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Friday, December 30, 2016
Jacques Feyder | La Kermesse héroïque (A Carnival in Flanders)
getting it all by giving in
by Douglas Messerli
Jacques Feyder, Robert A. Stemmle, and Bernard Zimmer (screenplay, based on a story by Charles Spaak), Jacques Feyder (director) La Kermesse héroïque (A Carnival in Flanders) / 1935
It may be hard to imagine a proto-feminist film, directed by a man, coming out of France in 1935, but that’s very much what Jacques Feyder’s Carnival in Flanders is.
In the midst of these events, two emissaries of King Phillip II, suddenly charge into town announcing, via a letter, that the next day The Duke d’Olivarès (Jean Murat) will be camping there for the night with his soldiers. Recalling the Spanish pillage and rape of citizens in Antwerp, the town leaders are horrified, and determine to hide out during the visit, the Burgomaster himself determining to play dead.
Perceiving that the men of Boom will do nothing to protect them, the women, headed by the Burgomaster’s wife, declare their own war, wherein they plan to readily woo the rowdy visitors with wine, food, and sex.
But watching it yesterday, I truly enjoyed its lusty implications, and applauded the women of Boom for their abilities to save their otherwise exemplary lives by simply using the ploys of their gender. Moreover, in its reliance on the tradition of Dutch painting, this gentle comedy tells us more about life in 17th century Flanders than reading many an historical tract. Surely it was a patriarchal, bourgeois society, but in Feyder’s joyful rendition it was allowed to enjoy itself if only for a night.
Los Angeles, December 30, 2016