by guest writer
L’auberge rouge (The Red Inn, 1951) is a remake after the influential silent film of its time, directed by Jean Epstein in 1923. The story has a literary source, the novel by the same name by Honoré de Balzac. This time the director is Claude Autant-Lara, who worked as costume designer for Jean Renoir’s Nana (1926), another significant silent movie of expressionistic inheritance by France’s greatest filmmaker. Jean Epstein’s version concentrated more on the melodrama aspect of the novel in comparison with Autant-Lara’s movie, which uses black humour to empathize its message.
The opening scene is meant to captivate through the melody sung by a young Yves Montand, which becomes a sort of unusual introduction. A down on their luck group of thieves run an isolated inn in the French mountains, where they lure their future victims with the help of their beautiful daughter. A monk (Fernandel) makes his way through the heavy snow one night to the inn together with his apprentice, without ever imagining the ‘horrors’ that take place in the establishment. We are brought to learn the true characters of everyone spending the night there, through a psychological game that becomes the center of the movie. Fernandel is the ‘bearer of true justice’, being God’s representative of the lot and his lines are just as funny as they can get. Camera angles together with the flashy lighting create a beautiful cinematic work, one with a bitter-sweet taste.
photo: movie still | credit: Memnon Films