Life Dances On

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Life Dances On
Life Dances On.jpg
Directed by Julien Duvivier
Written by
Produced by Jean-Pierre Frogerais
Edited by André Versein
Music by Maurice Jaubert
Productions Sigma
Distributed byLes Films Vog
Release date
9 September 1937
Running time
144 minutes
Language French

Life Dances On or Christine or Dance Program (French: Un carnet de bal) is a 1937 French drama film directed by Julien Duvivier and starring Marie Bell, Françoise Rosay and Louis Jouvet. [1] It was partly shot at the Neuilly Studios in Paris. The film's art direction was by Jean Douarinou. Duvivier's American film Lydia (1941) is to some extent a remake of this one. [2]



Twenty years after her debut ball when she was sixteen years old, recently widowed Christine is disposing of papers and other effects belonging to her late husband. Living in a mansion on an Italian lake, she has had a comfortable and affluent but unfulfilling life. Coming across her dance card from that debut ball, she gets lost in nostalgic memories of that night, and decides to find out what has happened to the dance partners who signed that card.

Her beaus, living in different locations throughout France, have generally not fared well, with lives that range from the tragic to the comic to the ordinary, often combined in some measure. One killed himself over Christine, and his doting mother haunts his room in a perpetual state of denial. Promising lawyer and poet Pierre became a cynical nightclub owner and mob boss. An older composer took monastic vows and now teaches music to choirboys. The relatively fit and well-adjusted bachelor Eric has secluded himself on a mountain, devoted to his privacy and the town's ski rescue crew. Francois is a petit-bourgeois mayor who is marrying his henpecked maid in a small village and has an adopted son involved in petty crime. A former medical student is a world-weary, drug-addicted wreck performing illegal abortions in the dockyard district. Optimistic card-trick-loving Fabien is a hair-dresser well-contented with his domestic life (perhaps closeted) and frequenting the same old dance circuit in their home town.

When Fabien invites Christine to the town's ball, she accepts, hoping to recapture the magic of the night she remembers, but she is surprised to find that the magical room and dancers of her memory are just ordinary people in a banal setting. She is ruefully amused when a sixteen-year old girl talks to her about how entrancing the setting and the night seem to her, and she leaves early.

Christine indulges in the melancholy of regret, remaining non-judgmental, but nevertheless disturbed by the profound effect she had on these men, their loss of innocence, and the ravages of time, but she is still curious about Gerard, the one former suitor she has not been able to find. A friend informs her that Gerard has been living just across the lake from her for the last fifteen years. Taking a boat to the other side, Christine encounters a young man, looking much like her memories of Gerard. His father, however, has recently died and the estate is being sold to someone else. In a final scene, the young man, dressed for a formal ball, addresses Christine as his step-mother and they leave together.



Writing for Night and Day in 1937, Graham Greene gave the film a good review, characterizing it as "a film which must be seen [...] [as] it contains the finest French acting". Greene notes that to the extent that "the mood is meant to be autumnal", director Duvivier fails to capture it and whenever the widow appears, "illusion rocks like stage scenery". Despite this, Greene finds that "each episode is beautifully acted and directed", and he concludes that "there has been nothing to equal this episode on the screen since Pépé . [3]

In a short article featuring eleven still photographs from the film, Life magazine declared "With no love interest or spectacle, a middle-aged heroine and an episodic plot, it is the kind of movie which Hollywood never makes. The loss is Hollywood's, for this French picture is one of the year's best in any language." [4]

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  1. Moeller p.33
  2. Miller, Frank (October 22, 2007). "Lydia". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  3. Greene, Graham (9 December 1937). "Un Carnet de Bal/Underworld". Night and Day . (reprinted in: Taylor, John Russell, ed. (1980). The Pleasure Dome. Oxford University Press. pp. 184–185. ISBN   0192812866.)
  4. "Movie of the Week: Un Carnet de Bal". Life. May 2, 1938. pp. 46–47.