Archive for Pathe-Natan

The Monday Intertitle: Loose Lip Synch

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2014 by dcairns

passur

There’s a lot to enjoy in Alain Resnais’s PAS SUR LAS BOUCHE (I’m slowly familiarising myself with his post-sixties career, aided by the fact that Fiona seems to enjoy all of them, despite never having cottoned to MARIENBAD.) In fact, what is there NOT to enjoy in it? But most enjoyable of all may be Lambert Wilson (above, right).

Lambert is playing Mr. Eric Thompson (NOT Emma Thompson’s dad, the one who re-voiced The Magic Roundabout for the BBC), an American in Paris, and with his exquise comic timing he is partaking in a proud French tradition — the unconvincing American. For while his attempts to speak French clumsily and with an American intonation are quite good, they’re not exactly believable, and that adds to their hilarity.

The first French talkie was LES TROIS MASQUES (1929), a Pathe-Natan shot at Pinewood by special arrangement with John Maxwell, the Scottish lawyer-turned-exhibitor-turned-producer who had been working with Alfred Hitchock. Pathe head Bernard Natan seems to have gotten along well with Scots — his TV company was co-founded with John Logie Baird. But LES TROIS MASQUES is a dreadful film, stilted and static in the manner associated with the worst of early talkies. It’s as if British reserve somehow soaked into the celluloid and stifled any Gallic joie de vivre.

chique

Much, much better is CHIQUÉ, a forty-five minute comedy set in a Montmartre dive and exploiting that old joke about the American tourist who doesn’t realize the apache dance is an act. Adrien Lamy plays the American, who says things like “Pas Anglais! Amurrican I am!” He’s wonderfully, hilariously awful. The film is everything its predecessor is not — fluid, rhythmic, pacy, atmospheric, alive. Pierre Colombier directed it, and went on to make Pathe-Natan’s best comedies.

Another early precedent for Lambert’s perf must be the 1931 film version of the same operetta, co-directed by Nicolas Rimsky, who also plays Thompson. A Russian playing an American in France — I assume he’s enjoyable, but I haven’t tracked down the film.

My faulty memory tells me there are other examples of Frenchmen playing Americans, also Brits playing Americans, and also Americans who aren’t actors playing Americans, but I can’t seem to put a name to them. Let me know if you think of any!

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Everything in the Resnais film is in quotes — a theatrical piece from a bygone age performed, archly, on artificial sets by artistes who disappear by slow dissolve each time they start to exit a scene, with a sound midway between applause and a batting of wings. Such artifice courts sterility, but in Resnais’s hands it’s both funny, the way it would have been on stage in 1925, and something else — a scientific experiment in temporal bilocation, perhaps.

Bought my tickets…

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on October 6, 2013 by dcairns

Layout 1

… which means I am indeed going to Pordenone, Italy for Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, the 32nd Pordenone Silent Film Festival, who are showing NATAN, the film Paul Duane & I made. NATAN is a talking picture, a documentary about a filmmaker mainly associated with talking pictures, but it does deal with Natan’s production LA MERVEILLEUSE VIE DE JEAN D’ARC, and it features Lenny Borger and Serge Bromberg, two experts on silent cinema who are Pordenone regulars, so they’re stretching a point and including us.

It’s also nice because the festival director, critic and Chaplin biographer David Robinson, used to program Edinburgh International Film Festival, so maybe I can interview him and resume my series The Edinburgh Dialogues.

And of course the movies are an exciting lot — Louise Brooks in William Wellman’s BEGGARS OF LIFE, Harold Lloyd in THE FRESHMAN with musical accompaniment by Carl Davis, seasons on Anny Ondra, Swedish movies, silent animation, and very excitingly indeed, the premiere of Orson Welles’ TOO MUCH JOHNSON.

I leave Tuesday.

lyon_2013

The following week on Wednesday, the day after I get back, I’m off to Lyon for NATAN’s first French date, at the Lumiere Film Festival in Lyon. Lyon actually appears in the film, in a newsreel where we see Natan preparing the opening of a new cinema. Lyon have homages to Hal Ashby, Studio Ghibli, film noir (with special guest Peggy Cummins), and they have a programme dedicated to experimental filmmaker Germaine Dulac who briefly ran Pathe-Natan’s newsreel department, and they’re showing LE BONHEUR, a spectacular Pathe-Natan production from Marcel L’Herbier starring Charles Boyer. The film’s co-director Paul Duane and producer Paul Duane is also attending, as is one of Natan’s granddaughters, the wonderful Lenick Philippot. Should be pretty special.

It’s going to be a busy and exciting fortnight and I fully expect blog postings to be on the light side… but you never know!

Sniff

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on March 11, 2013 by dcairns

amokperfume

I got nuthin’! Well, not quite nuthin’. I got a cold. Which tends to make me nostalgic for my sense of smell, so is that why I’m featuring a vintage perfume ad?

Not quite. I was googling the keywords “amok” and “1933″, just to see what the poster for Fedor Ozep’s Pathe-Natan release AMOK looked like, and I came across this ad for a fragrance by Bourjois. A movie tie-in, or just a cash-in? I suspect the former, the perfumier being a bit too high-class for unauthorized bandwagon-jumping. But the movie’s orientalist aesthetic, plus the coincidence or name, place and year, certainly convince me there’s a deliberate connection.

Amok_1934

BLACK NARCISSUS springs to mind, but that’s a movie based on a book named after a perfume. For the opposite route, one really needs to consider Alain Delon’s personal scent, Samourai

Or there’s always THIS –

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