DIRECTOR: CLAUDE MILLER
CINEMATOGRAPHY: YVES ANGELO
MUSIC: Classical music.
CAST: Richard Bohringer (Charles), Elena Safonova (Irene), Romane Bohringer (Sophie), Claude Rich
WRITTEN BY: From the novel by Nina Berberova
ONE WORD: The music is excellent.
Were it not for the fact that this film is slow, I would love to say that it is an excellent film. And the music is fabulous, even if it comes across as just a bit of a side show.
This story takes place in the years during the second world war in Paris. An enterprising man, and his singer wife, have lived very well off for a long time, and though food is rationed and people are not allowed excesses, the upper class enjoys one thing that the lower classes can not. On occasion, they get presented with shows of culture, for those who need to take their minds of the war and their differences.
Unfortunately, for Irene and Charles, their only customers that pay well, are the Germans. And even though he is on the side of the resistance, he is nevertheless a bit of a traitor, since he is affiliating himself with the enemy, even if it is not for political reasons, but musical reasons. His wife is famous, and a very good singer. And she has taken on a young lady,
who has some talent for playing the piano and interpreting the music for the singer, which helps in her characterization of the material she sings.
However, not all is well. Sophie is an important tool in the making of a singer, but is not as important to anyone else. She is a pawn, and this leads the moody girl to some extremes, but she retains her integrity while playing, despite having failed when she was younger, for her mother, who had been known as a pretty good teacher.
Eventually, Charles and Irene and their accompanist find a way out of Paris before the Germans march in, or the resistance finally gets their way, which may be the end of the arts, the way Charles speaks of General De Gaulle. This was true at the time, but De Gaulle may have had more important things in his mind... feeding his nation. They finally leave through Spain and Portugal and end up in London, where the authorities detain them. It seems that his having done several shows for the Germans does not sit well with the English, until they get in touch with London and another impresario, who happens to have been Irene's lover for many years.
Charles sees his impossible situation and ends it right there. Sophie returns to Paris, now that the war has ended, her future in doubt. But she did well, and should be proud.
The film, is nice. The music is excellent. But the pacing is a bit uneasy. Perhaps it is, like some films on music, that it wants to highlight the music, which is nice, but can be a hard thing to do. If there is emotional involvement as in TOUS LES MATINS DU MONDE, or UN COUER EN HIVER, then it works. But Irene's repertoire is not as dramatic, or as strong. As a good singer, she does much to many composer's music, but little of it has the flash, or the impressionable elements that would jolt us. Irene's plight, comes off as just a reason to sing, while Charles seems to be just a businessman. And the film weakens, probably because of the constant political undertones. The high society that they surround themselves with is a shame to society. The rich farts, feed their dogs, of the tables, while outside, those with much less are getting rationed vegetables, and no meat at all.
Excellent music. The director's main concern, is obviously the music. But one wishes that it had also been the story and the film. It may have added to the music, and the musicians plight in impossible times.
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