A Miniature

LA PETITE LISE is the subject of this week’s edition of The Forgotten. Maybe it’s the sole flirtation of the Pathe-Natan company with the avant-garde, in that it features Nadia Sibirskaia from MENILMONTANT, and partakes of a similar aesthetic, evoking psychological turmoil through close attention to faces and places. Narrative, though present, takes a back seat.

If the film seems like a departure from the commercial concerns of the studio, which favoured boulevard farces, crime dramas, and great tales from history or literature when it wanted to go up-market, there are nevertheless intriguing connections to two of the studio’s later literary adaptations — as the story of a pardoned convict trying to go straight it prefigures the 1934 LES MISERABLES, and in a subplot about lovers who need to raise 300 Francs to get hitched, it seems to reference the cash MacGuffin of 300 roubles which starts off the tragedy of THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV, which also became a Natan film.

This makes Jean Gremillon the most-featured director in history of The Forgotten, the first to chalk up three appearances. Basically, every time I see a Gremillon film, I write about it for The Forgotten.

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10 Responses to “A Miniature”

  1. david wingrove Says:

    I’ve only ever seen one Gremillon movie – the wonderful GUEULE D’AMOUR – so desperately need to catch up!

  2. La Petite Lise is a whole other cinematic world! Like an alternative road plan for sound cinema that never got followed until decades later.

  3. Gremillion is a master and Lumiere d’ete is his masterpiece.
    Remorques is also a masterpiece.

    For years he was one of the great forgotten figures of French cinema — remembered only by Paul Vecchiali.

    And Vecchiali is THE MOST FORGOTTEN of them all.

    Time for a “Forgotten” on Femmes Femmes !

  4. I’ll investigate, if possible…

    I have Lumiere d’ete and several other Gremillons to watch. I’m rationing them enthusiastically.

  5. One Gremillion which I adore is GUEULE D’AMOUR which I believe was a former Forgotten piece. God its beautiful.

    Another great one which I have lined up, is La ciel est a vous, or THE SKY IS YOURS, beauitful title. I have heard a lot about Lumiere d’ete. I’ve been trying to ask the DVD company I freelance for(Mr.Bongo) to get the rights to his films but they seem a little out of reach.

  6. This is the only one made under Pathe-Natan, maybe it could be more gettable. They seem like good people at Pathe. Grouping them all together since they probably have different owners might be harder.

    It certainly deserves to be seen: a lot more sophisticated and strange in its use of sound than most of the films held up as early sound triumphs. M is a greater film, but La Petite Lise makes more surprising use of sound, for instance.

  7. I’ve been lucky enough to see all of the Gremillion films mentioned on screen–with the exception of LA PETIE LISE. What a marvelous filmmaker. Each film is unique, and all are extraordinary, and his use of sound is always striking and original.

  8. You’re our first expert! What would you recommend next? I’ve seen Maldone, Gueule d’Amour, La Petite Lise.

  9. I’m hardly an expert–I haven’t seen Maldone, and you have.You you might want to build up to the wonderful Remorques and Lumiere d’ete, perhaps first seeing L’Étrange Monsieur Victor, Le Ciel est à vous and Pattes blanche. But why not just watch them all chronologically?

    From Wikepedia: Grémillon rejected what he referred to as “mechanical naturalism” in favor of “the discovery of that subtlety which the human eye does not perceive directly but which must be shown by establishing the harmonies, the unknown relations, between objects and beings; it is a vivifying, inexhaustible source of images that strike our imaginations and enchant our hearts.”

  10. That about sums up the feeling I get, particularly from the way he builds up environments from detail shots and slow movement, rather than plunging into plot every time.

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