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

Les Intrigantes (1954)

France / 95 minutes / bw / Memnon, Alliance Générale de Distribution Cinématographique Dir: Henri Decoin Pr: Henri Lavorel Scr: Jacques Robert, Henri Decoin, François Boyer Story: La Machination (1951) by Jacques Robert Cine: Michel Kelber Cast: Raymond Rouleau, Jeanne Moreau, Raymond Pellegrin, Etchika Choureau, Marcel André, Claude Borelli, Jacques Charron (i.e., Jacques Charon), Paul Demange, Louis de Funes, Robert Hirsch, Jean-Louis Le Goff, Jean Olivier, Renée Passeur, Paul Azaïs, Guy Pierrauld, Raoul, Roger Saget, Jean Hébey.

A movie that doesn’t seem to know quite what it wants to be—a lighthearted crime comedy or a darker tale of betrayal and detection—and that thus finds itself oscillating between the two styles.

In Paris, the next production of the Théâtre Paul Rémi is to be a manifestly dire musical, based on Greek myth, called Rendez-Vous sur l’Olympe, directed by Mickaël Pakévitch (Hirsch), who just happens to be romantically involved with one of the production’s stars, Jany Noël (Borelli).

Etchika Choureau as Marie.

A few days before opening night, however, the theater’s angel, Bazine, falls to his death from a high catwalk over the stage, and the obvious suspect is the theater’s co-owner, Paul Rémi (Rouleau), who was up there with him. Paul’s guilt seems even more probable when it’s announced Bazine’s will has bequeathed to him all the deceased’s shares in the enterprise.

Paul’s wife Mona (Moreau) vows to stick with him through thick and thin, and, Continue reading

Dos au Mur, Le (1958)

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

Moderato Cantabile (1960)

vt Seven Days . . . Seven Nights
France, Italy / 89 minutes / bw / Iéna–Documento Dir: Peter Brook Pr: Raoul J. Levy Scr: Marguerite Duras, Gerard Jarlot Story: Moderato Cantabile (1958) by Marguerite Duras Cine: Armand Thirard Cast: Jeanne Moreau, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Pascale de Boysson, Jean Deschamps, Didier Haudepin, Colette Regis, Valeric.

Moderato Cantabile - 3 almost, the lovers kiss

Anne Desbarèdes (Jeanne Moreau) and Chauvin (Jean-Paul Belmondo), two lovers whose time was never meant to be.

One of those movies that mesmerizes through its restraint, this is set in a dreary coastal small town—familiar territory for French cinema—where Anne Desbarèdes (Moreau) is the beautiful, bored wife of the principal local employer (Deschamps); “No,” she says at one point, summarizing not just the starkness of the place but her own life there, “summer never comes in this region. It’s always windy.”

One afternoon she’s watching her young son Pierre (Haudepin) take his piano lesson from the elderly Miss Giraud (Regis) when his faltering rendition of Anton Diabelli’s Sonatina in F (op 168 #1, first movement indicated as moderato cantabile) is interrupted by a long, uncanny howl of agony. Investigating, Anne and Pierre discover that a man (Valeric) has murdered his lover in a nearby bar, the Café de la Gironde, a place that seems normally a territory open only to men and whores.

Anne catches the eye of one of the bar’s regulars, Chauvin (Belmondo), who happens Continue reading