Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Le Combat Dans L'ile

Alain Cavalier’s New Wave thriller is a tasty French mix of politics and romance, while glorifying that iconic goddess, Romy Schneider.

June 12, 2009

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/87955-LeCombat_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

A fascinating remnant from the French New Wave cinematic movement, Alain Cavalier’s Le Combat Dans L’ile, made in 1962 and receiving its North American premiere, is at once a gripping political thriller and a romantic triangle which should please Francophiles and art-house audiences with its moody concerns and flavorful period evocation of Paris and the French countryside.

Clément (Jean Louis Trintignant) is a member of a right-wing terrorist organization who becomes involved in a political assassination attempt. A member of his gang betrays him and he hides out with his wife Anne (Romy Schneider) in the country home of a childhood friend, Paul (Henri Serre). Clément defines macho, with his surly incommunicativeness and sudden outbursts of violence, with Anne often its recipient. Paul, by contrast, is a gentle pacifist, and as affection grows between him and Anne, the emotional as well as political tension mounts.

Cavalier proves himself just as confident in cinematic technique as his more celebrated contemporaries, Truffaut and Godard, while possessing a more traditional style of storytelling—in the tradition of Julien Duvivier and Marcel Carne, less prone to flashily “innovative” techniques. At the time, France was embroiled in controversial entanglements in Vietnam and Algeria, and there was a fear that the country was drifting towards fascism. Cavalier addressed these concerns, but he ran into governmental censorship problems and had to excise footage which resulted in a certain obscurity in his plotting.

Trintignant plays an earlier version of the Fascist collaborator role he later essayed in Bertolucci’s The Conformist, and with his full-lipped Frank Sinatra-but-handsomer face, he brings a stoic sensuality to the role which goes far to explain—in lieu of any scripted appeal—why his abused wife would stay with him despite her mistreatment. Serre’s calm, reflective character echoes his work in another more famous movie, Jules and Jim, and he provides a convincingly alluring peaceful haven, not to mention living in a mill house which is a Gallic dream of rustic heaven.

The beautiful, tragic Schneider, hitherto best-known for her frothy portrayal of the Austrian Empress Elisabeth in the Sissi trilogy of films, found a new, meatier dramatic career for herself with this film, and, without putting too fine a point on it, Cavalier’s camera—the rich black-and-white photography is by Pierre Lhome—has a love affair with her perfect, goddess-y features and invitingly uninhibited body. Her Anne is the most normal of woman, fond of parties and pretty things, the very type to attract the most unlikely of partners, here personified by the humorless, soul-destroying Clément.


Film Review: Le Combat Dans L'ile

Alain Cavalier’s New Wave thriller is a tasty French mix of politics and romance, while glorifying that iconic goddess, Romy Schneider.

June 12, 2009

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/87955-LeCombat_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

A fascinating remnant from the French New Wave cinematic movement, Alain Cavalier’s Le Combat Dans L’ile, made in 1962 and receiving its North American premiere, is at once a gripping political thriller and a romantic triangle which should please Francophiles and art-house audiences with its moody concerns and flavorful period evocation of Paris and the French countryside.

Clément (Jean Louis Trintignant) is a member of a right-wing terrorist organization who becomes involved in a political assassination attempt. A member of his gang betrays him and he hides out with his wife Anne (Romy Schneider) in the country home of a childhood friend, Paul (Henri Serre). Clément defines macho, with his surly incommunicativeness and sudden outbursts of violence, with Anne often its recipient. Paul, by contrast, is a gentle pacifist, and as affection grows between him and Anne, the emotional as well as political tension mounts.

Cavalier proves himself just as confident in cinematic technique as his more celebrated contemporaries, Truffaut and Godard, while possessing a more traditional style of storytelling—in the tradition of Julien Duvivier and Marcel Carne, less prone to flashily “innovative” techniques. At the time, France was embroiled in controversial entanglements in Vietnam and Algeria, and there was a fear that the country was drifting towards fascism. Cavalier addressed these concerns, but he ran into governmental censorship problems and had to excise footage which resulted in a certain obscurity in his plotting.

Trintignant plays an earlier version of the Fascist collaborator role he later essayed in Bertolucci’s The Conformist, and with his full-lipped Frank Sinatra-but-handsomer face, he brings a stoic sensuality to the role which goes far to explain—in lieu of any scripted appeal—why his abused wife would stay with him despite her mistreatment. Serre’s calm, reflective character echoes his work in another more famous movie, Jules and Jim, and he provides a convincingly alluring peaceful haven, not to mention living in a mill house which is a Gallic dream of rustic heaven.

The beautiful, tragic Schneider, hitherto best-known for her frothy portrayal of the Austrian Empress Elisabeth in the Sissi trilogy of films, found a new, meatier dramatic career for herself with this film, and, without putting too fine a point on it, Cavalier’s camera—the rich black-and-white photography is by Pierre Lhome—has a love affair with her perfect, goddess-y features and invitingly uninhibited body. Her Anne is the most normal of woman, fond of parties and pretty things, the very type to attract the most unlikely of partners, here personified by the humorless, soul-destroying Clément.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Rudderless
Film Review: Rudderless

Well-done indie drama about a lost-soul house painter reborn through rock ’n’ roll is a nice actor’s showcase for star Billy Crudup and an impressive directorial debut for actor William H. Macy. But in spite of some good work onscreen, both hero and story lack the edge and originality to carry this drama beyond respectability. More »

Camp X-Ray
Film Review: Camp X-Ray

Army guard and Guantanamo detainee form a grudging relationship in a thoughtful but far-fetched drama. More »

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Film Review: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

As charming as it is delicate, this unusually low-key, if a tad overlong, animated feature brings yet more prestige to the famed Ghibli output. More »

Dear White People
Film Review: Dear White People

There won't be a smarter or funnier screenplay this year (or more striking feature directorial debut), and that is just the basis for this surprising, wonderful and quite definitive college film. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

Birdman
Film Review: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Virtuosic camerawork and a stellar ensemble of actors more than make up for the occasional moment of portentous twaddle in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's latest—and maybe his best—film. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here