When I discovered the film, Madeleine, on Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM’s) website, the movie’s premise is what caught my attention. I recorded the film on my DVR and saved it for a special occasion. Since Madeleine was released in 1950, during the Breen Code era, I finally found that special occasion. While learning more about the movie, I made some surprising discoveries. The first was who the director is. David Lean not only directed Madeleine, but he also directed Lawrence of Arabia, which I reviewed last November. Another discovery I made was where the film was made. Madeleine was created in the United Kingdom, meaning that it’s considered a foreign film. The fact that this movie was approved by the Breen Code, as the logo can be seen during the opening credits, surprised me. This is because I was given the impression, after reading the article, “The Production Code of 1930’s Impact on America” from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, that foreign films weren’t directly impacted by the Breen Code. On IMDB, Madeleine is labeled as a crime drama. This detail made me curious as to how the Breen Code would influence this story. Well, the wait is over, as it’s now time to review 1950’s Madeleine!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: I liked watching the various acting performances in this film! Everyone did a good job with the acting material they were given! This is especially the case for the star of the movie. Throughout Madeleine, Ann Todd carried the movie with versatility. This helped her portrayal of the titular character be as believable as possible. Another performance that I enjoyed seeing was Ivan Desny’s! The way he portrayed Emile L’Angelier came across very believably. One such example is anytime Emile appeared ill. Like Ann, Ivan brought versatility to his performance. It worked in his favor, as his character was captivating to watch on-screen!
The setting: Like I said about Jersey Boys, the world in Madeleine was well crafted! All of the locations, as well as other aspects of the film, looked and felt like the movie’s respective time period. Even the artwork on the walls of the Smith family home reflected the Victorian era. This showed me that the creative team behind this movie were very detail oriented, caring about what was presented on-screen. Also, like Jersey Boys, the world in Madeleine was very immersive! It made the audience feel like visiting this created world was possible.
The on-screen chemistry: I was pleasantly surprised by the on-screen chemistry of Ann Todd and Ivan Desny! Anytime they were on-screen together, they made the relationship of Madeleine and Emile appear believable. Because of this, it was interesting to watch their relationship evolve as the film went on. Ann and Ivan’s on-screen chemistry kept me invested in their on-screen interactions. Even though I knew the fate of Madeleine and Emile’s relationship, I was curious about which directions they would go in. This aspect of the characters definitely added something interesting to the story!
What I didn’t like about the film:
The accents: As I said in my Jersey Boys review, accents in movies can be hit or miss. The characters in Madeleine had accents, but they didn’t reflect where they were from. This story takes place in Glasgow, Scotland. However, every member of the Smith family speaks with a British accent. Emile L’Angelier is known as a Frenchmen. While Ivan tried his best to speak with a French accent, it wasn’t consistent enough to sound believable. More often than not, Ivan could be heard speaking with a British accent. I understand that the film was created in the United Kingdom. But it never felt like an effort was made from the film’s creative team to encourage the appropriate accents for their characters.
A drawn-out plot: Madeleine is about a woman who is accused of murdering her lover. However, the crime itself isn’t featured in the story until the film’s half-way point. The first half of the movie is dedicated to showing the build-up to the crime. Personally, I think this part of the story didn’t need to last that long. At most, the build-up could have been fifteen or twenty minutes. If this was done, the narrative would get straight to the point, expressing the script’s idea sooner. This also could have helped shorten the film’s run-time.
A lack of mystery: When I found out that this film was considered a crime drama, I was looking forward to seeing a mysterious and intriguing story unfold on-screen. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of mystery in this movie. The creative team behind Madeleine tried to incorporate a mystery in the second half of the film. But because the build-up to the crime was featured in the first half of the story, the second half wasn’t as effective as the creative team had hoped. Madeleine should have taken place during Madeleine’s trial, with flashbacks coming into the story during people’s testimonies. With this approach to the story-telling, the audience could have been left wondering throughout the film if Madeleine was, indeed, guilty.
My overall impression:
Madeleine made me feel the same way that Jersey Boys did. Both films are just ok. There are things about them that I can appreciate. Yet, they were held back from being better than they were. I expected more from Madeleine, thinking I would get an intriguing mystery story. Instead, the narrative was drawn-out and the mystery aspect was poorly executed. But, throughout the movie, I could tell that the creative team behind Madeleine had put in an effort to make the best film they could. Similar to Citizen Kane, I could see the Breen Code’s influence within Madeleine. Anytime Madeleine and Emile kissed, they turned their heads to hide the kiss from the audience. All of their kisses only lasted a few seconds. Madeleine and Emile engaged in an affair throughout the film. But because of how the script was written, their relationship was never labeled as an affair. Also, the word “affair” was never said by any of the characters. After watching this film, I’m now curious to find out what other foreign films were approved by the Breen Code.
Overall score: 6 out of 10
Have you seen any of David Lean’s films? Which foreign film released during the Breen Code era is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!
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