While Godard and co were still in diapers,Duvivier,Renoir and Carné were inventing the best French cinema that had ever been. I would trade you all M."A bout de soufflé" filmography for "un carnet de bal" Leonard Maltin gives a four stars rating to this 1937 movie,and all we can do is approve of his judgment.The movie of nostalgia,of time passing by,of disenchantment,"un carnet de bal" is all this and more. On the banks of a lake -the romantic place par excellence-,a woman is remembering her past.Her madeleine de Proust is her dance card ."Memories tumbling like sweets from a jar".But these sweets leave a bitter taste in the mouth. She goes back in the past,in search of her long lost dance partners. She will have to delude herself:what she discovers is ruined lives,regrets,embittered characters,human wrecks.Time is a hard Master and it leaves no one unharmed.As always in Duvivier's work,the harder they fall,the better the sketches are.For it is basically a movie made up of sketches,Julien Duvivier's métier.All youth ideals have gone down the drain:the brilliant medicine student has become an abortionist;the lawyer with bright prospects now has a lousy shady cabaret;one of the woman's beaus is dead and his mother gone nuts acts as if he's still alive.Two of them have escaped from a doomed fate:but one has become a priest and the other keeps his love for something else than women . The movie made up of sketches ,as I said, had always been Duvivier's forte.Here ,there are seven flashbacks,one prologue and one short epilogue :strange how this final resembles that of Mitchell Leisen's "to each his own" (1942),when the boy says to Olivia De Havilland:"I think it's our dance mother".Having directed with a topflight cast "tales of Manhattan" (1942) in America,Duvivier went even further in the "sketches movie":in "sous le ciel de Paris" ,he used intertwined little stories till all these subplots became a seamless whole. Yes ,Julien Duvivier's importance in the seventh art is incalculable.
Christine, newly widowed and consumed by the memory of a ball she attended age 16, decides to track down the men she danced with that night and discover their fates.
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August 13, 2019