Une Balle dans le Canon (1958)

vt A Bullet in the Gun Barrel; vt Slug in the Heater
France / 69 minutes / bw / Filmatec, Les Films Corona Dir: Charles Gérard, Michel Deville Pr: Michel et François Sweerts Scr: Albert Simonin, Charles Gérard Story: Albert Simonin Cine: Claude Lecomte Cast: Pierre Vaneck, Mijanou Bardot, Paul Frankeur, Roger Hanin, Hazel Scott, Gérard Buhr, Colette Duval, Don Ziegler, Robert Le Béal, Yves Arcanel, Jean Rochefort, Mario David, Pierre Cordier, Roger Desmare, Michael Lonsdale, Jean-Pierre Moutier, Albert Simonin

A thoroughly enjoyable slice of French noir that I missed, alas, when writing A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir. Its co-director, Michel Deville, would go on to greater things, including a few movies of noirish interest—see below.

Back in Saigon during the French war in Indochina, paratroopers Antoine “Tony” Rossi (Vaneck) and his pal Dick (Hanin) met up with a shady figure called Boris Shivara (Ziegler), generally known in crime circles as Le Maltais (“The Maltese”). He gave them 25 million francs to smuggle into France on their return from service, plus a bonus of two million as commission. They soon enough blew the two million but, when Le Maltais failed to turn up and they assumed he was an ex-Maltais, pining for the fjords, invested the 25 million in a nightclub, the Tip-Tap. After all, the guy who sold it to them, Alberto (Buhr), promised that if need be he’d buy it back from them at the purchase price should they ever need the 25 million in a hurry—i.e., should Le Maltais ever turn up.

Pierre Vaneck as Antoine ‘Tony’ Rossi

The Tip-Tap, alas, loses money hand over fist, and then Le Maltais arrives in town demanding his money pronto or blood will be shed. Alberto is oddly forgetful about Continue reading

La Foire aux Chimères (1946)

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“Can you imagine the torture of feeling the sun’s warmth without being dazzled by its light?”
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vt Devil and the Angel; vt Carnival of Illusions
France / 93 minutes / bw / Cinéma, National Dir: Pierre Chenal Pr: Ralph Baum Scr: Jacques Companéez, Ernst Neubach, Louis Ducreux Cine: Pierre Montazel Cast: Madeleine Sologne, Erich von Stroheim, Louis Salou, Yves Vincent, Claudine Dupuis, Jean-Jacques Delbo, Margo Lion, Pierre Labry, Georges Vitray, Georges Cusin, Merove, Line Renaud, Gustave Gallet, Annette Poivre, Frouhins, Denise Benoît, J.P. Moulinot, Dora Doll, Howard Vernon, Devienne, Paul Delauzac.

I watched this in the form of the restoration done by the French Ministère de la Culture’s Archives du Film du Centre Nationale de la Cinématographie. As you’ll see from the screengrabs, the picture quality is a little soft; what you can’t see from the screengrabs, of course, is that the sound isn’t of the best. Even so, the restoration is very watchable and the movie itself quite enchanting, with a dark streak of noirishness revealing itself in the later stages, after the earlier Beauty and the Beast fairytale is over.

Erich von Stroheim as Frank.

It’s the 50th birthday of Frank Davis (von Stroheim), the man in charge of the printing of banknotes for a major bank. Frank is a lonely man and a prickly personality as a consequence of the facial disfigurement he suffered some long while ago—in combat or in an accident, we’re not told. (I think we’re meant to assume it was an accident involving the acids with which, as an engraver, he must work.) His subordinates, especially the younger ones, despise him for his irascibility and his humorlessness. Here’s an exchange early on in the movie as Continue reading