Thursday, 22 November 2012

Deauville Dossier

Some genre scenes from the fastidiously manicured Normandy resort of Deauville recorded by early postcard photographers on their rounds. In search of a fresh angle on the newly opened Casino the camera has attracted a disparate cast of onlookers – from the left, a gentleman of leisure and his female companion, a stocky artisan with a ferocious dog under restraint, two small boys posed on a see-saw and some offspring of privilege in the care of a nanny. There is an air of first position here – an unseen hand has directed our characters in a tableau of his own devising. One of the boys looks back over his shoulder as if to seek reassurance that he’s doing the right thing. Jean-Pierre Melville’s cinematic exercise in moral ambivalence reached its climax outside the building in the background when the eponymous Bob le flambeur’s criminal career came to a sudden end when a botched attempt to steal the casino takings unravelled. 

These elevated views of the central Place Morny display the Normandy rustic revival heritage style that was widely employed to deceive the casual eye that this was a place with deep roots in the warrior kingdom of the Normans. Deauville has long fancied itself as the 21st. arrondissement and the Parisian sophisticate could shop in a micro version of the great Printemps department store. What makes this view compelling is the sense that we are once again, back at first positions, observing the opening moments of a dramatic presentation. An alternative view is that we are admiring a beautifully detailed model village and at any moment, gigantic feet may advance towards us, scattering the diminutive cars and figures. 

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