Des Gens Sans Importance (1956)

vt People of No Importance
France / 99 minutes / bw / Cocinor, Chaillot, Ardennes-Films de René Lafuite Dir: Henri Verneuil Pr: René Lafuite Scr: Henri Verneuil, François Boyer Story: Des Gens Sans Importance (1949) by Serge Groussard Cine: Louis Page Cast: Jean Gabin, Françoise Arnoul, Pierre Mondy, Yvette Etiévant, Dany Carrel, Nane Germon, Jacques Mann, André Dalibert, Pierre Fromont, Alain Bouvette, Ardisson, Nina Myral, Max Mégy, Gérard Darrieu, Lila Kedrova, Robert Dalban, Héléna Manson, Paul Frankeur.

Christmas Eve, and long-distance trucker Jean Viard (Gabin) and his co-driver Pierrot Berty (Mondy), veterans of the Paris–Bordeaux run, stop at a roadside diner, La Caravane, to grab a couple of hours’ sleep. La Caravane’s one-legged owner, their old friend Émile Barchandeau (Frankeur), has hired a new waitress, Clotilde “Clo” Brachet (Arnoul); even though she’s not much older than Jean’s wannabe-sexpot 17-year-old daughter Jacqueline (Carrel), she and Jean strike a spark.

I’m not going to be too worried about spoilers: first because Des Gens Sans Importance isn’t the kind of movie you watch waiting for the plot twists and second because most of the accounts of this movie you’ll come across will go into far greater detail about the plot than I will here. What I want to do is give a barest-of-bones outline so I can talk about other aspects of the movie.

Jean Gabin as Jean.

Despite the disparity of their ages and even though she knows he’s been married for years to Solange (Etiévant), Clo eventually seduces Jean. Five months into the affair, Continue reading

Lucky Jo (1964)

France / 87 minutes / bw / UGC, Les Films Sirius, Les Productions Jacques Roitfeld, Belmont, Eléfilm, CFDC Dir: Michel Deville Pr: Jacques Roitfeld Scr: Nina Companeez, Michel Deville Story: Main Pleine (1959) by Pierre-Vial Lesou Cine: Claude Lecomte Cast: Eddie Constantine, Pierre Brasseur, Georges Wilson, Christiane Minazzoli, Claude Brasseur, Françoise Arnoul, Jean-Pierre Darras, André Cellier, Christian Barbier, Anouk Ferjac, Marcelle Ranson, Jean-Paul Cisife, Jean-Pierre Rambal, Pierre Asso, Pierre Le Rumeur, Jacques Echantillon, Willy Braque, Jean-Pierre Moutier, Bernard Mongourdin.

A movie that’s commonly listed as a comedy although it doesn’t comfortably fit that description. Yes, there’s a lot of—often very funny—comedy in it, but there are elements too of tragedy and pathos. Its mixture of moods is rather like that of real life, in fact, where we can laugh at human follies and weep at their tragic consequences.

In Paris, three French crooks—Simon Archambaut (Wilson), Napo (Darras) and Gabriel Farkas (Cellier)—and their expat American colleague, Christopher “Lucky Jo” Jowett (Constantine), use various inventive strategies to commit their crimes; in the opening sequence, for example, we see them dressed as monks to carry out a bank stick-up, afterward fleeing ungainly on foot like crippled bats through the cobbled Parisian streets. The Parisian trio eventually notice, however, that, every time Lucky Jo goes along on a job, something unpredictable goes awry and one of the others ends up doing a jail term.

Eddie Constantine as Lucky Jo (left) and Jean-Pierre Darras as Napo.

Finally it’s the getaway from an apartment burglary that—hilariously—screws up, and this time Jo himself is Continue reading