Coeur fidele (1923)

aka The Faithful Heart
Article 4712 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 12-29-2014
Directed by Jean Epstein
Featuring Leon Mathot, Gina Manes, Edmond Van Daele
Country: France
What it is: Drama

A woman is forced into a love affair with a worthless drunk by her step-parents, though she is truly in love with a dockworker. When a fight between the two men results in the stabbing of a gendarme, the drunk escapes and the dockworker is held accountable. Once the dockworker gets out of prison, he discovers the woman is married to the drunk and has a child. He tries to help her out.

When I found this one, I knew it wasn’t going to have English title cards, so I armed myself with a plot synopsis I found on Wikipedia. One thing that I noticed was that the story didn’t appear to have any fantastic content, and the Walt Lee guide (from which I culled this title) didn’t list any. I did notice, however, that the movie was directed by Jean Epstein, a director I had encountered before when I watched his very stylish adaptation of THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, and I figured that what fantastic elements there were would be contained in some expressionistic and surreal imagery that were part of his style. Sure enough, there’s a very short sequence where we get a drunk’s-eye view of the distorted face of a woman, and though I’d hardly call that significant fantastic content, it was there.

As for the movie itself, the plot itself isn’t particularly novel. What makes the movie interesting is the way Epstein bounces his cinematic style off the story, and it is his imagery and editing that make the movie a special experience. It wasn’t a commercial success, but it was quite influential with other film-makers, and is nowadays considered his best film. I do find it interesting that the script was written by Epstein and his sister, Marie, and the two main characters in the story are also named Jean and Marie. It’s not really within the genres of this series, but it is highly recommended.


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