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CARNIVAL IN FLANDERS
aka LA KERMESSE HeRO¤QUE
UK: BFI (Access)
Cast: Franšoise Rosay, Jean Murat, Andre Alerme, Lyne Clevers, Louis Jouvet, Alfred Adam, Marcel Carpentier, Micheline Cheirel, Maryse Wendling, Ginette Gaubert, Marguerite Ducouret, Bernard Lancret, Pierre Labry, Arthur Devere, Alexander D'Arcy, Claude Saint Val, Delphin
Director: Jacques Feyder
Language: French (English subtitles)
UK: 117 mins
UK Certificate: 12A contains moderate violence and sex references
UK Release Date: 4 June 2004 (Limited Release - London)
Jacques Feyder's joyfully immoral satire, LA KERMESSE HeRO¤QUE (CARNIVAL IN FLANDERS) was greeted with acclaim and controversy on its original release - acclaim at international film festivals where it scooped top prizes, and controversy in Belgium where it caused small riots: some protested about the mocking portrait of Flemish notables whilst others saw in it allusions to the Flemish collaborators during the Germans' occupation of the area during World War I. Some even called it "Nazi-inspired". Feyder and his wife Franšoise Rosay (who stars) almost simultaneously made a German version called DIE KLUGEN FRAUEN (THE CLEVER WOMEN) and this version won the Best Director Award at the Venice Film Festival 1936.
The German title hints at one of the remarkable elements of LA KERMESSE HeRO¤QUE which is that this is certainly an early feminist screen comedy. The tongue-in-cheek farce is set in a Flemish town in the early 1600s which is facing invasion by the Spanish army. The men of the town are spineless and the mayor pretends to be dead, but his rather more courageous and sophisticated wife takes control of the situation and by recognizing and appealing to the enemy's base needs, she and the town's women avert certain catastrophe.
Also remarkable is the look of the film which recreates the world of Flemish painters. Feyder aimed to bring to life Flemish painting which he achieves with great success through the storyline and through the minutely detailed studio sets (which recreated the Flemish town of Boom which still exists in Belgium - the houses were built on a smaller scale to elevate the importance of the characters and to ease framing), detailed costumes and exemplary photography by Harry Stradling.