Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Simone Signoret: the day and the hour

Another day, another legendary French Actress: Simone Signoret in Rene Clement's THE DAY AND THE HOUR, 1963.

It's the spring of 1944 and Therese is in a hurry to get back to Paris. The trains aren't running from the village where she has gone to visit her father's grave and to fill two suitcases with food. Some British and American planes have been shot down and the Germans want to know where the pilots are hiding. An acquaintance has clearance to drive to Paris with a truckload of goats. After she is in the truck Therese discovers that two British pilots and an American pilot are back there with the goats. She must get the men on a train to Paris and to a safe house there, where there is no room for the American. Can she leave him at the Metro station trying to figure out the map? 
So sets the scene for Rene Clements' 1963 war film, a sometimes tense thriller (there is that long sequence on the crowded train, shot mainly in tight closeups) as Simone Signoret helps the American airman Stuart Whitman escape from the nazis and head over the border into Spain. It is though a curiously unsatisfying film, shot in black-and-white by Henri Decae; there is no real connection or romance between the leads and it all ends rather arbitrarily. Genevieve Page is there too, but only in a scene or two as Signoret's sister, and stalwart Michel Piccoli also lends a hand. One feels too for Simone having to cycle up those hills ...

After her best actress win for 1959's ROOM AT THE TOP Simone Signoret [1921-1985] was busy during the 60s, with roles like this and in TERM OF TRIAL, SHIP OF FOOLS, THE SLEEPING CAR MURDER, THE DEADLY AFFAIR, GAMES (Signoret label) in 1967, THE SEAGULL and also popping up in Clements' star-studded IS PARIS BURNING?, 1966, with her husband Yves Montand. She also played opposite Alec Guinness in a badly-received HAMLET at the Royal Court in London in in 1966.
Clements had his biggest hit with PLEIN SOLEIL in 1960 and his next after THE DAY AND HOUR was LES FELINS, with Delon again, as per review at Delon/Clements labels, and I have reviewed those others of his I like such as THE SEA WALL in 1958, KNAVE OF HEARTS, LES MAUDITS and GERVAISE (all at Clements label). With THE DAY AND THE HOUR though one keeps wondering how much longer it is going to be ....
Some more Signorets to watch: Ophuls LA RONDE, Melville's ARMY OF SHADOWS and THE WIDOW COUDERC with Alain Delon.

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