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|LA MARSEILLAISE (director/writer: Jean Renoir; screenwriters: Carl Koch/N. Martel-Dreyfus; cinematographers: J.P. Alphen/Bourgoin/A. Douarinou/J. Louis/Maillols; editor: Margueritte Renoir; music: Kosma/Sauveplane; cast: Pierre Renoir (Louis XVI), Lise Delamare (Marie Antoinette), Andrex (Arnaud), Edmond Ardisson (Bomier), Nadia Sibirskaia (Louison), Louis Jouvet (de Roiderer), Paul Dullac (Javel), Jean-Louis Allibert (Moissan), Jenny Helia (Mme. Vauclair), Marthe Marty (Bomier's Mother), Léon Larive (Picard, le valet du roi), Gaston Modot (Un volontaire), Julien Carette (Un volontaire), Edmond Castel (Leroux), Aimé Clariond (Saint Laurent), Édouard Delmont (Cabri/Mountain Goat), William Aguet (La Rochefoucauld); Runtime: 132; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jean Renoir; Lionsgate; 1938-France-in French with English subtitles)|
|"An heroic romanticized telling of the French Revolution of 1789."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An heroic romanticized
telling of the French Revolution of 1789. It covers the events
beginning in 1789, when a constitutional monarchy was created after the
storming of the Bastille. It leaves off in 1792, when the aristocracy
led a counterrevolution that led to their overthrow and the citizen
soldiers were last seen in battle with the invading Prussian army in the
Battle of Valmy. It's directed with great skill and feeling by
Jean Renoir ("Whirlpool of Fate"/"Grand Illusion"/"The
Rules of the Game"). This episodic
epic (told in five chapters: The
The Civil and The Military Authorities, The Aristocrats, The
Marseilles Locals, and The Ordinary Citizens), co-written with Renoir, Carl Koch and N.
Martel-Dreyfus, comes with a cast of thousands dressed appropriately in
period costumes. It effectively uses the director's noted naturalistic
style of filmmaking in its well-choreographed battles and chatty behind
the scene political intrigues.
centerpiece sequence is the citizen soldiers' long march from
Marseilles to Paris, with a gritty battalion
of 500 volunteers. While
on the march, the men get energized by singing their new hymn which
soon became their anthem named "La Marseillaise." The
the Tuilleries, which leads to the
publication of the Brunswick
Manifesto. When the corrupt monarchy of
Louis XVI (Pierre Renoir, the
resists the demands of the revolutionary government, the mercenary
Swiss guards fire on the citizen soldiers surrounding the palace--that
forces the citizen soldiers to fire back and overthrow the monarchy and
its outnumbered defenders.
pic has the conventional look of a newsreel documentary, has too much
speechifying and lacks drama; but in its last hour, during its long
march sequence, it picks up steam and becomes stirring. Ironically, the
most touching scene is of a tortured corpulent King Louis XVI
surrendering his power to de Roiderer ( Louis Jouvet), the leader of the National Assembly.
It focused on two fictional members
of the volunteer
battalion, a sincere likable patriotic adventurer momma's boy mason
Bomier (Edmond Ardisson) and an erudite citizen leader named Arnaud (Andrex),
who both helped the revolutionary army win its fight for liberty.
Renoir considered it one of his favorite
films, claiming he made it as an outcry against fascist sympathizers.
Nevertheless it was one of his least successful ventures. The
enterprise was a collective effort that was initially sponsored
by the Popular Front government of France (a coalition of leftists in power at the
time) and was also financially backed by the French trade unions and
the public. It railed against the exploiter monarchy and its arrogant
self-serving aristocrat supporters for its long list of crimes against
humanity, as it openly championed for the revolution as a call to the
rights of man and as a reminder for the citizen to always be vigilant
in defending liberty against tyranny. The pic advocated against both a
monarchy and nationalism, as it promoted its populist theme to give the
commoners an equal voice in government to ensure that the voice of the
people will be heard. Problem is it never could move the public to care
that much about the revolution, which seemed to be what Renoir wanted
to do most. Yet when compared to most other films about the French
Revolution, this one is decidedly superior and has a more sensitive and
historical detailed point of view.
REVIEWED ON 1/1/2011 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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