Cluny Brown

No one can tell you where your place is in this world. Where you are happy is your true place.(extract of Cluny Brown)

The Clogged Sink: An Analogy of Human Frustration

Adapted from the best-selling eponymous novel by Margerie Sharp, Cluny Brown comes across as a satire joyful social, a light comedy of living room which denotes so British manners in England monolithic period between the wars. In 1938, time where is the plot supposed to be, Hitler plans to annex Czechoslovakia to the third Reich. Neville Chamberlain doesn’t know he just make a pact with the devil and with him the whole country. Violating the Munich agreements, the invasion of the Czechoslovakia will take place in March 1939. The plot history is just a backdrop that has only one muffled impact on this comedy avoiding carefully the direct allusion to the world conflict.

The hilarious pochade fires red balls at the mind collared aristocratic gentry British and its proprieties riding on a label that borders on the absurd. At the same time, satire is a rush of deadpan humor that pays homage to British eccentricity. Lubitsch excels at expose the personalities of its actors under their most beneficial lighting.

The narrative frame is strictly anecdotal in its extreme poverty: Cluny Brown (Jennifer Jones) is a non-conformist young girl with boldness and lack of left experience who only dreams of plumbing and emancipation in an England post-Victorian corseted in its class divisions. Sent by her plumber uncle to Carmel Manor for serve as a maid and kitchen maid, the ingenuous ingenuity by her outspokenness and her extreme candor in challenging social conventions such as Bécassine faced with a good British aristocracy incorrigibly old-fashioned complexion.

Unusual in a woman, this fad of the plumbing she gets from her uncle is an allusion unequivocally to gender and class conflict closely linked. His passion for plumbing horrifies those who witness it as a violation of gender distinctions and an exacerbated feminism that she carries in it.

The film refers to covert words and in a shortcut dazzling at Lrules of the game by Jean Renoir who takes an inflexible look at the hypocrisies of the haves while considering them with a indulgence supported through the prism of a war that looms dangerously.

Alter ego of Lubitsch the expatriate, Charles Boyer uses up to the caricature of his foreign accent for better impersonate Professor Adam Belinski, writer Czech dissident, manipulative parasite, supposed to flee the Nazi persecutions and who, in love with Cluny Brown, insinuates itself into this family of the high with this sweet and paternal bonhomie with which he shows himself customary in his films.

Salt of satire: the spirit of caste and elegant disdain

Sparkling in its punchlines, the comedy is a bit forced and, admittedly, the story would be disposable was the characterization. Lubitsch excels at casting actors that nothing binds together except the spirituality of their replies. The pochade conveniently distills a elegant disdain through this distinction of classes which is the salt of political satire and which irrigates everything cinema of the social veneer defined by the “Lubitsch touch”.

Caste and class restrictions give thus giving rise to startling misunderstandings. The aristocrats are aloof and stuck in their petty prejudices which they instill in return in their servants. Lubitsch skilfully uses the gender actors that are Reginald Owen and Reginald Gardiner to embody these crazy aristocrats firmly rooted in their class convictions and who are unaware of the imminence of the world conflict at the gates of a Europe which dislocate.

Thus the inverted snobbery of the governess Mrs. Maile (Sara Allgood) and butler Syrette (Ernest Cossart) at the Manoir Carmel who overplay their class belonging or as good servants, serviles and obsequious in the extreme, they know how to hold their rank. The petty bourgeoisie also takes it for its rank at through the bland portrait of the prudish pharmacist Jonathan Wilson (Richard Haydn). Stuck, stuffed and above all alienated from an atrabilary mother, a sort of awful shrew with a surly and surly mien, who does not communicates only through throat clearing
referring to the rumblings of clogged pipes, the man is hopeless of displayed conformism.

A swan song

Predictably and in desperation, Cluny Brown will eventually flee this austere life of domesticity constraint to join his soul mate opportunely, Adam Belinski leaving for America in a path mimicking that of the director. All this class divide incongruity has no place and Belinski rids Cluny of his tinsel of servitude for a rebirth and a celebration of life without hindrances. In a final snub, Lubitsch, who died of a heart attack in 1947, caricatures the insularism and isolationism of the class British dominant; thereby delivering its song of swan.

Cluny Brown (the crazy ingenue) is distributed in cinemas next November 7 in a version 4K restored by Ciné Sorbonne.

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