Summary : Early 20th century in Central America. Maria 1 is a music hall singer. Maria 2 is wanted by the police. They meet and become inseparable. As part of a traveling music-hall troupe, they form an explosive duo which is a great success. During an eventful tour, they will find themselves at the head of a real revolution…
Critical : After The wisp, Louis Malle wanted to move on to a lighter project and shoot a film with a large audience. He then accepted the proposal of the production company Nouvelles Éditions de Films: to produce a spectacular work in Mexico, mixing comedy, adventure film and western, and edited around the two great female stars of the time: Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau. With the premiere, the filmmaker had already shot Private life, whose success was limited. The second was the star of Malle’s first two fiction feature films, namely Elevator to the Gallows and The lovers. With a generous budget, especially for the battle scenes and the use of local extras, Long live Maria! had an overmediatised shoot, before being the subject of an extensive publicity campaign and experiencing a commercial triumph. The criticism was rather lukewarm, and took note of the (temporary?) change of course of the author of Zazie in the subwaya time associated with the New Wave.
- © Malavida, Gaumont
It is clear that the film is minor in Malle’s filmography. We do not believe for a second in these operetta revolutionaries managing to fight a dictatorship thanks to the support and tenacity of two cabaret singers, one of whom is the daughter of an Irish nationalist… The political statement supporting the class popular against landowners, bankers, Jesuits and other oppressors will appear naive and opportunistic. The musical sequences do not help, and it is permissible to prefer the scores of Georges Delerue at Truffaut or Godard to the ritornello Ah! The little women (of Paris). As for the Western dimension, it pales in comparison to the successes of the 1960s, signed Peckinpah or Leone…
- © Malavida, Gaumont
And yet, Long live Maria! is worth more than its reputation and deserves a reassessment, if not a rehabilitation. First of all, the dialogues co-written by Jean-Claude Carrière are not lacking in flavor, especially in the exchanges between the two Marias, whose duo echoes the characters of Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe in Men prefer blondes and announces, all things considered, The ladies of Rochefort. Then, the film is technically perfect, a recurring quality in Malle’s cinema, well supported by the director of photography Henri Decae or the production designer Bernard Evein. Finally, the final attack is filmed with punch and a tone cartoony tasty, when the revolutionaries are helped by the members of the theatrical troupe revisiting their stage talents, including the delicious Paulette Dubost, flanked by her overprotected teenager… Ultimately, if it is clear that Long live Maria! is uneven, it generally allows the viewer to have a good time. The film won several awards including the BAFTA for best foreign actress awarded to Jeanne Moreau.
RETROSPECTIVE LOUIS MALLE, PROVOCATIVE GENTLEMAN PART 1
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Long live Maria! – Louis Malle – critic