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POIL DE CAROTTE (1925) is an extraordinary film. It is part of Flicker Alley’s new Blu-ray release CINEMA OF DISCOVERY Julien Duvivier in the 1920s.

It opens in a boarding school. The class is told to write down their definition of a home.

One student, to the outrage of his teacher, writes, “A home is a place where people whom do not like each other live.”

I was to learn that for this boy, Francois Lepick ( André Heuz) that definition was all too terribly true.

The extraordinary thing for myself is that the mother in this motion picture is a creature so deliberately physically monstrous that she gives Max Shreck as the vampire in NOSFERATU, (1922) F. W. Murnau, a run for his money.

I wondered if Charlotte Barbier-Krauss (1877–1938) who plays the mother had ever been beautiful. A web search shows that in her youth she had.

The mother is devoted to making the life of her youngest child a living Hell.

My brother, Michael Hartt, was told from the moment he was born that he was the Black Sheep of the family. I told my parents, “Call him that he will be that.” They said, “Mind your own business.” At 24 he killed himself. He left a note in which he wrote, “I’ve been bad.”

She succeeds so greatly that thoughts of suicide torment the seven year old’s every moment asleep and awake.

I learned reading the superb notes accompanying this collection that Duvivier was not the first choice for the film’s director. The original idea came from Jacques Feyder. The producer withdrew him from the project. Duvivier was appointed screenwriter. He took very little from the book.

Duvivier remade the film in 1932. Before writing about this version I decided to see the later film. Looking for it I learned there was a version done in 2003 as well. I decided to take a look at it.

From them I learn that Francois, the third of three children, was unexpected. His mother’s dream of a career was shattered by his birth. She never forgave him for his existence. She made herself as physically repulsive to her husband as she could. The later version of the story lack the intensity of this first telling.

My father once said to me, “I really admire what you have done.”

I told him, “Me? I have done nothing. You raised a family. That is all that really matters. The rest is nonsense.”

Unfortunately many do not share this knowledge Philip Larkin in his “THIS BE THE VERSE” makes clear.

An interesting thing is that the day it arrived before I saw this film I was wondering what people did in the days before radio and television.

The film opens with people gossiping. That hasn’t changed. What has changed is that now through radio, television, the movies and the web the gossiping has gotten more intense. Way more intense. Lives are daily casually destroyed by the mass media. In the process the earth is being tilled for a generation of serial killers unlike anything before seen.

This Be The Verse

By Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

 

But they were fucked up in their turn

By fools in old-style hats and coats,

Who half the time were soppy-stern

And half at one another’s throats.

 

Man hands on misery to man.

It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can,

And don’t have any kids yourself.

 

Philip Larkin, “This Be the Verse” from Collected Poems. Copyright © Estate of Philip Larkin.  Reprinted by permission of Faber and Faber, Ltd.

Source: Collected Poems (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2001)

The silent version of the story has the power of a nuclear bomb perhaps because it shows the nuclear family at its most common.

It alone for me makes this Blu-ray collection a must have thing.

Why did the mother make herself so ugly?

So that her husband would never father another child by her.

–Reg Hartt, Toronto, Canada, 2022 02 12.

poil de carotte Duvivier 1925

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