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Kermesse Héroïque, La (1935)

Original Title : Kermesse héroïque, La
Director : Jacques Feyder
Writer : Charles Spaak
Robert A. Stemmle
Bernard Zimmer
Genre : Romance
War/Comedy
Country : France
Language : French
Producer : Pierre Guerlais
Music : Louis Beydts
Photography : Harry Stradling Sr.
Distributor : Films Sonores Tobis
IMDB ID : 0026564
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poster for "Kermesse Héroïque, La" by Jacques Feyder (1935)
Kermesse Héroïque, La (1935) - Jacques Feyder
 

Starring

Françoise Rosay Madame la Bourgmestre
Micheline Cheirel Siska
Lyne Clevers La poissonière
Maryse Wendling La boulangère
Ginette Gaubert L'aubergiste
Marguerite Ducouret La femme du brasseur
Jean Murat Le duc d'Olivarès
André Alerme Le bourgmestre
Bernard Lancret Jean Breughel
Alfred Adam Le boucher
Pierre Labry L'aubergiste
Arthur Devère Le poissonnier (as Arthur Devere
Marcel Carpentier Le boulanger
Alexander D'Arcy Le capitaine (as Alexandre Darcy
Claude Sainval Le lieutenant (as Claude Saint-Val
Delphin Le nain
Louis Jouvet Le chapelin
Pierre Athon (uncredited
Francine Bessy (uncredited
Will Dohm (uncredited
Enrico Glori (uncredited
Marianne Hardy (uncredited
Roger Legris Le mercier (uncredited
Matt Mattox Un danseur (uncredited
Rafael Medina (uncredited
Myrillis (uncredited
Rolla Norman (uncredited
Bernard Optal Ambroise (uncredited
Molly Robert (uncredited
Georges Spanelly (uncredited
Yvonne Yma (uncredited
 

Plot

When the village of Boom, in Flanders, learns a Spanish Duke and his troops plan to pass the night, the 4-man army deserts and the Mayor plays dead, so the Mayor's wife organizes the townswomen to greet the invaders and preserve the peace with womanly wiles.
 

Comments

French satire, 8 December 2005 Author: erniemunger from Berlin A classic of French pre-War cinema, Carnival in Flanders by the great Jacques Feyder is the most devious and cruel satire you might ever come across. Set in early 17th-century Flanders, which had previously been under Spanish rule, the story opens with shots of a busy village preparing for the yearly carnival, when the news break that the Spanish Duke Olivares and his troops plan to stay in town. At the prospect of looting and raping militia men, the flabby mayor of the well-to-do provincial nest called Boom volunteers, as he puts it, "to sacrifice" himself: his plan to pretend he has just passed away, thus hoping to convince Olivares to bypass the mourning town, is eagerly adopted by his timorous menfolk. But while the males go about staging the mock funeral, the women, led by the mayor's energetic wife, take over the action and, in turn, decide to "sacrifice" themselves to the soldiers. What follows is a grand tale of sexual libertinage and deception with a "happy end" of sorts where virtually no-one is redeemed. (The original title, La Kermesse héroï,que, literally The Heroic Fê,te, operates in much the same way as Milos Forman's early satirical masterpiece, The Fireman's Ball, 1967, and the parallels are numerous, no doubt Forman had taken a second look at Feyder's Kermesse during his studies.) What immediately strikes one today is Feyder's directness in exposing his characters' human flaws, which is hardly subdued by the general satirical tone. The way adultery, homosexuality and eroticism but also greed, cowardice and deceit are depicted leaves one speechless at times, and certainly wondering how political correctness and all sorts of profit policies and conservatisms have infested modern-day cinema to a point it would no longer dare think to produce anything like this. Not to speak of the 1930s Hollywood counterparts, for which Feyder would have been light years off the mark, proving the point that there was and still is such a thing as the "French cultural exception". Apart from the latent debauchery creeping out into the open from the cozy interiors of a model town, the film also has multiple strings of side puns that keep its pace up at all times - from spot-on character studies (the mayor, the artist, the butcher...) to hysterical history sidekicks (using a fork for the first time, Spaniards wondering what "beer" is, impious remarks on Dutch painting...). Most strikingly, it is a hallucinatory mockery of the Dutch and their supposed idiosyncrasies: avarice, Protestant pragmatism, self-righteous "middle-class" rule, bogus worldliness, you name it. This goes to such an extent that it has been repeatedly claimed that Feyder had intended an allegory of the Dutch's collaboration with the German occupier in WWI - and from today's perspective, one is tempted to grant it visionary power as well, since substantial parts of the Flamish-speaking population of Belgium were eager supporters of Nazi rule. This assumption makes sense once you've witnessed the cold-blooded irreverence and unmasked sarcasm Feyder uses to unmask his species, which is surpassed only (in literature) by the untouchable Moliè,re. Clearly, all formal issues had to serve this main objective - the Vaudeville acting, the picturesque film set, the matter-of-fact filming, and not least the purpose-built dialogues. So, although you should not expect a formidably audacious experiment in film-making, you will be treated a deliciously immoral chamber piece on sexual banter and other not so politically correct behaviour. Released in 1935, it is also a cruel reminder of how conservative the world - and its cultural output - has become as of late.
 
poster for "Kermesse Héroïque, La"
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Kermesse Héroïque, La (1935) - Jacques Feyder
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Kermesse Héroïque, La (1935) - Jacques Feyder
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