The inauguration of Disneyland is not lost on Georges Franju, who casts a beady eye on France’s own commodified repackaging of its cultural heritage. "Glorious man, take care of your tomb." Robed like a wizard, the dying patriarch (Pierre Brasseur) pads around the lavish manor, reaches under a doll’s skirt to turn it on (cf. Siegel’s The Lineup), sinks contentedly in his throne. No inheritance then for the greedy family members, who move into the medieval castle and turn it into a "son et lumière" spectacle for tourists, not a good idea. The lake must be drained, armors and jousts become canned sounds for the floor show, murmurs waft out of the loudspeakers installed in every chamber. When an ancient legend is recounted on empty spaces before a gawking audience, is it technology at the service of phantoms or vice-versa? Into the scheme wanders a mysterious murderer, like the dead raven dropped amidst the dinner table finery. "We’re not in the Dark Ages anymore!" The model is Magritte, starting with the levitating first view of the palace and continuing to Jean-Louis Trintignant’s quick change of costume behind an obelisk; Orphée for the mirror doors and William Castle for the electrocuting floodlights. A double-edged extravaganza from Franju, an attack on the vulgarization of the past that nevertheless brings out the medium’s most virtuosic apparatus and closes on a jaunty step at a funeral march. Coppola reshuffles it for Dementia 13. With Pascale Audret, Marianne Koch, Dany Saval, Philippe Leroy, Jean Babilée, Georges Rolin, Gérard Buhr, and Jean Ozenne. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce