« Ruy Blas »
Jean Cocteau's long familiar interest in the purely scenic aspects of his films - in the business of beguiling his audiences with ingenious sets and costumes - is eminently demonstrated in his current French film, "Ruy Blas", a treatment of the Victor Hugo drama which came to the Elysee on Saturday. For here it is plainly apparent that the famous "bad boy" of French films has paid more attention to the appearance than to the dramatic vitality of his job.
In the way of elaborate interiors of Spanish palaces, churches and such and magnificently regal costumes, all worn with decorum and grace, we have never seen any more exquisite than those demonstrated in this film, which M. Cocteau adapted and generally supervised. And being so rich and exquisite, they do have a certain effect of oppressiveness and corruption which is keyed to the dramatic theme.
But the story here played of a young student, who, because of his resemblance to an errant grandee, is introduced into the Spanish court as a pawn in an intrigue against the queen is so stiff and vague in its development that it lacks emotional force. And it is performed with such decadence of gesture that it is just a bit absurd. Jean Marais, who plays the student Ruy Blas and also the naughty grandee, is a very handsome young fellow, but he is decidedly prissy in this film. And his wild and grinning expressions in those scenes wherein he's called upon to play with a great Douglas Fairbanks abandon are almost ludicrous. Likewise, in his solemn moments as the noble and righteous Ruy Blas, he looks much more like a model for costumes than like an honestly inspired young man.
As usual in her pictures, Danielle Darrieux is beautiful and intense as the queen who is made the victim of an innocent love and elaborate intrigue. And Marcel Herrand is dark and dexterous as the villainous chief of police who engineers the conspiracy in which Ruy Blas is used against the queen. A cast of picturesque actors wear their costumes and their manners artfully. But they, like the principal performer, seem to be operated by machinery and not by life. Bosley Crowther.