Archive for Bernard Natan

The Sunday Intertitle: Paris Doesn’t Exist

Posted in Comics, FILM, Painting with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2014 by dcairns

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A frame from PARIS N’EXISTE PAS (1969), Robert Benayoun’s uber-cool art flick about bohemian modern art types, one of whom starts experiencing weird instances of objects moving around the room by themselves — I was reminded of David Bowie’s Berlin period hallucinations of furniture gone walkies, and also Maupassant’s short story What Is It? in which the narrator is plagued by the discovery that ALL furniture enjoys an active life the moment our backs are turned, just like the toys in TOY STORY.

The movie — which somewhat resembles Clouzot’s kinetic art melodrama LA PRISONNIERE from the same period, only without the s&m roleplay and with Serge Gainsbourg, puffing away at a cigarette holder in an invigorating embodiment of the concept of “louche” — could have been merely trendy, with its flash-cuts of cartoon panels to create a kind of cinematic Roy Lichtenstein feel, but I think it has more on the ball than that. Also, it’s fun spotting the cartoons of Hugo Pratt, Charles Schultz et al. I doubt copyright was paid.

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It’s a good film to be watching in my ultramodern flat in Paris, loaned to me by Francoise Ickowitz, grand-daughter of Bernard Natan. Francoise has, I think inherited some of her aunt’s taste — producer Monique Natan, Bernard’s niece, was responsible for producing Alain Jessua’s comic-book murder yarn JEU DE MASSACRE (1967) and Jean Rollin’s LE FRISSON DES VAMPIRES (1971), films of bold colour and pop sensibility.

When we interviewed Francoise for NATAN at her apartment – a sensational pop art shagging palace in a penthouse towering over Paris with Bond villain aplomb – we had to carefully frame out all the amazing decor, which was utterly fabulous in a CLOCKWORK ORANGE/Warhol kind of way, but sort of inappropriate as a backdrop for a sombre discussion of her grandfather’s life and death. But it would be worth inventing a whole new film to shoot there just for the interior design and art.

Night! Youth! Paris! And the moon!

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on November 21, 2014 by dcairns

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From tomorrow until Thursday I will be in Paris, France (pictured).

On Wednesday there will be a very special screening of NATAN at the French national film school, La Femis, which is housed in the Rue Francoeur film studios founded by Bernard Natan, but which has had no memorial to him — until now! In fact, so forgotten was the man who built the studio, that we were able to interview students at the school, none of whom knew who built it, and according to private information, even some of the staff were unaware of this part of its history.*

So there may be only light blogging this week — I had planned to prepare lots of stuff to post while away, but after a busy teaching week, I got nothing. And I will be racing to get stuff ready for the Late Show Late Movies Blogathon after that.

*Full disclosure: as a film lecturer, I knew only too well that only a tiny number of film students know any film history at all. You’re lucky if they know any history history. One student from a few years back began a presentation with “Since human civilisation began, two thousand years ago…”

4th of July

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2014 by dcairns

On the 4th of July I was in Bologna — this is what I saw.

For once I managed to struggle out of bed early enough to see the 9 am show, something I always INTENDED to do, and which I convinced myself I was achieving more often than not. It’s only looking back from this angle that I realise what a fantastic slugabed I really was. But on this occasion it meant I got in to see the gloriously restored FANTOMAS CONTRE FANTOMAS, featuring my fave of all the master-crim’s disguises –

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Wonderful. It makes you realise that, for all their national pride and aloofness, the French not-so-secretly still regard American is the mainspring of all modernity and the source of all coolness. The doubly-casual Tom Bob easily trumps our intrepid plodder Juve of the Sûreté, just by virtue of that insouciant prefix Americain. Juve is honest, fearless and dogged, but he is inescapably, gallic and therefor mundane. A fantastic inversion of the way we look towards France as a source of glamour and genius.

Neil Brand, who provided the piano accompaniment, confessed afterwards that he had initially regarded FANTOMAS and its serial kin as “meaningless running about,” which is indeed the trap a lot of serials fall into. Surrealism, elegance, and a blatant admiration for his evil characters helps Fieulliade escape this.

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I should have crossed to the next auditorium and seen the ten-minute fragment of Sternberg’s THE CASE OF LENA SMITH but I think I craved sunshine and coffee and conversation, so my next show was at 11.30, a discussion of Pathe’s restoration of WOODEN CROSSES, which I felt duty-bound to attend since I’d collaborated on a film about the movie’s producer, after all. It was interesting stuff, including as it did the revelation that the new version Pathe are releasing is mostly derived from a whole other negative, shot by a camera standing next to the one that filmed the previous release. It’s the same action and mostly the same takes, but technically speaking it’s a different film… Fans of the previous release need not worry, though, it carries the same authority and charge, as I confirmed later the same day.

After lunch, I enjoyed an episode of Riccardo Fellini’s STORIE SULLA SABBIA, already covered here. The real hot ticket was WHY BE GOOD?, a newly-restored Vitaphone soundie which I’m fairly sure I’ll get a chance to see again when Warners release it on DVD, but it would certainly have been fun to experience it on the big screen with such an audience as Bologna gathers…

Staying in my seat, I was blown away by WOODEN CROSSES all over again, which packs a severe wallop. The final barrages, and the protracted bleeding away of life at the end, left the audience drained, which is the only explanation I can think of for the fact that rather than staggering outside to inhale the evening air, I stayed where I was and saw MARRIAGE: ITALIAN STYLE, which was the perfect tonic. No falling asleep possible in this one (shouty Italians; genius choreography of actors and camera). Having revelled in De Sica’s acting the day before, I was favourably inclined to see more of his directing. That title had always put me off seeing the film before, which is silly — it’s perfect, and rather ironic. Maybe it’s the various movies that riffed on it that cheapened it. After all, GHOSTS, ITALIAN STYLE is a stupid name for a film.

Marriage Italian Style

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wonder at the opening out of the source play with extensive flashbacks, and you’ll marvel at how Marcello Mastroianni manages to make a character who does such loathsome things seem somehow attractive enough to spend time with and laugh at and even feel sorry for. Loren, of course, is magnificent, even in a series of sometimes unfortunate wigs. De Sica’s daughter introduced the movie, and she has her father’s smile.

“Marcello Mastroianni was a very handsome man, but he liked very much the vodka and the grappa, so that some mornings he would come in with his face looking like an unmade bed. My father’s main direction to him on such days was, ‘Marcello, tomorrow, try to be younger.’”

I think I must have had a really good dinner after than, because I don’t seem to have seen anything else that day. It would have been hard to top De Sica at the height of his international entertainer period anyhow. I do wince a little at what I missed, but realistically I wouldn’t have made it through CABIRIA, in the opera house with live score, which didn’t finish until nearly midnight. That was one of the extra shows you have to pay for outwith the price of a pass, but get this, it was five euros. Proving my contention that Bologna offers the best value film festival on the planet.

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