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Festival Year Festival Section

Alternative Title 1
Alternative Title 2
Alternative Title 3
Country France
Release Date 11 April 1924
Production Co. Films Albatros
Director Viatcheslav Tourjansky

Format   Speed (fps)
35mm   18
Footage   Time
1397 m.   68'

Archive Source Cinémathèque française, Paris
Print Notes Didascalie in francese / French intertitles

Nicolas Rimsky (Morin), Denise Legeay (Henriette), Jacques Guilhène (Labarbe), Louis Montfils (zio/uncle Tonnelet), René Donnio (pianista/nightclub pianist), K. Melnikova (Madame Morin);
Other Credits
scen: V. Tourjansky, Nicolas Rimsky, dal racconto di/from the short story by Guy de Maupassant (1882); f./ph: Nicolas Toporkoff; scg./des: Alexandre Lochakoff, Édouard Gosch
Other Information
Program Notes
Three times adapted to the screen (in 1923, 1932, and 1956), Guy de Maupassant’s short story “Ce Cochon de Morin” first appeared in the newspaper Gil Blas on 21 November 1882, under the nom-de-plume of “Maufrigneuse” – though Maupassant’s reputation as a master story-teller was already established. Tourjansky and Rimsky’s adaptation quite faithfully follows its story of the little haberdasher from La Rochelle, who, in the aftermath of a drunken finale to a business trip in Paris, assaults a young woman, Henriette, on the train home, in an attempt to seize a kiss. The penalty is a charge of offending decency, and the sticky reputation in La Rochelle of “that beast Morin”. Even some of the dialogue titles in the film are taken verbatim from the original story.
The film only departs from the original in plot, though not in spirit, in the second part of the film. Morin calls upon his friend Labarbe, the local newspaper editor, to help him out of his catastrophic situation by persuading the victim’s irascible uncle to drop the charges. In the original story, Labarbe visits Uncle at his estate in Mauzé, accompanied by his co-editor. There he is infatuated by Henriette and driven to the same kind of erotic assault as Morin’s, but finally and reluctantly leaves her. The film, however, gives extra comic spice as well as romance to the story, by having Labarbe take Morin himself to Mauzé, where Labarbe discovers that Henriette is an old flame, whose hand in marriage he wins, after a night of bedroom farce.
Despite the updating of the story and these changes – one might even say, improvements – in plotting, the film remains very faithful to Maupassant, and particularly his sardonic reflections on the contrasted responses to sexual importunity when committed by an elderly businessman or by a dashing 30-year-old. In both story and film Henriette tranquilly tells Labarbe, “Oh, vous, ce n’est pas la même chose.” Even the climactic scenes of bedroom farce – which contemporary critics admired as being like “a Feydeau farce directed by Firmin Gémier or Jacques Copeau” (Jean Pascal in Cinémagazine, 7 March 1924) – are exactly detailed by Maupassant.
Though faithful to the essence, the film offers a very vital and original visual interpretation. Tourjansky eagerly embraces the latest fashions in montage and camera movement, from the extravagant tour-de-force opening sequence, of a night of wild carousing, accelerating inebriation, and sexual fantasy, seen subjectively through the eyes of Morin. The film is designed by the Russians Alexander Lochakov and Édouard Gosch, with the usual flair and eye for detail; while the locations of La Rochelle are exploited by Nicolas Toporkov’s virtuoso camerawork: fast travelling and tracking cameras impeccably follow Morin’s desperate progress through the town.
Inevitably the film finally revolves around Nicolas Rimsky’s portrayal of Morin, which launched the actor’s career as a star comic. Rimsky (1886-1941) began his screen career in Russia in 1916 as a supporting actor to “Poxon”, the Russian John Bunny, but from the end of that year worked exclusively with the Ermoliev company, for whom he played over 30 leading roles before emigration. He arrived in Paris with Ermoliev in 1920, and was to act regularly for Albatros and to direct four films for the company. Sadly we know nothing of the other Russian actor in the cast, K. Melnikova, who plays the formidable Madame Morin. – DAVID ROBINSON