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Gribiche (1926, J. Feyder)

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Ann Harding
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Gribiche (1926, J. Feyder)

Postby Ann Harding » August 31st, 2011, 7:48 am

Yesterday Arte TV showed this delightful Feyder picture.

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Gribiche (1926, Jacques Feyder) with Jean Forest, Françoise Rosay, Cécile Guyon and Rolla Norman

Little Gribiche (J. Forest) meets a rich American widow, Mrs Maranet, (F. Rosay) in a Paris department store. He gives her back her bag she dropped by accident. Mrs Maranet decides to adopt him to give him a 'proper education'. The child leaves his mother (C. Guyon) to live with Mrs Maranet. His life becomes a hectic schedule of bath, exercise and tutors...

In 1925, Jacques Feyder shot this delightful film after a novel discovered by his wife Françoise Rosay. While she was a talented opera singer and actress, she had so far only appeared as an extra in various Feyder pictures (such as Crainquebille from 1922). Operators thought she was not photogenic. So she had the idea of lighting her hair color with some slivery glitter. It worked. For the first time, she got a starring part and was able to show her considerable talent under her husband's direction, a partnership to would endure until Feyder's death in 1948. The little boy in the title role is Jean Forest. He was a street urchin discovered by Feyder in Montmartre (then a poor district of Paris). He had already played in Crainquebille (1922) and in Visages d'enfants (Faces of Children, 1923) showing a great natural talent for acting. This is Feyder's first film for the Albatros company. It will be followed by two more (Carmen and Les Nouveaux Messieurs). It was also his first meeting with a genious of art direction, Lazare Meerson. He became one of his most faithful collaborators. He is the one who created a complete Flemish town in Epinay studios for La Kermesse Héroïque (Carnival in Flanders, 1935) with even a canal. His talent is already obvious in the way he delineates cleverly the social differences with the furnishing of the rooms. Gribiche lives with his mother in a lower-middle-class area of Paris and their living-room contains the typical 'neo-Renaissance' sideboard fashionnable in the 20s. In sharp contrast, Mrs Maranet lives in great luxury in a Art Deco house with some refined furniture, sort of 'neo-classical'. The boy was not living in poverty but his widowed mother had to work to make both ends neet. Mrs Maranet takes the boy with her and gives him to servants and tutors. He has a military schedule of exercises and courses. The child is expected to behave properly, wear stiff clothes and kiss ladies' hands. Mrs Maranet is obsessed with hygiene and cleanliness. The bathroom for the boy is a perfect showcase of her mania: huge room with giant bath plus a very modern-looking shower. Quickly the child cannot stand this life any more. He leaves during the night of the 14th of July to enjoy the celebrations in the street. Having some ice-cream between two biscuits is far more fun that those terribly stiff dinners with dozens of forks an knives! Mrs Maranet likes to boast about her charity and she tells her friends how she saved the child from abject poverty. We get a caricature of the worst kind of melodrama as she tells the story. According to her, the poor child and mother were living in a hovel. The film uses cleverly some Paris locations (Les Trois Quartiers department store, Bois de Boulogne and the Grenelle district with the overground metro). Feyder will use Paris even better in the following Les Nouveaux Messieurs, a foretaste of future Carné pictures (he was Feyder's assistant). The class-distinction is exemplified by the way you wear a napkin. With Mrs Maranet, it's on your lap; with his mother, it's tucked in his collar. The final scene resolves the conundrum: you have to wear your napkin tucked in your collar to avoid staining your clothes while eating snails.
The newly restored print is gorgeous. It's tinted throughout. The image is sharp and well contrasted. I saw the previous restoration at a screening in 2008. It was certainly not as good, quality-wise. But, I noticed that the new restoration, performed on a different negative, is lacking one scene. When Gribiche runs away during the 14th July, he meets a tramp under the overground metro. They sit together on a bench and drink some wine. Inexplicably, the scene is missing from this new print. I hope when the DVD is produced by Flicker Alley, it will be restored.
As for the score, well, it was really annoying. The pianist and percussionist seem to ignore the mood of the scenes and the characters. The pianist played repetitive minimalistic motives and the percussionist was irritating. I ended up switching off the sound. I hope that on the DVD we'll have some better music.
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feaito

Re: Gribiche (1926, J. Feyder)

Postby feaito » August 31st, 2011, 8:59 am

As usual, great review Christine. This film seems like something to be cherished! :D

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Re: Gribiche (1926, J. Feyder)

Postby Ann Harding » August 31st, 2011, 10:00 am

I am sure you would love it, Fernando. It's a very charming film. :)

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Re: Gribiche (1926, J. Feyder)

Postby Gagman 66 » September 7th, 2011, 10:44 pm

:o Lo, I'd sure love to see this. I had not heard anything about Flicker Alley releasing this title anyplace, prior to reading this? By the way, Arte TV is running Ernst Lubitsch THE LOVES OF PHARAOH (1922) on the 26th. Is this the same as ARTE Network? The restoration trailer looks truly amazing. What superb work was done. I hope that new version of WINGS is up to this Standard, all indications are that it will be close. I had hoped that it would be out before the end of the year, but looks like we will have to wait at least a few months into 2012. The good news is it finally is forth-coming.

feaito

Re: Gribiche (1926, J. Feyder)

Postby feaito » November 7th, 2013, 9:46 am

Now that I have seen it -last night- I think "Gribiche" (1926) is one of the most sincere, heart-warming, poignant, sweet, endearing films ever created, with a completely winning performance by child actor Jean Forest: a natural performer (one of the best, if not the best, child actor ever). Both Françoise Rosay and Cecile Guyon, as the boy's adoptive mother and real mother, respectively, give honest, multilayered and subtle performances. A total delight and a great release by Flicker Alley. 10/10.

The Flicker Alley French Masterworks Russian Emigrés Collection is sth. to behold.
Last edited by feaito on April 23rd, 2014, 12:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Gribiche (1926, J. Feyder)

Postby JackFavell » November 7th, 2013, 10:45 am

Oh Fernando, now I want to see this so badly! Would you say the other films in the set are worth the money involved?

feaito

Re: Gribiche (1926, J. Feyder)

Postby feaito » November 7th, 2013, 11:33 am

Indeed WEN. I have posted clips and small opinions on my FBook wall of all the ones I have seen.

"Le Brasier Ardent" (1922), which I watched on Monday, is very interesting, avant-garde, even pre-Surrealistic movie, directed and starring the famous Russian emigré artist Ivan Mosjoukine (who fled from Russia after the Revolution) opposite his then wife Nathalie Lissenko; visually impressive and which demonstrates the range and chameleonic ability of its male star.

"The Late Mathias Pascal" (1926), which I saw some months ago, is a great Silent Film directed by French director Marcel L'Herbier and starring again this fabulous Russian actor -Ivan Mosjoukine. Mosjoukine is definitely one the greatest actors of the Silent Cinema; like I read somewhere else he's like Valentino, Barrymore and Chaplin all rolled in one. In this movie based upon Luigi Pirandello's work he conveys all the range of emotions: utter sadness, enthrallment, sarcasm, naïveté, smartness, etc. In the film, that runs 171 minutes, but which absorbed me so completely I didn't realize time passing by, there moments of total despair, as well of joy and cheerfulness. There's one particular completely poignant scene during the first part of the film that is awesomely handled by the director and performed with unusual subtlety and honesty by the star. Others in the cast include the director's wife Marcelle Pradot, American starlet Lois Moran and future legend of the French Cinema Michel Simon. The score is amazing. 9/10

As for "Les Nouveaux Messiers" (1928) I saw it in 2012 thanks to Christine and I'll revisit it with English subs now. This what Christine wrote a while ago and what I commented:

Ann Harding wrote:
Arte broadcast last week -for the first time- a brilliant Feyder comedy.
[Les Nouveaux Messieurs (1928, Jacques Feyder) with Gaby Morlay, Albert Préjean and Henry Roussell
This charming comedy pokes fun at parliamentary life during the French Third Republic. Adapting Flers and De Croisset's play, Feyder creates a little masterpiece of understatement. Suzanne Verrier (G. Morlay) is a ballet dancer at the Paris Opera. She is kept in grand style by the Count of Montoire-Granpré (Henry Roussell), a member of parliament, who offers her a limousine with chauffeur. But, the opera chief electrician, Jacques Gaillac (A. Préjean) is secretly in love with her. By a strange reversal of fortune, the government is toppled and new general elections bring Gaillac to power. From union leader, he becomes minister. Then Suzanne has to make a choice between the two men...
Feyder has at his disposal a magician of a set designer: Lazare Meerson. Meerson creates some superb sets in particular Suzanne Verrier's flat which looks ultra-modern with its pure white lines. The building of the CIT union is also a masterpiece showing Art Deco at its best. For the cast, Feyder hesitated for a long time before casting Albert Préjean. Poor Préjean recalls in his memoirs how his friend René Clair told him about the part and to run for it. His first meeting with Feyder was disastrous: "I need an actor, not an acrobat." In fact, Préjean had started his career as a stuntman. He worked with the wolves of Le miracle des loups (1924, R. Bernard) and he climbs a building with his bare hands in Le fantôme du Moulin-Rouge (1925, R. Clair). But he had already shown his qualities as comedian in the wonderful Un chapeau de paille d'Italie (An Italian Straw Hat, 1927) under René Clair. Feyder asked him to shed 8 pounds and he went on starvation diet for a week. He finally got the part after a disastrous screen test when he had to kiss Gaby Morlay. It's also a pleasure to see the wonderful Henry Roussell playing the aristocrat. He is no caricature an never pompous. He draws an elegant and humorous figure who stops at nothing to keep his mistress, though always with great finesse. Gaby Morlay is just a joy to behold. Her career went on from success to success with the arrival of sound. Here, she is a delightful dancer, exhuberant, charming and totally natural. Some of the most charming scenes in the film shows her going for a swim in the Seine river with Préjean. The film predates the poetic realism from the 30s, better known with the Marcel Carné films. Actually, Marcel Carné was Feyder's assistant on Les nouveaux messieurs and we can guess he drew some inspiration from this film. Funnily enough, the film was banned from the screen for several months. One scene created the fury of the censors: an elderly member of parliament falls asleep in the National Assembly. He dreams that a whole corps de ballet invades parliament with lovely female dancers everywhere. It took an intervention from the actress Mary Marquet (a friend of Françoise Rosay, Mrs Feyder) to lift the ban. This is the first time I had a chance to see the film with some music, so far I had seen it only in silence. The new score created by Antonio Coppola with a small chamber ensemble (Octuor de France) brings charms and dynamism to the proceedings. He follows the plot and the atmosphere perfectly (and it's not always the case!). Overall, my third visit with this lovely film was just as enthusiastic as the previous times. The film remains fresh even after repeated viewing. Just one word about the print. It's supposedly a new print from 2011, but I couldn't see any differences with the previous 1990 print. The image has the same defaults and softness. The film should come out on DVD thanks to Flicker Alley.
Thanks to Christine I saw this great film and I agree with her opinions. I was especially impressed by the quality of the print that let me appreciate the amazing cinematography, art direction and camera work. The performances are excellent, especially Roussell's, who creates a three-dimensional character of monsieur le Marquis. A must-see and easy to understand, even for people who are not fluent in French.

feaito

Re: Gribiche (1926, J. Feyder)

Postby feaito » November 7th, 2013, 11:34 am

BTW "Kean" (1924) is the only film of the set I have not seen yet, but I'll do ASAP.

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Re: Gribiche (1926, J. Feyder)

Postby JackFavell » November 7th, 2013, 12:06 pm

I'm sorry, I haven't been keeping up on FB. I did record Mathias Pascal, somewhere I think. I really was moved by some clips of Mousjoukine when Ann Harding described some of his films.


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