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Discovering Paul Dupuis

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Paul Dupuis is not a name that rings a bell to many people of my generation. However, if I talk about him with my grandparents or older people, they’ll remember him as this handsome man with a very deep voice who was “great in Les Belles Histories des Pays d’en Haut“. He was one of those French-Canadian actors that had its notoriety, but is unfortunately a bit forgotten nowadays. On my side, if I hadn’t seen Madness of the Heart, I would probably have not come across him. When I watched this British film for the first time, this handsome young man, who was cast as Margaret Lockwood’s love interest, picked my curiosity. So, I checked what was his name: Paul Dupuis. Hum, that’s sounded French! It was even better, he was Quebecois (or French-Canadian if you prefer). Last year, in my class of Quebecois cinema, I decided to do my final essay on films of the 40’s and the 50’s, but, to tell you the truth, that was mainly an excuse to see more Paul Dupuis’ films. ūüėČ I don’t regret it, because I saw some interesting stuff, movies that, just like Paul, are not remembered very well today.
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I’m really not an expert on Paul Dupuis and I’ve seen only three of his films. But I’ve chosen to write about him because I think he deserves more recognition. And if, like me, you like to discover new actors, well, there you go. I, however, have a sort of obsession with him and sometimes I can spend hours looking for articles and videos about him on the web. Quite a stimulating activity. It’s mostly through this¬†research that I discovered myself a real fascination for the man. Paul Dupuis was one of a kind, and he was much more than a “simple” movie star.
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With the help of all my readings, I created this mini biography that I hope you’ll find complete and informative.
Who Was Paul Dupuis?
 Birthday and college years
¬†Paul Dupuis was born in Montreal on August 11, 1916. He was the son of Carmel Girouard and Pierre-Louis Dupuis, a juvenile court judge. From 1933 to 1934 he did classical studies at Coll√®ge de l’Assomption. Paul Dupuis’ love for acting started when he attended Coll√®ge St. Laurent and was part of the amateur theatre group “Les Compagnons de St. Laurent” (or simply “Les Compagnons”) create by Father Legault, to whom he owned his love for the theatre. In an article from La Voix de Shawinigan, Gabriel Langlais describes Paul Dupuis as “father Legault’s spiritual son”. Later, after Paul became an established movie and onstage actor, he eventually became assistant director, actor, professor, and director at Les Compagnons, at the request of Father Legault. His passage at Les Compagnons is well remembered for his successful performance in Shakespeare’s Henry IV as the leading role,¬†in 1951.
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Father √Čmile Legault
The journalist
It’s important to know that, despite his talent for acting, it was a bit by accident that he became an actor. Yes, he spent glorious times performing with Les Compagnons, but Paul first worked (briefly) as a newspaper cartoonist. He also worked as an announcer and director at Radio-Canada and joined CBC in 1937 and was sent, not long after, in London, as a War Correspondent. Meanwhile, he married Jacqueline-Th√©r√®se Godin (daughter of Joseph-Eug√®ne Godin et Hortense Mongenais) at St. L√©on de Westmount church in 1939. They had two children, Pierre-Louis and Marie. In 1945, Paul, who then was a journalist, not an actor yet, made an important war reportage entitled Mort du Soldat Bourdage au Front¬†in which he talked about the death of Private Bourdage¬†and made a glorious portrait of him. However, the soldier was not really dead! His trace was lost after an explosion and he was declared dead, but a bit too early. Fortunately, this allowed Bourdages to see Dupuis’s wonderful tribute to him.
The raise of an actor
¬†Paul Dupuis’s first on-screen role (or should I say “appearance) was in Yellow Canary, a 1943’s British spy movie. He, however, was uncredited. Paul Dupuis first important role was in 1945’s Johnny Frenchman, a film about a Breton Fisherman directed by Charles Frend and also starring Patricia Roc, Paul Walls and Fran√ßoise Rosay. It’s a screen-test arranged by his friend¬†Gerry Wilmott (who also worked at Radio-Canada) who led him to obtain an important role in the film. Paul then became a revelation, both in Europe and in his native country, Canada, where the film was first screened at Imperial Theatre in Montreal in Spring 1946. Johnny Frenchman was praised for its quality. An article from Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin said about it that it had “a realism impossible to duplicate in Hollywood-made product.” The same journalist wrote that¬†he and his co-star Patricia Roc were “natural and appealing as the British-French romantic pair.” Journalist Marc Thibeault also described him as a future big star of British Cinema in his article “Johnny Frenchman”, avec Paul Dupuis, une agr√©able surprise. Due to his success in the film, Paul Dupuis signed a long time contract with J. Arthur Rank in the 40’s.
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Whit Patricia Roc in Johnny Frenchman
From 1945 to 1951, he shot about 15 films in England, including The White Unicorn, Passport to Pimlico, Madness of the Heart, The Reluctant Widow and Sleeping Car to Trieste.  For many of these roles, only goods were said about Paul Dupuis:

For their performance in the comedy-thriller Sleeping Car to Trieste, Paul Dupuis and his co-stars Derrick de Marney and Jean Kent were said to be “prominent in the action” in a Showmen’s Trade Review article of April 1949. Another article from the same magazine qualified his performance in Passport to Pimlico¬†(June 1949) of “convincing”. Moreover, a July 1949’s article praised Paul Dupuis’ performance in Madness of the Heart (his second film alongside Margaret Lockwood, the first one being The White Unicorn) and said about it:”Paul Dupuis proves his ability with a sincere, clear-cut characterization as the French husband.” The film has its faults, but, like many Margaret Lockwood’s films from the 40’s, it was a commercial success. There is no doubt on the convincing performances of the actors: Paul the French gentleman, Margaret Lockwood, his blind wife, and Kathleen Byron as the mean and jealous woman. The film was directed by¬†Charles Bennett, most well-remembered for his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock as a screenwriter (Blackmail,¬†The Man Who Knew Too Much¬†(1934),¬†The 39 Steps,¬†Sabotage,¬†Secret Agent,¬†Young & Innocent,¬†Foreign Correspondent¬†and¬†Saboteur).¬†

 

Paul’s career in Europe was not only spent in England, but also in France where he starred in ¬†L’Inconnue de Montr√©al, Les P√©p√©s font la loi, Passion de femmes, etc.

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Despite his success in Europe in the 40’s and 50’s, and his international reputation, Paul’s heart really belonged to Canada, and I believe the importance of his career, his unique persona was really created in his native country. ¬†In a June 1951’s article for Photo Journal, Paul Dupuis was quoted saying ”¬†Il faut quitter le Canada pour l’appr√©cier. Je n’ai jamais √©t√© un immigr√©. Les ann√©es pass√©es loin de mon pays on √©t√© pour moi des ann√©es d’exil, malgr√© le succ√®s qu’on s’est plu √† me reconna√ģtre en Europe.” ( You have to quit Canada to appreciate it. I never was an immigrant. The years spent far from my country were for me years of exile, despite the success I had in Europe.). This was his answer to the question ” Why are you coming back?” (to Canada). Interestingly enough, after the shooting of Madness of the Heart, Paul had a desire to go back to Canada with a¬†Norwegian Cargo (as the road was more adventurous), but he had to cancel as the boat reservations were already all booked and he was requested to star in the film The Romantic Age (Edmond T. Gr√©ville, 1949)

Paul’s first film made in Quebec was La Forteresse, a 1946’s film directed by F√©dor Ozep in which he plays the role of an author-compositor suspected of murder. His co-stars were Nicole Germain,¬†Jacques Auger et Henri Letondal. The exteriors of the film were shot in Quebec City and Montmorency Falls. That’s the second Paul Dupuis’ film I saw and he didn’t fail¬†to impress me.

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On the set of La Forteresse with director Fédor Ozep

In Canada, Paul was also seen in √Čtienne Br√Ľl√©, Gibier de Potence, Ti-Coq,¬†or Les Belles Histoires des Pays d’en Haut at the television. Actually, if you mentioned Paul Dupuis to a Quebecois, it’s more likely Ti Coq and Les Belles Histoires that will ring a bell. These are the productions he is most well-remembered for here. He grabbed the attention¬†of writer Claude-Henri Grignon, author of Un homme et son p√©ch√© and that’s how he obtained the role of Arthur Buies in the radio version of the novel as well as the television adaptation (entitled Les Belles Histoires des Pays d’en Haut). I have to be honest, I never saw Paul in Les Belles histories, but I’ve heard only goods about it. Paul Dupuis himself liked the character and found him to be appealing. As for Ti-Coq, this cinematographic adaptation of Gratien G√©linas’ play (also director by G√©linas and also starring G√©linas in the leading role), his role is a small, but appreciable and convincing. What I like about it is that he inspires wisdom.

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In Ti-Coq

 

The theatre man

” Actually, I would like to appear in the theatre, but I would have to be sure that the play and the part are just right for me, otherwise I think such an experiment would do me harm than good.” (Paul Dupuis, interviewed by Anthony Firth for Picturegoer, 1949)

 

We all remember that Paul’s interest in acting started while he was an actor for Les Companions de St-Laurent. His onstage career, however, didn’t stop there. While he was in England, he played in West-End London’s theatres, but, once again, his artistic heart truly belonged to Canada. There, we saw him on stage in Ten Little Indians in 1953 (presented by the Canadian Players), Henri IV (as I mentioned it earlier), or again in¬†Claudel-Honegger’s¬†Jeanne d’Arc au B√Ľcher ¬†in the role of Brother Dominic. The play was staged by¬†Jan Doat ( stage director at l’op√©ra de Paris) and bandmaster Wilfrid Pelletier. The premiere took place at the Palais du Commerce in July 1952 and opened the Festival 1953. Paul was chosen by¬†la Soci√©t√© des Festivals de Montr√©al to star in the play, alongside¬†Claude Nollier.

Radio and television
In the 60’s, Paul Dupuis forged an important radio and television career in Canada, putting his cinematic career a bit aside. On¬†the television, he was the animator of¬†Voix de Femmes, a feminine magazine where¬†Mme Fran√ßoise Gaudet-Smet was revealing to women the secret of a good housekeeper and where¬†Th√©r√®se Casgrain was defending women’s legal rights. He was also seen in the cinematographic television show¬†: Billet de faveur. He often made ¬†important reportages for Radio-Canada, both on radio and television. I remember my uncle mentioning a coffee commercial with Paul Dupuis. I tried to find more information about it, but without success.
Apart from being recognized for his acting talent, his charm and his beauty, it seems that Paul Dupuis also had a magical speaking voice, which could surely assure him a successful radio career. Journalist¬†Fernand C√īt√©, said of Paul Dupuis that he was excellent to read texts and to give them all their “flavour and texture” and that he had a “convincing voice tone”. His voice was also said to be “amused, malicious and tragic”. On the radio, Paul Dupuis played the role of Julien B√©dard in Jeunesse Dor√©, was the narrator of Une demie heure aver… directed by Madeleine G√©r√īme, reader for the special program¬†of l’Organisation des mesures d’urgence, narrator for the show about the arctic Au Pays du Long Sommeil by Andr√© Morin (although I’m not sure if this was a television or a radio show…), animator for Billet de Faveur, etc.
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Mysterious Death
Despite his success on the radio and television in the 60’s, Paul Dupuis mysteriously put and end to his career in 1970. In 1976, he was found dead at the¬†Nymark hotel in St-Sauveur, where he lived. He was only 60. He was buried at the C√īte-des-Neiges Cemetery. Now, I’m a bit confused by the subject since, an article from The Montreal Gazette says that he died of natural causes, while Claude Jasmin, writer and once Paul Dupuis’s neighbour, implicitly mentions a suicide in his blogging article ” Mort √† St-Sauveur”. The writer mentions Paul’s difficult character (which led him on the “blacklist”), alcoholic problems and his career downfall (which could indeed eventually lead to a suicide). Is it all true? Just like the man, I think this will remain a mystery and for the moment the sources on the subject are a bit limited. However, Paul Dupuis was much more than that, and he will always be remembered for the goods he brought to journalism, cinema, radio and television.
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The village of Saint-Sauveur in Quebec where Paul Dupuis lived.
The personality 
Yes, because Paul Dupuis was much more than a simple actor, he was a real personality, one of a kind. Interestingly enough, when he was criticized about his look, his answer on the subject was a bit similar to Ingrid Bergman’s one: while being interviewed by Anthony Firth for Picturegoer in 1949, he said to the¬†journalist¬†“At the beginning of my career, I have been told that my nose is not right to which I only answer: so what? I do not consider myself a glamour boy of the screen, and if my nose can stop me from becoming a good actor then I might as well look for another profession.” Well, take me like I am or don’t take me at all! That’s the spirit. Paul loved his acting profession and it was much more about talent than physical look¬†for him. However, don’t get me wrong, he was often known as “the handsome Paul Dupuis”.
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Paul had a unique personality. Known as a very private man, he inspired both fear and respect, was a man of fine tastes, an independent, he was very polite, etc. Paul didn’t like to talk about himself, but he loved talking about his passions and interest. He¬†appreciated music and his tastes were various: while he enjoyed Gregorian chants or Mozart, he also found a real revelation in blues and rock and roll, especially with Elvis Presley’s music. Paul also loved to read, especially authors of the 18e century. He loved nature, car rides¬†(for him, to drive from St-Sauveur to Montreal and vice versa every day was not a problem), animals (especially horses and dogs), etc. His other hobbies were squash, singing, but what he liked to most was painting, as it is written¬†in¬†¬†Anthony Firth’s article.¬†Paul also was an eccentric of his own kind. For example, as it is revealed by Fernand C√īt√©, if he has to go to the Place des Arts (an important concert hall in Montreal) after a day of horse riding, he would go wearing horse riding’s outfit! Fernando C√īt√© also said of Paul Dupuis that, despite some of his life challenges, he chose meditation and reflection instead of wickedness and aggressively. Paul was a wise and thoughtful man.
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As you can see, it is quite surprising that Paul Dupuis is a bit forgotten today, despite his success while he was alive. If¬†I’ve seen only three of his films: Madness of the Heart, La Forteresse,¬†and Ti-Coq, it’s really by reading all these articles about him that I became a fan. I mean, he was such a brilliant man!
I recently bought on eBay this autograph!
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And also this old magazine with Paul on the front page.
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I hope I succeed to give you an accurate life portrait of this magnificent French-Canadian man. It required a lot of research, which I had, fortunately, mostly done before I even
consider writing this article. If you wish to watch his films, why don’t you do like me and start with Madness of the Heart? ūüėČ
I also invite you to check some of these Radio-Canada’s appearances and reportages from Paul Dupuis. It’s in French, but I think it’s worthy just to hear his voice. ūüôā
This article was written for the O Canada Blogathon hosted by Silver Screenings and Speakeasy. Big thanks to Ruth and Kristina for hosting it!
Click on the following links to read the entries:
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See you! ūüôā

Sources:

1- “Actor Paul Dupuis Dead.” The Montreal Gazette Jan 26, 1976: 41. Google News Archives.¬†Web. 5 ¬†Feb, 2017.
2-C√īt√©, Ferdand. ” Notre reporter a pass√© une demie-heure avec Paul Dupuis.” La Semaine √† Radio-Canada Aug 7, 1965: 8. BANQ Num√©rique. Web. 5 Feb, 2017.
3- C√īt√©, Fernand. ” Paul Dupuis aime avant tout, son m√©tier, la nature et les b√™tes.” La Semaine √† Radio-Canada March 31, 1962: 5. BANQ Num√©rique. Web. 5 Feb, 2017.
4- Didier Ren√©. ” Les anciens et les anciennes du coll√®ge de l’Assomption – Les membres du 98e cours.” 2007,¬†http://classomption.qc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/LES_ANCIENS098_version1.pdf
5- Firth, Anthony. “Paul Dupuis.” Picturegoer (Archive: 1932-1960), vol. 18, no. 757, Nov 05 1949, pp. 14. Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive. Proquest.¬†Web.¬†5 Feb, 2017.
6- Jasmin, Claude. “Mort √† Saint-Sauveur! [Paul Dupuis].” Claude Jasmin, √Čcrivain- Poing Comme Net Dec 7, 2005.¬†http://www.claudejasmin.com/wordpress/?p=221. 5 Feb, 2017.
7- “La mort myst√©rieuse du soldat Bourdages.” Radio-Canada Archives – √Ä Rebours.¬†http://ici.radio-canada.ca/emissions/a_rebours/2012-2013/archives.asp?date=2013-05-17. 5 Feb, 2017
8- Leyendecker. “Johnny Frenchman British Import Appeal Limited.” Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin, 1946. Internet Archive. Web. 5 Feb, 2017.
9- Langlais, Gabriel. “Paul Dupuis.” La Voix de Shawinigan Jul 20, 1960. Google News Archives. Web. 5 Feb, 2017.
10- “L’√©l√©gance de Paul Dupuis.” Photo Journal March 20, 1952: 20. Google News Archives. Web. 5 Feb, 2016.
11- “Madness of the Heart.” Showmen’s Trade Review Jul 30, 1949: 20. Internet Archive. Web. 5 Feb, 2017.
12- Maillet, Andr√©. “Paul Dupuis r√©v√®le de pr√©cieux secrets.” Photo Journal Jun 21, 1951. Google News Archives. Web. 5 Feb, 2016.
13- “Passport to Pilmicot.” Showmen’s Trade Review Jun 11, 1949: 30. Internet Archive. Web.¬†5 ¬†Feb, 2017.
14- “Paul Dupuis Arrives.” The Montreal Gazette Sept 28, 1946: 11. Google News Archives. Web. 5 Feb, 2017.
15- “Paul Dupuis √† Voix de Femmes.” L’Action Populaire- L’Horizon Jun 7, 1967: 11. Google News Archives. Web. 5 Feb, 2017.
16- “Paul Dupuis dans le r√īle titre du Fr√®re Dominique dans Jeanne d’Arc, le 30.” Le Canada July 27, 1953. Google News Archives. Web.
17- “Paul Dupuis jeune artiste de talent.” La Patrie May 27, 1947: 17. Google News Archives. Web. Feb 5, 2017.
18- “Quebec Actor Paul Dupuis is found Dead in Hotel.”¬†Boxoffice (Archive: 1920-2000), vol. 108, no. 20, Feb 23 1976¬†Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive.¬†Proquest.¬†Web. 5 Feb, 2017.
19- Thibault, Marc. ” Johnny Frenchman avec Paul Dupuis, une agr√©able surprise.” Le Canada May 13, 1946. Google News Archives. Web. 5 Feb, 2017.
20- “Une demie heure avec…” La Semaine √† Radio-Canada Aug 19, 1961: 7. BANQ Num√©rique. Web. 5 Feb, 2017.
21- “What the Critics Say about Johnny Frenchman.” Ottawa Citizen Feb 8, 1947: 10. Google News Archives. Web. 5 Feb, 2017.
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Top of the World: 15 French Films

I’m here with a new top list! As a matter of fact, I’ll try to add publish one every week if that’s possible. And as you can see, my weekly top lists will be entitled “Top of the World” (because we are at The Wonderful World of Cinema).

This week, I’ll let you know what are my 15 most favourite French films (French from France). I have French origin myself and, we agree, France makes some pretty memorable films.

These are MY own personal favourite, so if yours doesn’t appear on it, don’t panic. Just enjoy.

Here we go!

1- La grande illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937)

“D’un c√īt√© des enfants qui jouent aux soldats et de l’autre, des soldats qui jouent comme des enfants.”

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2- Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati, 1953)

” Ah bonjour madame!”

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3- Les demoiselles de Rochefort (Jacques Demy, 1967)

“Nous sommes deux soeurs jumelles n√©es sous le signe des G√©meaux”

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4- Plein Soleil (René Clément, 1960)

“Monsieur est en mission, envoy√© par papa, de San Francisco, pour me r√©cup√©rer”

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5- Les compères (Francis Veber, 1983)

“J’ai plus de boulot, ma femme m’a quitt√©, j’habite avec ma m√®re qui me fait une vie impossible, j’ai pas de projets, pas d’avenir, tout √† bout j’suis foutu! C’est formidable non?”

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6- Subway (Luc Besson, 1985)

“Police…menottes…prison!”

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7- Alexandre le Bienheureux (Yves Robert, 1968)

“√Ä force d’aller mal, tout va bien.”

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8- Partie de campagne (Jean Renoir, 1946)

“C’est tellement calme ici. Il semble que ce serait mal de faire du bruit.”

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9- Jules et Jim (François Truffaut, 1962)

“Elle avait des bagues √† chaque doigt,
Des tas de bracelets autour des poignets,
Et puis elle chantait avec une voix
Qui, sit√īt, m’enj√īla.”

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10- Le grand blond avec une chaussure noire (Yves Robert, 1972)

“C’est lui. Le Grand Blond avec une chaussure noire.”

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11- La Nuit américaine (François Truffaut, 1973)

“Moi, pour un film, je pourrais quitter un type, mais pour un type, je ne pourrais jamais quitter un film !”

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12- Mon Oncle (Jacques Tati, 1958)

Oh c’est si pratique! Tout communique!”

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13- La grande vadrouille (Gérard Oury, 1966)

“- Y a pas d’h√©lice h√©las.

– C’est l√† qu’est l’os!”

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Real : GŽrard Oury

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14- L’aile ou la cuisse (Claude Zidi, 1976)

“- Vous vous appelez comment ?
– Marguerite. Et vous ?
– Je m’appelle monsieur le directeur !”

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15- L’arroseur Arros√© (Louis Lumi√®re, 1895)

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As you can see, I added some movie quotes. Can be a way to practice your French. ūüėČ

And you, what are some of your favourite Classics from France?

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The Great Beauty of La Grande Illusion

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Last year, in 2015, (which was not a long time ago), I made some great film discoveries, but, overall, I might have discovered what would be for me the best French movie of all times: La Grande Illusion. I watched the film thrice in a short among of time and even had the chance to see it on the big screen in class (an unforgettable experience). So, of course, when Summer from Serendipitous Anachronism announced that she was going to host the France on Films Blogathon, this had to be my choice!

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La Grande Illusion was directed by Jean Renoir, son of the great painter August Renoir, in 1937. It stars Jean Gabin, Pierre Fresnay, Erich Von Stroheim and Dita Parlo in a short, but significant role. This film has the particularity to be the first non-American film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Best Picture, not Best Foreign Film. Anyway, this category didn’t exist back in 1937.

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Jean Renoir’s film takes place during the first World War. The film starts when the plane of Lieutenant Mar√©chal (Gabin) and Capitaine de¬†Bo√ęldieu is crashed by the¬†commandant Von Rauffenstein (Stroheim). By coincidence, the commandant happens to know¬†Bo√ęldieu’s family and invites the two men to share a dinner. They later are transferred in a German prisoner camp. There, they meet a gang of nice French soldiers, including¬†lieutenant Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio) and Cartier (Julien Carett), an actor. They have a project: escape from the jail. At night, they dig a big tunnel, risking their life, until the day they learn they’ll be transferred to another jail… Here,¬†Bo√ęldieu and¬†Mar√©chal discover that¬†Von Rauffenstein is in charge of the prison… Even if they have a privileged relation with him, their idea to escape still occupy their minds.

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I have to thank my grandmother for having talked to me about this film. She didn’t say much about it, except that it was a great film, but it made me curious to see it and I don’t regret I did. It’s simply one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. It has the particularity not only to be a war movie (or a prison movie), but overall an anti-war movie. This is expressed by all the film visual and narrative poetry. World War I and World War II were of course pretty different. In this film, we feel that no one had the desire to fight against the enemy, the Frenchs just like the Germans. They had to because it was their “duty”. Remember this scene when the German prison guard, Arthur, says that the war is lasting too long? Of course, this is just a movie and the reality might not have been exactly like this. The film also has the particularity to have been released only two years before the beginning of the second world war. The world was, of course, feeling that something serious was about to happen, particularly because of the the rise of the Nazism¬†Another great anti-war film released in the 30’s was All Quiet on the Western Front.

In the film, a flower is the symbol of this peace desire

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La Grande Illusion amazed with its visual quality. The work of the cinematography makes the film quite impressive. The clarity and the purity of the images matches perfectly to some memorable camera shots or camera movements. There would be many to mention, but some grabs my attention more than others:

One of the most noticeable camera movements is this long take when the French soldiers are singing La Marseillaise. The camera moves from the ¬†French soldiers singing, to the German guards who aren’t, to the French soldiers. With the music, it creates a sort of choreography and allows us to notice the emotional contrast between each character.

A camera shot that I particularly like is the one when the group of French prisoners is looking at the window. This one is first introduced to us with a ¬†travelling on each face. There’s something very strong about this shot. It sort of tells us that, as a gang, they can resist the enemy.

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Finally, the final shot is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Without spoiling anything, it’s a long shot where we see Rosenthal and Mar√©chal walking in the snow. The contrast with their black coats and the immaculate snow is interesting and of course beauty is added thanks to¬†the mountains in the background.

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Except for its visual dimension, one of the strongest aspect of the film is its screenplay, and particularly its dialogues. I was watching the film and would have like to note every lines. There’s something so clever about them. One can say something very simple, but the way it’s said, it becomes unique, poetic and quotable. The film makes an interesting contrast between drama and comedy. This is embodied by the characters and also by the screenplay.¬† Here are some examples, I’ve written them in their original language (French) and add a English translation. It might not be exactly accurate, but it’s just to help you understand:

1- Mar√©chal: “Ben tu sais moi je vais pas au th√©√Ętre, c’est trop s√©rieux. J’aime mieux le v√©lo.” ¬†(“The theater’s too deep for me. I prefer bicycling.”)

2-¬†Bo√ęldieu: “D‚Äôun c√īt√© des enfants qui jouent aux soldats et de l‚Äôautre des soldats qui jouent comme des enfants.” ( “Out there, children play soldier…¬†In here, soldiers play like children.”)

3- Mar√©chal: ”¬†Ce qui passe mon vieux, c‚Äôest pas la musique, c‚Äôest pas les instruments; c‚Äôest le bruit des pas.” (“What we hear,¬†old man, it’s not the music, it’s not the instument; it’s the sound of the footsteps.”)

4- March√©cal : –¬†Il faut bien qu‚Äôon la finisse cette putin de guerre ¬†(“We have to finish this damn war.”)

Rosenthal :- Pff, tu t’fais des illusions… (“Pff, you’re making illusions”).

This last quote refers us to the movie title: La Grande Illusion. What is this title referring to? One of the most probable hypothesis is to associate it to the fact that the war lasted much¬†longer¬†than what people would have thought. It was too long. I remember, in my history classes¬†(subject I excelled at), teachers often told us that, when the war started, people thought that the soldiers would be back home at Christmas. Of course, this didn’t happen and the war lasted 4 years and was¬†devastating

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La Grande Illusion allowed me to discover some great French and German actors. Of course, I had already seen Erich Von Stroheim in Sunset Boulevard, but in this film, he is different. He plays an “enemy” (as he is German), but, overall, a man with a great heart. He is less “cold” and more sensible than Max.

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I also saw Pierre Fresnay before in the original version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, but this film allowed me to notice him more as he has a major part. I have to say, Pierre Fresnay’s performance is my favourite one in this film. He makes acting look easy and I absolutely love his character’s attitude: ¬†very suave, debonair and clever. All this adds a great charisma to him. We believe¬†in¬†him, you know.

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Jean Gabin’s performance doesn’t disappoint either. I’m glad I’ve seen my first film starring this legendary French actor and I intend to see more. Gabin can be quite comic in this film or explode of anger. This proves his great versatility, and adds a lot of “pep” to the film.

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The only actress in this film is Dita Parlo, that we see during the last 20 minutes. This isn’t a lot, but it’s enough to notice and appreciate her. She first seems to be a serious woman, but it turns out that she’s only sad. Her joy is back, thanks to¬†Rosenthal and, especially, to Mar√©chal. With her, life during the war seems lovely and the spoken language doesn’t seem to be a barrel to understand each others feeling. She has an absolutely lovely smile.

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Of course, many other actors have to be mentioned for their unforgettable performances, such as Julien Carett in the funniest and craziest role of the film, Marcel Dalio as the man who is proud of its high society blood, Jean Dasté as the most innocent man ever, etc.

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Finally, we can not talk about this film without mentioning its great score composed by Joseph Kosma. It dramatically adds a lot to the story and makes the film even stronger. Unfortunately, I could find an extract on YouTube, so I guess you’ll have to see the film. (Wait, if you haven’t, well you HAVE to).

One of my next Criterion’s purchase will definitely be La Grande Illusion‘s DVD. It’s a movie I believe I’ll never get tired to see. It’s brilliant and beautiful. I want to tank Summer for having host such a nice blogathon and giving me the occasion to write about one of the most marvellous films of all times.

Here is the link to read the other entries:

The France on Films Blogathon

√Ä bient√īt!

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The Beach Party Blogathon: Stromboli

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It’s June, it’s almost summer. It’s time to swim, go at the beach, drink lemonade, but also, for us, bloggers, it’s time for the Beach Party Blogathon. This wonderful event is hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. For the occasion, I’ve decided to explore Roberto Rossellini’s Stromboli. I said to myself that it would be an interesting movie to talk about and also a good occasion to write about Italian neorealism, a cinematographic movement I learnt a lot about during my cinema history classes in school.

When we see Stromboli, we cannot really talk about a “beach party”. I chose this film, because it takes place on an Italian volcanic island located in the Mediterranean sea: Stromboli. Karen (Ingrid Bergman), a Lithuanian refugee is in an Italian camp. She escapes it by marrying an Italian fisherman, Antonio (Mario Vitale), that she has met in the camp. Together, they go to his home on the island of Stromboli. Despite the fact that he promised her a happy life on the island, she soon discovers that it’s not at all what she was expecting. It’s an hard place to live, poor, very conservative. Karen felt, as a stranger, that she is not welcome on the island and will start to live her new miserable life.

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Of course, all this is not very happy, and far from being a party. When they are on the boat, on their way to the island,¬†Karen is wearing a long coat because the air is cold, and we can feel it’s an unpleasant coldness. When¬†Antonio tells her that there is a volcano on the island, Karen facial expression changes and she seems to say to herself “what am I doing here?”. Then, they arrive on the island where they meet the priest (Renzo Cesana) and they go on their way home. Karen has the same unhappy expression¬†when she discovers what her new house looks like. The priest is the only one to see her distress and tells her to be patient. She then decides to re-decorate her home, make it more appealing. It’s now the first moment of the film where she looks happy. Well, that doesn’t last long, because she is soon accused by the women of the village to have no modesty. They also accuse her to be a flirt. Karen then felt more unwelcome than ever and simply wants to get out of this island. The only moment in this film where we feel like she’s enjoying the sea life is when she’s sitting on a rock and sees children bathing in the water. She then decided to go walk in the water with them.

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When Rossellini was filming Stromboli, a volcanic eruption¬†really happened. Of course, this was “perfect” for the movie. What’s wrong with a little action? He used this “matter of life and death moment” in his film. During this stressful scene, the villages are running away to the sea, trying to avoid the inflamed rocks that came out the volcano. So, if the movie itself is far from being a beach party, shooting it was even worse, especially for Ms Bergman. I recently read¬†a captivating biography of her and I can tell you that this was certainly her most difficult shooting. The conditions were certainly not as easy as¬†in America and also, it was a big turning point in her life has she was at the beginning of her love relation with Rossellini.

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Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini on the set of Stromboli

If my memory is good, Stromboli is the first foreign film I review for this blog. Of course, I can not write this text without talking a little about what I know about Italian Neorealism. Stromboli is, of course, a classic of this movement. Neorealism is known as a post-war film movement (1945-1952). Its objective is to make movies for the people, movies that show what the Italy became because of the war, especially its poverty and social problems. The material to shot these movies is limited, they are shot in real locations, dialogues are simple, and, movie directors use unprofessional actors in their films. In Stromboli, Ingrid Bergman and Renzo Cesana were the only professional actors of the cast. Mario Vitale was discovered by Rossellini. He was first supposed to only play a fisherman, but Rossellini decided to give him the male leading role. Neorealism is between fiction and documentary. The movies are fictional, but they are showing us the truth without any exaggerations. Rome, Open City, also directed by Roberto Rossellini, is known as the first Italian Neorealist Film.

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I’ve just mentioned Ingrid Bergman. I think the movie would have not been the same without her. Anna Magnani was the first choice for the role of Karen, but she lost it to Ingrid Bergman. There’s really something about Ingrid Bergman, a kind of strength that adds a lot to the film, make it stronger. Ingrid Bergman really was an incredibly talented actress. After having seen her in American movies like Casablanca or Notorious, it’s interesting to see her in something completely different. The Swedish actresses is now starring¬†in Italian movies. Diversity is certainly something great. Mario Vitale and Renzo Cesana also did a great job. Cesana was perfect as the priest and acted without too many¬†extravagances.

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One of the most incredible scenes of this film is certainly the tuna-fishing scene. That’s quite a sport because tunas are really big fishes. I think that’s one of the scenes people remember the best about the film. It’s also one of the most interesting one because we can feel it wasn’t made with special effects. I’ll let you watch this scene now, but, of course, you have to see the entire movie too.

I can’t say that Stromboli is my favourite Italian film, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting one and I was happy to share my thoughts about it with you. I left you on this with ¬†actress Isabella Rossellini (Ingrid and Roberto’s daughter) talking about this film. She is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting persons to listen to. Enjoy!

I was happy to take part of this blogathon. Of course, don’t forget to read to other entries. You will find them by clicking on the following link:

The Beach Party Blogathon

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