In this soaring romantic drama, the wife (Madeleine Renaud) of a former fighter pilot (Charles Vanel) who is preoccupied with his glory days in the sky during World War I, falls in love with the idea of flying herself. This soon becomes an obsession, and she undertakes a lofty feat: the longest solo flight ever made by a woman. A warm look at a working-class family as well as a triumphant tale of determination, Le ciel est à vous was one of Grémillon’s most successful films, and can be interpreted as a necessarily stealthy portrait of nonconformity. –The Criterion Collection
Jean Grémillon (3 October 1901, Bayeux, Calvados – 25 November 1959) was a French film director. After directing a number of documentaries during the 1920s, many now lost, he had his first substantial success with the dramatic feature Maldone in 1928. Over the next quarter-century, he directed twenty more feature films, of which he is best known for five made between 1937 and 1944: L’Étrange M. Victor, Gueule d’amour (1937), Remorques (1941), Lumière d’été (1943), and Le Ciel est à vous (1944).
Grémillon rejected what he referred to as “mechanical naturalism” in favor of “the discovery of that subtlety which the human eye does not perceive directly but which must be shown by establishing the harmonies, the unknown relations, between objects and beings; it is a vivifying, inexhaustible source of images that strike our imaginations and enchant our hearts.” —Wikipedia
The most financially profitable film Grémillon ever made must have been a real tonic for French audiences at a time of German occupation, telling as it does an uplifting tale of perseverance and determination. The director's regular leading lady Renaud is given the role of a lifetime and doesn't disappoint as the wife who adopts her husband's passion for flying and dreams of breaking the women's long distance record.
On the three impressive films included in Criterion’s set, “Jean Grémillon During the Occupation”.
A look at some of the best original French posters for the films in Film Forum’s current series: The French Old Wave.
A look at Jean Grémillon’s 1943 masterpiece: its story, reception, and allegories of nation and society.