Archive for October 8, 2008

Happy Birthday, JD

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on October 8, 2008 by dcairns

The mighty Charles Drazin, kindly overlooking my mild criticism of his marvellous book In Search of the Third Man (DO buy it), dropped me a line to point out that Julien Duvivier is 112 today, or would be if he was alive. I should really have got my act together and written something on LA FIN DU JOUR to coincide with this anniversary, but I didn’t. This will have to do until I get things sorted.

Jean-Pierre Leaud with Julien Duvivier during the making of BOULEVARD (which seems to be impossible to see, damnit). Although Truffaut and his crowd disparaged many of Duvivier’s generation, that didn’t stop FT’s young star collaborating with JD for his second leading role. In fact, arguably Duvivier’s beautiful POIL DE CAROTTE prefigures the concerns of Truffaut and Leaud’s LES QUATRE CENTS COUPS.

Photo via If Charlie Parker was a Gunslinger, There’d be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats.

I actually still want to give away more copies of LA FIN DU JOUR, for some crazy reason, so if anybody can think of a way of publicising THE GREAT DUVIVIER GIVEAWAY some more, make a suggestion, or just get out and promote it.

A Floury Scarf

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2008 by dcairns

At the end of Dreyer’s VAMPYR (spoiler alert) the evil doctor (a fore-clone of Professor Abronsius from Polanski’s THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS) is famously smothered under an onslaught of flour. We can look back to Griffith’s A CORNER IN WHEAT and forward to Peter Weir’s WITNESS, but seems to have been thought up independently, after a visit to a plaster factory got Dreyer thinking about WHITE.

Personally, what I like is the way he takes his scarf off as he’s being smothered. Like that’s going to make him more comfortable. “Blimey, it’s — kaff! kaff! — warm in here,” he could almost be saying. This is the kind of weirdness that makes VAMPYR so memorable, and it suffuses everything from the design (this is perhaps THE great wallpaper movie) through the photography (the sharp interiors and deliberately light-fogged exteriors) to the camera moves (which follow the actors about but don’t respond to their every hesitation: the camera keeps drifting as the actor pauses, then catches up). This is the kind of stuff that gives the film its particular oneiric sway.

Incidentally, my friend Robert tells me he just dreamt he was co-starring in a remake of Chan-Wook Park’s LADY VENGEANCE alongside the artist formerly known as Prince. I resolve to dream a movie tonight so I can compete with that epic at the box office of the subconscious. I’ll let you know if I succeed.

The marvellous Eureka Masters of Cinema DVD of VAMPYR comes stuffed with extras, including a commentary by Guillermo del Toro which begins “Just imagine a fat Mexican has come to your house and you have to listen to him talk,” and Craig Keller’s sweet documentary about Dreyer’s leading man, Baron Nicholas de Gunzberg, who helped finance the film as well as appearing in it (he’s a very effective, unusual actor, and his money obviously didn’t stink either). Baron Nick’s later status in American fashion, as mentor to Calvin Klein, was news to me, and a delight.

Between love and madness lies obsession.

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