Saturday, 4 September 2010


I was quite prepared to dismiss this as a frothy "romantic comedy" - a minor work directed by the great Rene Clair. While I still feel that it is not one of Clair's best films just as the previously reviewed L'AIR DE PARIS was not one of Carne's best it works in part for more or less the same reasons as the Carne film; it has a genuine gallic charm and is more than carried by the fact that it stars two of the great stars of the French cinema of the period : Michele Morgan and the great Gerard Philipe. I say they are "partly" responsible because quite unexpectedly it has another darker dimension. The scene is France durin La Belle Epoque and in a provincial garrison town a young officer of dragoons with a reputation as a womaniser makes a bet that he can seduce any woman. The woman is picked by the winning number in a charity raffle but things go awry when the soldier actually falls in love with his victim and has to try to conceal the fact that they came together because of a wager among drunken soldiers. So far, so good, it is pure romantic comedy. But, in truth, it is a tragi-comedy and as the film moves towards its climax the desperation of the the soldier to convince the woman of his true love and the confusion anf hurt she experiences make it obvious that it is going to be difficult to avoid tragic consequences. The cliche would be a happy ending but Clair does not let these characters that we have really begun to care about of the hook. The film ends sadly with the woman rejecting the soldier. But Clair went further and there is an alternative ending (included on the DVD as an extra) which, presumably, was considered too harsh for audiences at the time which ends with a suicide. Both endings give the film unexpected depth. The cast also includes a very young and pretty Brigitte Bardot. Rating ****

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