July 14th


1h 28m 1933
July 14th

Brief Synopsis

A cab driver and a flower girl experience various events that attempt to disturb their arising love.

Film Details

Also Known As
Bastille Day, Quatorze Juillet
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Foreign
Release Date
1933

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m

Synopsis

Jean is a young cab driver. Anna, a flower-girl neighbour, is in love with him. But he is still thinking to Pola, who just left him. Jean asks her to the bal. Many events (Pola's come back, two villains...) will disturb this arising love.

Film Details

Also Known As
Bastille Day, Quatorze Juillet
Genre
Comedy
Romance
Foreign
Release Date
1933

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 28m

Articles

July 14th


Ten days after Americans celebrate the independence their forbears won on July 4, 1776, the French celebrate the revolution their ancestors started on July 14, 1789, when citizens stormed the Bastille prison and sparked the fall of the old monarchical regime. July 14 is also the title of a wonderful movie from 1933, written and directed by René Clair in his unique style - a free-flowing blend of realism, fantasy, musical comedy, and romantic drama - that he pioneered in the early days of sound cinema. It's not as well known as the somewhat similar films Clair made in 1930 and 1931, including Under the Roofs of Paris and Le Million, but it's every bit as engaging, absorbing, and delightful.

Set in a modest arrondissement of Paris, the story of July 14 (known as Quatorze juillet in its native land) begins with neighbors preparing for the Bastille Day festivities that commence at midnight. The main characters are Jean (Georges Rigaud), a poor cab driver, and Anna (Annabella), who peddles flowers in the area. They fall in love. Their affections ripen as they chat, dance, and canoodle during a few magical hours - until Jean's old girlfriend, Pola (Pola Illéry), shows up, interrupting the courtship before it fully blossoms. The second half of the tale finds Anna scraping by as a waitress and Jean sinking into a life of crime. Throughout the film Clair sketches a slew of secondary characters with remarkable economy and wit; but the most infectious personality belongs to the neighborhood itself, which is as simple as the ordinary buildings that line the plain-looking streets, yet as complex as the emotional lives of the multifarious folks who reside there.

Clair was one of several major filmmakers - others included Alfred Hitchcock, Sergei Eisenstein, and Charles Chaplin - who felt that adding sound to movies would make directors lazy, replacing the vibrant art of motion pictures with mere "photographs of people talking," in Hitchcock's memorable phrase. In a related problem, talkies have to be in specific languages, making them hard to sell (before subtitles and dubbing were developed) in foreign markets. Directors had no choice about the matter when the whole industry converted to talkies around 1930, but the best of them found ingenious ways of using speech, music, and sound effects in ways that were creative instead of redundant.

None was more inventive than Clair, who had started out as a creator of surrealist and Dadaist fantasies like the classic 1924 releases Entr'acte, which unspools a string of uproarious visual surprises, and Paris qui dort, about a crazy scientist who freezes all of Paris in its tracks. He made his breakthrough in Under the Roofs of Paris, filling the soundtrack with music and song - what could be more international? - while relegating dialogue to a minor role. He followed the same course in Le Million and the 1931 production À Nous la liberté, transforming uncomplicated narratives with commonplace characters into poetic visions that continued to resonate in later films by everyone from Chaplin and Jean Renoir to Marcel Carné and Ernst Lubitsch.

Clair is at his most transcendent in the opening minutes of July 14, letting the camera gracefully slide, glide, and soar along the neighborhood's street, sidewalks, storefronts, and apartment walls, all of which were constructed in the studio with meticulous attention to detail, then filmed with a fluid elegance that lifts the everyday into the world of dreams. Sometimes viewing public activities at street level, other times peering through windows for glimpses of private lives, we get acquainted with the characters, their lifestyles, and their environment in a single extended scene - photographed by the great Georges Périnal, who shot all of Clair's early sound films - that's nothing short of sublime. Music by Maurice Jaubert, who later worked with such giants as Jean Vigo and François Truffaut, adds the final lovely touch.

After a transition scene about halfway through the film, we learn that Jean and Anna haven't seen each other in a while, and the mood darkens, both visually and narratively, as we see the unpromising turns their lives have taken. A robbery occurs, accompanied by a raucous pianola set into motion so the crime will go unheard - a typically imaginative use of sound on Clair's part - and violence intrudes brusquely on the tale. Even the comedy is darker in the story's second half, most strikingly in a scene centering on Monsieur Imaque (Paul Olivier), a drunken old gentleman. We first met him early on, when he showed himself to be warm and generous despite (or because of!) his inebriated condition. Now he's at a table in the restaurant where Anna works, and to everyone's alarm he's tipsily polishing a pistol, so addled by booze that it's unclear whether he really knows what he's doing.

Who's brave enough to snatch it away and save the other patrons? None of the waiters think this is in their job description, but finally one of them ventures forth and seizes the revolver, earning a round of applause from everyone in the place. Whereupon the old man smiles cordially, reaches into a pocket, and pulls out another gun! This time it's Anna who comes to the rescue, and while the whole affair is very funny, it's kind of scary as well. The film's artful combination of humor, whimsy, suspense, and gloominess is deliciously ambiguous, and Clair sustains it to the very end of the picture, when the soundtrack swells with a spirited song about sunshine while rain pours down on everyone and everything in sight.

Clair's directorial winning streak ended when his comedy The Last Billionaire (1934) lost - well, not a billion, but plenty of money, inducing him to sign a contract with London Films and make his enjoyable fantasy The Ghost Goes West (1935) for that English studio. Further developments led him to Hollywood, where he directed successful films like the comic I Married a Witch (1942) and the hit murder mystery And Then There Were None (1945), and ultimately back to France, where his last productions included Beauty and the Devil (1950), a high-octane variation on the Faust legend. The young firebrands of the French New Wave were not very fond of his pictures, which fell out of fashion for many years. But look at them with open eyes, open ears, and an open heart, and you'll find them startlingly fresh and original even today. July 14 is an excellent place to start.

Director: René Clair
Producer: Roger Le Bon
Screenplay: René Clair
Cinematographer: Georges Périnal
Film Editing: René Le Hénaff
Art Direction: Lazare Meerson
Music: Maurice Jaubert
With: Annabella (Anna), Georges Rigaud (Jean), Paul Olivier (Monsieur Imaque), Pola Illéry (Pola), Raymond Aimos (Charles), Raymond Cordy (Raymond), Thomy Bourdelle (Fernand), Anna Lefeuvrier (Anna's mother).
BW-85m.

by David Sterritt
July 14Th

July 14th

Ten days after Americans celebrate the independence their forbears won on July 4, 1776, the French celebrate the revolution their ancestors started on July 14, 1789, when citizens stormed the Bastille prison and sparked the fall of the old monarchical regime. July 14 is also the title of a wonderful movie from 1933, written and directed by René Clair in his unique style - a free-flowing blend of realism, fantasy, musical comedy, and romantic drama - that he pioneered in the early days of sound cinema. It's not as well known as the somewhat similar films Clair made in 1930 and 1931, including Under the Roofs of Paris and Le Million, but it's every bit as engaging, absorbing, and delightful. Set in a modest arrondissement of Paris, the story of July 14 (known as Quatorze juillet in its native land) begins with neighbors preparing for the Bastille Day festivities that commence at midnight. The main characters are Jean (Georges Rigaud), a poor cab driver, and Anna (Annabella), who peddles flowers in the area. They fall in love. Their affections ripen as they chat, dance, and canoodle during a few magical hours - until Jean's old girlfriend, Pola (Pola Illéry), shows up, interrupting the courtship before it fully blossoms. The second half of the tale finds Anna scraping by as a waitress and Jean sinking into a life of crime. Throughout the film Clair sketches a slew of secondary characters with remarkable economy and wit; but the most infectious personality belongs to the neighborhood itself, which is as simple as the ordinary buildings that line the plain-looking streets, yet as complex as the emotional lives of the multifarious folks who reside there. Clair was one of several major filmmakers - others included Alfred Hitchcock, Sergei Eisenstein, and Charles Chaplin - who felt that adding sound to movies would make directors lazy, replacing the vibrant art of motion pictures with mere "photographs of people talking," in Hitchcock's memorable phrase. In a related problem, talkies have to be in specific languages, making them hard to sell (before subtitles and dubbing were developed) in foreign markets. Directors had no choice about the matter when the whole industry converted to talkies around 1930, but the best of them found ingenious ways of using speech, music, and sound effects in ways that were creative instead of redundant. None was more inventive than Clair, who had started out as a creator of surrealist and Dadaist fantasies like the classic 1924 releases Entr'acte, which unspools a string of uproarious visual surprises, and Paris qui dort, about a crazy scientist who freezes all of Paris in its tracks. He made his breakthrough in Under the Roofs of Paris, filling the soundtrack with music and song - what could be more international? - while relegating dialogue to a minor role. He followed the same course in Le Million and the 1931 production À Nous la liberté, transforming uncomplicated narratives with commonplace characters into poetic visions that continued to resonate in later films by everyone from Chaplin and Jean Renoir to Marcel Carné and Ernst Lubitsch. Clair is at his most transcendent in the opening minutes of July 14, letting the camera gracefully slide, glide, and soar along the neighborhood's street, sidewalks, storefronts, and apartment walls, all of which were constructed in the studio with meticulous attention to detail, then filmed with a fluid elegance that lifts the everyday into the world of dreams. Sometimes viewing public activities at street level, other times peering through windows for glimpses of private lives, we get acquainted with the characters, their lifestyles, and their environment in a single extended scene - photographed by the great Georges Périnal, who shot all of Clair's early sound films - that's nothing short of sublime. Music by Maurice Jaubert, who later worked with such giants as Jean Vigo and François Truffaut, adds the final lovely touch. After a transition scene about halfway through the film, we learn that Jean and Anna haven't seen each other in a while, and the mood darkens, both visually and narratively, as we see the unpromising turns their lives have taken. A robbery occurs, accompanied by a raucous pianola set into motion so the crime will go unheard - a typically imaginative use of sound on Clair's part - and violence intrudes brusquely on the tale. Even the comedy is darker in the story's second half, most strikingly in a scene centering on Monsieur Imaque (Paul Olivier), a drunken old gentleman. We first met him early on, when he showed himself to be warm and generous despite (or because of!) his inebriated condition. Now he's at a table in the restaurant where Anna works, and to everyone's alarm he's tipsily polishing a pistol, so addled by booze that it's unclear whether he really knows what he's doing. Who's brave enough to snatch it away and save the other patrons? None of the waiters think this is in their job description, but finally one of them ventures forth and seizes the revolver, earning a round of applause from everyone in the place. Whereupon the old man smiles cordially, reaches into a pocket, and pulls out another gun! This time it's Anna who comes to the rescue, and while the whole affair is very funny, it's kind of scary as well. The film's artful combination of humor, whimsy, suspense, and gloominess is deliciously ambiguous, and Clair sustains it to the very end of the picture, when the soundtrack swells with a spirited song about sunshine while rain pours down on everyone and everything in sight. Clair's directorial winning streak ended when his comedy The Last Billionaire (1934) lost - well, not a billion, but plenty of money, inducing him to sign a contract with London Films and make his enjoyable fantasy The Ghost Goes West (1935) for that English studio. Further developments led him to Hollywood, where he directed successful films like the comic I Married a Witch (1942) and the hit murder mystery And Then There Were None (1945), and ultimately back to France, where his last productions included Beauty and the Devil (1950), a high-octane variation on the Faust legend. The young firebrands of the French New Wave were not very fond of his pictures, which fell out of fashion for many years. But look at them with open eyes, open ears, and an open heart, and you'll find them startlingly fresh and original even today. July 14 is an excellent place to start. Director: René Clair Producer: Roger Le Bon Screenplay: René Clair Cinematographer: Georges Périnal Film Editing: René Le Hénaff Art Direction: Lazare Meerson Music: Maurice Jaubert With: Annabella (Anna), Georges Rigaud (Jean), Paul Olivier (Monsieur Imaque), Pola Illéry (Pola), Raymond Aimos (Charles), Raymond Cordy (Raymond), Thomy Bourdelle (Fernand), Anna Lefeuvrier (Anna's mother). BW-85m. by David Sterritt

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