Les Grandes manoeuvres (1955)
aka: Summer Manoeuvres
A film directed by René Clair

Genre: Drama / Romance

Review published:


Les Grandes manoeuvres photo
Armand de la Verne is a soldier in the French cavalry in the late 1800s/early 1900s, and he sees himself as something of a Don Juan, a man whom no woman can refuse. Whilst stationed in a French provincial town, he offers a wager to his fellow soldiers that he can seduce any woman who takes his fancy before they depart for their summer manoevures. The woman he selects for this purpose is an attractive young milliner, Marie-Louise, who has recently been divorced. However, the childish game soon turns into a tragic romance when Armand and Marie-Louise fall hopelessly in love...
© filmsdefrance.com 2012

Film Review

This is a fine tragicomic romantic film from arguably the most romantic of all the great pre-WW2 French film directors, René Clair. It has the distinction of being Clair's first film to be made in colour, and it unites two great acting legends of French cinema - Michèle Morgan and Brigitte Bardot.

The direction is faultless. Every scene looks as if it has just popped out of a 19th century story book. The dance scenes - of which there is an abundance - are exquisitely well choreographed and well photographed, and contribute greatly to the character of the film. Clair's frequent use of sudden camera rotation to propel the viewer from one scene to another (instead of the traditional cut) is unusual but gives the film a fluid, more engaging feel, making it appear less like a stage play.

Above all, the film achieves an emotional impact because Clair uses his actors to the greatest effect - particularly the incomparable Michèle Morgan. If there is one actress who is capable of capturing and expressing the pain of a doomed love it has to be this great lady of French cinema. Next to her, Brigitte Bardot is but a mere chaffinch - albeit a pretty and lively one. Gérard Philipe is also impressive, but by now irredeemably typecast as the inveterate womaniser (he plays a virtually identical rôle in Vadim's 1959 film, Les liaisons dangereuses).

The seriousness of the love affair between Armand and Marie-Louise is brilliantly played off against the lighter amorous fling acted out by Yves Robert (later to become a distinguished director) and Brigitte Bardot (who needs no introduction).

Few films have managed to balance the comic and tragic elements so well, and this serves merely to confirm the talent and skill of a René Clair, one of the greatest and most intuitive of the great French film directors.

© James Travers 2000

The above article was written for filmsdefrance.com and should not be reproduced in any medium without the author's permission.

Other drama/romance films of the 1950s from France that you may be interested in are: Marc Allégret's L'Amant de lady Chatterley (1955), Claude Autant-Lara's En cas de malheur (1958), Roger Vadim's Les Liaisons dangereuses (1959), Jacques Becker's Montparnasse 19 (1958) and Claude Autant-Lara's Le Rouge et le noir (1954).

Where to watch this film

The film Les Grandes manoeuvres may be available on amazon via the following links:
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Film Credits

  • Director: René Clair
  • Script: René Clair, Jérôme Géronimi, Jean Marsan
  • Photo: Robert Lefebvre
  • Music: Georges Van Parys
  • Cast: Michèle Morgan (Marie-Louise Rivière), Gérard Philipe (Le lieutenant Armand de la Verne), Jean Desailly (Victor Duverger), Pierre Dux (Le colonel), Jacques Fabbri (L'ordonnance d'Armand), Jacques François (Rodolphe), Yves Robert (Le lieutenant Félix Leroy), Brigitte Bardot (Lucie), Lise Delamare (Juliette Duverger), Jacqueline Maillan (Jeanne Duverger), Magali Noël (Thérèse, la chanteuse), Simone Valère (Gisèle Monnet), Catherine Anouilh (Alice), Madeleine Barbulée (La dame au chapeau jaune), Dany Carrel (Rose-Mousse), Gabrielle Fontan (Mélanie), Viviane Gosset (La colonelle), Judith Magre (Emilienne), Arlette Thomas (Amélie), Raymond Cordy (Le photographe), Olivier Hussenot (Le préfet), Jacques Jouanneau (L'ordonnance de Félix), Jacques Morel (Monsieur Monnet), Palau (Arthur), Claude Rich (Le fiancé d'Alice)
  • Country: France / Italy
  • Language: French
  • Support: Color
  • Runtime: 106 min
  • Aka: Summer Manoeuvres ; The Grand Maneuver

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