Lebensabend (1939)

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Lebensabend: Directed by Julien Duvivier. With Victor Francen, Michel Simon, Louis Jouvet, Madeleine Ozeray. Aged penniless actors are living in a old people’s home. They always talk about their past glory or failures. One day Raphael Saint-Clair comes; he has been a famous actor and had a lot of love affairs. Passions come back, and jealousies… A bitter film about aging, failure and the entertainment.

“Itu0026#39;s been decades since Iu0026#39;ve seen this French classic, but Iu0026#39;m bemused by the description of it as u0026quot;bitteru0026quot;. Like Dustin Hoffmanu0026#39;s new u0026quot;Quartetu0026quot; (2012), it views aging performers both wistfully and lovingly and certainly not without humor. There is a harsher and more tragic incident at the heart of the chief conflict here, but ultimately the film is a loving portrayal of everyone from the truly great to the mediocre but devoted personalities that make up the theater. It is a homage in other words to the whole world of performing, which of course ranges from tragic to comic figures, from stars to failures, but, as stirringly presented in one speech here, is united, and set apart, by a shared passion. The climactic scene is expertly orchestrated and the words u0026quot;We, the poor, the obscureu0026quot; (u0026quot;Nous, les pauvres, les obscuresu0026quot;) from a classic play are re-purposed to devastating effect, so much so that they linger with me decades later. As does, not a bitter, but an uplifting sense of the nobility of living oneu0026#39;s life in service to art, even if the rewards at u0026quot;the end of the dayu0026quot; may be no more than bittersweet memories. — Probably hard to find, but if you understand French (I doubt anyoneu0026#39;s taken the trouble to sub-title this), worth the effort.”

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