Friday, November 6, 2009

Gervaise (1956)

Having seen several works of René Clément and liked them all, I knew that I had to watch this movie, which based on the novel L'Assomoir by Émile Zola. I have never read any work by Zola yet, but now I have Thérèse Raquin, which I will read soon.

The DVD from Criterion has excellent quality, although there is no extra, except a little booklet. The black & white colour of the movie is beautifully remastered. Here, we follow the tragic life of beautiful Gervaise (well played by Maria Schell - won the best actress in Venice Film Festival). Her lover Lantier left her with 2 children, but slowly she builds her life again. She marries Coupeau (François Périer, won the best actor in BAFTA) who gives her a daughter, Nana. Coupeau has an accident at work, but instead of sending him to hospital, which is free, Gervaise decides to take care of him herself. The expenses for doctor empty their pockets, but by the help of Coupeau's best friend, Goujet, Gervaise can have her own laundry shop, something she has always dreamed. However, Virginie, her old nemesis, re-appears in her life and will lead Gervaise to her downfall.

It's rather hard to believe that Coupeau will ask Lantier to live with them. I think his mind has been poisoned by alcohol that he cannot think straight.

From the fight in the laundry house, the party (who will Coupeau pick for the 14th guest?), and the DTs scene, all are done well. The DTs, especially, is haunting. No wonder François Périer got that award. It's a devastating scene. Here we can see how Gervaise lost everything, including her customer trust. Also interesting is the little girl Nana (the little actress was very good), in the end of the movie, who will become the center character in Zola's famous novel Nana. Virginie asks her why she is so dirty, why her mother doesn't clean her. Nana answers, "Mother is more dirty than I am." She asks for a ribbon, wears it on her neck, and plays with a group of boys in the street. Perhaps this little girl's future would be bright if her mother could keep that laundry shop.

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