Martin Roumagnac (The Room Upstairs)
Genre: Crime, Drama, Romance
Year Released: 1946, 2023 Icarus Films DVD
Runtime: 1h 48m
Director(s): Georges Lacombe
Writer(s): Pierre-René Wolf (novel,) Pierre Véry (adaptation,) Georges Lacombe (adaptation)
Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Jean Gabin
Language: French w/English subtitles
Where To Watch: DVD & digital release date (coming to iTunes, Prime Video, Vimeo-On-Demand, & OVID.tv!) for the film is April 18, 2023 www.icarusfilms.com
RAVING REVIEW: Georges Lacombe's MARTIN ROUMAGNAC is a prime example of a movie that thrives on the strength of its leading actors. This film adaptation of Pierre-rené Wolf's social and psychological drama by the same name is an intriguing but troubled film noir. The director takes a lighter approach to the story than the source material and most classic genre films.
The supporting cast also delivers strong performances that balance the film. Jean Gabin and Marlene Dietrich deliver fantastic performances as the lead characters. Gabin plays a building contractor, while Dietrich's character is a typical generic “widow” stereotype. Dietrich's character could have developed more, and she's impossible not to like due to her endearing qualities.
The film's atmosphere is immersive and impressive, making viewers feel like they've traveled back in time. Lacombe began his career as one of the Surrealists in Paris in the 1920s and is best known for some of his earlier films. Although his artistic background is evident in his work, Lacombe eventually focused on commercial success, which led to his big-screen career ending in the late 1950s.
MARTIN ROUMAGNAC has flaws; the lack of tension between the lead characters is a significant issue that takes away from the noir setting. That being said, the film's dialogue-heavy approach captures the pivotal moments that make a movie memorable. If the script wasn’t done so well, this could have resulted in some very drawn-out scenes; instead, we get back and forths that will keep you drawn in.
Dietrich’s character Blanche is a classic femme fatale who brings ruin wherever she goes, while Gabin’s Martin is a simple, down-to-earth man who can't control his emotions. This leads to a predictable fallout as the ordinary man fawns after the “beauty.”
It's important to note that the movie does not accurately depict French society in 1946, as the events occurred in 1935. The film's promotional materials use this artistic license to allow Jean Gabin to play the role of a romantic who goes against social conventions, as he did in his previous works. I had to get some help on that part as I wasn’t aware of how different these two relatively close time frames were in French history.
Despite its flaws, the blend of romance and film noir genres makes the film a must-see. Georges Lacombe is a skilled director in balancing the two genres. An example of the power of great acting, Jean Gabin and Marlene Dietrich deliver commendable performances that will impress most casual viewers.
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[photo courtesy of ICARUS FILMS]