Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Une chambre en ville

Written and directed by Jacques Demy, Une chambre en ville is the story of a young woman who wants to leave her brutish husband for a steel worker amidst a worker’s strike as she’s unaware that the worker is living with her mother. The film is a musical in which many of the dialogue is sung as it explore people dealing with their feelings for one another during a tumultuous event in a small town in France. Starring Dominique Sanda, Michel Piccoli, Richard Berry, Fabienne Guyon, Jean-Francois Stevenin, Jean-Louis Rolland, and Danielle Darrieux. Une chambre en ville is an extraordinarily rich and majestic film from Jacques Demy.

Set in 1955 at the small port town of Nantes during a worker’s strike, the film follows a worker who meets a woman, who is wearing only high heels and a fur coat, as they would have an affair while he deals with his own girlfriend and uncertain future for his job. Adding to the complications is that the woman he met is married and her mother is his landlord as she frets over the chaos of this strike and the appearance of her daughter whom she hadn’t seen in years. Jacques Demy’s screenplay features a lot of the dialogue as it’s sung yet it does help tell the story where the songs would reveal some key plot-points as well as establishing the characters and the situations they’re in. Even as characters such as the protagonists Edith Leroyer (Dominique Sanda) and Francois Guilbaud (Richard Berry) are coping with their own issues as they would get together. Edith’s husband in the TV shop owner Edmond (Michel Piccoli) and her mother Margot Langlois (Danielle Darrieux) would be integral to the story as the former is a man that is very jealous and possessive while the latter is Guilbaud’s landlord that was once a former baroness until she married a colonel as she would sympathize with the workers.

Demy’s direction is definitely entrancing from the way he opens the film with a showdown between striking workers and the police in black-and-white which then turns into color as well as some of the camera movements he creates throughout the film. Shot on location in Nantes, much of Demy’s compositions are straightforward such as the opening wide shots of the showdown at the film’s beginning while he would go for more intimate moments in the scenes at Langlois’ home with the usage of medium shots and close-ups. One notable scene where Edmond confronts his wife late in the film has Demy use hand-held cameras to showcase Edmond’s perspective in this showdown of sorts as it is quite violent at times. Since the film is a musical, there is no dancing or any kind of choreography as it is mostly dramatic but in a restrained tone as Demy wanted to emphasize on this struggle that Guilbaud is having as someone who is part of the working class. Especially as the songs that the characters sing throughout the entirety of the film showcase their own personal desires and struggles in a world that is quite chaotic. Overall, Demy creates a dazzling yet heartfelt film about a wife who has an affair with striking worker.

Cinematographer Jean Penzer does brilliant work with the film’s very colorful cinematography from the way the interiors are presented as well as some of the daytime and nighttime exteriors as it doesn’t go too much into style but maintain a sense of beauty. Editor Sabine Mamou does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some rhythmic cuts to play into the music as well as some of the transitions. Production designer Bernard Evein does amazing work with the look of the home of Madame Langlois as well as the TV shop that Edmond runs and the cafĂ© that the workers would hold their meetings at.

Costume designer Rosalie Varda does nice work with the costumes from the fur coat that Edith wears to violet dress of Violette and the posh clothes of Madame Langlois. The sound work of Andre Hervee is terrific for its low-key and naturalistic sound as it help play into the drama. The film’s music by Michel Colombier is incredible as its usage of jazz, orchestral music, and bits of contemporary pop arrangements as it help carry the film and put accompaniment to the dialogue that is sung throughout the film as it is one of its major highlights.

The film’s superb cast include some notable small roles from Marie-France Roussel as a gypsy fortune teller, Jean-Louis Rolland as a leader for the striking workers, Anna Gaylor as Violette’s mother, and Jean-Francois Stevenin in a terrific role as the striking worker Dambiel who is a friend of Guilbaud as he is also a fraternal figure of sorts for Violette. Fabienne Guyon is fantastic as Violette as Guilbaud’s girlfriend that is eager to start her venture into adulthood while dealing with his sudden distance knowing that there is a future despite the atmosphere involving the worker’s strike. Michel Piccoli is excellent as Edmond Leroyer as a TV salesman that is consumed with jealousy thinking his wife is having an affair while dealing with his own faults as it would make him more troubling.

Danielle Darrieux is brilliant as Margot Langlois as Edith’s mother as a woman who lets Guilbaud stay at her house as a lodger as she deals with the things she lost in her life as well as her growing disdain towards the bourgeoisie lifestyle she was once a part of. Richard Berry is amazing as Francois Guilbaud as a metal sheet worker who is on strike as he copes with the expectations of his relationship with Violette as he falls in love with Edith while turning to Margot for advice and conversation. Finally, there’s Dominique Sanda in a radiant performance as Edith as Margot’s estranged daughter who realizes the bad decision she’s made in marriage as she tries to make amends with her mother while falling for Guilbaud as she spends much of the film wearing only a fur coat to express the sense of ruin that her life has become.

Une chambre en ville is a phenomenal film from Jacques Demy. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, a compelling story, and an exquisite music soundtrack with many of the actors singing their own dialogue. It’s a musical that doesn’t play by the rules while venturing into the anguish of love and the hope of a better life. In the end, Une chambre en ville is a spectacular film from Jacques Demy.

Jacques Demy Films: (Lola (1961 film)) - Bay of Angels - The Umbrellas of Cherbourg - The Young Girls of Rochefort - Model Shop - Donkey Skin - (The Pied Piper (1972 film)) - A Slightly Pregnant Man - (Lady Oscar) - (La Naissance du Jour) - (Parking (1985 film)) - (Three Places for the 26th) - (Turning Table)

© thevoid99 2017

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