#35 – Petit Ombré, Le (Little Shadow)

(1962, Fr, 50 min) Dir Alexander Illienko.

Another marvel from Illienko, the first following his relocation from the Ukraine to Paris and only the second of three films he would ever make. The ‘Petite Ombré’ of the title is a sentient umbrella that seemingly drops from the clear blue Paris skies and proceeds to flit about the streets, causing mischief wherever it goes. It’s essentially a silent film in that there is no dialogue, just the sounds of the street and the umbrella’s schoolgirl giggling. It all leads to some fantastic slapstick worthy of the silent masters. In one sequence the whole of a street with its half dozen market stalls is turned into an elaborate Rube Goldberg style cause and effect contraption by the umbrella brushing its handle against a mere lemon. Just as there’s no real beginning to the film there is also no real end – the umbrella simply makes to the skies once again at the end, off to cause mischief somewhere else no doubt. A seriously playful film whose occasional visible strings only add to the charm. Despite winning the Golden Star at the Paris Festival de Fantasie and garnering general praise it would be another nine years before Illienko made it to the big screen once again.

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