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: Simone Simon's last pre-WWII film: Raymond Bernard's Cavalcade d'amour (1939)  ( 187 )
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« : August 12, 2017, 05:39:51 PM »

Seen on Moviedetective DVD.



Taking part in an ICM poll for the best films of 1940,I found out of a work (incorrectly) listed as being from the year by auteur Raymond Bernard,and starring Simone Simon in her final pre-Hollywood production. With the title having some pretty "big names" I was shocked to not find a copy of it anywhere. Ordering Claude Miller's gripping Garde à vue after long giving up on seeing this,I was taken by surprise,when the seller revealed he had also tracked down Bernard's work!,and I set off walking to the cavalcade of love.

The plot:

Story 1:The Middle Ages.

As a stage company travels to a castle to perform a show for the royals,a princess prepares for her wedding. Having a portrait of her arranged fiancé on the wall,the princess expects to get married to a dashing young man called Léandre,but discovers her fiancé has been painted with different brush strokes.

Story 2: 19th century:

Being new inhabitants of the castle,the couple avoid the curse of the Middle Ages by being deeply in love with each other. After helping the bride get measured in the dress during the day, dressmaker Juliette tries the dress on. As Juliette tries the dress on,the groom Hubert catches a glimpse.

Story 3:The present:

Buying the castle after seeing a portrait of a bishop who looks just like him, Lacouret shows off how grand his new property is. Previously supporting the marriage of his daughter Junie and Georges , Lacouret starts making his own plans in the castle.

View on the film:

Known in the UK for his very serious 1932 and 1934 duo Wooden Crosses and Les Misérables,director Raymond Bernard (whose dad was humorist Tristan Bernard) displays an impeccable touch for the emerging Fantasy genre with a dark edge.Bernard walks down the aisles of the castle in tracking shots catching the extravagances,and conjures up a comedic flight of fantasy in ultra- stylised overlapping close-ups and recurring motifs of dolls. Not making another title until 1946, (being Jewish,Bernard went into hiding,during which time his dad Tristan was tortured to death by the Nazis.)

Bernard & cinematographer Robert Lefebvre keep production issues off-screen,(original producer Bernard Natan got arrested for fraud/causing Pathé studios go bust,and whilst in jail, got given by the French gov to the Nazis,who sent him to the Auschwitz camp) to criticise the ruling bourgeoisie elite,from shots drenched in shadows making the rulers look like decaying monsters,to a stylised scattering of voices buying the properties of the rich,and leaving them penniless.

Reaching screens just months before the Occupation took place,the screenplay by Jean Anouilh and Jean Anouilh slyly link the Middle Ages,19th century and "present" with the theme of those in power forcing people into relationships that go against all they love and desire. Saving a comedic side for the final segment,the writers brew historical Fantasy Melodrama (!) in the Middle Ages and 19th century,with the Gothic doom of the fake painting being sown in by the curse surrounding the tempting sight of Juliette.

Making her last French film appearance before meeting the Devil and Daniel Webster in Hollywood, Simone Simon gives a sparkling performance as Juliette,whose fragile,graceful manner Simon uses to make Juliette a siren of temptation for Hubert (played by a wonderful Claude Dauphin.) Whilst not being related to Simon, Michel Simon follows in her footsteps by giving a trio of eye-catching distinctive performances across the tales as Diogène/ Monseigneur de Beaupré and Lacouret,with Simon being unafraid to look rotten as stage actor Diogène,and be thunderous as Lacouret,on his way to cavalcade.

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