A French UN delegate has disappeared into thin air, sending reporter Moreau (Jean-Pierre Melville) and hard drinking photographer Delmas (Pierre Grasset) on an assignment to find him. Their only lead is a picture of three women.
1941 in a small town in Nazi occupied France. Against the will of its elderly male and his adult niece residents, the Nazis commandeer a house for one of their officers, Lt. Werner von ... See full summary »
Enjoyably melded here are two staples of 1940s cinema, the melodrama and the noir.
Not particularly complex, the characters are either good or evil. Max (Philippe Lemaire) and all the people he mixes with, even the unfortunate rich Irène (Yvonne Sanson) who he robs and murders, are bad. While the Voise family of big sister Thérèse (Juliette Gréco), little sister Denise (Irène Galter), and the grandparents are all virtuous.
Noir elements include dream logic, fateful encounters, a high sexual charge, dramatic irony, mixed motives, violence and death. Low life individuals hustle each other in the underworld of Cannes, shot in expressionist photography full of symbolism to evocative music.
There is even an inverted femme fatale in Thérèse. Though leaving her convent on the sudden death of her parents to take over the family shop and look after Denise, she is still a nun at heart. Max, forcibly engaged to Denise after raping her, sees the fierce black-clad Thérèse as a much greater prize. She, all woman despite her outward ferocity, cannot help being susceptible to his immense charm (the two actors were lovers in real life) but sublimates her feelings into a desire to save his lost soul. In a highly emblematic scene, when Max is burning some shop rubbish in the courtyard at night, her clothes catch fire and he smothers the flames by rolling her on the ground, baring her midriff. That, however, is as close as he ever gets to rolling her around with even less on.
A powerful story, full of atmosphere, told with twists and tension and well worth the 100 minutes to watch.
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