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.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Romy x 4

I counted I have 38 of the 62 films featuring Romy Schneider (1938-1982), one of the most prolific stars of the 60s and 70s in European and international cinema, who became a leading player in French cinema as well - particularly with those 5 Claude Sautet titles - see Romy label, for reviews and my other comments on her. Romy has always been a particular favourite of mine (along with those other Euopean ladies like Sophia, Monica, Anouk, Silvana..) ever since I saw those SISSI films as a child. What kitschfests they are now .... 
Being so busy she also made some duds - 1969's MY LOVER MY SON must be about the worst! The early '60s saw her becoming a prestige player in those international films like THE TRIAL, THE CARDINAL, THE VICTORS, BOCCACCIO 70, WHATS NEW PUSSYCAT etc. 
Above: PARIS MATCH's issue covering her death, which I still have, with 46 pages on her!
I have about 10 Romys yet to see, here's just 4 for now .... 2 late '50s ones (CHRISTINE with Delon) and AN ANGEL ON EARTH, plus the '73 THE LAST TRAIN (one of her 4 with Trintignant) and her last film in 1982: LE PASSANTE DE SANS SOUCI

CHRISTINE, 1958 - turns out to be a pleasant surprise and fits in with my recent viewing here - like LA RONDE it too is from a story by Arthur Schnitzler, which was also filmed as LIEBELEI by Max Ophuls in 1933, starring Magda Schneider, Romy's mother. The 1958 version looks great with that bright Technicolour as we are back again in 1906 Vienna with those costume balls, nights at the opera, horses and carriages carrying lovers to secret assignations, those dragoons in their blue and red uniforms and pretty girls in pretty dresses. Like the SISSI films it is all a bit kitsch, but this one has a bitter ending. Dragoons Alain Delon and pal Jean-Claude Brialy meet some new girls, but Delon has been carrying on an affair with mature woman Micheline Presle (so good in Losey's BLIND DATE in '59) who is the wife of his senior officer, who is getting suspicious ... 
after he meets nice girl Christine (whose father plays cello in the opera orchestra) he breaks off the affair with the Baroness, but by now her husband finds out and sets a trap for them, and challenges Delon to a duel - I won't reveal the ending, but it is very bittersweet .... one amusing moment is at the Opera as Christine giggles when we see the aged emperor Franz Joseph in attendance - she had of course by then finished playing his wife SISSI.
Romy is delightful here, but Delon in one of his first roles seems to merely go through the motions - it would take his next, PLEIN SOLEIL with Rene Clement and ROCCO with Visconti, to make him mature as an actor. Directed by Pierre Gaspard-Huit. This was Schneider's first French film and her voice was dubbed as her French was not yet good enough.

AN ANGEL ON EARTH (EIL ENGEL AUF ERDEN). Another early Schneider, this 1959 comedy is quite a rarity. Romy here is an airline hostess secretly in love with frequent flier Henri Vidal, who is about to marry his vacant and mean fiance Michele Mercier. Romy plays two roles - she is also Vidal's guardian angel who has to steer him in the right direction towards the hostess. It is an amusng comedy with nice locations, Vidal (who died that year aged 40 - see label) has young Jean-Paul Belmondo (before his big break in BREATHLESS) as his rather gormless sidekick.

THE TRAIN (or THELAST TRAIN). Not Frankenheimer’s 1965 train in France evading the Nazis, but another equally desperate French train, also evading the Nazis, in this rarely-seen 1973 French film by Pierre Granier-Deferre, from a Simenon tale. It is 1940 and the French are moving out of the way of advancing Germans, ordindary guy Jean-Louis Trintignant joins the train with his pregnant wife and daughter. They get a seat in first class, he is back at the rear in the cargo wagon, with other refugees including mystery woman Anna (Romy). They are gradually drawn together, while the others (including Regine, Anne Wiazemsky Nike Arrighi), drink, fight, play cards, and even engage in sex. They are strafed by enemy planes causing the deaths of some; the part of the train containing his family is sent in a different direction leaving our two leads alone together. 
This is an engrossing, slow-moving drama, with the two leads (one of 4 films they made together) stripped down to their emotional cores. Schneider in particular is very effective, in this her great era in French cinema. There is a coda that takes place 3 years later … It all looks just right with great period feel and Granier-Deferre paces it nicely. (He also did another Simenon I have been meaning to see: THE WIDOW COUDERC, with another great team in Signoret and Delon). 
LE PASSANTE DE SANS SOUCI, 1982. Knowing this was Romy's last film inevitably colours how we view it. It is a standard revenge story, from a story by Joseph Kessel, with lots of flashbacks, as successful businessman Max Baumstein (Michel Poccoli) explains why he shot the president he was visiting. Romy plays two roles, one in the present as Max's wife Lina, and the other as Elsa Weiner back in 1930s Germany ... who with her husband Michel (Helmut Griem) raised the young Jewish Max as if he were their own child. Events (the rise of the Nazis who wreck Michel's printing business), force Elsa and Max to move to Paris, where she sings in a nightclub and attracts the attention of Matthieu Carriere, one of the Nazis in waiting, while Michel is in a concentration camp .... eventually she does what she has to do to get Michel released, but there is no happy ending for them.
The adult Max tracks down Carriere, now that President he is visiting on behalf on his foundation. We see the court case and the aftermath. It is a rich, complex, involving story. Romy in the modern section does not have much to do, but interplays nicely with Piccoli a decade or so after their Claude Sautet hits (Romy label) - they must have done at least 5 films together. She shines as Elsa in the flashbacks, looking after the young Max, coping with drink and heartbreak (after the death of her own son).  I was in Paris in 1982 and posters for this were everywhere, nice to finally see it at last.
We will be reporting later on the supposedly gruesome THE INFERNAL TRIO (also with Piccoli in '74, FANTASMA D'AMORE (GHOST OF LOVE) with Marcello in '81 - which surprisingly never played in London and is only available in Italian; LE MOUTON ENRAGE also with Trintignant, plus THE LADY BANKER, WOMAN AT HER WINDOW, Sautet's MADO, Jean-Claude Brialy's UN AMOUR DE PLUIE with Nino Castelnuovo, and some more ... and I love going back to WHAT'S NEW PUSSYCAT? and yes, SISSI ....

1 comment:

  1. What a trio of films with Romy Schneider! That just about runs the gamut of her career, from the ingenue heroine in that streudel CHRISTINE to her emotional performance in THE TRAIN to the sad, almost elegiac appearance in LE PASSANTE DE SANS SOUCI.

    LE CEREMONIE is one of the best of the latter-day Chabrol thrillers, with marvellous performances all around.

    Glad you caught up with IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE: one of the essential romances of the new millennium.