Marguerite de la nuit (1955)

aka Marguerite of the Night
Article 3136 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-6-2010
Posting Date: 3-15-2010
Directed by Claude Autant-Lara
Featuring Michele Morgan, Yves Montand, Jean Debucourt
Country: Italy/France
What it is: Updated Faust story

An old doctor sells his soul to the devil to possess the beautiful Marguerite, but finds his joy may be short-lived…

I finally got a chance to watch this movie, and, even though my copy is in unsubtitled French, I found it quite enjoyable. It helped, of course, to have a certain familiarity with the Faust story to begin with, but it helps that there are some excellent performances here from Michele Morgan and Yves Montand (I’ve come to discover that, even in a language you don’t understand, good acting shines through) and from some stunning set design and excellent use of color. In some ways, it looks like a Douglas Sirk movie with touches of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI around the edges. The sets look artificial, but this is intentional, and I think that the opening scene in which we watch the final scene of an opera about Faust hints that the movie itself is no less staged than the opera. The first thirty minutes work best, as I love the visual touches and tricks, such as the cigarette that won’t go out, the shadow of the hand, and the bright red entrance of the nightclub which makes it look like a descent into hell. Things get a big draggy in the middle, and it took a while for me to pick up from the visual clues just where the story was going, but I eventually figured it out. Granted, it would have been better had I had English subtitles to help, but as far as watching movies in foreign languages go, I found this was one of the easier ones to follow.

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