Tuesday, August 08, 2006

La Chop Shop

The Billy Wilder Centennial

In the year of his death (2002) a group called the Film Preservation Associates put out a DVD release of Billy Wilders directorial debut, the French film Mauvaise Graine (Bad Seed). I love DVD, because without it I would probably never have had an oppertunity to view this wonderfull example of Wilders early European work. Most of Billy's time in the industry on 'the contenient' was spent as a writer in Germany, but with the rise of Nazism this Austrian Jew fled to France, where he made this one picture in collaberation with Alexander Esway. Wilder would use proceds from the film to finance his imigration to the United States, illegal by way of Mexico.

What impresses me most about Mauvaise Graine is how compitent, or even advanced the directing is, and that Wilders signiture style seemed born in an almost fully developed state. You have a passiable dramatic story, advanced montague sequences (only one of which felt over done), good acting, and some truly funny gages, the best of which concern a hat and a steering wheel, and a stolen bus. There is also some truly beautiful location shooting done on the south of France, which along with all the vintage cars in the film make that time and place truly seem real (for those of us who have never lived in 1930's France that is).

The plot of Mauvaise Graine concerns Henri Pasquier (Pierre Mingand) the playboy son of a rich doctor (Paul Escoffier, an actor aperently capable of only one expression), who cuts off his allowance and sales his car in an effort to encourage him to work. The lazy and oft self-centerd youth ends up inovlved with a group of criminales running an illegal auto body chop shop. It is with this group that Henri meets his new best friend, the tie collecting Jean (Raymond Galle), whose sister (a young Danielle Darrieux) he starts dating. Henri eventully incures the wrath of his new boss, which leads to the films climax.

Mauvaise Graine is a must see for all Billy fans. The DVD also comes with a period French animated short called The Joys of Living, which is truly, truly odd, and evocative of Disney's Fantasia.


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