Tag Archives: musicians

Deception (1946)

“They say never confess a secret to a woman.”

Deception, a 1946 film from director Irving Rapper, frequently appears on film noir lists, but the story seems rooted in soap-opera drama more than anything else. The plot involves a love triangle between pianist Christine Radcliffe (Bette Davis), cellist Karel Novak (Paul Henreid), and eccentric composer Alexander Hollenius (Claude Rains).

The film begins in New York with Christine arriving late to a concert. Judging by Christine’s emotional reaction to the cello playing of star musician Karel Novak, this is no ordinary concert, and that proves to be correct when after the concert Christine goes back stage to meet Novak. He’s surrounded by fans, but after they melt away he sets eyes on Christine. This is clearly a reunion, and it’s revealed that Novak and Christine were lovers during the war in Europe. Separated by circumstances, they lost contact, and it’s a miracle that they’re reunited.

Christine takes Novak home, and he imagines that she’s had it tough living on her own piecing together a living as a struggling musician. Christine’s home is at the top of huge skyscraper accessible, for the most part, by a lift. The film shows Novak and Christine exiting the lift and then there’s a dark set of stairs up to Christine’s apartment. Novak clearly imagines Christine lives in a garret (so did I), but Christine’s splendid, spacious apartment is decorated with antiques and one whole wall gives a marvellous view of the skyline of New York. Novak is obviously suspicious about where the money came from for such luxuries, and his suspicions are confirmed as he prowls around her apartment and spies fur coats in the cupboard and fine paintings on the wall.

The lovers who’ve been separated for years are at each other’s throats within minutes, but Christine manages to dissuade Novak of his suspicions with stories of taking wealthy, talentless pupils for piano lessons. Obviously Novak has no idea about rents in New York otherwise he’d sniff that the story is ridiculous, but he swallows it hook, line and sinker.

Christine and Novak plan a wedding with a reception to be held in her apartment. The champagne flows generously but the party is broken up by the arrival of grumpy, imperious composer Hollenius whose rudeness sends the guests out the door. The composer’s speeches to Christine indicate the possessiveness of a jilted lover, and once again Christine mollifies Novak’s suspicions with stories that Hollenius is an eccentric, wealthy friend and nothing more.

As the plot thickens, the ties between the three main characters tighten. Hollenius appears to befriend the newlyweds, and he indicates that he wants to take Novak under his wing and nurture his career. Christine suspects Hollenius’s motives, but there’s not much she can do without telling Novak the truth about her relationship with Hollenius.

Claude Rains as Hollenius seems to have the best role and the best lines here. He’s a petty, jealous tyrant capable of pitching the most outrageous scenes both publicly and privately. In one scene, he takes Novak and Christine out to dinner and plays the temperamental epicurean to the hilt. In another scene, Christine storms Hollenius’s bedroom ready to do battle for her man, but she’s met with sarcasm and derision:

“To be faced with a virago at this time of the morning, Christine, my constitution simply will not stand for it.”

Shots focus on interiors. Christine’s modern apartment is in contrast to the interior of Hollenius’s house which resembles, rather appropriately, the inside of a lavish medieval European palace and reflects the temperament of its owner. One marvellous shot shows the reflection, in shadow, of an ornate staircase on the wall.

Deception is not Bette Davis’s best film, but it’s well worth catching for the scenes that include Hollenius. Claude Rains seems to have great fun with this role as he moves from imperious demands to almost bitchy feigned indifference. The film’s best scene takes place between Christine and Hollenius in his palatial bedroom, and he makes some excellent points about Christine’s erratic behaviour.

Deception (a Warner Bros. studio film), was the first Bette Davis film to follow the only film she made with her own production company Stolen Life (1946). According to biographer, Barbara Leaming, Davis, whose behaviour was “even more arbitrary and destructive than usual,” on the set of Deception, announced her pregnancy during the filming. She was married to third husband William Grant Sherry at the time and the marriage was to end in divorce a few years later in 1950.

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Filed under American, Bette Davis, Film Noir

Un Coeur en Hiver (1992)

 “I don’t usually throw myself at people.”

coeur en hiverIn Un Coeur en Hiver (A Heart in Winter) Maxim (Andre Dussollier) and Stephan (Daniel Auteuil) work together in Paris. Maxim (Andre Dussollier) owns and runs a business that specializes in violins. Maxim’s clients come from all over the world to buy, sell, or repair their instruments. Stephan (Daniel Fauteuil) is an employee, and it’s his job to repair and also build violins. Stephan obviously loves his work, and he does his job with precision and excellence. Maxim is charismatic and has the social skills Stephan lacks. Maxim is the person who meets the clients and flies all over the world to bring back the violins Stephan salvages. Stephan is quiet, self-contained and far more complex than Maxim. The two men have an interesting relationship. On the surface, it would appear that they are equals whose different talents create a great working partnership, but the story, which is at first narrated by Stephan, reveals an inequity in the relationship. One day, Maxim confesses that he’s in a relationship with a violinist, Camille Kessler (Emmanuelle Beart). He introduces Camille to Stephan, and trouble begins.

Camille Kessler is used to people taking care of her. There’s her long-time, slightly jealous agent/manager, Regina who is also ready to act as a protective duenna. And then there’s Maxim. He’s so grateful that Camille looks at him, that he’s ready to take her on any terms–even though he knows her music comes first. Stephan appears to be incapable of emotion, yet many questions remain as to his motivations. Does he play mind games with both Camille and Maxim or he is genuinely stirred by a tweak of passion? The acting is phenomenal. Emmanuelle Beart as Camille is subdued and self-contained, and her passion appears to be only for music–until the right buttons are pushed. Auteuil–as always–masters his role of Stephan–a complicated man who doesn’t appear to need anything. It would be a tremendous understatement to label this film ‘a love triangle’ as the film is far more complex than that. The plot remains (after watching the film at least a dozen times) open to several interpretations. This marvelous French film (with English subtitles) and directed by Claude Sautet, will have a special appeal to classical music lovers. The soundtrack is stupendous. For those interested–to understand Stephan’s character, read Lermontov’s novel A Hero of Our Time. (The novel is even mentioned in the film.) Stephan is a modern-day version of Pechorin.

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Filed under Claude Sautet, Daniel Auteuil, France