I watched this again last night with my my neighbor and my wife who seldom will watch anything old or in B&W. We all enjoyed the film.Big Silent Fan wrote:Over the years, I've compiled detailed reviews of films I found exceptional. My choice for Movie Night will be "Crainquebill" (Crane-que-bille)(1922). When it was released in the U.S. in 1923, it was known as "Old Bill of Paris." Director Jacques Feyder would later direct Garbo in "The Kiss" as well as the German language version of "Anna Christie."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crainquebille" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank
If you haven't seen this, it's based on the French story, "The Crainquebille Affair" by Anatole France. The film actually contains everything found in the book summary http://voices.yahoo.com/the-crainquebil ... 93382.html" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank
I've already done a long review in 2007 of the film but perhaps I'll see even more in a fresh look at this old favorite of mine.
When I began watching the Silent films we all call classics (Sunrise, Greed, Way Down East for example), I turned to detailed reviews by Tim Dirks that carefully described every detail before I invested time to watch. Many of these can be found at http://www.filmsite.org/momentsindx.html" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank
With his work as my guide, I began writing my own detailed summaries to many of my favorite films. This review is based on one originally written by me in 2007, the last time I watched this film. Reading the review, it is easy for me to replay the film in my mind. I think you'll enjoy it too. I don't think that I omitted any detail in telling the story in the film.
As the story begins, a parade of produce wagons are being pulled to the Farmer's Market in Paris. When the wagons enter his neighborhood, we meet Dr. Mathieu who apparently has been awakened by all the commotion.
Then the wagons pass through the gay nightlife area where we meet Mr. Lemerle, attorney at law whose out enjoying a little romance with two lovely ladies. [let's see now, what is this called?]
Next we're introduced to Madame Laure, a lady of questionable morals, standing out on the street corner.
Dawn comes, revealing the central market activities where the various produce is carefully displayed. Finally, we watch as the street peddlers with their carts now filled, begin their trek out and down the streets of Paris to meet their customers.
Another kind of wagon, the police 'Paddy Wagon' arrives to cart off the night's catch including Madame Laure. We learn from the film that Madame is well acquainted with the police and we see her both arrested and then later released. Regardless, she still is in good standing with the concierge of her building (simply meaning that she hasn't caused problems where she lives).
Later in the day, we see Madame Laure passing time in her room with fortune cards. Clever camera work causes a double exposure whenever she points at one of the cards. Her parents are coming for a visit this day and when she opens the door to greet them,she sees a young girl in the doorway (apparently her sister), whose dressed as if for her First Communion.
The scene changes and we meet Mouse, a young homeless lad and his dog. The story tells us he lives alone with only the dog for a friend. Next, we meet Crainquebille for the first time in the story. He was one of the many peddlers seen in the beginning and the title tells us he's been pushing his cart through the Paris streets for 50 years (the novel says 40).
In a comical moment, we watch as Mouse stops to talk with a merchant while his dog, lifting his hind leg, relieves himself on the leg of a chair. Afterward, some other kids are abusing the dog. When Mouse comes to his aid, he's attacked by the other boys until Crainquebille comes to his rescue. The scene is very short, under one minute and young Mouse won't be seen again until the very end of the film. With most all the characters introduced, the story begins.
Crainquebille continues on his route where he first meets Madame Laure, his longtime customer. Having set her things down on the cart while selecting her purchase, it seems that she left something behind when picking up her purse. As Crainquebille hands it to her, the camera brings the image to a close-up.
[Thanks to my friend in France, I've learned that this was a bank savings book belonging to Madame Laurel.]
Since they are old friends, she jokingly talks about what her life will be like someday when she's retired, with her own garden and chickens to look after. Old Crainquebille smiles at her and says he'd probably be her neighbor and the daydreams of the two friends are brought to life on the screen; she in her garden and he, chasing butterflies.
Next we meet Madame Bayard, a shoe merchant in a busy part of Paris. She comes out of her shop and chooses some onions. Realizing she hasn't any money with her, she tells Craniquebille to wait while she goes back into the store. As it turns out, she finds a customer in her store and forgets everything to wait on her.
The mood and music changes as a policeman comes and tells Crainquebille to “Move Along.” He tells the officer that he will, just as soon as he receives his payment, saying, “Madame Bayard is still in her shop.” This makes the policeman angry because he though he heard Crainquebille say, “Kill the cops,” when he actually had said “in her shop.”
[The English translation make the two phrases rhyme to sound similar. In the original French film and novel, Crainquebille says "Mort aux vaches." This phrase literally means: "Death to the cows." In our day, a disorderly person would most likely use the word "pigs" instead of "cows."]
The frustrated Crainquebille attempts to explain what he said but the angry policeman wasn't listening. When Madame Baynard comes out of her shop as her customer leaves, seeing the commotion around Crainquebille she remembers her debt and goes back inside for the money as the curious onlookers fill the street. Among them is Dr. Mathieu who steps forward and tells the policeman that he must be mistaken about what he heard. The doctor tells him that he's willing to also go to the station to clear this up, so off the three men go just as Madame Bayard comes out with her money. Seeing that Crainquebille had been arrested, she tells another woman that she's no longer responsible for the debt.
For Crainquebille, prison life seemed like a luxury. A clean heated room, a bed with clean sheets and blanket, his meals delivered to him, life seemed very good as he warmed his feet near the radiator under the table. This was perhaps also the first time in his life he had ever used indoor plumbing since he seemed fascinated by the faucets and sink. With lots of time on his hands, he wonders to himself, “Where have they put my cart?” Throughout his time in jail, he'll ask that question repeatedly to himself.
His first visitor is a court appointed lawyer, Mr. Lemerle, who hardly listens to Crainquebille. To the lawyer, he's just another old man and the lawyer's head is filled with dreams of winning big at the race track. As Lemerle quickly shuffles through the court papers, the image goes in and out of focus representing the lawyer's indifference and Crainquebille's confusion about the whole situation. Lemerle calls him an old fool and then (while acting in a friendly manner) says to him, “You'd be better off confessing.” Dumbfounded, Crainquebille had no idea of what he had to confess. Apparently a trial date was set because Dr. Mathieu received a summons while at work at the hospital.
The trial begins. The intertitle tells us that Crainquebille was terrified and, “he wasn't able to see clearly.” It also appeared that his imagination was working overtime. As he gazed around at the people in the courtroom, the image again went in and out of focus. When the judge first addressed him we learn that his full name is Jerome Crainquebille. [Perhaps from this point on, he'll be called Jerome in this review.]
Looking at the defendant, the judge instructs Jerome to tell his story and then sits back to listen. As he begins, we see the Prosecuting attorney busy practicing 'Origami' (Japanese paper folding) to pass the time as he gazes out the window, waiting for the day to end. Jerome's attorney is much too busy handicapping the horse races to pay attention and the judge doesn't seem to be listening either as the picture once again goes in and out of focus. Jerome glances up at the “Bust of Justice” (above the judges) as it magically turns and lowers her head in boredom (one of the first special effects). Not knowing what to say, Jerome begins telling everything he can think of about himself until the judge stops him saying, “I didn't ask for your life story.”
Now it became time for the witnesses to testify, beginning first with the policeman. After he was sworn in and began his statement, the camera suddenly shows him larger than life, towering over the witness stand as the judges look up to him in awe. Once he's finished, he saluted the judges and leaves the stand, not realizing that he had forgotten and left his nightstick belt behind. Looking over at Jerome, the judge demands a response to what's just been said. Again, the old man repeats his claim that the policeman said “Kill the cops” before he did. When the judge again asks Jerome if he “still insists that the officer said it first,” Jerome sees a distorted image of the judges as his frustration grows at being asked the same question again and again after he had just finished saying the truth. Again, Jerome answers “Yes” to the question and the judge tells him that it was a wise choice to make. Confused, not knowing what to say, Jerome calls out to his lawyer who tells him to sit down. Jerome looks around him in the (out of focus) courtroom. Pulling his hair in frustration, he sits down and places his head on his hands.
There's some commotion in the courtroom and as Jerome looks up, Madame Bayard is called to the witness stand. She of course doesn't know anything and says she was busy “trying on a pair of shoes on a child in her shop at the time.” The courtroom is filled with chatter as she leaves, giving Jerome a scornful look.
Next up, Dr. Mathieu appears as a witness for the defense. As he begins his testimony, Jerome watches in disbelief as the doctor is magically reduced in size with his head just above the handrail in another special effect. Frustrated by the judges response to the doctor's testimony, Jerome watches as the doctor's image is now reduced even smaller until he's just a speck on the floor while the judge impatiently waits for the doctor to finish. Looking again at the “Bust of Justice,” Jerome again sees it move as it did before. Finally, the doctor concludes, saying. ”And everyone around me agreed that the constable had made a mistake.” At this time, an attractive woman comes up and hands a note to the judge, and we see Crainquebille's lawyer flash his eyes and wink when she looks his way.
Surprisingly, the judge recalls the officer to question him about the doctor's testimony and has the doctor remain, seated behind the witness stand. The distraught officer seemed troubled that his word was questioned and when the judge asked if he remembered being told by the doctor that he was mistaken, he replies, “But your honor, he insulted me!” The officer is dismissed and realizing his nightstick belt had been left on the hand rail, he removes it and takes it with him. As he leaves, we see the frustrated doctor shaking his head in disbelief.
There's more disturbance seen in the courtroom with a man being removed. The judge cautions that he'll have the courtroom cleared if the disturbance continues. Looking to his lawyer for guidance, the smiling lawyer tells Jerome to settle down.
The (half-asleep) prosecutor didn't see any need to say anything and it became Mr. Lemerle's turn to defend his client. As he begins, a double-exposure has him appear to have four arms as the image begins to go in and ot of focus. Jerome listens in disbelief as the attorney describes him as the “Illegitimate child of a pushcart peddler, who was born an alcoholic!” Looking at his audience, the lawyer continues, “You see here a man numbered by 60 years of poverty. Gentlemen, you must conclude that he is irresponsible.
As Jerome stands for the judgment, the music turns from gay to somber as the judge announces the decision. Guilty! The sentence? Two weeks in prison and a 50 franc fine. When the room begins to empty, Crainquebille turns to the guard and says, “So, I'm a condemned man?” As the guard leads him out of the courtroom Jerome wonders aloud, “Where did they stick my cart?” Realizing that the guard had never once spoken to him, he looks at him and says, “You never open your mouth? Afraid your breath stinks?” Still not getting a response from the man, Jerome is taken back to his cell by another officer.
We watch as attorney Lemerle leaves the building where he's stopped by Dr. Mathieu, who asks him to give 100 francs to Jerome, but not tell him who sent it. As the lawyer enters the cab, we are able to watch an actual street car traveling down a Paris street ( a small piece of history).
Crainquibille has accepted his sentence which for him was a time of comparable luxury. Just as he's getting settled, a guard delivers a letter from his lawyer telling about the 100 franc gift.
[I think that we the viewer were just as surprised as Jerome to learn that his lawyer was actually going to give him the money and not spend it at the racetrack.] Life was indeed very good.
But life wasn't so good for Dr. Mathieu. Smoldering ashes in his bedroom fireplace were filling the room with smoke while he slept. This caused the doctor to dream that he was in a nightmarish smoke filled courtroom. All the judges and even the “Bust of Justice” were now in blackface, and the doctor was once again on the witness stand pleading his case, having to stand on his toes in order to be seen. Behind him sat men in white robes. In his dream, the three judges changed again and were now white as before. He watched as they rose to their feet and as the doctor began chocking in the dream, papers began to fly as the three judges stood on their desk and began to come at him. While he continued to choke, they leaped at him, flying through the air and the scene finishes with an extreme close-up of a judge's face with eyes wide open and a menacing grin. Fortunately, the good doctor awoke in a panic and discovering the smoke in his bedroom, he quickly doused the embers with water. Dr. Mathieu could have been killed had the dream not startled him so.
Two weeks have passed and Crainquebille's sentence has been completed. Without explanation we see him once again as before, with his cart on the Paris streets. Prison was a good experience for Jerome because now he's got money in his pockets and his cart back. What Jerome doesn't realize is that his real punishment is about to begin.
His loyal customers who faithfully awaited his arrival in the past now turn their heads away when he approached. One by one, he realized that they now were giving him dirty looks and avoiding him. When he called out after seeing his old friend Madame Laure with a competitor and she didn't answer, he called her a “Hussy!” He continues arguing with her as a crowd gathered and when she finally had enough she replies, “Just out of prison and already insulting people.” As the crowd began to laugh at Crainquebille (and begins to grow), seeing a policeman approaching, Jerome decides that it's best to leave.
Angered by all that's changed, old Jerome turns to the same place many go to work out their problems...the corner bar. The intertitle reads; “From that day on, the less he earned, the more he drank.” Next came poverty and Jerome was thrown out into the street.
With only his pushcart to call home, he fashioned a bed under it on the ground at night and would spend many of his days in the bars. Having spent all that he had on liquor, he was turned down for credit at the tavern and even by a street vendor. When Crainquebille encounters shop owner Madame Bayard, he asks her for the money he's owed. She scoffs at him saying, “You don't own anything to people who have been in prison.” Angered by this, he chases her to her shop where she goes inside and bolts the door.
That night, the city sewers have overflowed and flooded the ground where Jerome would have slept. Climbing onto his cart and seeing all the rats that have escaped the sewer, he remembers the comparable comfort of prison life. He thinks to himself, “Since I know the trick, why not use it?” Going back out into the rain, he approaches a policeman and says, “Kill the cops!” When the officer ignores him, Crainquebille yells at him, again saying, “Kill the cops!” Finally, the officer looks at him in disgust and says, “That's no way to talk. At your age you ought to know better. Now get on your way.”
“Why don't you arrest me?”, Jerome protested to the policeman, but the man tells him again, “On your way, I'm not going to arrest you.”
Old Crainquebille walked away feeling miserable and remembering happier times and how far he'd fallen in the world. As he walks along the rivers edge, he stops near a lamp post. Leaning over, his hat falls into the water as a sorrowful look comes over his face and he begins to weep.
At that very moment on the bridge above, young Mouse looks and sees Crainquebille preparing to jump into the river. Mouse and his dog rush down and tells Jerome, “You have to live!” The despondent man replies, “You think so Mouse?” The boy takes his hand and leads him to the place where Mouse lives. A dry place to sleep, with someone to eat and drink with,.the two sit down to a meal.
As Cranquebille thinks of his hat floating in the river, the camera iris closes to black and then opens again just as they've finished the meal. Mouse reaches into a box and produces a single cigarette; breaking it in two and giving half to Jerome, he lights a match. As they share a smoke, the dog is seen standing on his hind legs as if begging for attention.
As Mouse begins to clear the table, Crainquebille pulls him close and says, “Always remember, at your age young fella, you saved a man's life.” The camera alternates from Jerome to Mouse as the two look at each other while the picture fades to black.
When the image returns, we see a final distant shot of the two together and then, a final view of the river front at night just before the film ends.
If you're lucky enough to understand French, a nice quality video of the 1922 film is available on YouTube.
If you use my summery as a guide, you'll have enough information to follow the story since many of the English titles are included.