Eclipse Series 34: Jean Grémillon During the Occupation

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Mr Sausage
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Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#51 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat Aug 31, 2013 12:23 pm

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Re: Eclipse Series 34: Jean Grémillon During the Occupation

#52 Post by Lemmy Caution » Wed Sep 11, 2013 5:05 pm

Sloper wrote: So here's a question: why did they translate 'Remorques' as 'Stormy Waters' when it seems to mean something more like 'Tow-ropes'? Neither title is especially wonderful in English, but the latter is certainly more accurate and more appropriate to the central theme of the film, which seems to be 'the ties that bind' - how easily some of them can be broken, and how impossible it is to break others; the burdens other people place on us, the relentless pull of fate, the weight of guilt and obligations.
I think Lifelines works pretty well to convey both the rescue ropes plus the ties that bind people together / their romantic fates.

I like how Catherine makes a desperate attempt to flee her unpleasant husband, but Capt. Gabin brings her back, re-establishing the expected social order. Then later, Gabin becomes unmoored from his marriage, and Catherine gently sends him back to his obligation/damaged marriage.

Quite an enjoyable film, though the melodrama gets ratcheted up to 11 in the film's final 5 minutes or so. But I always like the swift endings typical back then.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#53 Post by swo17 » Mon Sep 16, 2013 10:50 am

If it's allowed, I thought I might kick off the discussion with some thoughts cobbled together from previous posts of mine on the forum...

I always find it fascinating to learn that a film was made under German occupation (and apparently some of the song choices in this film are veiled criticisms of the Nazis) though it's easy to see how these went undetected, buried under the A-story of fair-skinned people proving their worth through feats of arbitrarily determined difficulty (in this case, setting records in the field of aviation). However, there is a lot more than just mild anti-imperialist sentiment buried under the surface here--principally, this is a complex exploration of a marriage and the passion necessary to sustain it. Though while the film on the one hand may be read as a celebration of what this married couple accomplish (based on actual events that occurred in the 1930s), it also seems somewhat suspicious of their motivations--note how the respective dreams of the parents and their children are prioritized, or how little difference there really is between being reckless and a genius (i.e. if you set a record or pull off a cool trick in your plane, you are lauded for it; if you crash into the ocean, making orphans of your children, not so much).

One thing that struck me during my most recent viewing was a visual metaphor common to each of the films in the Eclipse set, that of a failing rope. In Remorques, Gabin's venturing out into stormy waters in a tugboat is obviously intended to parallel his venturing out from the safety and security of his marriage, and the rope that fails in this instance is indicative of selfish motives that manifest themselves only after one party has gotten what they want out of a relationship. In Le ciel est à vous, the metaphor is less obvious, but incredibly apt upon reflection. I am referring to the piano that the movers attempt to lift to a second story in the beginning of the film. Here we have a precious object (representing the dreams of one member of the family) that is momentarily placed in harm's way (not coincidentally, by leaving the ground) to achieve some end that seems worthwhile at the time, but that will instantly be considered a lapse in judgment if it fails to work. It's one of the most fascinating elements of the film to me--that thin line between heroism and foolhardiness, the final assessment of which essentially boils down to whether or not you happen to beat the odds against you. I also love all the other internal contradictions in the film, such as how the mother is celebrated for living out her dreams, but is only able to do so after crushing her daughter's.

Also, here is a typically thorough and insightful post from zedz on the film.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#54 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Sep 16, 2013 11:34 am

I did think it was interesting, and not unexpected, the way the parents reserve for themselves dreams and behaviours they would never allow from their children. There's a clear symmetry between the escape from the drudgery of life through flying and the chance for the daughter to escape her own limited horizons through music. Of course the far more practical and opportunity-laden hobby, piano-playing, is always set aside for the more frivolous hobby, flying.

I like the way Gremillon worked the theme of music into the film, since it ends up having a somewhat ambivalent relationship to the story. On the one hand, a smashed piano figures prominently in the opening scene, kicking off the motif of the destructive aspect of the parent's choices (shown primarily in the stifling of their daughter) but also leading to the introduction of the musical connection between the couple in that shared love song. Music is both the source of their connection to each other and their disconnection from their daughter, and I think those two threads (an alternate joy and sorrow) intertwine throughout the film.

It's interesting to observe the couple's simultaneous selfishness and selflessness. The sheer selflessness they have for each other is no more obvious than the scene in which they finally decide to attempt the flight. This is preceeded by a long scene where Pierre details his epiphany of the sheer, simple relief in not having to endure the pains of sending his wife off into danger; so when he allows her to do the flight a scene later, and with so little argument, we understand the depth and selflessness of his devotion: we know how much it pains him, so we know how much he is dedicated to her dream. Yet this selflessness for each other is also a selfishness since it refuses to let anyone else into it. So the rest of the family suffers, not just from the neglect and lack of money, but in terms of their own ambitions. No one cares about Jacqueline's talents and desires besides the music teacher, and her piano is easily sold tho' the plane, of course, is not. The parents are quite willing to sacrifice other people's dreams for their own. And of course the parents end up reproaching their daughter for their own faults, namely failing to consider the needs of the family.

The parents are a more extravagant version of their own daughter, just as passionate, just as longing for freedom and accomplishment, and yet paradoxically serving as the blocking figures in the daughter's narrative, enforcing convention and conservatism. A way of over-stating it is to say they are the heroes of their own story and the villains of hers.

These two strands are not a mutually reinforcing double-plot, but a kind of amplification/undercutting: the crushing of the daughter's dream suggest the despair the couple would feel were their own dreams similarly crushed, helping us understand their choices, while also alienating us from them a bit, allowing for critical distance.

For such a vivacious film it hides a lot of negativity in the corners.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#55 Post by knives » Mon Sep 16, 2013 12:00 pm

Just out of curiosity does this film have some sort of historical precedence? I'm asking because Raymond Bernard directed Anne-Marie a little before which is another film about a woman who tries to fly a dangerous distance.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#56 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Sep 16, 2013 12:48 pm

I believe the Gremillon is based on real events. Not sure about the Bernard.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#57 Post by swo17 » Mon Sep 16, 2013 12:58 pm

The film begins with this disclaimer:
This film is based on a real adventure in French aviation which occurred in 1937. The characters are not fictional. They are based on people who, even today, lead modest, hardworking lives in southeast France. This film, made during the German occupation, is dedicated to them.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#58 Post by Klaylock » Mon Sep 16, 2013 1:07 pm

Longtime lurker, but this film club seems like a good way to watch some stuff I haven't gotten around to and perhaps get back into posting.

This is my second Grémillion after Remorques, which I remember not caring for much (actually, I remember very little about it, which is odd because I saw it within the last year). Fortunately, I found this to be a hell of a film. If I could identify a Grémillion style, it would be the velocity with which these plots move forward—I would assume that he is compared to Carné and Renoir, but most of their films seem breezy in comparison. The inevitability of each contrivance—Gabin's first meeting of the woman during a freak storm, then the way they seem to keep running into each other in odd places felt like a straight run towards the inevitable conclusion. These characters seemed barely in control of their actions, which struck me as determinism at the time. I think that's where I would start with Le ciel est à vous actually. At the point where where Pierre, the husband, is being condemned by his mother-in-law and (she assumes) the entire town, the blame for Thérèse's flying obsession is placed with him. However, I think the film poses a very different scenario that leads to the wife's first flying experience. Rather than the Pierre's (assumed) responsibility, or any agency on Thérèse's part, fate or chance seems to guide each new development leading to Thérèse's first flight. First the airfield forces the family to move, then the first customer, on the first night at the new garage happens to own a garage in a nearby town, just as an invitation back to the airfield gets Pierre near a plane when he happens to be the only mechanic nearby. There is the fact that the husband's obsession with planes dates back to the war, and he does question nearly everyone he meets about their plans to fly, indicating his own desires in this direction. After their separation, when the wife misses her husband, she is lead to the airfield, which sets up her second visit where she is coaxed into the plane. If anything, the flight club president is responsible for pushing his (destructive) obsession! Still, so many of these are circumstantial coincidences that make it seem as though the characters have little control over the direction of their lives. And the skill it takes to fly is barely mentioned—making it appear almost as though any character who gets into a plane has instant mastery over the skies. I suppose this sidesteps the training and mentor clichés that would normally accompany this sort of story.

I am still trying to figure out what to make of the gorgeous opening crane shot, though the herd of sheep turning into the orphans "shepherded" by the schoolmaster seems to advance a deterministic interpretation of the plot. The orphans did make me tense every time they could be heard singing, as it seemed a reminder of how the two children could end up, with their parents dangerously jetting about the air!

As has been mentioned, I liked the subtlety of the daughter's piano-playing subplot, though it seemed forgotten by the end, overshadowed by her mother's piano-subsidized flying success. Right from the beginning I think we are meant to take the piano as a parallel to the airplane, with the piano shopping scene where the two pianos being compared by chords juxtaposed with the husband's maintenance of the plane "by ear." Improbably, the daughter is just as much a virtuoso musician as her mother is an aviator. I could see the daughter going down a similar path as the air club president—practicing medicine (in this case, pharmacology) with her real passion on the side. The scene where the piano is sold is a truly horrifying moment—it makes the flying obsession seem almost like drug or gambling addiction.

There is one scene in particular that stood out, where the music teacher tries to convince Thérèse to allow her daughter to study at the conservatory. In a film with several slow pans, the use of rapid cutting here really draws attention to itself. I'm still not sure whether I believe this was intentionally deployed to indicate the scene's importance, but the frenetic pace it drives the dialogue to suggests the rashness with which Thérèse decides her daughter's future.

Overall, a very enjoyable film, despite the conventional happy ending—I think it would have been more interesting, though not necessarily better, had the wife not made it and the husband been condemned by the village, but the title card announcing the factuality of the events, the story would lose its feminist bent etc. It was interesting to see Charles Vanel show up here, a decade before the Cluzots I recognized him from.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#59 Post by swo17 » Mon Sep 16, 2013 1:20 pm

Klaylock wrote:I think it would have been more interesting, though not necessarily better, had the wife not made it and the husband been condemned by the village, but the title card announcing the factuality of the events, the story would lose its feminist bent etc. It was interesting to see Charles Vanel show up here, a decade before the Cluzots I recognized him from.
You'd also lose that great moment where the world seemingly closing in on Pierre is revealed to be the congratulations of adoring fans.

Also, speaking of actors popping up, it's worth noting that the piano teacher is played by none other than Usher from Epstein's La Chute de la maison Usher. So...clearly not a great person for the daughter to be hanging out with.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#60 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Sep 16, 2013 1:26 pm

In Cat's Cradle, Vonnegut describes the phenomenon of a couple (a wampeter of two) so closely united that nothing, not even the children they have together, can ever really come between them, and this seems like the best cinematic exploration of that concept I've ever seen (the only real competition being Make Way for Tomorrow). They're a delightful couple, and I think my favorite scene in the movie is the one in which a.) the threatened sitcom plot device of the oppressed husband immediately doing what he promised not to do (flying) is defused and b.) the wife goes from someone who threatened to be a bourgeois wet blanket in the mode of her own mother to a really delightful and adventurous character, from reinforcing the societal mold to ignoring it altogether. The love we see the couple share seems a bit unilateral- the husband is always quicker to support her than the wife is him- but that's such a reversal of the norm that it's charming instead of irritating.

Of course, as noted, the discordant note in the whole thing is the daughter and her piano, and it's telling- though I'm not sure of what- that for all that Thérèse reverses her materialist priorities once she discovers flying, she never even appears to rethink her snap decision about the conservatory. As Pierre had previously given his consent, it seems to be largely her call, but it's Pierre who must demand of his daughter that the piano be sold- though he loves his daughter, his devotion to his wife comes before all things. Thérèse seems incapable of making the empathetic leap required to understand that her daughter's dreams mirror her own, and even more than her demand that she sell the piano, her logic seems shockingly cruel- you have to sell this because you don't use it (because we won't let you use it.) It's a satisfying irony that the one person who comes to Pierre's aid when Thérèse seems lost- the one person who is steadfast and true within himself, unlike the hypocritical townsfolk (perhaps another place where a sly comment on the Occupation slips through) is the piano teacher, who is able to see Thérèse's great love of the sky as being allied to his own.

Even more than the conflict of the piano, I think one of the protruding aspects of the movie is that it's not resolved during the great happy ending. It's all set up- we've had Pierre actually hear a speech comparing music to flight, and he obviously must feel great affection for the piano teacher, and there's even the reminder of the couple's song being played at the celebration. Yet, rather than having Thérèse and Pierre run to their daughter and tell her she can follow her dreams, after all- and one imagines they must have the money to make that happen, or at least the clout to get the town counsel to do as they say- the movie just ends. We can assume that part works itself out, if we wish, but we never know, and never get to see it. It's a discordant note that makes the ending of a piece with the whole, a celebration that's not wholly a resolution, just a step before further trouble- which never seems like a drag, in part because the characters are so intensely likable.

(I think the movie would have been horribly weakened if Thérèse hadn't made it- it would be an unconflicted resolution, more or less telling the audience that following your dreams may be worth it, but you'll be punished horribly and nothing good will come of it. A fitting ending for the Occupation, perhaps, but a less interesting one than the one we got.)

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#61 Post by knives » Mon Sep 16, 2013 1:35 pm

swo17 wrote:The film begins with this disclaimer:
This film is based on a real adventure in French aviation which occurred in 1937. The characters are not fictional. They are based on people who, even today, lead modest, hardworking lives in southeast France. This film, made during the German occupation, is dedicated to them.
Which I guess presents the question of the film's relationship to reality. I don't mean so much adhering to the facts of the case, but the idea of the film's style conveying a reality. Certainly a lot of the French films of the period are aiming to that conveying, but usually the film's don't emphasize that as much as the poetic aspects of the style (look at Carne or Renoir), but Gremillon does really seem to be battling with the melodrama to reach his own specific 'realism' which might explain the title card. For most of the film this seems to be presented by emphasizing humour, but there's a lot of ways where he also downplays the emotions of the drama to present a (lovely) ordinary reality.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#62 Post by YnEoS » Mon Sep 16, 2013 10:20 pm

Not sure I have much to add to some of the excellent points made already. I liked how the film slowly built up to the prospect of breaking the record instead of jumping right into it. Starting with the difficulties of moving, then worrying about the car repair business succeeding, and the wife's initial opposition to flying. I thought it effectively built up the tension of how big a departure the flight breaking record was from the everyday, without romanticizing flying too heavily. In fact the film seemed to do a good job of downplaying the importance of the breaking the record. It's established that its not a terribly difficult record to break, it just seems like there hasn't been a lot of competition over it. It seems like they would've been just as happy had they not broken the record, and they're quite eager to get past all the fanfare and return to their normal lifestyle when its done. All culminating in that adorable moment when Charles Vanel is awkwardly trying to get through the formalities and speech he must deliver just so he can hug his wife.
Klaylock wrote:It was interesting to see Charles Vanel show up here, a decade before the Cluzots I recognized him from.
Back during the 1920s list I was shocked to see him directing and starring in Dans la nuit, in 1929!
matrixschmatrix wrote:(I think the movie would have been horribly weakened if Thérèse hadn't made it- it would be an unconflicted resolution, more or less telling the audience that following your dreams may be worth it, but you'll be punished horribly and nothing good will come of it. A fitting ending for the Occupation, perhaps, but a less interesting one than the one we got.)
Would a tragic ending necessarily have to imply that message, or do you mean just in terms of the way this film is set up and told? I was fine with the ending as is, though I think it would have still be interesting story had she not succeeded. Though perhaps in that case it would've been more appropriate to have the story told in a different way, like by having the flight occur earlier in the film.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#63 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Sep 16, 2013 10:31 pm

YnEoS wrote:Would a tragic ending necessarily have to imply that message, or do you mean just in terms of the way this film is set up and told? I was fine with the ending as is, though I think it would have still be interesting story had she not succeeded. Though perhaps in that case it would've been more appropriate to have the story told in a different way, like by having the flight occur earlier in the film.
Yeah, I'm thinking specifically if the movie had been identical up until the point where we find out the news- of course, if the story had been told differently, the import of any given event could work differently.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#64 Post by Drucker » Mon Sep 16, 2013 11:09 pm

Having already seen this film, I found it much, much easier to jot some thoughts down going through it again, and now must surely make sure I watch every film club film twice.

I believe in the thread for Rules Of The Game, Herrschreck makes this comment:
Because the great paradox (for me anyhoo) is that though Ren loathes their irresponsibility, he understands them and sees the big picture of humanity well enough to understand that, in terms of "blame", "it's the world they live in,"
. Ever since I first read that I've thought about it from time to time and it's a thought I believe applies to this film.

As bad as the parents folly are later in the film, once they embrace aviation full-time, I think the context of just how much they denied themselves is important. Before that though, let me say, their goals were good at one point. After the move, one of the parents remarks to the others "it's fine, it's for the kids." "Aviation is the future" is another comment that to me, belies the parents putting stock in their kids living in a grander world. It's also worth pointing out just how lowly their position seems to be economically and socially. At the first aviation event, the husband doesn't get excited until the plane is in the air, and is happy getting dirty trying to help it. While everyone else is eating, he spends time washing his hands and cleaning up, and never really "joins" their world. He sits down to eat once everyone else has left, and we focus on him alone enjoying the festivities early on. We don't have a group of parents that were always in it for themselves, though that may seem hard to remember towards the end of the film!

We have, early on, set up a respectable working class family. This unfolds in the movie as 1) society pulls them out of their "safe-zone" and 2) the parents, mainly, finally feel that they need to prove something.

At first they provide a nice, stable living for their kids. At one point they might have had dreams, but they are content with their lot. But once they move to the city, things start to change. The close-knit unit begins to break up slowly, and this mostly happens with external influences. "Why can't Noblet leave us alone, we're happy as we are" the husband says as he's approached to run another man's business (the irony of this scene as he enviously watches another pilot living one of his dreams). The wife is pulled away, too, to sell cars for Noblet. Even going to conservatory isn't the daughter's idea, but her teacher's! The world seems to be telling this family that you can do better. The only person who sees what a slippery slope something like an airplane ride or aviation lesson is, is grandma, but is she really in the right? Are her fears really worth noting?

As the film goes on, however, both the daughter and the parents face obstacles, and seem to be convincing themselves to give up on the dreams they've unwittingly begun to pursue. The daughter at one point tries to focus on her traditional studies (and of course, her piano gets locked away). And the husband says of flying "You'll never be the next Lindbergh." and "When it becomes an obsession, it does more harm than good." At this point in the film's plots, it seems, the people have had a taste of a journey to embark on, but are still tentative about going for it.

That all changes in the hotel room. "During the war, I had lots of dreams...but I never told you. Today I give them up, and you're defending them." At this point, the mother can no longer stand the idea of someone else living her dreams, and it becomes her obsession. There's also some motivating factors, such as the town council not wanting to encourage a woman to leave the home and "pursue folly." Though they don't hear that phrase directly, I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that the parents are motivated by proving to people they can do something they were told they couldn't/shouldn't do. She follows through on it, but of course there is only a heroic ending because the mother fulfills her dreams. Had she failed...who knows.

The tragedy of the film, is partially to me, that the parents just don't realize what they are doing to their kids, and they are setting them up for the same exact path they were on. "It hurts to have a selfish daughter," the father says, after being denied permission to sell his daughter's piano. My feeling is that the kids are going to live a life of repressed dreams, like their parents had. They will not be so spendthrift on a silly dream like their parents were. In following through on such a folly, the impact the parents have on their kids to not follow in their footsteps, and not make mistakes like the parents did, seems to be the future they have in store. Their parents have effectively orphaned them, as it becomes clear when they walk alone in the garage towards the end of the film, and the children from the local orphanage walk by.

I also wrote in my notes that another "tragedy of the film" is that the parents never really lost control. They could have stuck to their guns, lived for their children, played it safe, and had a very happy life. But they were persuaded (seduced) by new people into their world. The film doesn't pass judgement on the long-term implications of the family, and that's okay.

Back to the quote I wrote earlier: it's hard for me to point fingers and judge any of these characters too harshly. How would you feel if you'd denied yourself your own dreams? It's an incredibly relatable concept, and though I have no kids of my own, I imagine there are things I feel no impetus to do right now that I will regret not having done. How can you blame them for trying?

*sorry if I didn't get some quotes down perfectly

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#65 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Sep 16, 2013 11:16 pm

I think the daughter's passion for music is clearly independent and sincere- the conservatory is presented as an alternative to pharmacy school, where her parents have already planned to send her, and in which she seems to have no real interest. I don't see that as being a situation in which she's led into an interest that isn't fundamentally her own.

I also don't see the movie as being particularly a condemnation of living one's dreams, not at any point- it gives the selfish pursuit of them at any price some barbs in the portrayal of the daughter, but as the reason that's selfish is explicitly that she's being denied the same opportunity, I think the narrative very much does side with romanticism and the pursuit of things about middle class normality. The capitalist, striving side of middle class normality seems to be what the "we were happy as we were" comment is in reaction to, and Thérèse at her least likable and sympathetic is the Thérèse who's committed to selling cars, not to flying. I'm not particularly convinced that she ever repressed any dreams, at least not consciously- she clearly had no dreams of flying until she went in a plane, and she immediately committed to it once she had.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#66 Post by Klaylock » Mon Sep 16, 2013 11:35 pm

YnEoS wrote:Would a tragic ending necessarily have to imply that message, or do you mean just in terms of the way this film is set up and told? I was fine with the ending as is, though I think it would have still be interesting story had she not succeeded. Though perhaps in that case it would've been more appropriate to have the story told in a different way, like by having the flight occur earlier in the film.
This is more or less what I meant; it would be a bit extreme to suggest the film would structurally or thematically work if Thérèse failed at the end.

I usually hate playing the hypothetical 'what if this film were... an entirely different film' game, but I brought it up because the triumphal conclusion seems to scuttle a lot of the film's more interesting aspects... As swo pointed out, there is a very fine line between triumph and failure, and between an angry and adoring mob, I might add. For me, Thérèse's story is the least absorbing (there was never much doubt about how it would turn out), and I was more invested in Pierre and the daughter. The breaking of the record nullifies the question of Pierre's responsibility for his wife's fate, instead turning him into the proud husband who believed in her all along (though fwiw, Vanel's acting in this scene is superb).

Of course, the mirror of the ending is the airfield celebration scene, where Pierre is so absorbed by the air show, he barely recognizes the circumstances causing Thérèse's distress. For whatever reason, I thought of the opening of The Rules of the Game, where it was the social maneuvering that was more on the minds of the characters than the miracle of flight!

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#67 Post by Shrew » Tue Sep 17, 2013 6:25 pm

I'm going to first go into a few of my own general thoughts on the film and then respond to some of what's been brought up here.

The first time I watched this a few years ago, I filtered it heavily through the Occupation, and while there's a great deal here beyond that it's certainly still difficult for me to put all that extra-textual out of mind. I'm not super familiar with the films of the period, but there's enough going around about resistance and hidden meanings that I feel comfortable bringing it up. Certainly, it's easier for me to read Ciel as a film of resistance than Remorques or Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne, both of which I think have been called such.

The ubiquitous orphans of course are a clear reminder of the war's cost, but the couple's obsession with flying and the risk/rewards it involves has always given me strong vibes of parallels to resistance fighting. Here's an activity which challenges the accepted behaviors of society, which draws the wrath of the community in a series of I told you threats (and some even more distressing phone calls), eventually culminating in near mob violence, and which sends family members off on mysterious errands in addition to requiring terrible sacrifices from the family. But especially it's the blurred line between heroism and foolishness that resonates most strongly with a resistance fighting against an occupation. Allied victory marks the difference between troublemakers and heroes. There are a few odd lines throughout that build into this too, like Therese's strange "It must be easy to be brave when everyone is watching you" at the air show, and of course the recurring use of "Time of Lilacs and Roses" mentioned in the liner notes.

That said, the film is no simple allegory, and its beauty is that it works on many different levels. Pierre and Therese are a beautiful, positive screen couple, but it's great the film allows enough shade to point out the dark side of such devotion to dream. That said, I don't think the film is overly critical of the pair, and while the decision demands a lot from the daughter, I think the film's decision might be more that the repression and fulfillment of desires are a natural and unavoidable part of life. At times they have to be buried, but the opportunity has to be seized when it arises. The fate of the daughter's piano is awful of course, but it's also clear that her dreams aren't dead--she goes so far as to tell her father that she'll need the piano when she's old enough to make her own decisions. While she loses the piano then, I think it's clear that the daughter is still determined to play, it's simply not the right time for her.

As to the possibility of an alternate ending, I do think Therese's success is essential to the film as is and even in a hypothetical alternate form. The thin line between success and failure wouldn't be clear without the sharp juxtaposition of the film. The moments when Therese is gone are really harrowing, even if we're sure that she won't fail, and the film more than earns its happy ending (that's a hell of a crane shot/pan when the good news comes over the phone at the end, made all the better by how the crescendo ends on Pierre's relieved face and turns to silence). Had Therese failed, the film would have a mere cautionary tale of obsession and pushing one's luck too far, which the world already has plenty of, and not this unique and delicate examination of the line between winning and losing.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#68 Post by swo17 » Tue Sep 17, 2013 7:39 pm

A few people have brought up how having Thérèse die in the end would have transformed the story into a kind of cautionary tale against dreaming. I would add that the film already has enough of a tragic ending--for an uncomfortable duration of time, we are made to feel the anguish and uncertainty of her fate being left up in the air. If she actually had died, the film could have perhaps shifted to the logistics of how this family continues on in life without a mother/wife, but psychologically this would be somewhat redundant territory. Instead, the film gets to have it both ways--we are filled with dread after not hearing from Thérèse for a while, and begin to contemplate all of the ramifications of her death, the same as if it had actually happened. But then this veil of horror is lifted and we are treated to a well-earned happy ending.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#69 Post by zedz » Tue Sep 17, 2013 8:55 pm

I think that tone of anxiety is encouraged by Gremillon's very interesting decision not to offer any visual representation of flight (except the impressions of distant earthbound observers). We're never up in the air with the aviators, so in a very real way we're never allowed to 'get' the addictive thrill that they're chasing. (This also impacts, obviously, on how we assess their priorities.) And thus when Therese disappears from view on her epic flight, she's really gone. We don't see her again until she's back on solid ground.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#70 Post by Drucker » Thu Sep 19, 2013 10:37 am

So the point about the film and it's relation to the occupation has been brought up, and I want to know if anyone else has any insights about this? Shrew definitely brought up some points I hadn't even considered in terms of specifics (the orphans), but it was hard not to watch this initially through the lens of the occupation (especially given the title of the Eclipse set!)

What was most striking to me was the atmosphere of the film. Those late-30s Carne films, filmed in cramped streets and often misty and foggy settings is so strikingly different from the wide open spaces of this film. To me, flight is the perfect metaphor for this time in the war. I'm no historian, but certainly by 1943 the French had more reason to be optimistic than in 1938. The awe and wonder that the crowds frequently apply to flight must certainly reflect a belief that better times lie ahead.

I looked through my copy of Mists of Regret which I've yet to read, but unfortunately found nothing on this particular film through the index. Do others apply to the occupation-era lens to this film?

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#71 Post by movielocke » Thu Sep 19, 2013 6:07 pm

A sign of a great film is often how much it sticks with you. Immediately after watching La ciel est a vous I thought it was very good, but I wouldn't have labeled it great.

Then as I've mulled it over for the past couple weeks I've come to realize how rich the film is, mulling over the progressive portrayal of women, the complexities and intricacies of the marriage, the devastating social commentary involving the grandmother's (and society's) condemnation of their behavior, and an equally interesting social commentary about their effective abandonment/crushing of their daughter's dream in pursuit of their dream.

I feel like Gremillion excels at revealing human nature to us almost incidentally while the story unfolds, it's never in your face, and he doesn't really take a side. In a sense, I felt the film was about the tradeoffs and sacrifices that life brings your way and the crucial decisions you make to craft the life you want to live.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#72 Post by movielocke » Fri Sep 20, 2013 3:34 pm

Does the Piano illustrate a difference in culture in regard to children's opportunity between then and now?

I'm not sure, I know this married couple is exceptional and not representative of the norms of the time, but I'm struck at just how impossible their actions would be in today's culture of children first, children above-all. I can't imagine a contemporary tv show or film or story where a parent asked their children to sacrifice the child's dreams or future for the parents' dreams right now. Was there more of a belief then that children have to share the family sacrifice? A huge part of our contemporary culture, it seems to me, is about never having children participate in family sacrifices, that all is done on behalf of the children/child and their future.

It seems as though the daughter, though devastated, believes her time for her dream will come, that the setback of her parents taking away her dream now does not believe that dream is now permanently and forever out of reach. Afterall, she has evidence in front of her of her parents only now achieving a dream and passion in the latter half of middle age.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#73 Post by Drucker » Fri Sep 20, 2013 7:25 pm

In terms of opportunity, there's certainly a parallel between the plane and the piano. They are both sources of conflict and struggle for the family, and eventually only one can exist. I still feel strongly that by leaving their comfort zone is what the primary source of tension and stress for the family comes from.
Perhaps the piano is really the first casualty in the city. If I recall, doesn't the family choose to leave some stuff behind in the kitchen, because, "whatever, we'll get new stuff?" (hope I'm not misremembering it).
Regardless, I didn't address it in earlier comments because other people had, but to me the piano shattering is just a horrible omen. Things are about to change for this lovely little family from the country. Another thing that just occurred to me, contrast this: the work ethic/ability of the son, taking his time and making several trips back and forth on his bike to move materials without incident. Slow and steady, easy as she goes will get everything done. The grand gesture of tugging the piano as the movers attempt, and it all comes crashing down. They have left their home and things could be taking a turn for the worse.

Again, I wish I was more well-read on the occupation and perhaps how the French authorities treated the citizenry during the occupation. The feeling I get from the film is an atmosphere of "hang in there, continue to skimp and just hold out for better days" being rejected. The family decides to hell with what we "should" be doing, because we want to live our dreams. The children, to me, are merely casualties of this and as I said earlier, I think kind of being of "second-tier" importance to the parents means that, in all likelihood, they will do whatever they can to put their children's interests before their own in the future, so they don't repeat their parents mistakes.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#74 Post by matrixschmatrix » Fri Sep 20, 2013 10:32 pm

Movielocke, I think the concern for one's children above all things is something established as a somewhat bourgeois/middle class-striving idea early on- Thérèse says something along the lines of how she and Pierre have worked all their lives to make their children comfortable, and as such can't allow anyone in the family to depart from the bourgeois values and career paths she's plotted out for them. Which feeds into her refusal to allow her daughter to become a pianist in the first place. There's a deep irony, I think, in the way that she totally departs the path of middle class normality herself, but does so in a way that still doesn't allow her to grant her daughter any real freedom.

I think, given the relationship we see, it's not fair to characterize it as Thérèse asking her daughter to make a sacrifice- we never see her understanding her daughter's dreams in the first place, nor their importance in her daughter's life. She just goes from denying her daughter's dreams out of a sense of protecting her from folly to denying them out of pure self-centeredness. The fact that she's not depicted as a monster for doing so is pretty revolutionary, in its way, but I don't think it reflects well on her at all.

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Re: Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon, 1944)

#75 Post by jindianajonz » Fri Sep 20, 2013 11:39 pm

I wish I had more to add to this conversation, but I haven't had a chance to rewatch the film yet, and the first time didn't leave me with much to say aside from what's already been said.

There's some interesting background about the Vichy government in this thread, Movelocke. One interesting thing I hadn't realized is that the Vichy regime was actually a more or less legitimate government, made when the previous government agreed to disband and reform. Because of this, I would imagine that the government treated its people pretty well, especially in the early years when it had a large amount of autonomy. Also keep in mind that initially the resistance was not very popular (initially, very few french Colonies decided to support DeGaulle) so the majority of the populace either stood by the Vichy government or was indifferent. It wasn't until the end of 1942, when DeGaulle scored a series of victories in Northern Africa, that the German government took a much stronger hand in events and started turning the Vichy government into a puppet state. Obviously when the war was over, the French populace was happy to be liberated, and I wouldn't be surprised if people tried to claim to be more anti-Vichy than they were during the occupation- certainly nobody wanted to admit "collaborating" with the fallen government.

Since I don't have much to add to this discussion, I'll ask a question instead: In what specific ways does this film comment on the occupation? Aside from the general "stay true to your beliefs" theme and the aforementioned music (does anybody have more information on this?) I don't see too much that ties it to that period.

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