Thursday, June 13, 2002


I guess I'm in a 30's French mood. The day after I watched L'ATALANTE, I watched this. The print on the tape was in bad shape--lots of cuts and murky images, and hard-to-read subtitles; on top of that, almost half of the dialogue wasn't even translated. Halliwell's reference book lists the movie at 115 minutes, but the tape was just 90 minutes, so I assume there was quite a bit missing. Still, the story was easy to follow and I enjoyed this film. In 17th century Flanders, a Spanish Duke and his entourage are about to pass through a small Flemish town. The menfolk, afraid of the possiblity of invasion, hide, pretending to be dead or gravely ill. The women decide to take matters in their own hands and they welcome the "invaders" by holding a carnival (with food, music, and drink), and being very friendly (including, in some instances, sleeping with the Spanish men).

In the late 30's, some people saw this movie as being about occupation and collaboration, and it became controversial, especially since it is difficult to take away a clearcut message from the movie about those topics. However, the Spanish troops can hardly be said to stand in for the Nazis; they are never seen as seriously dangerous to anyone--they obviously just want to rest and go on their way. The Duke himself is the most sympathetic male character, except for the character who is based on the real-life painter Jan Brueghel. His plotline, involving wanting to marry the mayor's daughter against the mayor's wishes (but with the blessings of the mayor's wife), is the most satisfying part of the film. Many of the sets and costumes are based on paintings of the Dutch Masters, and I'm sure I would have been more impressed by the detail if the print had been cleaner. According to Amazon, there are only two VHS versions of this movie and, though the other one may be in better shape, both are listed at around 90 minutes. Even more so than L'ATALANTE, this cries out for restoration. CARNIVAL IN FLANDERS is clever, subversive, and quite funny, and ahead of its time in its sexual politics.

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