It's a Western but it's also a comedy and a drama, with a few musical numbers ("The Boys in the Backroom" is one of them).
Marlene Dietrich makes a comeback playing against her uber-diva persona after a two-year absence. James (Jimmy) Stewart is on the cusp of stardom, playing a low-key pacifist deputy sheriff. The plot is good, the pace is brisk, and the dialog isn't too quaint for the modern viewer. Dietrich delivers some of the best lines: "The longer they wait, the better they like it." (She says this just before she performs "You've Got That Look".) The well-cast ensemble brings a lot of energy and color to the film, which has more than its share of outstanding characters. Female characters other than Dietrich's Frenchy get a lot of screen time and dialog, which is more than can be said about a lot of Westerns and action films that followed it. There is one black character, a maid, who has a lot of lines and is not a caricature when compared to the usual roles in films of 1939 (or much later). There are non-speaking Asian roles (presumably Chinese) in crowd scenes. The Criterion Collection's Blu-ray release is clear and crisp (you can see the fine lines on a young Stewart's forehead).
Is this for everyone? Probably not. I was drawn to this primarily because of Dietrich and Stewart; I thought they would make an interesting pair to watch. It turns out they had good chemistry. Though Western films are not my usual fare, this one was thoroughly enjoyable.
This is another fine film by the French director, Christian Carion (see 2005's Joyeux Noel).
The English title is so different from the French one ("In May, do what you like" or "In May, do what pleases you")...why? Perhaps it romanticizes the period. The level of violence is minimal by American standards, so the viewer should not expect much "action". I do think it's really about the human spirit with the second World War as the backdrop. The film is beautifully shot and well-executed, though it does not have the emotional impact of Joyeux Noel. The score by Ennio Morricone is the outstanding element for me.
This film has not aged well, despite very good performances from most of the cast. There was not enough witty dialogue, though the writers were clearly capable of it. The main love story was predictable and unsatisfying compared to the rest of the plot.
I had had great expectations from this film given its Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film (among its many awards and other nominations), but after the film's abrupt ending, I was left with disappointment tinged with annoyance, like a titillated virgin whose would-be lover had passed out drunk at the edge of the bed.
Younger cast than the older film version. The scenes are gorgeous but not overdone. Given the length of the source material, the mini-series format allows proper pacing and does justice to Tolstoy’s classic.