Author: msroz from United States
11 August 2017
"La foire aux chimères" (1946) aka "Devil and the Angel" means "Carnival of Illusions". This is a film noir, a melodrama and an ill-fated romance story. I agree with the current 3 reviews that this is a very fine movie. The lighting is extraordinary throughout, producing tremendous atmosphere. The closing sequences, shot with a tilted camera, are memorable.
A very full plot description can be found in critic John Grant's noirish blog. Erich von Stroheim's face is disfigured and he's subjected to the taunts and pranks of co-workers. He longs for acceptance and female company, and he finds it in the blind, luminously beautiful and angelic Madeleine Sologne, who is part of a carnival knife-throwing act. He feels sorry for her, but she mentions her compensations. She can imagine herself in a palace, if she wants. She always dreams of being somewhere else, in a castle. Stroheim tells her that he has the same dream. He'll make her dream come true, but he can't enter the castle alone. So, they marry, but this is film noir and dreams may come true or they may only seem to come true and be illusions, discovered to be illusions only later on after being revealed by other realities.
It's interesting that von Stroheim appeared in so many films that involve theater and illusions in one way or another. He appeared in the famous "La grande illusion" (1937). He starred in "The Great Gabbo" (1929) as a ventriloquist. In "The Great Flamarion" (1945), he did a marksman act. In "Sunset Boulevard" (1946), he was a retired director, catering to the illusions of Gloria Swanson. In "The Mask of Diijon" (1946), he was a stage illusionist. In "Portrait of an Assassin" (1949), he was an injured former acrobat. "Greed" (1924) teaches that happiness from gold is an illusion. It seems that von Stroheim chose movie roles that reflected his strong tendency to play a role in his real life, to adopt notable dress, to create an appearance, to gesture and move in distinctive ways, and to become the man you loved to hate. He chose roles that involved stories involving illusion. In this movie, he is far, far different, becoming a sympathetic character caught up in his love. However, the story demands that illusion again becomes predominant.