Jean Grémillon

Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di André Beucler. Scen.: Charles Spaak. F.: Günther Rittau. Mo.: Jean Grémillon. Scgf.: Max Mellin, Hermann Asmus. Mu.: Lothar Brühne. Int.: Jean Gabin (Lucien Bourrache, detto ‘Gueule d’Amour’), Mireille Balin (Madeleine), René Lefèvre (René), Marguerite Deval (Madame Courtois), Jane Marken (Madame Cailloux), Jean Aymé (il cameriere), André Carnège (il capitano), Henri Poupon (Monsieur Cailloux), Pierre Magnier (il comandante), Pierre Etchepare (il padrone dell’albergo), Lucien Dayle (un cliente), André Siméon (il titolare del ristorante), Paul Fournier (un cliente), Maurice Baquet (il soldato malato). Prod.: U.F.A, Alliance Cinématographique Européenne. Pri. pro.: 15 settembre 1937 35mm. D.: 90’. 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

After La Petite Lise and Daïnah la métisse (1931), Grémillon resumed his collaboration with Charles Spaak for an adaptation of an André Beucler novel, Gueule d’amour (1926), focusing it on the couple already baptized by Pépé le Moko: Jean Gabin and Mireille Balin. Thanks in part to the two stars, the film became one of the rare audience successes of Grémillon’s career. Gabin played Lucien Bourrache, a petty officer of the Spahis (the French colonial troops), nicknamed ‘Gueule d’amour’ for his seductive magnetism. Based in Orange, he breaks multiple hearts and is admired by his friend and colleague René. But when he meets the elusive Madeleine in Cannes, he is himself seduced and robbed of ten thousand francs of inheritance. After leaving the army and beginning work as a printer, he finds Madeleine in Paris again and discovers she is living the high life, able to maintain even her parasitic mother. Lucien becomes her lover and falls in love with her to the point of submitting to her whims. In the end Madeleine leaves him, not wanting to upset her rich patron. Back in Orange, where he is reduced to managing a country bistrot, Bourrache discovers that Madeleine has come to find him and is betraying René who has fallen for her. The last meeting between Madeleine and Lucien ends in tragedy. In the adaptation from novel to film, Spaak modeled the character on the features of Gabin, but without lessening his vulnerability. As Ginette Vincendeau noted, it is Madeleine’s character that changes most from novel to film, losing the features of an emancipated ‘modern’ woman in favor of a femme fatale, with some dated misogynistic tendencies. But the appeal of the film rests primarily on the narrative of seduction as vampirism, a destructive and degrading spiral that surprisingly drags down a womanizer, cleansing him of his narcissism, his personal ambitions, his own vitality. The class difference between seducer and seduced plays a role as well and hints at the juxtaposition of city and suburb. ‘Gueule d’amour’, having lost his flashy uniform, loses his identity as well (like the scene when he returns to the bistro of Orange and no one recognizes him) and falls into a depression that ends in homicidal tendencies and the abandonment of dignity (in the remarkable conclusion, Gabin, tearfully expresses a rare moment of fragility).

Roberto Chiesi

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