Judex (1963)

Judex
Directed by Georges Franju
Adapted by Jacques Champreux and Francis Lacassin from a 1916 screenplay by Arthur Bernede and Louis Feuillade
1963/France/Italy
Comtoir Francais du Film Production/Filmes Cinematografia
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

I admit I’m much more sensitive to the scenic than the dynamic. When I was tiny I saw a fire for the first time, and afterwards I saw the façade with nothing behind. I’ve kept the vision of something very artificial and strange- a façade with nothing behind. And what was in front of it? Space..now haunted. — Georges Franju

Pure magic.

This is a remake of Louis Feuillade’s Judex serial of 1916 and is set in that era.  It is full of cliff-hangers and surprises that I will try not to spoil!  Banker Favraux is a thoroughly unscrupulous man.  He made his millions through blackmail and is not above murder to solve his problems.  He is marrying his daughter (Edith Scobe), a young widow, off to a man she does not love.  He is in love with her daughter’s governess.

Before his daughter’s engagement party, he receives a letter from “Judex” (“Justice”) threatening him with dire consequences if he does not move to correct his evildoing before midnight.  Favraux hires a detective to investigate the identity of the letter writer.  Judex is true to his word and …

Every once in awhile I discover a film that makes my heart sing.  This was one.  It is a beautifully satisfying battle between good and evil.  Lavish use is made of art nouveau style and there is a wonderful Maurice Jarre score.  Franju captures the old style of melodrama without once going into camp.  The use of both “real” and cinematic magic is delightful.  I might even prefer this film to the director’s Eyes Without a Face (1960), which I also love.  Highly recommended.

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