Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Annabella, Jean Gabin, Robert Le Vigan, Raymond Aimos, Pierre Renoir
Director: Julien Duvivier
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Duvivier and Gabin, not quite at the level of Pepe le Moko!
Andrew Mendelssohn | Charlotte, NC United States | 05/03/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"La Bandera is an earlier pairing of actor Jean Gabin and director Julien Duvivier prior to their much-imitated classic, Pepe le Moko. In La Bandera, both Duvivier and Gabin show flashes of their later brilliance in Pepe, but never quite hit the same level.Bandera tells the story of Pierre Gilieth (Gabin). The film opens with Gilieth killing a man in Paris. The scene quickly shifts to a cheap boarding house in Barcelona, where Gilieth is hiding from the law... He is robbed one night and joins the Spanish Foreign Legion just to eat. His Legion unit is stationed in North Africa, and this is where the film shines. The African scenes were all filmed on location at actual Spanish Foreign Legion forts and towns. Locals and tribesmen are constantly sniping at the soldiers, but Duvivier makes these seem larger than life by never actually showing them. You never see the enemy in any of the combat sequences, and somehow this makes them seem more threatening.Once in Africa, Gilieth and his mates start to frequent a brothel and Gilieth falls in love and marries a local girl. He also develops a conflict with another soldier, who may or may not be a real threat to him...If you see the amazon.com trivia section, you'll notice that this film was originally dedicated to Spanish General Franco, and that this was removed after the Spanish Civil War. Its interesting as this film had to be made just prior to the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, and in fact uses scenes of real Spanish Legion soldiers. These soldiers were in fact Franco's shock troops of the civil war and his real power base both prior to the conflict and during it. I suppose its nothing more than historical trivia, but in a way it accounts for the way La Bandera has been generally forgotten. I know this film has also been compared (a little unfavorably) with Beau Geste, but I suspect the way it glorifies the Spanish Legion just prior to the Spanish Civil war and the Legion's role in the fascist victory accounts for the film's relative obscurity...Regarding the dvd, I'm a bit disappointed. The film is watchable, for sure, but the transfer is nowhere near the quality of something Criterion or Kino would produce. There is plenty of dirt and noise, and the print itself is quite soft (usually indicating a bad attempt at cleaning it). The soundtrack has plenty of noise and hiss, and is obviously untouched. Compared to some recent Criterion releases from similar dates that look like they were produced yesterday, the La Bandera transfer is a disappointment. Perhaps worse, the English subtitles are not great, and are non-removable, so even if you can understand the French you are stuck watching the film with bad subtitles.In any case, La Bandera is a pleasant diversion for anybody who enjoys older adventure films or early French cinema. It provides a chance to see two famous stars, director Duvivier and actor Jean Gabin before they completely hit their stride, and yet the result is sill entertaining and energetic. Gabin in particular really shows flashes of his later charm! You won't be disappointed!"