JACK FAVELL wrote:...in fact, this movie defies categorization - it encompasses a lot of different genres. I wasn't even sure where to post my review! It's got touches of neorealism, surrealism, expressionism, the avant garde. There's even a little of Rene Clair. It's a police procedural, a noir film, a suspense film, and a musical, not to mention a love story...
Your review Madame Jacques Favell...C'EST MAGNIFIQUE!!! TRES BIEN...
I enjoyed it!* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The racial and sexual politics of America would never have allowed this movie to be made in 1947 Hollywood without beating us over the head with a lesson or Message or the humane warmth it had. But the French...they are not like us.
WHAT A GREAT MOVIE!!! STILL
! ( I watched it recently after not seeing it for years
. ) It held up to my memory of it. The plot was full, detailed and gives a good sense of post-war French culture. By the time the movie ended I thought I WAS
French. Watching it made me feel like I was wrapped in a 3000-thread count sheet. Ahhhhhhhhhh so satisfying. “QUAI DES ORFEVRES”
has the same sensibility to me as “FALLEN IDOL”
; love, loyalty, betrayal and a police investigation narrowing and tightening a noose around people we come to care about. The movie also made me think of “THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE...”
Not just because it was French, but because the movie felt so full, real, tactile. Chock-full of detail. Oh darn it I can't logically and clearly explain why. Maybe because I can ‘feel’ the characters, all fully fleshed out. Maybe because I can 'feel' the film.
Now I admit...this
is my preference in French pastry:
But a girl can
change her mind and heart, can't she?
“Quai Des Orfevres” has Gallic charm with shades of Hitchcock and O. Henry and "No Way Out" thrown in for good measure. We visit two distinct worlds in the movie and Clouzot takes his own sweet French time in each of them. The first half of the film deals with the backstage world of show biz. And here is where we’re introduced to the battling Martineaus. Wife Jenny Lamour ( played by SUZY DELAIR
) sort of looks like a sensuously slightly zaftig version of Angela Lansbury.
Jenny’s a harmless shameless incorrigible flirt and tease. ( I think of Madame de..., maybe even Madame Bovary. Call Me Madam - hmmm...that’s a lot of madams; but not the Merm. ) She’s a headlining chanteuse at the local music hall and soon appears in cafe society due to her singing, sex appeal, drive, ambition and self-promotion. She seduces the audience and co-workers alike. Why fight? How can you stay mad at her. You know she's got you wrapped around her finger. Dites-moi "FROMAGE!!"
Her husband is Maurice ( BERNARD BLIER.
) “It sounds nuts but Maurice is my flame. He may not burn bright but he lights my way.”
...Her very jealous husband. He might look kind of mousy, but he's passionate and has a temper. A co-worker calls him Othello. Maurice's besotted by Jenny. I don’t think he begrudges her a career, if only she were honest with the men who could help her, by telling them she’s married
. But then they wouldn’t help her. What a pickle this is...for Maurice.
I liked him in spite of himself or myself. He was passionate. He would fight for her...fight anyone. I liked his obsessiveness. Poor little sad-sack.
Lesson No. 1: Remember, don’t get in-between a married couple. You’ll lose. They might fuss and fight, break up and make love, but they’ll side with each other always. I like how Clouzot shows Jenny & Maurice fighting; the fight spans from one location to the next. I like how he cuts through time. For example, we see Jenny practice her new song from rehearsal studio to practicing in her house, to rehearsing onstage to actually putting on a full out performance for an audience, each stanza in a different location. Cleverly done.
This is Dora.
Dora Monnier ( SIMONE RENANT
) photographer. Chiseled features, statuesque, a beauty. And no nonsense
. She has an actual job, owns her business. And she’s in love with Jenny. The French don’t make a big deal about this. It’s not scandalous. She doesn’t have two heads. She’s not the butt of derision. She’s merely in love with her childhood friend. And it’s painfully unrequited for Dora. The dialogue speaks refreshingly frank with no muss, no fuss.
This is my favorite shot in the movie. We see the triangle of Jenny, Maurice and Dora. Dora and Maurice are in love with Jenny ( see how they both look at her ) ...and Jenny is in love with Jenny ( and even with that,
Jenny is looking into THREE
mirrors. O mon dieu! ) Jealousy and love makes a person do crazy things like publicly threaten your wife’s suitor or walk into a murder scene. And that's exactly what Maurice and Dora do...for love of Jenny.
The lecherous little gnome ( CHARLES DULLIN
) Brignon is murdered and the catalyst for everything to follow. And here is where Clouzot moves us into the police procedural aspect of the story. Inspector Antoine is there to unravel it all.
We find out all about him as he readies himself to leave his son to take on this investigation. His son is bi-racial...again, no fuss no muss, just facts. And he's so loving to the boy, just via him kissing the sleeping child goodbye. ( Awwww! ) The inspector is methodical. Clouzout takes us into the Inspector's world of witnesses, informants, third degrees, beatdowns, reporters/police photographers. The police station is as cacophonied a world as the backstage goings on of Maurice's burlesque hall. We weave in and out of both worlds. I fell in love with dour, unstoppable Inspector Antoine. I...held...my...breath as Clouzot shows us potential witnesses who:*
destroy evidence ( the stolen car )*
What we ( the audience ) know to be clues are thrown away before our very eyes. And we're happy about that. We hold our breath even more
when Clouzot shows Inspector Antoine starting to really pick up on things. Doesn't it remind you of “Fallen Idol”? Like Hitchcock, Clouzot builds the suspense by showing us what Dora does and what Maurice does, all in their effort to protect Jenny. We hear Jenny's story of how grindingly poor she was, which helps us understand why she wants to make it so badly. She's not just flibberty gibbet coquette. And Clouzot flips the script a little less we think Jenny WILL let Maurice take the fall for her. She won't. She does
love him. She might compartmentalize her feelings...this is for show biz / this is for you. It pains her to see Maurice in such pain, ( though not aware of what he's done ) and she wants to confess; but then Dora doesn't want
Jenny to confess b'cuz the cops'll send Jenny up the river ( the Seine ) and Dora will lose her. Jenny and Maurice in some twisted twisted O. Henry plot point both hide something from the police AND each other.
My favorite character is Dora. Independent, she's the holder of Jenny's and Maurice's secrets. When Dora is hauled into the station with other blondes who are suspects, she's stone-faced as a cabbie is questioned to identify a witness. She doesn't look indignant, she doesn't feign flirtatiousness, she just looks straight on. And the Inspector. Inspector Antoine is also my favorite for his doggedness. He will not be put off. And he's funny in a droll Frenchy kind of way. Clouzot doesn't beat us over the head with things. Very subtly:*
Dora's tears when she sees her Maurice and Jenny have made up, once again. *
Inspector Antoine kissing his sleeping son goodbye. Or being told that his son has failed his Geometry exams. ( Ha...he could've used Rohanaka's math teacher
Does Maurice suspect Dora's feelings? I'm not quite sure. Aaaaah, he's French; he probably does
but doesn't feel threatened. Besides, she's his confidante...there's a healthy respect Maurice and Dora have for each other, even if they are ( sort of ) rivals for Jenny's affections.
Clouzot takes us into “No Way Out”
territory when Maurice gets in a bind about his whereabouts to being at the scene of the crime. And there's a race against time when Maurice commits his last desperate act while in jail. And even with that scene, Clouzot lets us spend a little time with the prostitute in the cell next to Maurice's. Have I said enough? Have I said too much? I haven't really spoiled the movie for you in terms of how this whole thing turns out. I share Jack's favorite line of the movie. And this line was also soooooo poignant it made me misty-eyed. I want the best for both the Inspector and Dora. Their happily ever after does not lie with each other. And maybe they are doomed not to find happiness. I also loved seeing the detective holding his son's hand at the end...that got me.
Clouzot has done a masterful job showing me what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to take the fall for someone we love.