Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub, Cézanne - Dialogue avec Joachim Gasquet, 1989
Fine article by Dominique Païni here (hope link still works) https://www.sensesofcinema.com/2006/cin ... n_cezanne/ which is well worth a read, despite a few odd glitches - it's Jean Renoir's 1933 Madame Bovary not Vincente Minnelli's 1949 that the Straubs "sample" - with its sapient remarks on montage from Pasolini, amongst others. Scroll down here https://www.tumgir.com/kirpcatnotes to see how Huillet annotated the text (see below) to be read with her customary maniacal precision (there's a brief Vimeo interview with Straub on the subject too, but good luck understanding him: he might have helped if he'd taken the Gitane maïs out of his mouth for once). Whether or not Cézanne actually said all these things - Gasquet's book came out 15 years after the painter's death - is beside the point. Magnificent.
the film is slightly better than any bond movie and peck is wonderful as ever. (come on, you get a gorgeous movie star and a bresson-method model/actor rolled into one, what's not to love?)
to acquaint our boys with the late jean-paul belmondo, we watched the man from rio (philippe de broca, 1964). they loved it. much of the humor relies on old-fashioned gender clichés but a lot of it is still funny (at least in the german dub, such dir doch eine Freundin, die schwimmen kann). and the whole thing looks so great! paris, rio (first time i had the feeling i kind of understood that city from a movie), especially brasilia as a huge construction site, lots of off-spaces and atmosphere. the showdown is less exciting than the buildup but that's par for course in adventure movies (my 15yo is now totally offended by what he deems predictable plot developments ... we recently watched escape from new york and he couldn't get with it at all while he loved they live (of course that's the correct ranking)).
my two belmondos in recent years i think were the thief of paris (great) and pierrot le fou (intolerable).
anyway, he was more of a presence in the life of a boy in late 70s backwoods germany than most actors, maybe the most glamorous contemporary figure? e.g. i remember that pharmacies had a free magazine they gave out to kids and one of them featured a home story on belmondo. iirc his mansion had a tower and he would do a full round free-climbing the outside of the battlements every morning before breakfast (which consisted of sex and orange juice).
Robert Enrico, Les caïds, 1972
While I've enjoyed Patrick Bouchitey's later outings - see reviews passim - he's distinctly annoying here as the pretty young hoodlum Jock - one wonders why Serge Reggiani wants to take him under his wing . Reggiani and Jean Bouise are stunt drivers who "top up" their salary by robbing banks. Until one day the heist goes wrong and.. yawn. Even a good cast (though Juliet Berto is definitely not the actress you want to play Bonnie to Bouchitey's Clyde) can't save a second-rate script with a second-rate sub-Morricone (Roubaix) soundtrack. Not Enrico's best work, you can probably live without it.
Joe Dante, The 'Burbs, 1989
"Ozzie and Harriet meet Charles Manson" was how scriptwriter Dana Olsen described it, and the oddball mix of comedy and horror, the normal and the supernatural, obviously appealed to director Joe Dante, who shot it all on the backlot (fun details here for film buffs: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_%27Burbs) and made a tidy profit, the movie grossing nearly $50m worldwide. It is, as Roger says,"somewhere between Beetlejuice and The Twilight Zone, but it lacks the dementia of the first and the wicked intelligence of the second and turns instead into a long shaggy dog story" but it's well made and fun to watch (though Hanks' histrionics tend to rub me up the wrong way quite easily).
Melvin Van Peebles, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, 1971
You can't but admire its crazy jumpcuts, wild editing (both of image and music, played by a then-unknown Earth Wind and Fire) and, shall we say, not-altogether-linear plot, and its subsequent influence on African-American cinema and culture in general is undeniable, but it's aged about as well as the Black Panther Party, for whom it was required viewing when it came out. It doesn't matter that MVP can't act at all, because he doesn't give himself much to say, but the supporting cast is equally dodgy. Still, file alongside Flaming Creatures, Chelsea Girls and Star Spangled to Death as things you might want to say you've seen at least once, just for the record. But once is probably enough.
Federico Fellini, Lo sciecco bianco ("The White Sheik"), 1952
Intrigued to read that the first screenplay was written by Michelangelo Antonioni - one wonders how it might have turned out had he directed it - as it is unmistakably Fellini through and through, which is not bad for his first solo outing as a director (1950's Variety Lights was co-directed by Alberto Lattuada). Many of what would later become the director's trademark obsessions are already there: the film within the film, an almost Proustian fascination with celebrity, and Fellini regulars Giulietta Masina (whose Cabiria would return five years later) and Nino Rota are delightful as ever. Hell, I can even take Alberto Sordi this time, too. Nice.
Jean-Luc Godard, De l'origine du XXIe siècle, 2000
Instead of me rapping on, cut & paste this http://jeanregardedesfilms.blogspot.com ... n-luc.html into DeepL and read it. Better still, watch the film (video, rather) four or five times, and marvel. Godard's mastery of montage - image, sound, text, music, the lot - is wonderful. Cheerful, no. Lucid - Bresson's favourite riposte to people who accused him of being pessimistic - yes. Marvellous.
Edgar Wright, Hot Fuzz, 2007
"Lethal Weapon in Somerset", indeed. Thanks as ever to my pal Henrik for pointing me in the direction of this one. Great fun, with a stellar cast and an average shot length of what must 0.001 seconds, it makes Snatch look like Satantango in comparison, is nearly as much fun as the former and a hell of a sight more fun than the latter
Jean-Gabriel Albicocco, La fille au yeux d'or, 1961
This must be the only time that Jonas Mekas ever agreed with Bosley Crowther https://www.nytimes.com/1962/08/21/arch ... -here.html, though for Mekas to take a dump on it for being pretentious is a bit rich. Whatever. Dunno if the gorgeous Marie Laforêt really had golden eyes, and I'm glad the director didn't opt for colour to spoil the fun. The somewhat obscure (though not all that hard to figure out, Bosley old chum) plot and rather literary dialogue - I doubt the wordplay came from the Balzac short story it was based on, though - might not be to everyone's taste, but you can file this alongside Rivette's Paris nous appartient (the wonderful Françoise Prévost is in them both) and several other early nouvelle vague lifestyles-of-the-young-rich-beautiful-and-famous outings (think Chabrol, Doniol, even early Robbe-Grillet). And from a pure cinematographic point of view, I'd say it's more impressive than all of them. I'd never heard of DP Quinto Albicocco (the director's father) before, but, damn, if everything else he filmed was as drop dead gorgeous as this, looks like I've got some catching up to do.
Jean Chérasse, Dreyfus, ou l'Intolérable Vérité, 1975
Well I've finished The Sopranos but Proust is going to take a looong time - and the cloud cast over the books by the Dreyfus affair is intriguing. Maybe this outstanding documentary on L'Affaire - whose repercussions are, arguably, still being felt to this day - is available in a decently restored HD version somewhere, but if it is I haven't been able to find it. An old DVDR rip on Karagarga is all I could come up with. No subs either, which is a shame, as some of the invited participants (which include Michel Debré and François Mitterrand) have much to say of interest. An outstanding piece of research, right up there with Ophüls fils' Le chagrin et la pitié as one of the finest historical documentaries I've come across. Reissue it properly, someone.
Cy Endfield, Impulse, 1954
Compared to some of Endfield's bleaker and at times downright vicious noirs (The Sound of Fury is my favourite), this a rather limp affair, the tale of an American ex-Marine (who stayed on in England after WWII, marrying an Englishwoman and finding himself stuck in a rut as an estate agent in a sleepy Sussex town) who allows himself to get drawn into a sleazy affair of stolen diamonds by a nightclub singer who eventually nearly frames him for murder, before.. nah, won't spoil it anymore. Constance Smith is super as the femme fatale - more femme than fatale, in fact - and it's a shame her own life and career went down the drain at the end of the 1950s (she ended up more or less dying on the street in Islington
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constance_Smith). Elsewhere, I wonder if Endfield liked it all that much himself - he chose to use a pseudonym as a director. It's quite tight, albeit wordy, but the ending fails to convince and the humour is somewhat forced. Here's another point of view https://livius1.com/2021/04/26/impulse/
Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Le gamin au vélo, 2011
From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kid_with_a_Bike: "While The Kid with a Bike does not deviate from the naturalistic style of the Dardenne brothers' earlier works, a comparatively bright aesthetic was employed, as well as a screenplay inspired by fairy tales. Unusually for a film by the directors, it also uses music. It premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and was co-winner of the festival's Grand Prix." Sunshine certainly brightens up the otherwise dreary suburbs of Liège where the Dardennes shoot their movies (no worries about the directors' carbon footprint, they won't be doing any location shoots in Nepal), and the ending - which I won't spoil - is splendid. One of my favourite Dardennes.
Jean-Pierre Mocky, La bête de la miséricorde, 2001
Originally intended for Belmondo, who would no doubt have done a better job than Mocky himself playing the antihero Mardet - who sees it as his divine mission to put people out of their misery, a veritable Christian serial killer, this is a rather scrappy and dingy-looking affair (hey, I know the story's dark, and the banlieue parisienne not the most exotic of locations, but it can be made to look much better than this: think Corneau, Denis etc), saved only by the splendid double act of Bernard Menez and Jackie Berroyer. Not one of JPM's best.
Bob Swaim, La balance, 1982
So this was a major box office smash in France, and (apparently) influenced a younger generation of French directors, though one wonders why they wanted to pick up on what is essentially a very transatlantic vibe, given the solid tradition of gritty French 70s thrillers by the likes of Boisset and Corneau. It's a competent and entertaining cop thriller, for sure, but I don't know how it managed to scoop up three Césars (best film, best actor - Philippe Léotard - and best actress - Nathalie Baye), given that the script is pretty stilted and none of the actors has much of a role to get their teeth into. Maurice Ronet doesn't have much to do as the big baddie other than look miserable, which he does anyway most of the time, Tchéky Karyo goes predictably psycho with his guns, Léotard's dialogue droops as much as his eyebrows, and Nathalie Baye's hooker heroine is pretty, but pretty two-dimensional. But, hey, it's fun. Nice location shoots in Paris, too.
Dario Argento, Sleepless, 2001
"Detective Ulisse Moretti (Max von Sydow) is investigating a series of murders in Turin in 1983, known as The Dwarf Murders. The main suspect, a giallo novelist named Vincenzo de Fabritiis, a person with dwarfism, turns up dead and the case is considered closed. However, seventeen years later, a similar series of murders begin and draw the since-retired Moretti back into the case. Moretti teams up with Giacomo Gallo (Stefano Dionisi), whose mother was murdered in the 1983 spree, to determine if de Fabritiis is still alive or was actually innocent of the crimes for which he was accused. As the murders continue, the investigating duo discovers that the murderer is arranging their murder to an old nursery rhyme about the killing of animals." Not sure about "a person with dwarfism" - what's wrong with "a dwarf'? - but never mind. Dario's back in gialloland, and - like Donald Pleasence with his chimp in Phenomena - the ageing sleuth has a pet (a parrot this time). It's entertaining stuff, if as ever you're prepared to suspend your disbelief and not ask too many questions (how did the killer get on the train, eh?), and made some tidy box office, but he did it all much better a quarter of a century earlier.
Nico Papatakis, The Shepherds of Calamity aka Thanos and Despina, 1967
Quoth Criterion: "Nico Papatakis’s caustic political allegory—made in the wake of the 1967 Greek coup d’état that led to the establishment of a right-wing military junta—takes the form of a deliriously unhinged romantic tragedy. Beginning with the image of an exploding goat and only proceeding to get stranger from there, The Shepherds of Calamity centers on the forbidden romance between a poor shepherd (George Dialegmenos) and the daughter (Olga Karlatos) of a well-off family who find their love beset by the machinations of those around them." That description doesn't do it justice, really, and there's no point looking for anything sensible on IMDb (well, maybe if you read Greek). The director who most frequently comes to mind is Pasolini, both for the neorealistic (should that be post-neorealistic? does such a thing exist?) setting and the tortured love-hate relationship between Thanos and Despina, plus the crazy mountainside barbecue party complete with balloons and roasting goats as the police scale the cliffs in search of the escaping lovers. Doubtless some familiarity with the historical background wouldn't go amiss, but there's enough amazing stuff here to thrill you anyway. Recommended.
Todd Haynes, The Velvet Underground, 2021
There are plenty of grumpy IMDb user reviews, but by and large the crrrritics seem to have enjoyed Haynes' debut documentary, as did I. With Apple money behind him, he's managed to hoover up an enormous amount of background material, from archive footage of the band and the world they found themselves in at the time to deliciously cheesy TV commercials and even John Cage performing to the inane titters of a studio audience. And Cale playing Vexations! Add to that Ed Lachman's immaculately shot interviews - wow, we get to see and hear La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela! that must have cost them a pretty penny - and a heavy use of splitscreen (Chelsea Girls homage?), there's a lot to get your teeth into. Whether or not you're a Velvets fan (I've always thought their influence on rock music somehow outweighed their slender discography myself), you'll love Mo Tucker's call-a-spade-a-fuckin-shovel no-bullshit. No wonder they hated Zappa. Haha.
Chantal Akerman, Histoires de l'Amérique: Food, Family and Philosophy, 1989
Akerman returns to New York - apart from the closing minutes everything is shot outside at night in a bleak wasteland somewhere near the Williamsburg Bridge - but her own sad family history is never far away: holocaust, abuse, exile, depression, suicide. Consisting entirely of brief monologues telling the story of newly-arrived Jewish immigrants in New York (many of them originally from Poland), fleeing pogroms, forced into marriages of convenience, interspersed with amusing sketches (though the pain of Jewish humour stereotypes is ever present), it's a sober experience, especially knowing how Akerman's own life story ended.