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  •  L'AIGLON, by Victor Tourjansky - 1931


 Country : France

 Medium : Black and white

 Duration : 109'

 Production : Société des Films Adolphe Osso

 Scenario : Pierre-Gilles Veber after Edmond Rostand

 Screenplay : Pierre-Gilles Veber

 Music : Edouard Flament

 Director of photography : Nicolas Toporkoff

 Plot : In Vienna, Marie-Louise is surrounded by courtiers. But all the young girls in the land are awaiting with impatience the arrival of the the most sought-after prince in Europe, the duc de Reichstadt. When he is greeted by applause from the soldiers, the emperor Napoleon (and especially Metternich) realise that he is no longer the weak child which they still want him to be. With the aid of the wife of an Austrian dignitary (whom he passes off as his mistress), the Aiglon learns that Paris is awaiting him and that the duc d'Otrante, Fouché, is preparing the ground for his return. Assisted by one of his father's old soldiers, the trusty Flambeau, he attempts to escape from Austria. And so taking advantage of a ball at Schönbrunn and the presence of his cousin, the countess Camerata, he sets out for Wagram, the conspirators' meeting point, and the postchase waiting to take to the border. But Metternich's police put an end to the plan and Flambeau dies on the spot where the great victory had been won in July 1809.

 Cast : Jean Weber (The Aiglon) ; Emile Drain (Napoleon I) ; Victor Francen (Flambeau) ; Henri Desfontaines (Metternich) ; Georges Colin (Marmont) ; Jeanne Heldia (Marie-Louise) ; Jeanne Boitel (Countess Camerata) ; Simone Vaudry (Thérèse de Lorget)

 Extract : « Flambeau. - We are the little men, the unknown men, without rank,
We march on exhausted, wounded, begrimed, sick,
No dukedoms or rewards for us ;
We march ever onwards, but never progress ;
Too poor and too beggared for the foolish hope
Of a marshal's baton to carry in our knapsacks...

 Review : Rostand's epic poetry stands the test of time, and character of Flambeau (Victor Francen) is very close to the ideal Grenadier Guard. The two particularly well-played monologues by Metternich ("Quelle mouche ou plutôt quelle abeille vous pique") and Henri Desfontaines before Napoleon's hat ("Il est énorme, oui, il est bien encore chez lui Bonaparte... et je revois le grenadier monter la garde") remain the high points of Napoleonic cinema. It should not be forgotten that this is still 1931, the beginning of talking pictures and a great year for dramatic adaptations. Death in combat was still the the most just and glorious of happy endings. And indeed the scenes and quotations chosen by Tourjanksy are not a million miles from Abel Gance (take for example the moment where the crosses and dead bodies float to the surface), and Méhul's Chant de Départ juxtaposed (à la the 1812 overture) with the Austrian national anthem as a sign of the dark clouds gathering...



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