| Pattes blanches
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Jean Grémillon is a French film director.
Subjects in the films of Jean Grémillon:
- Festivities (wedding feast: Remorques,
costume ball: Lumière d'été, public celebration of aviation: Le Ciel est à vous,
vision of the dance at the end: Pattes blanches)
- Working men in groups (tugboat sailors: Remorques, dam builders: Lumière d'été)
- Servants (hotel, chateau: Lumière d'été, serving woman: Pattes blanches)
- People who fail in the arts (painter: Lumière d'été, young piano student: Le Ciel est à vous)
- Money troubles (painter: Lumière d'été, couple and family: Le Ciel est à vous)
- People who move and change where they live (painter from hotel to chateau: Lumière d'été,
family moves to new garage: Le Ciel est à vous)
- Romantic triangles (Remorques, Lumière d'été, Pattes blanches)
- Sinister romantic schemes (luring painter to chateau: Lumière d'été, Paul Bernard: Pattes blanches)
- Technological worlds (tugboat: Remorques,
dam being built: Lumière d'été, aviation, garage: Le Ciel est à vous)
- Technological people glorified (tugboat Captain: Remorques,
dam engineer: Lumière d'été, aviators: Le Ciel est à vous)
- Old-fashioned anti-technological people mocked (writer: Lumière d'été, heroine's mother: Le Ciel est à vous)
- Glass walls and doors (view of wedding feast: Remorques,
hotel porch: Lumière d'été, garage apartment: Le Ciel est à vous)
Poetic Realism and Romantic Tangles
Jean Grémillon's Pattes blanches ("White Paws") (1949) seems almost
like a self parody of French "poetic realism". In this
and other films of the tradition, everyone is involved in a complex
romantic tangle. No one seems to have just one lover, everyone
seems to have at least two. This means that a whole group of people
are entangled in the web of personal relationships: a man will
not just be romancing a woman, but he has to take on her other
boyfriend, the boyfriend's wife or girlfriend, her lovers, his
other loves, and all the complications they are involved with
too. The diagram of relationships winds up looking like a problem
in graph theory. This inter-knotted group of humans moves with
all the grace and speed of a crab trying to slowly scuttle sideways
over the sand.
Despite the fact that adultery is not just common
in this society, but actually seems to be required for everyone
over 18, none of the people can stand the pain of adulterous relationships.
Each man's pride will especially be offended by the loss of his
"honor", and the film will end with him killing someone over this.
One does not have to be a master logician to see
that the combination of casual adultery and a code of "honor"
that demands death for adultery, is eventually going to lead to
a mountain of corpses.
The best part of Pattes blanches deals with a serving woman,
and her pure love for the local lord of the manor. These scenes
show considerable sensitivity.
Several shots in the film are very good, especially in the first half,
while we can still feel hope for these characters.
Also, the woman's vision of the dance at the end is beautiful.
Links to Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne
Paul Bernard is eventually victimized by a cruel plot, reminiscent
of the one that was played on him in Robert Bresson's
Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (1944). It is odd to see the
same actor and the same story recycled here.