La belle Nivernaise (Epstein, 1924)

La belle Nivernaise (Jean Epstein, 1924)

It always saddens me when I see a film like this and my initial thought is, “I wish I could see that restored.” It’s hard to truly judge a movie when so much of what remains is in very bad shape. Regardless of the quality, though, it’s easy to tell this is a film whose foundation is built by its river setting. Rippling water, gusts of wind, sun soaking into characters’ skin all edited in typical ahead-of-its-time fashion that Epstein is known for. The film’s central love story is a bit dated but it’s nicely executed and its development along with the jealous captain’s first mate storyline would have been a fine way to spend the entire film. But Epstein adds a second layer of conflict halfway through that is unnecessary and a bad jolt in tone thanks to the shift in setting it causes. Overall this is a mixed bag though Epstein’s always consistent strengths make this worthwhile.  7.75/10

la belle nivernaise

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