The Devil’s Envoys (Visiteurs du Soir, Les) (1942)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB

France, 1942.  Productions André Paulvé.  Scenario and dialogue by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by , .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by Georges Wahkevitch.  Film Editing by .  

A few years before their milestone classic Children of Paradise, director Marcel Carne and screenwriter Jacques Prevert teamed up for this staid, romantic fantasy. In it, two figures appear at the gate of a fairy-tale castle and announce themselves as visitors; they are in fact the minions of the devil who have come to cause mischief in an otherwise peaceful kingdom. What was supposed to be a fun engagement party leading to an open-and-shut wedding ceremony descends into angst when one of the guests () romances the princess and the other () romances both the groom and the bride’s father. When Cuny genuinely falls in love with his prey, he has a crisis of conscience that requires the Man Below to make a personal appearance. Elegant, poetic and beautifully photographed, this one’s appeal has not fully stood the test of time: in its day it was the most popular film in France during the war years, while now it is somewhat creaky and uninspiring. Easy allusions to Nazi Occupation are easy to read into it, and possibly explain much of its original appeal, but taking this away from an understanding of the film leaves you with little else to work with. Still, it is a lovely, romantic work bereft of cynicism, less magical than Beauty And The Beast but equally devoted to the cinematic celebration of true love.

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