Thursday, February 23, 2017

Un carnet de bal (2015 digital restoration by Gaumont at 130 min)

Tanssiaiskortti / Efter balen / Spiel der Erinnerung.
    FR 1937. PC: Productions Sigma. Original distributor: Les Films Vog. EX: Jean Lévy-Strauss. P: Jean-Pierre Frogerais.
    D: Julien Duvivier. Ass D: Charles Dorat. SC: Julien Duvivier, Henri Jeanson, Yves Mirande, Jean Sarment, Pierre Wolff, Bernard Zimmer. CIN: Philippe Agostini, Michel Kelber, Pierre Levent. PD: Jean Douarinou. Set dec: Paul Colin, Serge Piménoff. SFX: Paul Minine, Nicolas Wilcké. M: Maurice Jaubert. Theme tune: "Valse grise" (Maurice Jaubert). "O magnum mysterium" (a Gregorian hymn from the Middle Ages). S: Jacques Carrère, Roger Rampillon. ED: André Versein.
    C: Marie Bell (Christine de Guérande devenue Christine Surgère), Maurice Bénard (Brémond, ami fidèle de Christine), Françoise Rosay (Marguerite Audié, the insane mother, mother of Georges Audié), Louis Jouvet (Pierre Verdier, dit Jo, night club owner), Harry Baur (Alain Regnault, devenu le père Dominique), Pierre-Richard Willm (Eric Irvin, alpine guide and ski coach), Raimu (François Patusset, mayor), Pierre Blanchar (Thierry Raynal, the dubious doctor), Fernandel (Fabien Coutissol, hairdresser for ladies), Robert Lynen (Jacques Dambreval, the son of Gérard Dambreval), Milly Mathis (Cécile Galtéry, Patusset's fiancée, his former maid), Sylvie (Gaby, Thierry's lover), Andrex (Paul, Patusset's adopted mauvais fils), Jeanne Fusier-Gir (magazine seller in Marseilles), La Manécanterie des Petits Chanteurs à la Croix de Bois / The Little Singers of Paris (the child singers), Pierre Alcover (Teddy), Roger Legris (Mélanco), Alfred Adam (Fred), Peggy Bonny (nightclub hostess), Simone Gauthier (a young woman in her first ball), Marguerite Ducouret (the mother of the young woman).
    Helsinki premiere: 14.1.1938 at the Capitol, distributed by Kosmos-Filmi Oy – telecast 24.4.1976 TV2, 4.10.1988 TV1 – classification: 21282 – K16 – 3300 m / 120 min
    2K DCP from Gaumont (digital restoration par Gaumont via le Laboratoire Eclair, fait le 8 aout 2015, résolution en 2K, 130 min).
    Viewed with e-subtitles in Finnish by Lena Talvio at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Julien Duvivier), 23 Feb 2017

Catalogue des films françaises, IMDb, Wikipedia  144 min
Variety  135 min
Tulard  132 min
Time Out and Gaumont DCP+dvd 130 min
Sadoul 125 min
Lourcelles  123 min
Gaumont 2016 blu-ray  120 min
British Film Institute National Archive 112 min
Motion Picture Guide  109 min
KAVI nitrate print  105 min
Desrichard: Julien Duvivier  2800 m = 102 min

IMDb synopsis: "Christine, newly widowed and consumed by the memory of a ball she attended age 16, decides to track down the men she danced with that night and discover their fates."

A ghostly waltz by Maurice Jaubert carries Julien Duvivier's multi-character study Un carnet de bal which at the time was lauded by some as the best film of all times and in any case with Pépé le Moko represented a double whammy of an international breakthrough for Duvivier. Un carnet de bal inspired a revival of the episode / multi-character format in the cinema, and Duvivier himself returned to the concept in Hollywood in Lydia, Manhattan, and Flesh and Fantasy. Of more recent affinities I would quote Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers but I have no idea whether Jarmusch even knows Duvivier's film.

Today Un carnet de bal seldom appears even on a shortlist of Duviviers's major films, and I wonder why. In Finland it has always been revered, not least thanks to Peter von Bagh who valued it highly as one of the cinema's great journeys into memory. "The past lives in the present", a watchword in Un carnet du bal, comes deep into Peter's territory. Duvivier in Un carnet de bal has an assured approach in the dream mode, the very life current of the cinema. The film is compelling, bitter, funny, and profoundly ironic. ("Toute la vie, toute la vie" said the dancing partners to Christine betweeen waltzes.)

On her journey into the past Christine meets the men who had loved her before she got married and sees what has happened to their dreams. Her journey is an actual trip all across France, including the Alps and the port of Marseilles. Having discovered her teenage dance card she is equipped by her good friend with an up-to-date list of addresses based on which she can plan a trajectory for a train journey.

But on her search of the men in her life she is also really in search of herself. As a young girl she was a beautiful illusion to the men who loved her. The years have changed Christine, too. The first ball of hers took place in 1919, and now we live in 1937. "I had no youth. There was no love. Solitude is the same everywhere".

The years have passed in solitude, and the men of Christine's youth are now shadows of their former selves.
    Georges Audié has killed himself, and his mother (Françoise Rosay) still lives in the past of 1919.
    Pierre Verdier (Louis Jouvet) has become a crooked night club owner.
    Alain Regnault (Harry Baur) is now Father Dominique, in charge of a boys' choir.
    Eric Irvin (Pierre-Richard Willm) is an alpine guide devoted to the mountains.
    François Patusset (Raimu) who had dreamed of becoming President of France is now the mayor of his village, about to marry his maid.
    Thierry Raynal (Pierre Blanchar) has become an illegal abortion doctor, also seemingly a heroine addict (he seems to get the cold turkey); he shoots his harridan lover.
    Fabien Coutissol (Fernandel) has become a hairdresser for ladies and a happy family father. Fabien is the only man who could truly dance, and he is the only one who invites Christine to a ball now, but during the dance they irrevokably realize that nothing is the same anymore.
    One name was missing from Christine's trajectory: Gérard Dambreval. In the finale even his address is found. He turns out to reside at the other side of the Italian lake where Christine has lived all these years. Alas, Gérard has recently died. Christine decides to take care of Jacques Dambreval, Gérard's orphan son. In the final ball Christine meets a young woman of 16...

The synopsis may sound gloomy, but humoristic and life-affirming episodes are included: those of Father Dominique and his prank-loving boys, Eric Irvin and his love of the outdoors, Raimu's comical marriage sequence, and Fernandel's gentle episode at the hairdresser's and at the ball.

The sequences had different screenwriters and cinematographers. Each episode has a distinctive visual world. The most extreme is the Thierry Raynal sequence with its skewed angles and framings.

The story is implausible from a viewpoint of realistic psychology. It is a subjective vision in which the lives of all the men in Christine's life's have been ruined in some way. Some are dead, some are living dead, and others seem to be on the run from themselves. Un carnet de bal is a film about ambition and reality, and even more profoundly it is a haunting poetic vision on the might of memory.

The men's responses to the 16 year old Christine's rejection have ranged from suicide (Georges) and suicide attempt (François) to a salvation in religion (Alain) or in the mountains (Eric). I do not find the solutions of François or Alain as escapist. The evolution of François to Father Dominique is truly moving. "When I was lost, God was good to me", and now Father Dominique is good to others. The sublime of the mountains is also a reality to Eric who is glowing with passion in his lifestyle which, however, excludes family life equally firmly as the way of Father Dominique.

Un carnet de bal has been called a pessimistic film, but I beg to differ. It is true that the dark current in the film is strong. The presumably idyllic memory of the first ball looks from the beginning ghostly, shadowy, and petrified. It does actually look and sound like a dance of death. Maurice Jaubert's legendary "Valse grise" has an affinity with Jean Sibelius's "Valse triste". During the time lapse passages of the remembered ball I am thinking about Alain Resnais (L'Année dernière à Marienbad) and the illustrations of time dilatation in Jacob Bronowski's television series The Ascent of Man. The figures of the ball seem to have been lost in some inaccessible corner of the time-space continuum like time travellers in science fiction movies such as Star Trek.

Even stronger than the "dance of death" current, though, is the panache and joie de vivre in Un carnet de bal, starting from the very feeling and atmosphere of the film, the gusto of the cast and the crew. The best actors of the country are at their best here, performing in a special mode which is not realistic but stylized in an engaging way. They relish their melancholy and pessimistic characters, and overcome and transcend them. We can sense here the French affection and reverence of the "holy monsters" of the stage. The theatrical approach is consistent, assured and intentional. The paradoxical character of the performances is at its most pointed in the "hell on earth" sequence with Pierre Blanchar as Thierry Raynal and its affinities with Céline's Voyage au bout de la nuit (1932) (this reference: courtesy of Esa Salovaara).

While some characters have been lost to a morbid yearning for a lost love of youth, others have healthily overcome it. François and Fabien are able to discuss the painful memories of loss with a sense of humour. François even jokes about his youthful suicide attempt by drowning, and recommends that every young man should try it.

Most importantly, children emerge as important characters. 18 years have gone from the fatal ball, and while Christine has remained childless, other protagonists now have children of their own, Fabien even a little daughter named Christine. Father Dominique has become a good father to the orphan boys in his choir, a good protector, as is Eric the mountain guide in his own field of work. François has a stepson who brings him only misery with his criminal predisposition. We remember Duvivier as an excellent director of children, including problem children, from his two versions of Poil de Carotte. In the final sequence Christine, in search of the final partner of her dance catalogue, finds he is dead but that he has left an orphan son, Jacques, whom Christine now will adopt, making her a mother after all.

There are 11 different edits of Un carnet de bal, and I made a superficial attempt to find an expert to comment on them but did not find any. At Gaumont they announced us a duration of 105 minutes but when the DCP arrived it was 130 min, apparently the longest available version. 14 minutes are still missing.

The cinematography by Philippe Agostini, Michel Kelber, and Pierre Levent is masterful. The breathtaking Italian lake landscape in the beginning immediately strikes a note of transcendence. The journey takes us into milieux that are different in the extreme: the profane and the holy, the mountains and the sea, Paris and the countryside. Un carnet de bal is a film about escapism but it also satisfies a certain appetite for escapism. No wonder it was a blockbuster.

A brilliant digital restoration completed in 2015 of the 130 minute version.

PS. 12 Jan 2018. David Bordwell in his magisterial book Reinventing Hollywood (2017) has an interesting discussion of Duvivier's Lydia (1941) in the context of flashbacks. Bordwell notices the curious fact that although Un carnet de bal is all about the past, there are no flashbacks.


Julien Duvivier oli 1930-luvun ranskalaisen elokuvan suuri ”pessimistinen, katkera ja destruktiivinen” tähtiohjaaja, jonka mittava panos käsitti sellaiset elokuvat kuten David Golder (1930), Poil de carotte (1932), Golgotha (1935), La Bandera (1935), Golem (1936),  La Belle Équipe (1936), Pépé le Moko (1937) ja Carnet de bal. Teoksessaan Le cinema et le Temps (Elokuva ja aika) J. Leirens kirjoittaa, että Tanssiaiskortin Duvivier oli yksi ensimmäisiä, ellei peräti ensimmäinen, joka rakensi koko elokuvan muiston käsitteelle. Italiaan avioitunut ja leskeksi jäänyt Christine löytää nuoruutensa aikaisen tanssiaiskortin ja lähtee etsimään silloisia kavaljeerejaan nähdäkseen mitä heistä on tullut parissakymmenessä vuodessa. Eikä Christinen uteliaisuus kohdistu pelkästään heihin: ”Lähden etsimään sitä neitoa, joka olin tanssiaisten aikaan”.

Elokuva on rakennettu sarjaksi episodeja, joista kukin esittelee yhden kavaljeerin nykyhetken – tulkkeina tuolloisen ranskalaisen elokuvan suosituimmat ja valovoimaisimmat tähdet. Elokuvan ainoa varsinainen takautuma on tanssiaisten muiston tihentyminen päähenkilön tajunnassa. Mutta vaikka kaikki episodit sijoittuvat nykyhetkeen, ne saavat täyden ominaispainonsa ja kaikupohjansa vasta suhteessa menneisyyteen: eräässä mielessä kyse on siis yhdestä pitkästä tosiasiallisesta takautumasta. Tämä runollinen teema kyllästää koko elokuvan. On selvää, että Christinen entiset kavaljeerit ovat kukin tavallaan epäonnistuneet elämässään – lukuun ottamatta ehkä hiihdonopettajaa, mutta hänenkin eristyneisyytensä vuoristossa on eräänlaista pakoa maailmasta ja avioelämän keskinkertaisuudesta. Samalla kun Christine saa huomata olleensa, tai yhä olevansa, tavalla tai toisella ratkaiseva tekijä näiden miesten elämässä, Duvivierin tyypillinen fatalismi tunkee esiin: ihminen on tuomittu epäonnistumaan, nuoruuden toiveet ja pyrkimykset ovat vain hulluutta ja turhuutta, vain vanhuus, rappeutuminen ja heikkous ovat varmoja.

Tanssiaiskortin episodirakenne, eräänlainen novellikokoelman luonne antoi Duvivierille mahdollisuuden näyttää kykynsä sekä tyylitellyn elokuvan, romantiikan, psykologisen draaman, kansankomedian, psykologisen trillerin että burleskin farssin alueilla. Tanssiaiskortin tarjoaman johtoaiheen turvin Duvivier saattoi keskittää pessimistisen ihmisnäkemyksensä, determinisminsä ja illuusiottomuutensa Christinen turhiin yrityksiin rakentaa uusi onnensa menneisyyden varaan, uhmata kohtalon rulettia ja elämän katkeraa ironiaa. Epäilemättä Tanssiaiskortti on Duvivierin monivivahteisimpia ja moniselitteisimpiä elokuvia, joka yhteen ainoaan innoittuneeseen synteesiin tuntuu kokoavan kaiken mitä gallialainen elokuvataito sisältää. Ehkä se on jopa liian ilmeinen kavalkadi ranskalaisen elokuvan hedelmällisen 1930-luvun saavutuksista ja tähtiesiintyjistä.

– George Sadoulin (French Film, 1953), Rune Waldekranzin (Filmen växer upp, 1941) ja muiden lähteiden mukaan

No comments: