Saturday, July 26, 2008

Beauty and the Devil

La Beauté du diable; grotesque, France/ Italy, 1950; D: René Clair, S: Michel Simon, Gérard Philipe, Nicole Besnard, Simone Valère, Carlo Ninchi

18th century. Faust is an old professor who gets recognition from his university, but isn't satisfied since in his whole 50 years of research he never managed to discover how the world was created. Then Mephisto shows up, Lucifer's servant, in the shape of Faust himself and makes him 30 years younger free of charge. The young Faust gets mistakened for a murderer since nobody can recognizes him, yet gets saved on the court by Mephisto. Faust doesn't have a home and is poor so Mephisto makes him rich by turning sand into gold. Faust can't stand to be poor again, so he sells his soul, even though he figures he would have stayed rich anyway. He falls in love with a wife of count, but regrets his decision. Then some gypsy says she likes him while the mob throws Mephisto down the building, burning his contract about the soul.

Rene Clair's adaptation of the famous "Faust" novel, fantasy grotesque "Beauty and the Devil" has lively actors and occasional satirical sting towards those people who would always love to win in everything at any price, yet it's still far away from a classic. The interesting idea is that Mephisto appears in the shape of Faust himself, so in the (rather clumsy and confusing) end the angry mob mistakes him for the "original", yet the movie as a whole has too little ideas, even though it was nominated for a BAFTA as best film. The subplot about Faust turning into a young lad again wasn't inventively exploited, the time passes slowly and the direction isn't anything extraordinary, yet it has a few humours moments when the gypsy can't sign Mephisto's contract about selling the soul since she is illiterate or when Faust's reflection in the mirror shows his future full of deceit, thus the movie is unpretentiously acceptable.


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