Dos au Mur, Le (1958)

After he’d hidden the body of his unfaithful wife’s lover, almost nothing went according to plan!

vt Back to the Wall
France / 93 minutes / bw / Société Nouvelle des Établissements, Gaumont Dir: Édouard Molinaro Pr: François Chavane, Alain Poiré Scr: Frédéric Dard, François Chavane, Jean Redon, J.L. Roncoroni Story: Délivrez-Nous du Mal (1956) by Frédéric Dard Cine: Robert Lefebvre Cast: Jeanne Moreau, Gérard Oury, Philippe Nicaud, Claire Maurier, Gérard Buhr, Joëlle Janin, Robert Le Béal, Micheline Luccioni, Pascal Mazzotti, Jacqueline Noëlle, Jean Marie Rivière, Jean Lefebvre, Colette Renard.

Le Dos au Mur - 0 opener

Le Dos au Mur is a superb piece of domestic noir that should be far more widely known than it is.

In a long introductory sequence we see industrialist Jacques Decrey (Oury) go at night to the apartment of his wife’s lover, Yves Normand (Nicaud). After a minor commotion, Yves is dead on the floor—but his corpse doesn’t stay there for long. Moving with quiet deliberation, Jacques packs a few of Yves’s belongings into a suitcase, as if to give the impression the man has gone away on an unexpected vacation, then wraps the corpse in a rug and carries everything to his car. He drives to his industrial plant and buries the body under concrete in the middle of a new wall.

Le Dos au Mur - 1 The late Yves

The late Yves (Philippe Nicaud).

Le Dos au Mur - 2 Jacques hefts the rug-wrapped body

Jacques (Gérard Oury) hefts the rug-wrapped body.

This opening sequence is played out with a beautifully measured pace, refusing to hurry itself. Any possibility that we might become impatient with Jacques’s careful progress is avoided by the dramatic musical score (by Richard Cornu) which, Bernard Herrmann-style, manages to interpolate dramatically strident chords just when they’re likely to Continue reading

Manche et la Belle, Une (1957)

vt A Kiss for a Killer
France / 98 minutes / bw / Michel Safra, Speva, Cinedis Dir: Henri Verneuil Pr: Michel Safra Scr: Henri Verneuil, Annette Wademant, François Boyer Story: The Sucker Punch (1954) by James Hadley Chase Cine: Christian Matras Cast: Henri Vidal, Mylène Demongeot, Isa Miranda, Jean-Lou Philippe (i.e., Jean-Loup Philippe), Simone Bach, Antonin Berval, Jean Galland, Ky Duyen, André Roanne, Marc Valbel, Alfred Adam.

Manche et la Belle - 8 Stella survives long enough to give P one last accuatory glare

My knowledge of French slang is minimal, and even more so of French slang as it might have been used in the 1950s, but as far as I can work out the sense of the word manche used here is “empty sleeve”, so that a reasonable translation of the title might be The Chump and the Babe. UPDATE: Reader Luc Secret, to whom my very great gratitude, has offered the correct explanation in the comments below.

The chump is Philippe Delaroche (Vidal), a lowly mid-thirties employee deputed by his superiors at the Pacific Banking Corporation to facilitate the purchase by a fabulously wealthy client, the widowed Stella Farnwell (Miranda), of her new car. He tries to wangle a 10% commission for himself out of the car dealer; when Stella immediately discovers this, he glibly Continue reading