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First on the Rope

Impressive photography of mountaineers on snow-capped Mont Blanc and surrounding peaks gives the decidedly old-fashioned story of "First on the Rope" most of its allure. Previously filmed in 1943 by Louis Daquin, choppy tale of a young man from the village of Chamonix who's determined to become a mountain guide is gamely played by a French and Italian cast. Despite judicious lensing of the great outdoors, TV is as far as this engaging but oddly truncated effort is likely to climb.

Impressive photography of mountaineers on snow-capped Mont Blanc and surrounding peaks gives the decidedly old-fashioned story of “First on the Rope” most of its allure. Previously filmed in 1943 by Louis Daquin, choppy tale of a young man from the village of Chamonix who’s determined to become a mountain guide is gamely played by a French and Italian cast. Despite judicious lensing of the great outdoors, TV is as far as this engaging but oddly truncated effort is likely to climb.

In the mid-’30s, Zian (Frederic Gorny) returns home from Paris the same day his father, an umpteenth-generation guide, is killed by lightning on a climb. Zian’s friend (Didier Bienaime) loses his toes to frostbite while bringing dead Dad’s wealthy client, Ruspoli (Giuliano Gemma), down to safety. Ruspoli’s daughter, Bianca (Silvia de Santis), falls for Zian although it’s a social-class no-no. Zian’s prospects as a guide are hampered when an accident leaves him with headaches and vertigo, yet he lets Bianca spin his head further as they tackle Mont Blanc. Leads are handsome and effective. Andrea Ferreol is touching as Zian’s stalwart peasant mom. Transfer from digital Beta is good.

First on the Rope

(PERIOD DRAMA -- FRENCH-ITALIAN-SWISS)

Production: An MC4 Distribution release (in France) of a Gaumont Television, MDI Prods., France 2 Cinema, Rhone-Alpes Cinema (France)/RAI (Italy)/TSR, JMH Prods. (Switzerland) production. (International sales: Gaumont Television, Paris.) Produced by Christian Charret, Marc de Lassus, Alain Majani d'Inguimber, Sandra d'Aboville. Executive producer, Jean-Marc Henchoz. Directed by Edouard Niermans, Pierre-Antoine Hiroz. Screenplay, Jacques Ertaud, Louis-Charles Sirjacq, Marc Syrigas, based on the novels "Premier de cordee," "La grande crevasse" and "Retour a la montagne" by Roger Frison-Roche. Camera (color), Jacky Mahrer; editor, Yann Dedet; music, Gabriel Yared; art director, Renato Jauch. Reviewed at Gaumont Opera Francais, Paris, July 22, 1999 . Original title: Premier de cordee. Running time: 94 MIN.

With: With: Silvia de Santis, Frederic Gorny, Andrea Ferreol, Giuliano Gemma, Didier Bienaime, Matthieu Roze, Melanie Leray, Thibault de Montalembert, Anita Zagaria, Frederic de Pasquale, Lucien Abbet, Pierre-Alain Morrand.

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