Jonathan Glazer, Under The Skin, 2013
Hadn't seen this for one a while, and ended up watching it three times in a row, plus the DVD bonuses (which aren't all that enlightening). Ten years in the making, and Glazer's patience and perfectionism paid off. What led me back to this was the late Mark Fisher's The Weird and the Eerie, which I listened to in an Audiobook binge recently and which has sent me back to several albums (The Fall, Eno..) and films I haven't spent time with for a while (I'll skip Interstellar though, if you don't mind). If you haven't seen Under The Skin, I'm not spoiling much by telling you Scarlett Johansson - in a ratty black wig and imitation fur coat - plays an alien, cruising the streets of Glasgow for unattached young males whom she lures back to her pad and then.. well, let's just say they don't come out again (Glazer wisely dispensed with the original idea of the Michael Faber novel, which was they were eaten..). Actually, one does - the first of several telltale signs that Scarlett is beginning to, if not develop actual human feelings, at least recognise them in others. Anyway, the whole story is told with such admirable economy, beautifully and disturbingly underpinned by Mica Levi's excellent soundtrack, and the Scottish locations are magnificent. Not picture postcard Scotland - though there is one ruined castle - but wild moorland, windswept beaches and bleak suburban shopping malls. Outstanding stuff - hope we won't have to wait another decade for the next Glazer, but he's not exactly prolific: only a brief enigmatic six-minute short, The Fall, in 2019. Waiting.
José Giovanni, Le rapace, 1968
Giovanni's second foray into directing, after entering the world of cinema as a screenwriter (Jacques Becker's Le trou is based on his own experiences as a death row prisoner - the Giovanni backstory is an interesting one https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Jos%C3%A9_Giovanni), was based on a novel by John Carrick about a hardboiled, cynical, raw onion-chomping French mercenary (Lino Ventura) hired to assassinate the Mexican president. Inevitably we find out pretty quickly that everyone is out to double and triple cross each other, and things don't go exactly according to plan. Evidently inspired by Leone - huge close ups of eyes, gaudy costumes for the leading lady, and all those sweaty, cackling unshaven Mexicans (damn, if I were Mexican myself I'd be pretty pissed off at the way my compatriots have been depicted in film..) - but intriguingly relatively short on actual action, Giovanni seems more interested in the huis clos that confines the Frenchman with the idealistic young Miguel as they await the arrival of the soon-to-be-gunned-down El Presidente. In one sense, the film is somewhat ahead of its time, the failure of the glorious revolution indicative of the impending collapse of post 68 counterculture, and probably worth a look for that alone. Apart from Ventura, the rest of the Mexican cast is competent if not exceptional - not that they have that much exceptional to say: Lino gets the best lines.
Dan Warburton wrote: ↑Thu Nov 03, 2016 9:39 am
Giulio Questi, Death Laid an Egg, 1968
This is to giallo what Questi's Django Kill! was to spaghetti western - a total headfuck! Described rather well by one IMDb punter as "Les Diaboliques on acid (with a lot of chickens)", it's a totally bizarre love triangle/quadrilateral starring Jean-Louis Trintignant (choose the English audio track - it's not his voice in Italian either, but the English dialogue is so surreally stilted it sounds like it was written by Google Translate) as the dour husband of Gina Lollobrigida, whom he obviously married for money (though one can think of other reasons..), as she's inherited a hi-tech chicken farm and is perfecting research on a - wait for it - genetically "improved" chicken with neither head nor wings. The Association, a vaguely Mafia-like consortium of poultry farmers, is keen to exploit this mutant for profit (well, sure), and become suspicious of Jean, especially when his secret of hobby of pretending to tie up and stab hookers in a motel comes to light.. Quite apart from the bizarre plot, there's wonderfully weird photography - somewhere between Il deserto rosso and some acid-ridden art movie à la Pierre Clementi - and fabulous avant-garde soundtrack courtesy Bruno Maderna. A blast! And you'll love the ending
Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, Le Viol , 1967
La-Z-Boy that I am, here's a DeepL'ed translation of someone else's plot summary: "In the heart of Paris' beautiful neighborhoods, the life of Marianne and Henri Severin unfolds to the rhythm of well-established social conventions: while the husband goes hunting in the company of a few associates, the mistress of the house is in charge, with the help of Jacqueline, the maid, of taking care of the big dinner that will gather some of their friends. But the classic order of this day is overturned when a mysterious man enters the apartment. He orders Marianne to obey him strictly if she wants to see her husband alive again. Distraught, the young woman has no other choice but to let herself be tied up by this disturbing man..."
Calling your film "Rape" is, well, asking for trouble, especially since we never see the rape (and indeed by the end of the film realise that it hasn't taken place at all) - I imagine that's the reason this splendid huis clos - Bibi Andersson and Bruno Cremer, great - isn't better known, while other more salacious artysexy movies (think Robbe-Grillet) have been nicely reissued. As such, if the title puts you off, let me assure you that Ms Andersson remains in her bathrobe throughout the film, well, at least until her ordeal is over. Then the evening begins.. intriguing! Cool decor - the op art could be a kind of clue - and a great Michel Portal soundtrack. Worth checking out (be warned though if you download it from KG that at the end of the movie we crash without a break into some trailers for other films.. yikes!)
Edward L. Cahn, Guns, Girls and Gangsters, 1959
Wiki: "Chuck Wheeler is released from prison and plans an elaborate heist of an armored truck carrying money from a Las Vegas casino. Chuck enlists the help of nightclub owner Joe Darren as well as Vi Victor, a sensational blonde married to Chuck's ex-cellmate Mike Bennett. Mike is a very jealous and dangerous man who will not grant Vi a divorce. He escapes from prison just before the armored truck robbery is to occur and causes havoc when he locates Chuck, Joe, and his unfaithful wife." Nothing to write home about, really, unless you want to tell you friends about what Lee Van Cleef ussed to look like with hair. As for Mamie Van Doren, you can scare yourself by looking at the 2007 photo of her on her wiki page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mamie_Van_Doren (also amused to read there she apparently had an affair with - amongst many others - Paul Daniels (?!). Thought you'd like that - not a lot
Olivier Assayas, Les destinées sentimentales, 2000
Though dogged by problems from the outset - choosing a novel by an author (Jacques Chardonne) who openly supported the Nazi occupation of France and expressed boundless admiration for Philippe Pétain is a risky move for starters; then having your lead actor (Daniel Auteuil) back out because he'd bust up with co-star Emmanuelle Béart in real life (never mind, Charles Berling did a great job), followed by numerous problems with the shoot and a film that ended up nearly an hour longer than it was originally supposed to be - there's much to commend Assayas's picaresque tale of half a century's history of a Protestant porcelain manufacturing family in Limoges. Watch it over a couple of nights, like a TV series. Not bad at all.
Julien Duvivier, Poil de carotte, 1931
I slogged through the earlier 1925 silent version a few days before tackling the talkie (obviously the fact that Duvivier chose to remake it so soon after showed that Jules Renard's largely autobiographical tale of a boy growing up in a loveless family was a subject close to his heart). The later version is a tighter affair, with some standout performances - the mighty Harry Baur, of course, as the father, but also young Robert Lynen (11 years old at the time) as the boy (an extremely difficult role to bring off: some of the lines he has to deliver are of a chilling maturity, and yet elsewhere his behaviour borders on the autistic: let's call it Aspergers, maybe) - and yet some of the dirtier details of the longer version (the sadistic mother's hiding the chamber pot; the cowardly older brother's lowlife girlfriend..) are missing. It's an odd tale: obviously one's sympathies are with the boy, but the father's treatment of the mother (she's a nasty piece of work, all right, but you can understand why at times) and the decidedly two-dimensional characters of the spoilt brat older children make it hard to deal with, at times. Still, it was a great success at the time, and Lynen went on to be a sought after property as a child actor, until his untimely death at the age of 24 as a Resistance fighter. https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Ly ... contents=0
Pierre Chenal, Les jeux dangereux, 1958
DW truncated DeepL plot résumé: "Alain is the only son of a rich bourgeois couple. He takes violin lessons in Ménilmontant, where he is spotted by Fleur, a poor girl, who kidnaps him to ask for a ransom from the young man's parents, money to pay a good lawyer for her brother charged with killing a policeman." The mighty Jean Servais plays a washed-up ex-cop turned private eye who's hired to find the missing brat. Fine performance from Pascale Audret as Fleur, and watch out for a young and not very nice at all Sami Frey as one of the young hoods. Great location shoots - if you know Le Ballon Rouge you'll recognise the spot - and a fine eye for detail on the part of the director: the opening journey into Paris from the rich western suburbs does indeed follow the exact route the driver would have taken. Nice detail.
Pierre Clémenti, Visa de Censure no.X, 1967
Pierre Clémenti, La révolution n'est qu'un début. Continuons le combat, 1968
Pierre Clémenti, Souvenirs souvenirs, 1967-1978
Pierre Clémenti, Positano, 1969
Pierre Clémenti, New Old, 1979
Pierre Clémenti, Soleil, 1988
One of my fondest memories from way back when, i.e. shortly after I moved to Paris in 1988, was an all-night session of films in a little arthouse cinema near the Pantheon called Accatone (any cinema that names itself after a Pasolini film can't be bad) curated by and starring / directed by Pierre Clémenti, arthouse icon par excellence. They don't these all-nighters anymore, I think.. and to the best of knowledge the cinema isn't there anymore either. Nor of course is Clémenti: in fact he was already looking pretty rough when I saw him that night, and died not long afterwards. The programme consisted of Pasolini's Porcherie for starters - what an hors d'oeuvre - and ended somewhere near dawn with Clémenti's dystopian Burroughs-like nightmare A l'ombre de la canaille bleu. Somewhere in between I vaguely recall a Bunuel, probably The Milky Way, Brocani's Necropolis (yawn) and there were a couple of other strange things which I've been trying to dredge out of my memory and download ever since. But I do distinctly recall seeing Visa de Censure no.X and at least one more of the director's psychedelic headfuck 16mm home movies, all of which have been magnificently restored and released on BluRay (only 197 shopping days to Christmas folks). Calling them home movies is a bit demeaning, I guess, but many of the extraordinary images he shot - and shot over, respooling the film and printing over earlier images to result in some extraordinary superimpositions - did indeed come from events in his everyday life, and the movie shoots he was involved in. Yes, you can expect to see plenty of colourfully dressed young people smoking extremely large cigarettes in various states of undress (apart from Gérard Depardieu, I don't think any other French actor has cavorted in the nude as much as Clémenti), grainy and grisly on-the-hoof footage of riot police getting down and dirty on the May 68 barricades, all exquisitely underscored by ace French psych avant garde rock from the time (the soundtrack is as much a trip as the movie). The famous graveyard acid freakout scene in Easy Rider doesn't come close: maybe Derek Jarman's Super 8 films make for a more sensible comparison. Whatever, the result is terrific: absolutely of its time, which makes it universal. A few months after that memorable nuit blanche, I ran into Clémenti in a bar called Le Djurdjura (still there, rue des Ours behind Beaubourg), which was one of the watering holes that stayed open way past midnight. I can't remember what words we exchanged - he was even more blitzed than I was - though he was very sweet, and I stood him a beer before he disappeared into the seamy, steamy neon night. I never saw him again. It's wonderful to see him again now.
Nathaniel Kahn, The Price of Everything, 2018
Good review https://www.dazeddigital.com/art-photog ... aniel-kahn
Good interview with the director https://www.vogue.com/article/the-price ... -interview
"There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see." - Leonardo da Vinci, quoted by Amy Cappellazzo
“There’s a lot of people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing,” - Oscar Wilde, quoted by Stefan Edlis
“Money is dirty.” - Gerhard Richter
“If you have something to say, it will eventually get seen. But it might not be in your lifetime. And if you’re female you’re bound to be old or dead.” - Marilyn Minter
"My only defense against fate is color.” - Larry Poons
“Red is better than brown. Brown is unsalable. And don’t buy any pictures with fish.” - Stefan Edlis
“We’re careening toward some edge, some end” - Gavin Brown
Good grief, we are.
Anatole Litvak, La Dame dans l’auto avec des lunettes et un fusil ("The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun"), 1970
Smart and snappy Michel Legrand soundtrack complete with Petula Clark, a solid performance from Samantha Eggar as the leading lady (of Oliver Reed's, less said the better here), but, as if often the case with Sébastien Japrisot novels ("crime-fiction critics find them too literary while the literary critics find them too exciting") the plot is seriously convoluted and can only be explained by a last-minute perfunctory and unsatisfactory voiceover. Which is always a bad sign - Assayas's Wasp Network suffered from the same problem - for once, though I'm no great fan of the TV series genre, stretching this out over several episodes might have been more effective. Would have been nice to see more of Samantha Eggar and Stéphane Audran, too
Jacques Rivette, Céline et Julie vont en bateau, 1973
How good to return to this after several years. No shortage of positive reviews to browse through online (I always like JR on Rivette, myself https://jonathanrosenbaum.net/2022/01/s ... -movie-tk/ ), and the only mildly negative ones are those criticising the colour grading on recent DVD reissues, from what I can make out, but almost all of them bang on about how long Rivette's films are, conveniently ignoring that fact that most major blockbusters of recent years go way beyond the two and a half hour mark (Céline et Julie clocks in at under three and a quarter hours). As folks these days seem to have no difficulty at all bingewatching entire seasons of TV series, 193 minutes is, frankly, a doddle. And there's nothing to stop you watching it over a couple of nights, either. To be honest - though admittedly I'm a diehard Rivette fan, and therefore biased - I don't even feel the time slipping by (as opposed to Bela Tarr, as I've probably written before), because the pacing is so expertly handled and the performances so utterly delightful. Definitely the Rivette you should start with, imho, if you don't know the director's work: if you don't like it, fine, but if you do I guarantee you'll appreciate the others.
Leos Carax, Mauvais Sang, 1986
Plenty of memorable scenes: the shaving cream fight, the parachute jump and the race along the street to Bowie
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JE_hYojg90o . Of course, the AIDS-inspired vaccine stuff is just a Macguffin, as the film's little more than a long love letter from the director to his two young leading actors Binoche and Lavant, not to mention Rimbaud, Céline and his eternal cinematic muse, Godard. It's dated, like an old pop song you used to dance to when you were a teenager but still love today. Quite what today's youngsters will make of it, I don't know - we decided to rewatch this after our son asked us about it, apparently in search of gritty, dirty, Parisian neorealism. This is neither gritty nor dirty, and certainly bears no relation to the Parisian lowlife I remember from the time (I suggested Juliet Berto's Neige instead), but it's still a key piece of 80s French cinema.
Michel Deville, La femme en bleu, 1973
Piccoli and Massari make a great couple, and Schubert and Bartok on the excellent soundtrack go together well too. Good review as usual from James (but beware spoiler in final paragraph): http://www.frenchfilms.org/review/la-fe ... -1973.html
David Cronenberg, Crimes of the Future, 2022
Wiki (f*ck spoilers): "In an unspecified future, the disastrous effects of pollution and climate change have compelled the creation of significant advances in biotechnology, including the invention of machines and (analog) computers that can directly interface with and control bodily functions. At the same time, humankind itself has experienced a number of biological changes of indeterminate origin. Most significant among these changes is the disappearance of physical pain and infectious disease for an overwhelming majority (allowing for surgery to be safely performed on conscious people in ordinary settings), but other humans experience more radical alterations to their physiology. One of them, an eight-year-old boy named Brecken, displays the innate ability to consume and digest plastics as food. Convinced that he is inhuman, Brecken's mother smothers him with a pillow, leaving his corpse to be found by her ex-husband Lang. Saul Tenser and Caprice are a world-renowned performance artist couple. They take advantage of Tenser's "accelerated evolution syndrome", a disorder that forces his body to constantly develop new vestigial organs, by surgically removing them before a live audience. The syndrome leaves Tenser in constant pain and with severe respiratory and digestive discomfort; he is consequently reliant on a number of specialized biomechanical devices, including a bed, a machine through which Caprice performs surgery on him, and a chair that twitches and rotates as it assists him with eating. Tenser and Caprice meet with bureaucrats in charge of the National Organ Registry, a governmental office designed to uphold the state's restrictions on human evolution by cataloguing and storing newly evolved organs. One of the bureaucrats, the nervy Timlin, becomes captivated by Tenser's artistic goals. At a successful show of Tenser's, she tells him that "surgery is the new sex", a sentiment that Tenser appears to embrace."
After about twenty minutes, my finger was hovering above the off switch, but we struggled on to the end. Wish I hadn't. What a waste of good acting talent - all Viggo Mortensen does is grunt and clear his throat, when not delivering his sparse and inconsequential lines in a hoarse whisper, while Kirsten Stewart stutters and flutters around him annoyingly and Léa Seydoux (looking surprisingly like Jane Birkin) just looks worried. Or bored. Can't be bothered to waste time writing any more about this crock of shit, so I'll hand you over to someone who apparently liked it even less than I did https://observer.com/2022/06/crimes-of- ... -rex-reed/
I should have stopped watching the bloody thing when I saw that too
Benoît Delépine & Gustave Kervern, Saint Amour, 2016
For those who wish to polish up their French (in any case, in the regrettable absence of subtitles on the rip if you choose to snatch it over at the other place, you'll have to make do without, which could be tricky for you at times), here are two reviews, one
for: https://www.challenges.fr/cinema/pourqu ... ieu_553081 , and one against (violently): https://leplus.nouvelobs.com/contributi ... epine.html
I'm firmly in the "for" camp (the second review is seriously angry, and though I can see why some people might not care for it, the toxicity reading is so high up in the red I thought my computer would melt, anyway..), though I am admittedly rather biased when it comes to Delépine and Kervern, whose films over the past few years have consistently entertained and touched me. This is another road movie of sorts (Les valseuses comes to mind, not because Depardieu is in it too - though he has put on a few (hundred) pounds in the intervening years - as does Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, in mythomaniac taxi driver Mike (Vincent Lacoste)'s quest for his old girlfriends), with Papa Depardieu commandeering a taxi to take him and his son Bruno (Benoît Poolvoerde, a standout performance) on a tour de france des vignobles, to rebond after his mother's death. Depardieu continues to leave messages on his late wife's voicemail, until Mike confronts him with "I thought she was dead?" - to which Gérard replies, "Yes, but she's still reachable..." Along the way they meet an assortment of colourful characters, from a manic depressive and inept waitress, via a sapphic real estate agent to Venus (no spoilers). Watch out for tasty cameos from Michel Houllebecq, Andréa Ferréol and Chiara Mastroianni. One of the directors' gentler films. But the geezer who wrote the second review above wouldn't agree. Hope he doesn't find out where I live. I may need police protection.
Ronald Neame, The Odessa File, 1974
Not as good as the other well-known adaptation of a Frederick Forsyth thriller, The Day of the Jackal, probably because the last minute revelation that the army captain shot at the station by Roschmann turned out to be our hero's daddy provides the director with a rather limp justification of personal revenge (the book ends differently, and better, if less dramatically). Happy to report that the film did eventually lead to the exposure of the real-life Roschmann, but that's another story. Until its rather implausible one-mn vendetta dénouement it's quite engaging, despite the Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtrack (yes). A good "Sunday evening" movie, as my wife would say.