David Golder

Julien Duvivier

T. it.: La beffa della vita. Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Irène Némirovsky. Scen.: Julien Duvivier. F.: Georges Périnal, Armand Thirard. Scgf.: Lazare Meerson. Mu.: Walter Goehr. Su.: Hermann Storr. Int.: Harry Baur (David Golder), Paule Andral (Gloria), Jackie Monnier (Joyce), Jean Bradin (principe Alec), Gaston Jacquet (Graf Hoyos), Jean Coquelin (Fischel), Camille Bert (Tübingen), Jacques Grétillat (Marcus), Paul Franceschi (Soifer), Léon Arvel (un medico), Charles Dorat (un giovane emigrante), Nicole Yoghi (un infermiere). Prod.: Les Films Marcel Vandal et Charles Delac. Pri. pro.: 6 marzo 1931 35mm. D.: 86’. Bn. 

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Julien Duvivier’s first sound film had a remarkable literary inspiration: the first novel, an immediate success, by Irène Némirovsky, a banker’s daughter who emigrated from Ukraine to France, a fatal move because she was deported to Aus­chwitz. Duvivier manages to objectify a sense of deep, closely observed personal truth in an admirable way: critics at the time estimated that David Golder added a Balzacian dimension to Duvivier’s canvas. His silent output was already impressive; the creative use of sound seemed almost – this is not an overstatement – to double his mastery. The ice-cold aroma of financial crisis dwells in every image, and especially in the face of Golder, played by the massive Harry Baur, strong and sober, “without a hint of falseness”. Golder is brutally frank about himself: “If I go on as a businessman, I’m a corpse”. He is one already. Only a couple of dazzling short sequences – equal to im­ages in L’Herbier’s L’Argent – are directly about the crisis, but every shot, however distant the subject, is informed by a crisis that touches them all. Golder’s chilly ab­sence in the face of a friend’s financial ca­tastrophe (and then witnessing the man’s suicide in front of his house) indicates the tragedy of his own life: an alienated, loveless marriage. His compensation is a daughter he loves dearly until the grim revelation that the girl is not his own. One illusion less – and Duvivier is always great about illusions, creating romantic and luxurious images as an ironic counterpoint to what really happens, with the charged sense that properties have been stolen. David Golder is a fascinating anticipation of what would later become the defining characteristics of Duvivier’s greatness as an objective observer, or in the words of Paul Vecchiali: “The cruelty of this uni­verse is rendered with a complete absence of indulgence. And the grandeur of the treatment is so evident that it renders the film poetic. An unalterable masterpiece”. Pierre Leprohon adds: “Melodramatic, some say, the film measured up to its per­former, solid, powerful, not refusing any effect, but sometimes attaining a certain grandeur, notably after signing the con­tract with the Soviets and Golder’s death”. Death – the great leveler – as anonymous as his money – catches the almighty Gold­er, destined to die on an ocean-liner after a business trip to Soviet Russia, seeming­ly eager to return to the ‘normal’ capitalist ways that his world represents so acidly.

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