Gribiche (1926)

Director: Jacques Feyder

I did something with Gribiche I almost never do while watching a film: I fast-forwarded through some of it. Not proud of myself for that, but I had to do something to make it a bit shorter. Anyway, by 1926 Albatros had lost quite a lot of their existing talent to other studios like the other Russian mob at Billancourt, so chief Alexander Kamenka took a plunge on rising Belgian director Jacques Feyder. Despite the latter already having accrued a reputation for budget blowouts, Kamenka reined him in and the end product seems to have been a box office success at the time… it just singularly failed to connect with me tonight for some reason. Gribiche is a young lad of impoverished background, who does a good deed when he returns a lost purse to its owner, a rich widow who repays the favour by adopting him from his own widowed mother (thus also allowing her to remarry, to a man who doesn’t want a stepson) to give him a chance at life, education, being the sort of well-meaning upper class bore she is, etc. Needless to say, the boy’s natural youthful working-class high spirits don’t react well to the new regime… Now, this central plot idea is not an inherently bad one, I’ve read one other review earlier this evening comparing it to screwball comedy, and played as such it could be quite amusing. Instead, however, Feyder plays it for sentiment; as the film progresses it starts to become obvious that the rich woman has adopted the boy more for her sake than his own, and she’s the one who ultimately receives the education. If you’re into thickly laid-on morals, you’ll probably dig this; what I got most out of from the film was Lazare Meerson’s production design, which is great. Look, it’s nice, the performances are good and all that, and I’m perfectly willing to concede I may just have been in the wrong mood for this sort of thing tonight. Did nothing much for me either way.

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