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Without a tomorrow

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Film
German title Without a tomorrow
Original title Sans lendemain
Country of production France
Original language French
Year of publication 1940
Length 82 minutes
Staff
Directed by Max Ophüls
Screenplay Jean Villeme
Jean Jacot
Max Colpet
Curt Alexander
Max Ophüls
Production Gregor Rabinovich
Music Allan Gray
Camera Eugen Schüfftan
Edited by Bernard Sejourné, Jean Sacha
Cast
  • Edwige Feuillère: Evelyne Morin
  • Michel François: Pierre, her son
  • George Rigaud: Dr. Georges Brandon
  • Paul Azaïs: Henri
  • Daniel Lecourtois: Dr. Armand Péreux
  • Georges Lannes: Paul Mazuraud
  • André Gabriello: Mario
  • Mady Berry: Madame Midu
  • Pauline Carton: Ernestine
  • Jane Marken: Madame Béchu

Without a Tomorrow is a 1939 French film melodrama directed by Max Ophüls and starring Edwige Feuillère.

Storyline

Evelyne Morin, who works as an entertainer in a seedy Parisian cabaret, has seen better days. One day, her eight-year-old son Pierre turns up at her place, having been thrown out of boarding school yet again. Evelyn is at a loss as to what to do now: She can’t possibly take the boy in, given her lifestyle. The following evening, by chance, she meets her former lover Georges Brandon, a Canadian, again in the street. He is the man she almost married some ten years ago. Georges still loves Evelyne and asks the woman out on a date. Georges’ intentions are honorable, he wants to take her with him to his Canadian home.

The stripper happily agrees, but hides her true circumstances and past from her former lover, fearing that he might then rescind his offer. Instead, Evelyne concocts a plan, the end of which is to have Georges provide for her boy. She designs a make-believe world for him, rents an expensive apartment, plays the role of a grande dame, and is finally able to get Georges to take care of her boy. For this she is even prepared to forego her own happiness in life and love. Because for her, Evelyne thinks, there would be no tomorrow, especially since the sleazy blackmailer Paul Mazuraud is giving her a hard time. And so Georges finally leaves for Canada alone with Pierre.

Production notes

Without a Tomorrow was Ophüls’ last film directed before the outbreak of war in 1939. Despite borrowings from “poetic realism” and a tendency towards fatalism typical of pre-war French films, it is considered a minor work by the Saarbrücken filmmaker.

As with most of his other (mainly French) productions since 1933, Ophüls gathered around him a wealth of fellow immigrants: all the screenwriters were of German origin (and some wrote under French pseudonyms such as Jean Villeme and Jean Jacot); only the Frenchman André-Paul Antoine provided the dialogue. Gregor Rabinowitsch produced the film, Eugen Schüfftan was behind the camera and Allan Gray composed the music. The only Frenchman in a central position behind the camera was film architect Max Douy, who (along with exiled Russian Eugène Lourié) designed the film buildings. Henri Alekan was one of a total of four ordinary cameramen who worked for chief cameraman Schüfftan.

The world premiere took place in Paris on 22 March 1940. The German dubbed first broadcast of the film was on April 17, 1979 on ZDF.

Reviews

“A film made by Max Ophüls after his emigration to France; in breathless duct, the cultivated staging glosses over the weaknesses of the sometimes slackly constructed tale of fate.”

Encyclopedia of International Film[1]

“The film: a promise. Ophüls transforms a dime novel into a work full of nuances and dramaturgical half-steps, capable of hinting at feelings as much as concealing them. Paris, Montmartre, the establishment La Sirène, rue Custine built in the studio. A woman, working as an animator, encounters her former lover, from whom she tries by all means to conceal the life she is forced to lead. A life lie in the sense of the word that ends in fog and nowhere. Soft shadows, diffuse shimmering and the whiteness of Edwige Feuillère’s face. The light is iridescent, refracted, fluid, as mobile as the camera and, above all, a means for the director to model – the faces of landscapes, the depth of spaces that often seem vague, ambiguous, mobile as it were.”

The “Dictionnaire du cinèma” saw some tendencies towards melancholy in Ophüls’ late works immediately before the outbreak of war , such as Werther, Without a Morning and From Mayerling to Sarajevo.[2]

Individual references

  1. Without a Tomorrow. In: encyclopediaof international film. Filmdienst, retrieved 2 March 2017. template:LdiF/maintenance/accessused
  2. In Jean-Loup Passek: Dictionnaire du cinèma, Paris 1992, p. 489, it says: “quelques plages du mélancolie”

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