Thursday, February 7, 2008

REUNION IN FRANCE (MGM 1942) Warner Home Video

Jules Dassin’s Reunion in France (1942) is a rather clueless bit of tripe, peppering light comedy, heavy melodrama and a dash of Joan Crawford (looking absurdly scrumptious in a cavalcade of fashionable accoutrements by Adrian) with the likes of all-American bo-hunk, John Wayne – miscast as R.A.F. flyboy, Pat Talbot.

Crawford is out of sorts as French woman (minus French accent), Michelle de la Beque – a fashion plate trophy gal belonging to industrialist, Robert Cortot (Philip Dorn). After attending a rather lack luster political benefit, Michelle is all set to commit to Robert. Only he fears that Hitler’s divisions will soon invade Paris. As a precaution, Robert sends Michelle away to the country. Days later, bombing attacks on the city begin.

Forced to schlep it on foot with the rest of the fleeing refugees, Michelle makes her way back to Paris only to discover that her boyfriend has become an ex-patriot and the driving industrial force for mobilizing the Nazi military machine. So what’s a disillusioned gal to do?

Well, if you’re Michelle, you immediately set up shop with the next best thing – in her case, strapping pilot Pat Talbot. Rescuing Pat from certain Nazi capture, the two quickly become a romantic pair; he masquerading as her chauffeur as they plot how best to get him back to Britain so he can fly again for the Allied Forces.

Sandwiched somewhere between a war-time weepy and a legitimate Crawford melodrama, the screenplay by Jan Lustig meanders aimlessly from one implausible vignette to the next – the most comical: Crawford getting a job as a model at a fashion house that’s far more art deco Hollywood than gay Paris, and the same place she once frequented for her own haute couture when Robert was footing her bills.

MGM – the studio known for surface sheen - musters up absurd ultra high gloss. But these weighty trappings add more superficiality than suspense to the mix and echo a tinny ring to the melodrama. I mean, at a time when people were struggling to keep body and soul together, Crawford looks and acts as though she is about to attend a Hollywood premiere. There's no attempt to comment or even respect the plight of refugees. Even when Crawford's fleeing Nazis she's more worried about her hair and nails than the future of world events!

Warner Home Video’s DVD exhibits a rather fine B&W image that occasionally seems slightly soft and blurry. The gray scale exhibits fine tonality throughout and fine details are usually nicely realized. Age related artifacts are present but kept to a bare minimum, as is film grain. The audio is mono but adequately balanced. Extras are limited to two vintage featurettes and the film’s theatrical trailer.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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