Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Blind Venus (1941) “Vénus aveugle”: Vive la Romance! Vive la France!

The very rare Abel Gance film Blind Venus (1941) “Venus  aveugle” (original title) is a truly magnificent movie.

A masterpiece. A master film-maker fashions from a melodrama a picture of epic emotional sweep with a heroine to die for, played with true pathos by the luminous Viviane Romance. Set in a French port town, the moods of the sea in calm and in storm are harnessed through sublime montage and expressionist abstraction to enthral your senses and seduce your sensibilities.

Clarisse a vivacious young woman is diagnosed with an inoperable eye disorder which will destroy her sight in a year or two.  Her amour fou with a seaman demands that she break with him and hide her coming affliction.  The stage is set for a passionate and almost unbounded melodrama.  Yet the film soars beyond the melodrama to a sublime comédie humaine.  Made during the German occupation the film is also an allegory. Through human decency and solidarity the unachievable comes within reach.

There are no miracles, but there is redemption and acceptance. The heroine's unaffected voice of reconciliation reflects the visual poetry that has borne her through wild seas to a safe harbour:

I'm no more in the night.
I'm in the snow.
I see enough to make out
the white shadows of people,

and the smoke of things...