Renoir's intercutting of the train track sequences are evocative of Kubrick's 2001 closing. As hypnotic and mesmerizing as the unlikely affair. Gabin plays Zola's character not as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde but as Lenny from Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. A traumatized child in a romantic leading man's body. The waltz music a fitting touch also Kubrickesque.
A Tale of Winter (1992)Why shouldn't one be happy?
18 January 2021
Rohmer turns philosophy's head around in this film from the last leg of his productive life. In his earlier films such as Signe de lion and the Collector we see the love triangles as weapons of mass destruction a la Schoenburg and Nietzsche. But in Conte d'hiver Rohmer brings fantasy into the possible though questionably improbable coincidences of life. Ava Loraschi, as the child, is particularly delightful as Rohmer directs her in a naturalistic, cinema verite style showing his Nouvelle Vague roots.
The Grilling (1981)A mystery in a mystery
18 October 2020
Lino Ventura of all the great French actors never ceases to amaze. He's not the type who one would expect to be an intellectual's actor. He showed glimmers of this cerebral quality in his early film Marie October probably because of his stage experience. The general public may perceive him as the gangster or the heavy but this film is all about a man thinking. Not an easy task for an actor or director. Here it comes off perfectly and keeps the viewer absorbed and on edge waiting for a climax that hits like an off-speed pitch. Schneider is poignant and maturing into another Signoret if she didn't pass away at such a young age. Michel Serrault as an unwholesome protagonist never becomes a cliche and provides complexity to the detective's doubts and beliefs. Bravo!
A Gentle Woman (1969)Passion de une femme douce
8 September 2020
Like Mouchette Bresson's earlier film revolves around the mystery of a waif. No one can grasp her true needs only desire her and unwittingly destroy her. The film has several key occurrences that appear to happen by chance. The male lead, the waif's husband, when searching for her on an dimly lit street says to himself "why did I choose to go this way?" and as if by premonition runs into his wife who seated in a car with someone that we, the viewer, and the husband never get to see. This is Bresson's first film in color and is exquisitely photographed by Ghislain Cloquet in mostly muted tones with each scene containing some object that is the color green. A symbol for money? Perhaps, I don't know if that symbolic color is the same for the French. Also, as in the film Mouchette, the recurring sounds of street traffic occur throughout the film. A motif for the continual monotony of life? I decidedly don't know or understand what this film means but as you can see I'm obsessed with trying to figure it out. And like the husband in the film I was drawn to endure it because of the enchanting Dominique Sanda.
Mouchette (1967)The Passion of Mouchette
6 September 2020
Mouchette, a young girl probably about 13, like the donkey in Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar is the central character who bears the weight of the sins of the world (the reader can figure out the metaphor). Each other character's needs and unconscious drives are transferred onto the relentless sufferings of this youth. I found the film painful to watch but that's Bresson and Bresson does it with intent which is why he possibly is the only true artist as filmmaker. All other directors have some entertainment quality to their work. Also, don't miss the theme of every good deed has it's opposite built-in, an ongoing device used by Bresson. A shopkeeper providing a grieving child a free breakfast turns into a schemer. An epileptic drunkard turns into, well I won't spoil it for you.
The Gates of Paris (1957)Adieu to the French poetic era
20 August 2020
Although Rene Clair's Porte des Lilas was released in 1957 it has the feel of a much earlier Jean Renoir film. I could visualize Michel Simon as Juju but that character was played by Pierre Brasseur. Brasseur turns out to be quite the chameleon as an actor. He's played everything from handsome leads to sinister villains of the Bela Lugosi sort. Here he's the lovable, pudgy town oaf. A good natured bumbler whose always has a joke. But like many losers there's a heart that yearns to do something good and to find love. And in the character of Juju you'll find this films heart and soul. Juju dreams. He dreams of warm places on a winter's day. Of being of use to someone and of giving. This is an ingredient that underlies great filmmaking. Everything seems to fall in place around this characters bumbling desire for connection. The films other characters are about dreaming also. George Brassens musically accompanying the story along with his wistful tunes. Dany Carrel as the love smitten ingenue are contrasted against the detached townsfolk and mischievous children. Hats off also to the subtle mise en scene in the set arrangements and the way they're photographed keeping the sense that these characters belong to where they are.
Mille milliards de dollars (1982)Excellent 80s suspense
14 August 2020
The more I see of Patrick Dewaere's starring vehicles the more I see why his early and tragic death was a loss to the continuation of the French film legacy. Verneuil's direction and film adaptation are on the level of Lumet's Day of the Condor. A complex story that unfolds as the suspense and tension build. There's a superb cameo by Jeanne Moreau. With a few subtle jesters, she conveys abandonment and loneliness while leading Dewaere toward her real goal and the gist of the story. Dewaere as the earnest muckraker has found a character he could have relied on but his audience will be forever disappointed. The rest of the cast is solid with mention to the smooth, icy corporate globalist played by Mel Ferrer.
The Gentleman from Epsom (1962)Put your money on the fat guy.
25 June 2020
I'd like to say this film was to horse racing what Bob, le Flaneur was to gambling but that would be too much hyperbole even for me. Yet I found this quite charming and enjoyable in its Frenchness. Funny in a sly way. Playing people and staying alive. Everybody is looking for their ship to come in even if it has already come in. Great supporting cast especially what is not much more than a cameo by the great Louis de Funès. Louis at his most animated is a throwback to the great silent film stars. He uses his voice more by making sounds than by dialogue. Actually the exasperations of the rest of the cast is used in that manner to great effect. Hats off to Jean Lefebvre as the hapless definition of a sidekick. And also, Madeleine Robinson, a former lover who returns for one last night of fun after marrying for convenience purposes. That's right our star Jean Gabin is fun and having fun in this somewhat out of character character. As his two shills state toward the end of the film, he's a real gentleman, old style. Ah, those were the days.
La Marie du port (1950)Glad I watched it without reading any reviews.
19 June 2020Warning: Spoilers
This is a curious little film. I watched it because I like Gabin and I like Carné. About a third of the way in I was wondering what was I actually watching. Some elements such as based on a George Simenon novel and the contrasty cinematography kept saying film noir. But no, how about a romance. Not that either. Well, it meandered along but continued to be intriguing mostly because of the cynical dialogue. The films attitude towards love and relationship are what "All about Eve's" attitude was toward Show Business. Cruel, unaware and triumphant in resignation to one's fate. Very french, afterall.
Inspector Bellamy (2009)Requiem for a very French Heavyweight
10 June 2020
I originally gave Bellamy a 6 star rating because it is a shaggy dog story with several flaws. On consideration I bumped it up to 8 stars. I feel even with the films weaknesses it's a must see. For one thing it's Chabrol's last feature film after directing at least one film a year for more than 40 years he should be commemorated for having produced so many classics. Secondly, with it's flaws like most Chabrol films it leavea you wondering what intrigues the master detective so much and like the film Flic Story are cops and criminals more similar than different? One misstep was the handling of a main character of the alcoholic younger brother played by Clovis Cornillac. The older brother played by Depardieau and his wife played by Marie Burne. are continually "inabling" him but there's no apparent reason since his shown at his worse on every occasion (unless there is some other motive?). Nevertheless, the cast is good and the cinematography crisp and moody. What I liked most is the film is that it's very french. The inclusion of old Georges Brassens songs at the most incredulous times to move the plot along and the direction is stylish but not showy, (very french).
Ophélia (1963)Great film adaptation by Chabrol
25 May 2020
Ophelia, an updated version of Shakespeare's Hamlet, is a far better adaptation of the play than most of the treatments that attempt to present the play in its original form. All aspects cinematography, script, superb casting, and especially the music that punctuates throughout capture the futility of vengeance that underlies Shakesphere's theme. The Chabrol gets his cast to act appropriately melodramatic to fit into this gothic/noir treatment without ever going over the top and becoming unbelievable. The screen adaptation by Chabrol and fellow Nouveau Vague Noir specialists: Martial Matthieu and Paul Gégauff keep the dialogue sparse and filmic as good Vague should be. The lead, André Jocelyn, has that creepy yet sensitive charm of America actor, Anthony Perkins. Andre's character, Ivan, directs the film within the film and in effect is playing Chabrol in his own film (another fine filmic touch). Claude Cerval, the guilt-ridden uncle, gives a masterful performance in character development. The rest of the cast is well worth mentioning but I'm out of time. I do want to salute Pierre Jansen for his affective and sparing musical score. It sets the tone of each changing emotion. Catch the silent film within film accompaniment and the discordant character development when our protagonists first meet.
À Nous la Liberté (1931)Cinema a la France and Hollywood
10 May 2020
Much has been written regarding the most likely influence of A Nous la Liberte on Chaplin's Modern Times. Though you could argue that Clair was also influenced by Buster Keaton and the Keystone Cops films. I, also, see the two prison buddies to be reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy in their physical contrast and on and off affection. Even with borrowing or outright plagiarism, this is a little gem of a movie worthy of its historic stature. By the way, I'd say Jacque Tati must have seen Clair's film and paid homage in his film Traffic. N'est-ce pas?