EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|HEAD AGAINST THE WALL (LA TETE CONTRE LES MURS) (aka: THE KEEPERS) (director/writer: Georges Franju; screenwriters: from the novel by Herve Bazin/Jean-Paul Mocky; cinematographer: Eugen Schüfftan; editor: Suzanne Sandberg; music: Maurice Jarre; cast: Jean-Paul Mocky (Francois Gérane), Paul Meurisse (Dr. Emery), Anouk Aimee (Stéphanie), Pierre Brasseur (Dr. Varmont), Jean Galland (Maître Gérane), Charles Aznavour (Heurtevent, Sailor), Edith Scob (La Folle Qui Chante), Jean Ozenne (Elzear); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jérôme Goulven; Masters of Cinema, Eureka, in PAL form DVD; 1959-France-in French with English subtitles)|
look at a psychiatric hospital and how it fails
those who are treatable."
by Dennis Schwartz
For his first feature film Georges Franju ("Judex"/"Eyes Without a Face"/"Nuits Rouges") directs this harrowing lyrical look at a psychiatric hospital and how it fails those who are treatable. It's based on the novel by Herve Bazin and is co-scripted by its star Jean-Paul Mocky and the director.
aimless free-spirit art school dropout 25-year-old son
of a vile wealthy lawyer, Francois Gérane
(Jean-Paul Mocky), finds
his vengeful dad (Jean Galland)
places him in an insane asylum after the
leather-jacketed motor-cross biker bad
boy robs his father, to pay off debts to underworld
gamblers, and then maliciously burns irreplaceable
files dad removed from his office illegally. Francois's
mother died as a drowning casualty when he was 8,
which was ruled a suicide.
treated by the insensitive and rigid
Dr. Varmont (Pierre Brasseur),
who looks upon his role as the gatekeeper for the
state to keep the mentally ill locked-up so as to
keep society safe, the patient regresses. Unable to
be treated by Varmont's rival Dr.
Emery (Paul Meurisse),
a progressive psychiatrist who tries to treat his
patient's warmly so they can re-enter society, Francois
escapes at the funeral of the gentle, epileptic
inmate Heurtevent (Charles
Aznavour) who couldn't bear any longer
his cold treatment by Varmont.
But Francois is captured in Paris and
returned screaming and kicking to the asylum, after
spending a night with his sympathetic girlfriend (Anouk
it seems dated the problem of how to deal with the
mentally ill is still a major issue that's
complicated by the government not funding mental
health sufficiently. That this pic's heart is in the
right place, that it was so influential in getting
its enlightened views out there and that it excites
like a testy film noir, goes a long way in my
recommendation of it as a docudrama curio. It led to
Fuller's Shock Corridor (1963) and other films that
challenged the earlier establishment way of treating
mental patients with cruel primitive treatments like
REVIEWED ON 1/2/2013 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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