Return from the Ashes (1965)

After her return from the death camps, does her unscrupulous husband want to love her . . . or kill her?

UK, US / 107 minutes / bw / Mirisch, UA Dir & Pr: J. Lee Thompson Scr: Julius Epstein Story: Le Retour des Cendres (1961) by Hubert Monteilhet Cine: Christopher Challis Cast: Maximilian Schell, Samantha Eggar, Ingrid Thulin, Herbert Lom, Talitha Pol, Vladek Sheybal, Jacques Cey, Jacques Brunius, Eugene Keeley.

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Occupying the same sort of territory as The THIRD MAN (1949), this is the first of—to date—three screen adaptations of Monteilhet’s novel. The other two are:

The latter is covered here.

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It’s the winter of the liberation of France from the loathed Nazi occupation. Aboard a train bound for Paris, a disobedient small boy, Robert (Keeley), opens the door and falls out into the night and presumably his doom. All of the passengers in the compartment are distraught, save one. The woman in the corner (Thulin) seems completely unmoved by events. The others are prepared to be critical of her until they notice the numbers tattooed on her forearm; she’s a Jewish survivor of the concentration camps, and her seeming imperturbability is born not from heartlessness but from traumatic alienation and the crude reconstructive surgery that’s been done on her face.

Arriving in Paris, she books herself into a cheap hotel under the name Julia Robert, even though, as the desk clerk (Cey) points out, according to her papers her name is Michele Wolff-Pilgrin. She tells him she wishes to hide under an assumed name for a while . . .

Return from the Ashes - 1 The Michele we first meet bears the scars of her ordeals

 The Michele we first meet (Ingrid Thulin) bears the scars of her ordeals.

Soon, in a prolonged flashback, we learn her story—and that the face she now bears is not the one she had a few years ago, before the torment of the camps and a clumsy reconstruction job after injury.

A widow, by the latter half of the 1930s she was working as a successful X-ray clinician in a Paris hospital. From her late husband she inherited a stepdaughter, Fabienne, whom she rarely saw, just shuffling her around from one English boarding school to another.

One night at her local chess club Michele ran into the impoverished would-be professional chess player Stanislas “Stan” Pilgrin (Schell), who took her for three games of chess to the tune of ninety francs. Later that night, even though she recognized he was a scoundrel, she Continue reading

Trap for Cinderella (2013)

Amnesia, identity confusion, a tortuous plot . . .

UK / 100 minutes / color / UK Film Council, Prescience, Forthcoming, JonesCompany, Aegis, Altus, Ealing Metro, Lipsync, Odd Lot, BFI Dir & Scr: Iain Softley Pr: Robert Jones, Dixie Linder, Iain Softley Story: Piège pour Cendrillon (1963; vt Trap for Cinderella) by Sébastien Japrisot Cine: Alex Barber Cast: Tuppence Middleton, Alexandra Roach, Kerry Fox, Frances de la Tour, Emilia Fox, Aneurin Barnard, Stanley Weber, Alex Jennings, Maisie Lloyd, Ciara Southwood, Nathalie Paris, Erich Redman, Elizabeth Healey, Pierre Boulanger, Tim Wallers.

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After an explosive fire in a lavish villa in the south of France, the badly smashed-up survivor is flown to an exclusive clinic in Switzerland where Dr. Müller (Redman) performs extensive reconstructive surgery. Slowly the patient heals, although some faint scars may remain forever and she suffers near-total amnesia, no more than occasional disconnected glimpses of her past remaining. The clinic’s psychologist, Dr. Sylvie Wells (Emilia Fox), teaches the young woman who she is: 20-year-old orphan Michèle “Micky” Bean (Middleton) and presumptive heir, come her 21st birthday, to the fortune of her late aunt, hugely successful fashionista Elinor Raffermi (de la Tour).

Trap for Cinderella - 1 Micky meets Julia for 1st time after surgery

Micky (Tuppence Middleton, right) meets Julia (Kerry Fox) for the first time after the extensive reconstructive surgery.

Eventually Elinor’s PA, Julia (Kerry Fox), arrives to collect Micky and take her home to London, where she shields the recuperating patient from contact with her earlier life. Micky, however, rebels, escaping from Julia to make contact with her aunt’s lawyer, James Chance (Jennings), and hooking up again with Chance’s assistant, Jake (Barnard), whom she recognizes from photos as her once-boyfriend. Although he admits that “Last time I saw you you said you never wanted to see me again—I’m glad you changed your mind” (“changed your mind,” geddit?), they have a nostalgic Continue reading