Erreur Tragique (1913)

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Noirish’s humble contribution to the Allan Fish Online Film Festival!
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vt Tragic Error
France / 25 minutes / bw silent / Gaumont Dir & Scr: Louis Feuillade Cine: uncredited Cast: Suzanne Grandais, René Navarre, Marie Dorly, Ernest Bourbon, Paul Manson.

According to the opening intertitle, René, Marquis de Romiguières (Navarre), and his wife Suzanne (Grandais) are “In their chateau, built atop the battlements of the Cévennes,” where they “enjoy a wonderful honeymoon.” The atmosphere doesn’t seem terribly honeymoonish, to be honest: the couple seem to be a staid and settled pair, content to be waited upon by their elderly housekeeper (Dorly).

One day a note arrives for René from his lawyer, Panonceaux. René’s properties in Paris require some personal attention, and as soon as possible.

Stuck for a couple of days in Paris, far from the arms of his wife, René takes himself to the cinema to see Onésime, Vagabond.

Although, as far as I can establish, Onésime, Vagabond never existed outside the bounds of Erreur Tragique, it’s clearly meant to be one of the (genuine) long-running Onésime series of perhaps nearly eighty silent comedy shorts (authorities differ on the exact number) released between 1910 (Le Rembrandt de la Rue Lepic) and 1918 (Onésime et le Billet de Mille). In the English-language incarnations of these movies the character of Onésime, who was played throughout by Ernest Bourbon (1886–1954), was renamed Simple Simon, which gives you about as much as you need to know of Onésime’s personality: he’s an Innocent Abroad figure whose presence sparks off humor, sometimes quite sharp, sometimes involving social commentary, sometimes of a fantasticated nature. You can watch one of these movies, Onésime Horloger (1912), which falls into the latter category and was written by Feuillade, here (with English intertitles).

While watching Onésime, Vagabond in the Parisian cinema, René is aghast to see none other than his wife Suzanne playing a role. Worse still, the man whose arm she’s on, and who joins her in ribbing the tramp Onésime, is clearly on affectionate terms with her.

Onésime (Ernest Bourbon) clowns on a park bench in front of Suzanne (Suzanne Grandais) and the mystery man (Paul Manson).

You or I might dismiss this as a nothing—who cares if Suzanne was an actress before her marriage, and screen affection is something that actors are paid to mimic—but René falls instantly into the embrace of obsessive jealousy. He Continue reading

Petite Lise, La (1930)

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All he sought was his daughter’s happiness!
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vt Little Lise
France / 84 minutes / bw / Pathé–Natan Dir: Jean Grémillon Pr: Bernard Natan, Emile Natan Scr: Charles Spaak Cine: Bachelet & Colas (i.e., Jean Bachelet and René Colas) Cast: Alcover (i.e., Pierre Alcover), Bertheau (i.e., Julien Bertheau), Mihalesco (i.e., Alexandre Mihalesco), Nadia Sibirskaia (i.e., Nadia Sibirskaïa), Alex Bernard, Pierre Piérade, Joe Alex.

la-petite-lise-closer

Years ago, Berthier (Alcover), driven to the bounds of sanity by the infidelities of his wife, killed her with his bare hands. Convicted, he was sent to the penal colony on Cayenne in the Caribbean to serve his sentence, perforce leaving behind him in Paris his young daughter Lise to fend for herself. A colossus of a man, Berthier recently showed great courage during a fire at one of the local trading posts, and the colony’s governor (uncredited) has therefore pulled strings to have the big guy released after serving only half his sentence—in a mere 45 days from now, in fact.

la-petite-lise-1-berthier-drams-of-being-united-with-his-darling-daughter-lise

Berthier (Alcover) dreams of being united with his darling daughter Lise.

la-petite-lise-2-an-unidentified-convict

One of his fellow convicts (uncredited).

As it happens, Berthier and two of his pals (both uncredited) were planning to escape that very night. Now, for obvious reasons, he has to back out of their plan. The other two make their bid for freedom without him. He tells them before they go that, when they reach Paris, they should look him up at the Hôtel d’Étoile du Nord there. That’s where Lise lives, and that’s where Continue reading

Alibi, L’ (1937)

France / 84 minutes / bw / BN, Éclair-Journal Dir: Pierre Chenal Scr: J. Companeez, H. Juttke Story: L’Alibi (1929 screenplay for short movie) by Marcel Achard Cine: Ted Pahle Cast: Erich von Stroheim, Albert Préjean, Jany Holt, Louis Jouvet, Vera Flory, Foun-Sen, Genia Vaury, Madeleine Siame, Roger Blin, Philippe Richard, Temerson, Maurice Bacquet, Florence Marly, Margo Lion.

L'Alibi - 0 opener

Nightclub “mentalist” Professor Winckler (von Stroheim), an American expatriate phony with a penchant for monastic fancy dress, currently working the Femina club in Paris with his beautiful young stage assistant (Foun-Sen) and his manservant Kretz (Blin), discovers one night that his arch-enemy, Chicago gangster John Gordon (Richard), is in the audience. Later we find out that among the many crimes Gordon committed in the US—and for some of which he did time in Sing Sing—was the stealing of Winckler’s wife. Gordon, terrified of Winckler’s vengeance, leaves his mistress (Marly) in Paris and makes a bolt by car for London; but Winckler follows him and shoots him on the highway.

L'Alibi - 2 The murder

The murder. Continue reading

Carrefour (1938)

France / 70 minutes / bw / Eclair–Journal, BUP Dir: Kurt Bernhardt Pr: Eugene Tuscherer Scr: Kurt Bernhardt, André-Paul Antoine Story: H. Kafka Cine: Léonce-Henri Burel Cast: Charles Vanel, Jules Berry, Suzy Prim, Tania Fedor, Marcelle Geniat, Jean Claudio, Jenny Hecquet (i.e., Annie France), Palau, Paul Amiot, Bovério.

Carrefour - 0 opener

The movie upon which was based the popular US fringe film noir CROSSROADS (1942) dir Jack Conway, with William Powell, Hedy Lamarr, Claire Trevor and Basil Rathbone.

A man named Leduc (Palau) attempts to blackmail prominent industrialist Roger de Vetheuil (Vanel) with the claim that de Vetheuil is really a lowlife hoodlum called Jean Pelletier, who swapped identities with the heir during the Battle of the Somme. De Vetheuil cooperates with the flics to have Leduc arrested. However, one of the newspapers gets hold of the story and splashes it far and wide. Aided and abetted by his lawyer, Pierre Alexandre (Bovério), de Vetheuil sues the paper.

Yet things soon start to look grim for his case. It emerges that, because of injuries received while serving at the Somme, he suffered complete amnesia; were it not for the fact that his childhood sweetheart, now wife, Anna (Fedor), tracked him down and identified him, he would have no knowledge of his earlier life. Michèle Allain (Prim), currently a successful nightclub owner but once Continue reading

Ménilmontant (1926)

France / 38 minutes / bw Dir & Pr & Scr: Dimitri Kirsanoff Cine: Dimitri Kirsanoff, Léonce Crouan Cast: Nadia Sibirskaïa, Yolande Beaulieu, Guy Belmont, Jean Pasquier, Maurice Ronsard.

A minor milestone of cinematic history, this longish short, full of early Expressionist flourishes, has a very noirish feel to it, notably in its cinematography and most especially in its highly imaginative editing (also by Kirsanoff), which makes creative use of such new techniques as double exposure; it’s at its most effective in the several places where it makes jerky little series of multiple, often unexpected cuts.

The movie is silent and has no intertitles; thus, although the basics of the plot are easy enough to follow, some of the details rely on the viewer’s interpretation. Ménilmontant is, anyway, more about mood and impressions than about the details of a plot that doesn’t entirely hold together; this is a quite affecting, haunting little piece, one that gets under the skin.

Menilmontant - the younger sister (Sibirskaïa) finds the Lover schnoozling her big sis

Nadia Sibirskaïa as the younger of two sisters trying to make their way in Paris.

Somewhere in the countryside, two little girls are playing in the woods while, unbeknownst to them, back home their parents are being murdered by Continue reading