Saturday, October 11, 2008

cinema obscura: René Clement's "Le Passager de la Pluie"/"Rider on the Rain" (1969)


The Charles Bronson film, "Rider on the Rain," is hardly remembered these days. But even less known is its original French version, "Le Passager de la Pluie."

Say what?

When director René Clement and Bronson got together in 1969 to film a disturbing thriller about rape, they elected to film each scene twice -- first in French (with Bronson speaking French) and then in English. The film is "Le Passager de la Pluie"/"Rider on the Rain." Both versions were released in the United states - the French version in New York and the English-language version, well, everywhere else.

Today, only the English language version prevails. The French is even difficult to find in France. So why doesn't some resourceful DVD genius put out a two-disc version of the film with both languages represented?

Certainly René Clement - who also directed "Forbidden Games" and "Plein Soleil" ("Purple Noon"), among other French-language classics - deserves it.

BTW, the script was written by Sebastien Japrisot, one of the great French mystery writers.

Cinema Obscura is a recurring feature of The Passionate Moviegoer, devoted to those films that have been largely forgotten. Suggestions welcome.

(Artwork: Posters for the respective French and American releases of "Le Passager de la Pluie"/"Rider on the Rain," distributed in America by AVCO-Embassy)

6 comments:

Bob said...

saw the French version at the Plaza in New York and then took my girlfriend to see it in a Times Square house a few weeks later. It was in English. I couldn't figure what happened. I preferred the French but you can't find it any place.

Godard said...

Sounds like a job for Severin Films

Daryl Chin said...

Rene Clement had a lot of (bad) luck with his multilingual productions; unfortunately, these were among his best movies.

It started with MONSIEUR RIPOIS
(1954), which was filmed in both French and English. The French version was hailed as a sharp satirical study; the English version was cut and got terrible reviews. It's especially lamentable that it seems to have vanished (in both France and England, let alone the US) because it has one of the great performances by Gerard Philipe.

Then there's THIS ANGRY AGE (a.k.a. BARRAGE CONTRE LA PACIFIQUE or THE SEA WALL; 1958). Filmed in English, French and Italian, it had amazing color cinematography of Southeast Asia (the movie is set in Vietnam, or French Indochina as it was called in the 1930s when the movie is set) and a cast that included Silvana Mangano, Anthony Perkins, Jo Van Fleet (the third of her trio of "old lady" performances, the other two being EAST OF EDEN and WILD RIVER), Alida Valli, and Richard Conte.

Quite frankly: i haven't seen either of these movies in decades (and we are talking like... 50 years in the case of THIS ANGRY AGE!). I was taken to THIS ANGRY AGE by my grandmother (i was about 5 at the time) because the ads made it seem as if the movie was about fraternal twins, and my twin sister and i did think that Tony Perkins and Silvana Mangano played twins.

But Clement (and Claude Autant-Lara, for that matter) remain largely overlooked because of so many of their films remain unavailable. RIDER ON THE RAIN was a really creepy movie about the effects of rape, but i haven't seen it in decades as well, and i do remember that it was very ambiguous in terms of the ending.

joe baltake said...

Daryl--

Many thanks for the insight into Clement's excursions into dual French-language/English-language productions. It sounds like something that Criterion should release as a boxed set, with both versions of each film (three, in the case of "This Angry Age").

Edmond Osborn said...

I know this is years - and years!- after the fact, but I've been reading some of your older posts, and Rider on the Rain / Passager sur la pluie did play in its French version outside of NY. It played in Los Angeles - it was the first subtitled movie I'd ever seen. Saw it with my mom dad when I was twelve.

joe baltake said...

Edmond- I was remiss. I didn't mean to imply that the French-language version of "Rider on the Rain" played only in New York. Of course, it also played in L.A., as was the case back in the day. Thanks for the heads up.