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Fire Under Her Skin, a French import no doubt better suited for domestic consumption, is one of the most egregiously bad films to be shown in Cambridge in recent years. The plot is muddled, disjointed, turgid, improbable; the entire production, heavy, unamusing, and completely pointless. It is, in all, a careless potpourri of violence and cheap melodrama interspersed with frequent sex scenes as raw and explicit as the censor will allow.
If the Brattle's intention is to draw a crowd on the basis of showing this as a sex film, the management would do the audience a great favor by extracting the sex scenes and showing the ten minutes of "dirty pictures," thus sparing the audience the remaining hour and twenty minutes of uncomfortable boredom. The conscious eroticism of the love-making is the only faintly stirring thing in the film.
But whatever the Brattle's intention is in scraping up the film, they certainly have not furthered any attempt to loosen film censorship to allow greater expressiveness.
Fire Under Her Skin definitively proves that the "realism" of De Sica, Fellini, and others has become a stock formula and has lost the wonderful freshness that it once seemed to possess. All the inevitable ingredients are here, the triangle--or is it a pentagon--of passions, the sensitive man who kills the thing he loves, etc., replete with much fondling and other fine Gallic touches. Of course the "unhappy ending" has become stock too, with the usual frustrations, murders, and general cataclysm. The plot is so implausible that the outcome seems apparent before this charming idyll has ground through the first reel.
The camera, once so skillfully used in the "art" film to delineate character and expression in a drama of everyday people, uses here only squalid scenery and degenerate characters for the dramatic value of the shock they may still contain. If the dialogue is as bad as the subtitles, it is bad indeed. The acting is barely competent; also quite stock are the devices of Director Marcel Blistene.
If this pattern of selling sex and violence for their own worth is characteristic of the modern European cinema, as Bosley Crowther suggested in the Times, one hopes that a change in the wind will be shortly forthcoming.
In contrast the two imported cartoons which accompany the feature are both artful and charming. The first, Marten and Gueston, from France, is a clever and delightful animation of the drawings of school children. The second, a British import, is a bit more serious in nature. Called Animated Genesis, it most skillfully and beautifully depicts a view of history, even if one cannot agree with its utopian conclusions. Using colored abstractions in the manner of most avant-garde films, it is much more successful in putting over ideas by patterns and symbols than the majority of attempts to use this format. The film has much in common with a number of semi-propaganda cartoons of the thirties, displaying the same sort of over-simplification. The drawing of several of the figures borders on the pornographic.
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