20 December 2021

Louis Delluc's's Fièvre (1921)

Fièvre is now one hundred years old, and with La Femme de nulle part is one of the important of the seven films Delluc made in his short life. Originally called 'La Boue' ('Mud') the title was changed after a few cuts had to be made for reasons of censorship. It is set in Marseille, although the only glimpses of France's second city which we see are short shots unrelated to the general narrative: set in a rough bar, the emphasis is on showing this film as if in the theatre. 

At first we just see Topinelli (Gaston Modot) and his wife Sarah (Ève Francis, actually Delluc's wife) and several customers: four playing cards, a drunk on his own, Patience (Solange Sicard) who is waiting (no doubt in vain) for a man to return, and a woman with a pipe. Sarah too once waited for a man, and then settled into marriage with the brutish Topinelli, And then a number of sailors arrive.

They bring back trophies from their travels: a monkey, a parrot that talks Japanese, a statue of a Chinaman, the tooth of a swordfish, and so on. But the trophy Militis (Edmond Van Daële) brings is a docile Asian woman he's married, played by Elena Sagrary. Other women arrive and the place takes on the appearance of a brothel, with much drinking, talking, groping and dancing.

Sarah recognises Militis as the man who left her, they talk, Topinelli is told to be careful of his wife, the two men fight and Militis ends up dead on the floor. Before the police come the bar has emptied, with just Sarah by Militis, and the police take her away, thinking she is the killer.

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