The Grand Maneuver


1h 44m 1955
The Grand Maneuver

Brief Synopsis

An officer makes a bet that he can seduce a beautiful lady in his town before he is sent to training camp for the summer.

Film Details

Also Known As
As Grandes Manobras, Grand Maneuver, The, Grandi manovre, Hileli ask, Ta megala gymnasia, grandes manoeuvres, Les, maniobras del amor, Las
Genre
Romance
Drama
Period
Release Date
1955
Production Company
Courteline

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)

Synopsis

In pre-World War I France, an officer makes a bet that he can seduce a beautiful and sophisticated lady in his town before he is sent to training camp for the summer. He wins the bet, but then he ends up falling in love with her.

Film Details

Also Known As
As Grandes Manobras, Grand Maneuver, The, Grandi manovre, Hileli ask, Ta megala gymnasia, grandes manoeuvres, Les, maniobras del amor, Las
Genre
Romance
Drama
Period
Release Date
1955
Production Company
Courteline

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)

Articles

The Grand Maneuver


The first color film by renowned French filmmaker René Clair was one of the director's favorites among his post-World War II output, a personal project he referred to two years after its release in press interviews as "a very sentimental film... because it is situated in the period of my childhood." A self-described variation on the story of Don Juan, The Grand Maneuver (1955) is set in a French provincial town during the summer of 1914 complete with an idealized color palette of purple, pink and blue.

Gérard Philipe, a familiar face from such Clair films as the Faustian Beauty and the Devil (1950) and Beauties of the Night (1952), had shot to stardom in his native country in 1949 with the evocative Yves Allégret dramatic thriller Une si jolie petite plage and was considered one of France's most magnetic leading men in the aftermath of World War II. Here that charisma is utilized for the role of Armand de la Verne, a lieutenant engaged in five casual affairs who wagers he can win the heart of Marie-Louise Rivière (Port of Shadows' [1938] Michèle Morgan), only to find himself falling in love with her for real. Counterpoint is provided by the more comical courtship between his friend Félix (Yves Robert), a corporal, and a very young Brigitte Bardot in one of her first roles as Lucie. The following year Bardot would star in Roger Vadim's ...And God Created Woman, and French cinema would never be quite the same.

Clair's childhood near Versailles may account for the wistful tone of this film, which adopts a familiar romantic scenario and manages to tweak it into something ephemeral with an unexpected final scene that gives it more weight than many viewers expect. Clair was famously wary of adopting new technology into his films, famously resisting the adoption of sound on Le Million (1931) and here switching to color cinematography by giving it an often austere, painterly quality with very few close ups. As Celia McGerr also noted in her 1980 book about Clair, he skillfully "uses glass - mirrors, windows, doors - to emphasize the constriction of society," though of course it also gives the film a glittering, sometimes magical atmosphere of a world gone by.

Though he would live until 1981, Clair was already in his twilight period as a director here after returning to France from an extended detour in Hollywood. There he had transitioned to English films skillfully with such classics as I Married a Witch (1942) and And Then There Were None (1945), where his trademark impish humor and sophisticated visual sense had proven to be major assets. This was his third film upon returning to France, and he only completed three more full features before retiring in 1965, largely due to the scorn heaped upon him with the arrival of the French New Wave.

Some of that disdain could already be sensed upon this film's release; though it received two significant awards, the Prix Louis-Delluc and the Prix Méliès, it was met with restrained praise by most French critics and a similar tempered reaction in the United States. The Hollywood Reporter summed it up with the dubious label of a "frothy concoction" when the film opened stateside in 1957, while Variety found it "a thoroughly diverting, light-hearted and frequently thoughtful bit of Gallic fluff" and the Los Angeles Examiner termed it "delightfully sly and witty." Such assessments would be compliments under normal circumstances, but with the major French cinematic upheaval of 1959 looming ahead, Clair's dominance as one of his country's most important filmmakers was about to be severely minimized. However, as the decades since have proven already, his reputation not only managed to survive but now stands prouder than ever before.

By Nathaniel Thompson
The Grand Maneuver

The Grand Maneuver

The first color film by renowned French filmmaker René Clair was one of the director's favorites among his post-World War II output, a personal project he referred to two years after its release in press interviews as "a very sentimental film... because it is situated in the period of my childhood." A self-described variation on the story of Don Juan, The Grand Maneuver (1955) is set in a French provincial town during the summer of 1914 complete with an idealized color palette of purple, pink and blue. Gérard Philipe, a familiar face from such Clair films as the Faustian Beauty and the Devil (1950) and Beauties of the Night (1952), had shot to stardom in his native country in 1949 with the evocative Yves Allégret dramatic thriller Une si jolie petite plage and was considered one of France's most magnetic leading men in the aftermath of World War II. Here that charisma is utilized for the role of Armand de la Verne, a lieutenant engaged in five casual affairs who wagers he can win the heart of Marie-Louise Rivière (Port of Shadows' [1938] Michèle Morgan), only to find himself falling in love with her for real. Counterpoint is provided by the more comical courtship between his friend Félix (Yves Robert), a corporal, and a very young Brigitte Bardot in one of her first roles as Lucie. The following year Bardot would star in Roger Vadim's ...And God Created Woman, and French cinema would never be quite the same. Clair's childhood near Versailles may account for the wistful tone of this film, which adopts a familiar romantic scenario and manages to tweak it into something ephemeral with an unexpected final scene that gives it more weight than many viewers expect. Clair was famously wary of adopting new technology into his films, famously resisting the adoption of sound on Le Million (1931) and here switching to color cinematography by giving it an often austere, painterly quality with very few close ups. As Celia McGerr also noted in her 1980 book about Clair, he skillfully "uses glass - mirrors, windows, doors - to emphasize the constriction of society," though of course it also gives the film a glittering, sometimes magical atmosphere of a world gone by. Though he would live until 1981, Clair was already in his twilight period as a director here after returning to France from an extended detour in Hollywood. There he had transitioned to English films skillfully with such classics as I Married a Witch (1942) and And Then There Were None (1945), where his trademark impish humor and sophisticated visual sense had proven to be major assets. This was his third film upon returning to France, and he only completed three more full features before retiring in 1965, largely due to the scorn heaped upon him with the arrival of the French New Wave. Some of that disdain could already be sensed upon this film's release; though it received two significant awards, the Prix Louis-Delluc and the Prix Méliès, it was met with restrained praise by most French critics and a similar tempered reaction in the United States. The Hollywood Reporter summed it up with the dubious label of a "frothy concoction" when the film opened stateside in 1957, while Variety found it "a thoroughly diverting, light-hearted and frequently thoughtful bit of Gallic fluff" and the Los Angeles Examiner termed it "delightfully sly and witty." Such assessments would be compliments under normal circumstances, but with the major French cinematic upheaval of 1959 looming ahead, Clair's dominance as one of his country's most important filmmakers was about to be severely minimized. However, as the decades since have proven already, his reputation not only managed to survive but now stands prouder than ever before. By Nathaniel Thompson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Voted One of the Year's Five Best Foreign Language Films by the 1956 New York Times Film Critics.

Released in England January 13, 1955

Released in France October 25, 1955

Released in United States 1956

Shown at the Venice Film Festival September 1955.

c Eastmancolor

dialogue French

9540 feet

subtitled

Rene Clair's first film in color.

Released in United States 1956

Released in France October 25, 1955