Coincidentally, we’ve been watching lots of school movies. After THE MAN WHO TURNED TO STONE, which is set in a girl’s detention centre, which is kind of a school, we watched Mexican spookshow HASTA EL VIENTO TIENE MIEDO (EVEN THE WIND IS AFRAID), which is set in a boarding school, which is kind of a detention centre, and LES DISPARUS DE ST-AGIL, which is also set in a boarding school, but for boys this time.
I really enjoyed Carlos Enrique Taboada’s VENENO PARA LAS HADAS (1975) when I saw it at EdFilmFest a few years ago, so I was intrigued to see his earlier youth-horror movie. VPLH was about kids, and while it was a bit plodding in its development, what developed was pretty unusual, intelligent and compelling. HEVTM is about teenagers, and is really plodding, but does end up getting somewhere interesting, once the spectre of a student suicide takes over the form of a living kid and uses her for revenge from beyond. Flesh-and-blood ghosts, or revenants, are comparatively rare in movies, and this flick essentially invents its own mythology, which is cool.
All the schoolgirls look about 37. But the red blazers are neat.
Christian-Jaque’s classic French school mystery, about disappearing kids, has hints of the uncanny, but there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for everything. Michel Simon, all beady eyes, bristling toothbrush mustache, and shiny face, is one teacher/suspect, and Erich Von Stroheim is another. It’s 1938, there’ talk of war, and the language teacher from elsewhere is regarded with suspicion. If France had really been ready for battle, I guess they would have made him the baddie, but instead he’s a very sweet red herring. The French were just too civilized.
Christian-Jaque directs with great elegance, his loveliest shot being a glide round a corner to follow a departing boy. We lose sight of him for a second or so — and when we’ve cleared the corner, he’s GONE.
Also, small boy complains of his tortoise, “He won’t eat.” “What have you been feeding him.” “Nothing.” “Why?” “Because I don’t know what tortoises eat.”