This sophisticated slice of pre-War French cinema is split equally between an adventure set in Paris and one filmed extensively in the streets of Nice. In the latter section the young hero, Bosco, stays in the Hotel Suisse, next door to the sometime Hotel Europa in which I stayed for part of my honeymoon but, that’s by the by… although the view is stunning and hardly changed over the century and there was certainly no Irish pub in the old town showing premiership soccer.
|A view of la Jetée-Promenade in Nice, demolished during WW II|
At some points it appears a little too deliberate – man climbs into house, walks down a shadowy corridor and searches rooms… but this isn’t Liam Neeson chasing down euro-criminals in cut-up cine-short hand, it’s a man going through the steps in real time… well almost: you soon realise the cutting and directoral finesse already involved even if it’s almost invisible to the jaded modern eye. These scenes manage to build a genuine tension aided by the unpredictability of the vintage pacing.
The story opens in the home of Captain Pierre de Valen (Émile Keppens) a well-to-do army reservist who is summoned to duty in North Africa having to leave his contented life with wife (Jeanne Marie-Laurent) and daughter Marie-Laure (Suzanne Privat). He leaves his brother Jacques de Valen (Henri Duval) to look after his family while he is away – all hope for the best.
|Jeanne Marie-Laurent and Émile Keppens|
Sent to boarding school, Marie hates everything and everyone (who seemingly reciprocate). One night she makes her escape climbing down into the dangerous streets of Paris, where, alone and exhausted she falls asleep. She is spotted by a man we discover is Edmond Talmin aka The Graduate (Louis Leubas) who robs her of any valuables before deciding she’d make good forced labour for a shoemaker he knows called Tiron (Marc Gérard).
|Bosco takes pity on young Marie|
|The Captain in his study|
|The Graduate makes off with Marie|
But The Graduate escapes with the girl and Bosco sets off on a remarkable pursuit that takes him out into the streets of Paris and from there onto the Paris Nice Express…
|Perret avoids title cards where he can...|
The film is part of the Gaumont Treasures set from Kino Lauber. It's available direct or from Amazon.
|The view from the Hotel Suisse|