Hal Hartley, Meanwhile, 2011
You've probably already noticed, but the new-look IMDb now links to more Critics' Reviews, many of which seem to come from odd blogs I've never heard of. Tant mieux! I like this one: https://www.unsungfilms.com/10143/meanwhile/#gsc.tab=0
Whatever happened to Hartley? Such a class act when it comes to framing, timing, character.. just about everything, in fact. Maybe Meanwhile is just a little too precious for its own good - and unfortunately (fortunately for me - though these days it's the MARKET that runs the show) just an hour long, which means it's neither a short, nor a feature. What we call a moyen métrage here in France. Anyway, loved it.
Thank you! Nice to be back.
Do I? May I call your attention to a phrasing of mine:Dan Warburton wrote: Yes, looking forward to this. But - churlish troll that I am - you seem prepared to overlook Wayne's shall we say very-much-right-of-centre politics but not Capra's? I'm not great Capra fan, but what he does he does very well. Idem The Duke. A discuter
and his politics were what was on my mind. And for Capra, maybe I should have put "man" or "person" rather than "director." I frankly haven't seen enough to dismiss him outright. John Ford on the other hand...henriq wrote: and an awful human being
Patrice Chéreau, Gabrielle, 2005
It's well worth reading the Joseph Conrad novella of which this is a fine adaptation, which is freely available online http://www.online-literature.com/conrad/185/ , if only to see how Chéreau and fellow screenwriter Anne-Louise Trividic have transposed it from grimy London to the bourgeois soirées of Parc Monceau. Many details of the Conrad have been faithfully preserved - the cigar-chomping husband disembarking from his surburban train at the beginning, the hall of mirrors in the bedroom when he finds the letter - but elsewhere the spectre of Proust is never far away, notably in the sweet'n'sour salon chitchat, which could have come straight from Mme Verdurin's, especially since there's no such idle gossip in the Conrad original. Indeed, the wife's name is not even mentioned - but in calling her Gabrielle (and naming the film after her to boot), Chéreau has shifted the centre of gravity right to the middle of the couple tearing itself apart. Stellar performances from Huppert and Greggory (goes without saying), excellent Fabio Vacchi score, a class act from start to finish.
Gérard Blain, Un enfant dans la foule, 1976
A quick shufti through the Gérard Blain life story reveals that this, his third feature, would appear to be heavily autobiographical - parents separated, tense conflictual relations with mother and elder sister, a childhood spent in occupied Paris and leaving school without his certificat d'études primaires. And, yes, he did indeed get an uncredited bit part in Les enfants du paradis! In his memoirs, fellow actor Jean-Claude Brialy reveals that Blain was himself sexually abused as a boy, and ended up with a hatred ("une haine farouche", indeed) of homosexuals. That's not particularly in evidence here, though the intentions of the sleazeball who picks up young Paul in the Métro are abundantly clear - the boy not entirely unwillingly befriends both German and American soldiers, bumming cigarettes ("for my father") and stealing as much as he can to boot, but maybe only as way of trying in vain to gain the affection of his mother (I sincerely hope Mme Blain wasn't like this). The influence of Bresson is clear - the total lack of any artificial bullshit, the purity of sound recording, the preference for non- professional actors - but, although it made it to the Official Selection of Cannes in 1976 (along with, among others, Brutti, sporchi a cattivi, Monsieur Klein, Le locataire, Cria Cuervos, La marquise d'O and Taxi Driver, which won that year), it never got the attention I think it deserved. 4k restoration and BluRay please.
Alfred Hitchcock, The Farmer's Wife, 1928
"After his daughter weds, a middle-aged widower with a profitable farm decides to remarry, but finds choosing a suitable mate a problematic process." Hitch didn't make many comedies as such - even if there are plenty of funny bits even in the later classics (well, maybe not The Wrong Man, and Vertigo isn't exactly a barrel of laughs either...) - but he knew how to do it, and do it well. "It was a routine job," he told Peter Bogdanovich later, "a stage play with lots of titles instead of dialogue." Funny, I didn't get the impression there were too many intertitles, myself, and they're quite amusing, written in dialect (the film was shot in Devon). Most commentators praise Gordon Harker as the grumpy farmhand Churdles Ash, but the farmer himself deserves a mention: Jameson Thomas (né Thomas Jameson) finds the right balance between slapstick and pathos. He was already out in Hollywood before Hitch moved there, but died early - shame, as I can easily imagine him popping up in the director's 1940s classics. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jameson_Thomas
F.W. Murnau, Faust - A German Folktale, 1926
There seem to be as many variants of this film as there are of COVID-19, but the one I've just seen is the 147-minute Eureka Murnau Stiftung BluRay, lovingly restored by the good folks in Bologna from what appears to be the only surviving German print from the Danish Film Insitutute. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faust_(1926_film) Nosferatu, The Last Laugh and Sunrise seem to get more column inches, but this is just as great. It flopped on release in Germany - Gösta Ekman (Faust) didn't go down well, but what can you do when up against Emil Jannings? I'd hazard a guess Murnau was also more taken with Mephisto himself too, given the rather perfunctory happy ending. Killer special effects, which still look good today. Reviews abound elsewhere, go Google
Steve Sekely, Hollow Triumph, 1948
16 years before Paul Henreid got Bette Davis to kill her twin sister in Dead Ringer (see above), he murdered himself in this entertaining but gloomy B-noir. Except that, in bumping off Dr Bartok (that's Emil not Bela) he forgot was looking into a mirror and put the scar on the wrong cheek. Oddly enough, none of the main characters spots this, but it doesn't seem to bother the director (Henreid's eventually caught out by a couple of hoods who were after Bartok all the way along), and it shouldn't bother you either.
Claude Chabrol, Betty, 1992
There's an anecdote about Alfred Hitchcock who phoned Georges Simenon to ask about rights for one of his 500 novels, only to be told by Simenon's secretary that the Great Writer couldn't be disturbed because he'd just started a new one. Quipped Hitch, "that's all right, I'll wait." Claude Chabrol wasn't quite as prolific, but he did turn out 57 features, plus 26 more for TV, which is going some. Needless to say, some are great, some are bloody awful (avoid La route de Corinth à tout prix) and some - like Betty - are intriguingly flawed. By and large I agree with Dennis https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/betty/ - the director got so caught up in his flashbacks and flashforwards he took his eye off the plot ball. It has its moments - the mother-in-law is sensational - but by the time we find out what's driven Betty to drink, we're half-expecting Stéphane Audran to be in on the act too, in a kind of conspiracy theory torture. But no.. the ending's as wrinkly and tired-looking as Audran herself. But see what you think.
Joseph Sargent, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, 1974
Blows me away every time - and this must be at the sixth or seventh - not an ounce of fat, great plot, fabulous dialogue, terrific acting and kickass soundtrack. Fucking awesome. Sorry for the F-word but, to quote Fat Caz, "if I've got to watch my language just because they let a few broads in, I'm going to quit. How the hell can you run a goddamn railroad without swearing?"
Georges Franju, La faute de l'Abbé Mouret, 1970
Dan Warburton wrote: ↑Fri Feb 14, 2020 12:48 pmI do hope a decently restored version of this isn't long coming, if only to appreciate the beauty of Gillian Hills (who you probably already know from A Clockwork Orange and, briefly, Blow Up) and her garden. But the young Abbé, Francis Huster, whose first feature this was, is a good-looking lad too. Shame Jesus got to him first. It's based on a novel by Zola, so expect no mercy: from brutish peasants ransacking their dead mother's hovel for pennies before the corpse is even moved from its deathbed, to a vicious medieval priest Archangias (André Lacombe) who'd have been just perfect for the Spanish Inquisition (but who gets his comeuppance in the awesome ending). Zola's raw dialogues are reworked by Jean Ferry but lose none of their punch; has to be said, Emile was never what you could call subtle: if he were around today he'd probably be making TV series, and decent ones too. Splendid stuff - and a wonderful Jean Wiener score. Fortement recommandé!
James Benning, From Bakersfield to Mojave, 2020
I think the shot of the Tehachapi loop - the sixth of eight in an hour and three quarters - is my favourite Benning shot. Shame I couldn't find a screenshot from the film but here's another image of this rather extraordinary feat of civil engineering.
A magnificent piece of work (the film): good to see Benning managed to get out of his house after lockdown https://www.imdb.com/title/tt13736186/? ... _flmg_dr_1
Edouard Molinaro, Quand passent les faisans, 1965
The title puns on Quand passent les cigognes, the French title of Mikhail Kalatazov's 1957 Russian wartime epic (the title of which, btw, was The Cranes are Flying - but the French translation of crane being grue, a not-so-polite way to describe a woman of easy virtue, storks - cigognes - were chosen instead ). Faisan - pheasant - is French slang for conman, which is what our three principal protagonists (splendid performances from Jean Lefebvre, Bernard Blier and the mighty Paul Meurisse) are. Not spoiling much by telling you their scam doesn't end well. Typically sharp Michel Audiard dialogue, nice tight filming from Molinaro, fun from start to finish.
That was better than Holy Motors in my opinion. Songs are unimpressive to say the least, and rather grating, overrepetitive and simple both musically and lyrically, but they maintain the film in a constant, propelling flow* where Carax' visual ideas, never that profuse before, can display themselves to the hilt. It's that kind of gothic mannerism, voluntarily bordering on kitsch, that was to be found in Twixt by Coppola for instance. One is reminded of Guy Maddin and the likes as well, with, among other things, superimpositions aplenty. Baby Annette is a difficult trick to pull of, but Carax manages it: the idea of a real baby seems after all absurd, both on a logistical viewpoint, but, more importantly, on an emotional evel : the doll is way more expressive than any real baby of that age would have been. Plus it makes the aim about exploitation rather self-evident. It's quite a simplistic movie, the only raison d'être of which is Carax' visual imagination, its aptness to tackle primal, sometimes stupid in their naivety, emotions.Dan Warburton wrote: ↑Mon Jul 19, 2021 2:49 am
Leos Carax, Annette, 2021
Wiki: "[D]irected by Leos Carax (in his English-language debut), and with a screenplay by Ron Mael and Russell Mael of Sparks, and Carax, from an original story, music and songs by the band.[..] "The film tells the story of a provocative stand-up comedian (Adam Driver) and his wife, a world-famous soprano (Marion Cotillard). Their glamorous life takes an unexpected turn when their daughter Annette is born, a girl with a unique gift." 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it seems. Well. Go to the IMDb page and read the reviews too, if you like. But, fwiw, I thought this was absolutely irredeemably awful. Even worse than Bruno Dumont's Jeanne d'Arc thing a couple of years ago. What's with this sudden craze to make musicals? What was wrong with opera? There's a brief scene where Driver is on his bike crossing the desert at night, Lost Highway-like, where images of his wife performing famous scenes from opera flash before him. It's the only decent music in the entire film, and a sad reminder that the genre of filmed opera never really took off. Bergman's Magic Flute, Losey's Don Giovanni... that's about it - shame nobody ever got round to doing Salome, or Wozzeck, or Le Grand Macabre. Instead of Strauss, Berg or Ligeti, we get... Sparks.
I remember a very good interview with Carax in Les Inrockuptibles way back when it was a decent magazine about the time Les Amants du Pont-Neuf came out, raving about Iggy Pop. But that was thirty years ago. Man had good taste back then, at least. How he ended up working with the talentless geriatric Mael brothers (combined age 147) I don't know, and don't want to know. Their music is truly awful, pale, featureless and eminently forgettable 4/4 sub-Phil Glass noodling, and the lyrics (lyrics?) are even worse: "It's your problem / (Get off, get off, get off the stage) / Fuck, it's not my problem / (Get off, get off, get off the stage) / It's your problem / (Get off, get off, get off the stage) / Your fucking problem / (Get off, get off, get off the stage)" Wow, eat your heart out, Stephen Sondheim.
The third essential element of a musical, after decent music and decent lyrics, is having actors who can actually sing, or at least mime well (Jacques Demy, anyone?), but this is unfortunately not the case for Mr Driver (whose naturally deep speaking voice is replaced by a wimpy nasal whine when he tries to sing) nor for Ms Cotillard. And even trying to blame her lousy singing on having to shoot in a haze of cigarette smoke from the furiously chainsmoking director doesn't cut it (especially as we see her smoking herself at one point).
But the Palme d'Or goes to baby Annette, a truly hideous model that looks like a scabby cross between Gollum and Chucky. At least for the final scene where she has to confront her father in jail and actually sing, there was no way for the director to bring it off other than to use a real actress (hats off to young Devyn McDowell - her career can only go upwards from here), but surely with all the wizardry of 21st century technology and whatnot there could have been a way for Carax to use a real baby throughout? Go figure. Quite apart from all this, I'm amazed Carax netted the Best Director award at Cannes for a film so glaringly lacking in any of the moments of cinema magic that abound in his earlier works ( Kylie in La Samaritaine https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZJrTwDwmcw, the fireworks on the Pont Neuf https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8fLGeaG91E, Lavant racing across Paris to Bowie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gt2KlkBUgXA ...). Maybe it's a kind of Lifetime Achievement thing in advance. After all, if we have to wait another nine years for the next one, there's a good chance the director might check out with lung cancer before he gets round to making it. Which would mean that the final depressing shot of Driver skulking in his prison cell would also be Carax's farewell. "Don't look at me."
*That's actually what they are saying in the indiewire interview about the film:"Songs like “So May We Start” and “We Love Each Other So Much” aren’t song-songs; they’re more like rhythmic speaking, not in a rock-music kind of way but as actual dialogue." This is no Robert Ashley but... Kornél Mundruczó tried his hand at some filmed opera. My guess is, without having seen the film, that the music is not very good either.
Dan Warburton wrote: ↑Thu Jun 17, 2021 12:24 am
Kogonada, Columbus, 2017
If you like architecture as much as cinema (coucou Antoine!), you can't afford to miss out on this magnificent debut feature from South Korean-born US-based Kogonada, whose excellent brief video essays for BFI and Criterion (from Breaking Bad to Bresson, Kubrick to Ozu) are also well worth checking out at https://vimeo.com/kogonada. Kogonada's nothing if not cinema-savvy, and the covered bridge is a clue - after all, Madison County, Iowa's only an eight-hour drive from Columbus, Indiana, and any plot resemblances to Clint Eastwood's tearjerker (and Sofia Coppola's Lost In Translation) are entirely deliberate. But Ozu is a more obvious reference: it's all about understatement and subtlety, being able to convey powerful emotions with few words. Needless to say the framing is exquisite. Fine performances from Parker Posey, John Cho and especially Haley Lu Richardson. Well worth your time. https://www.indiewire.com/2017/08/colum ... 201862953/
The reference to Lost of Translation kind of jumps at you indeed. The use of understatement and ellipsis makes it even more obvious, such as in this scene where the young woman, cornered, explains why such building moves her. The director choses to gloss over that with music, rather than write the perilous dialogue. So this is a good film but not one I would be as glowing about as you Dan, it's just a wee bit scolaire as we say in French. Those seemingly symmetrical, perfectly slick shots that illustrate the film's motto : "asymetrical but balanced" are just too... slick, too groomed. It's also interesting to see a film that engrossed with architecture, that takes a critical stance on the ego part of it, but it skims off the surface, for fear of being ponderous perhaps. Would gladly check out Columbus, Ohio now (a different one).
Cindy Sherman - Office Killer (1997)
Really? No, really? You sure? This passes for something? Further damning proof that artists should not be directing films - it might look easy, kids, but it is not. One positive out of the way, though - Carol Kane is splendid, but then again, she always is, and what’s more, she already did essentially the same role in Karen Arthur’s The Mafu Cage, and there she had a real monkey to act with and against. A monkey that blows the competition here out of the water - Barbara Sukowa is especially awful (wtf? This is MIEZE fer chrissakes!), David Thornton fucks Cyndi Lauper somewhere and that might be all that distinguishes him. Molly Ringwald and Jeanne Tripplehorn, sure, ok then, but then again, no one has any real direction to help them. And the story: scared, repressed little office drone turns not only psycho serial killer but also steely genius careerist? I’m willing to go for the first pairing, the pressure and violence of an official society fomenting murderous rage, the killings portrayed at least an indictment of something. Think Angela Winkler in The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, or Imamura’s Vengeance Is Mine. But to then come out on top, all Patrick Bateman? I don’t buy it. And then the fucking music, by fucking Evan Lurie. Fuck him and the sub-Piazzolla toy horse he rode in on. Avoid.
James B. Harris, Boiling Point, 1993
Apparently an earlier cut focused more on Dennis Hopper's alarmingly Trumpian conman, "Red" Diamond, but the film ended up with more Wesley Snipes, who plays the T-Man out to get him (well, not him at first, but his sidekick sawn-off shotgun-toting Ronnie, played by Viggo Mortensen). Which is part of the problem. I've never really warmed to Snipes, and the fact that he has to deal with a pretty lousy script (Harris obviously didn't think so, because he gave himself a separate writing credit) doesn't help. It's not a patch on the two kickass films he made with James Woods (Fast Walking and Cop), but with a great supporting cast including Dan Hedaya, Seymour Cassel, Tony Lo Bianco and - yes! - Jonathan Banks (Mike Ehrmantraut to you), it's worth more than the measly 18% it scored on the Tomatometer. And, like Dennis, I'm a sucker for those big band arrangements.
Jean-Claude Rousseau, Les antiquités de Rome, 1989
It was all shot in Super-8, so YouTube quality is just fine, if you want to check it out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPlVGkiucJU
Meanwhile, DeepL will help translate this fine review, if you're interested https://www.lesinrocks.com/cinema/les-a ... 0-11-1999/
"On ne filme jamais ce qu’on veut mais toujours ce qu’on trouve, surtout avec le super-8. Il survient toujours quelque chose d’inattendu, d’involontaire. Et ce sont ces accidents le plus beau, pas ce qui est calculé. Il faut se laisser emporter par ce qu’on voit et ne pas forcer l’image à dire quelque chose. L’image ne dit rien, mais quelque chose survient à l’image." Fascinating, Rousseau.
Yannick Bellon, Jamais plus toujours, 1976
Avoid the one silly IMDb user review, and translate this instead. https://www.lemonde.fr/archives/article ... 19218.html Bulle Ogier, magnificent as ever. And the director's sister Loleh - what a voice! - is too. Watch out for a brief appearance of one of Samuel Beckett's favourite actors, Roger Blin. Beautiful,
"Tous ceux qui, comme moi, voient dans les salles de vente des lieux chargés de poésie et de mystère (...) ne peuvent manquer d'être profondément touchés par Jamais plus toujours. Non seulement en raison du charme mélancolique et du raffinement très subtil de ce poème en images, mais parce que, cette fois, il s'agit d'un poème tout entier consacré à l'objet, et qu'il est grand temps de nous interroger sur la place que l'objet tend à prendre dans notre civilisation." - Claude Lévi-Strauss