Voyage sans espoir (1943)
Posted by Dan Hodges on 6/24/2020, 12:55 am
Not for the first time, I disagree with Don's judgment, as follows about this magnificent French film noir that he screened at the Roxie in 2016 and he opined about on June 13 on the Blackboard.
"My vote for the top performance here is not Simone Renant, though she acts her heart out--it's Lucien Coedel as the captain...."
A character so relatively early removed from the film, a character so surpassed by other later sacrifices--well, what can I add: Don and I have not been on the same page about women for too many years to count.
Simone Renant is a revelation in this that is one of world cinema's pantheonic film noirs!
Re: Voyage sans espoir (1943)
Posted by Don Malcolm on 6/25/2020, 9:19 am, in reply to "Re: Voyage sans espoir (1943)"
Dan, I both report and interpret in this instance. There is no question but that Renant is magnificent*, and was selected especially for the role by the director, Christian-Jaque, who was (at the time at least) her husband. It was designed to make her a great star.
When the film was released, however, the preponderance of the accolades, to the surprise of many (and understandably to the chagrin of both Renant and Jaque), flowed to Coedel for his performance. Renant felt upstaged, and was apparently so infuriated at the turn of events (and I would heartily agree that she deserved fulsome praise for such a remarkable effort...) that she transferred the blame to Jaque, and apparently never forgave him for an outcome that no one could have predicted.
Renant and Jaque divorced just before the filming of his great provincial gothic SORTILÈGES**, filmed in 1944 but not released until the next year (after the actual end of the war and thus a good bit after the Liberation). Renant was originally slated to play one of the female leads in SORTILÈGES, but the dissolution of the marriage put the kibosh on that: Madeleine Robinson, a more down-to-earth actress, wound up with the pivotal role of a plucky village maid and made it her own; some have claimed that it was this particular performance that prompted Yves Allegret to cast her as the maid at the sinister beach hotel in his UNE SI JOLIE PETITE PLAGE, where she is so memorable opposite Gerard Philipe.
(BTW, Coedel, given an expanded role in SORTILÈGES, upped his game even further and became a major leading man over the next two years, only to have his career end suddenly and tragically when he either fell or was pushed out of a train in late 1947.***)
We're not on the same page about a number of things, Dan, but it really doesn't matter. You've proven to be a mercurial ally for so long that it is only to be expected that such commentary from you will appear here from time to time. My biggest worry for you--and I say this not to be harsh or dismissive--is that someone will look carefully at your various "gender identity" film lists at your site and realize how they are (needlessly, IMO) slanted to bolster your case about "women's noirs." Unless you own up to that and make the appropriate revisions, I fear that the revelation of this fact will ultimately undermine all or most of your strenuous efforts over the years--which would be a shame.
As with many other great noirs--and we are on the same page in thinking that VOYAGE is at or near the top of the pantheon--it is the collision of "hard-boiled" crime (you don't need a PI for the film to be hard-boiled, Dan...) and love triangle that creates danger and desperation at levels of intensity that are possible only when ALL noir elements are engaged--and are thus reflected with maximum force/velocity in both the story and the visuals. Instead of tilting these tired old windmills at me, Dan, my view is that you should really be pushing VOYAGE in front of every person who thinks that noir is somehow "quintessentially American" and/or the "only indigenous art movement in America"**** and forcing them to revise their inaccurate thinking.
* If she were not so magnificent and memorable, we would not have made her the cover illustration for the 2020 FRENCH HAD A NAME FOR IT calendar...in fact, using two different photo variations of her from the climactic scene in VOYAGE.
** A film we were finally able to screen in the FRENCH series last year.
*** Hailed by some critics as "the homely Gabin" (this was a time when Gabin was off-screen in France for more than four years), Coedel's later films cemented him as a kind of psychological replacement for Gabin, who struggled to regain his standing with French film audiences partially as a result of Coedel's ascendance. These include the highly popular ROGER LA HONTE adaptations, and a film that I'm guessing you might prefer to skip--UN FLIC, a police procedural with a good brother/bad brother sub-theme, where Coedel plays opposite a very young Raymond Pellegrin, at the dawn of his career, spotted by director Maurice de Canogne in a small but notable role in Henri Calef's first great film, the war epic JERICHO (1946).
**** Hint, hint...