discovery of the stranded starfish are at the poetic center of the movie. Yvonne dies of her final heart attack (heartbreak), there is a requiem, the shocked André embarks on another rescue mission into the stormy sea, and his ship vanishes into the darkness. I am not bothered by the modest quality of the special effects and the miniatures. The cinematography is masterful, with a powerful sense of composition and definition of light. Although there is sometimes slight unevenness in the visual quality and briefly a duped quality, mostly this is a brilliant print.

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