Jean Grémillon | Pattes blanches

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Jean Grémillon

Jean Grémillon is a French film director.

Subjects in the films of Jean Grémillon:

Technology: Architecture:

Pattes blanches

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.

Spectacle

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.