Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong.

From Julien Duvivier’s LA CHARRETTE FANTOME, a remake of Victor Sjostrom’s KORKARLEN (THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE). Duvivier’s film might be an all-time New Year classic, right up there with THE APARTMENT, if it were available with an English translation, and/or if Duvivier’s reputation were up where it belongs.

I’ve been watching a fair bit of Louis Jouvet recently. Since LA FIN DU JOUR, one of my favourite actors. In LA CHARRETTE you really get the impression that he’s photosensitive — completely aware of how light and shade is affecting his face and how he comes across. But in other films, this impression is less acute, so I’d say it’s a three-way thing between Duvivier, Jouvet, and cinematographer Jules Kruger.

It’s a visually spectacular film, as the opening shot illustrates, panning from an impressive miniature of a snow-shrouded city, directly onto an elaborate multi-level full-size set.

Duvivier’s unpopularity with the Cahiers critics may have had something to do with the flash way he flaunted his production values — his movies are big, studio-bound, and could be seen as vulgar in their gigantism, their artificiality, and their aestheticism. Of course, I love all that.

18 Responses to “Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong. Bong.”

  1. As you well know, Lou Jouvet’s one of my faves too, along with Connie Veidt and Pete Lorre. There’s something ridiculous about the idea of Duvivier being unpopular, not just with the Cahiers critics but with anyone, since so many of his films had so much to offer. And at the risk of being a pain in the ass, you really should see LES BAS-FONDS. Watching Jouvet interact with Gabin is a real treat, as is the film itself.

  2. Les Bas-Fonds is where I discovered Jouvet — a truky amazing actor.

    CdC’s Duvivier-antipathy largely springs from its relentless promotion of Renoir. Corner them and they all admit Le Belle Equipe is a masterpiece. But only in a whisper under their breath. That’s be because Renoir had to remain Numer Uno, and no one else was allowed to compete in his arena. Same with Gremillion, though they relented a bit in the late 60’s (thanks to Paul Vecchialli’s nagging.)

    One of the joys of this blog is its insistence on reviving Duvivier’s reputation.

  3. Oh and Happy New Year!

  4. Arthur S. Says:

    Renoir himself admired Duvivier. I always saw the backbiting indulged by the Cahiers mafia as being agonistic rather than antagonistic. They were being challenging and bragging rather than trying to actively botch their reputations. They were sincere in how they felt about Renoir’s pre-eminence over others but I doubt they wanted it to be perceived as dogma as some latter-day exegetes are prone to misrepresenting. In ”The Films in my Life” Truffaut took significant steps towards burying the hatchet and Eric Rohmer later said that ”The Aviator’s Wife” was a homage in part to Marcel Carne’s Paris-set films.

    One film-maker who Truffaut believed to have greater talent than even Renoir was Jean Vigo. In any case while Renoir is the best of the 30s generation there’s still enough space for two or three or four or six other great auteurs. Sacha Guitry or Marcel Pagnol.

    The first Jouvet movie I saw was Clouzot’s underrated(because uncharacteristic) QUAI DES ORFEVRES, one of the greatest, and certainly the nicest and most decent, cop in film history.

    And Happy New Year to you too, David E.

  5. Happy New Year!

    Yeah, it’s ridiculous I haven’t seen Les Bas-Fonds. Just enjoyed Jouvet in Topaze and Knock, so maybe I should go for a trio.

    Clouzot’s decency is hugely underrated — I’ve always felt he liked all his characters, however flawed they were.

  6. Well he sure liked Romy Schneider. But who doens’t?

    As for decency I recently came across a mention of the fact that Marcel Carne, who was on the jury at Venice taht year, protested the Golden Lion going to Wender’s The State of Things because he thought Fassbinder’s Querelle was far superior — a very minority opinion now as then. But Crne was quite sincere in his declaration that Fassbinder deserved posthumous honor for what he felt was a unique breakthrough. I have no doubt Querelle was the gay film Carne longed to make his whole life.

  7. Happy New Year everyone! :)

    Watching the original Italian Job last night, I was struck that the ending of that film is just Wages of Fear without the courage of following through with an ironic ending!

  8. Well, it’d be a pretty harsh ending for a comedy! I never quite liked The Wages of Fear’s ending, it seemed too simple. But I love the rest of it. Actually, as a kid I probably resented being left hanging by The Italian Job. As is often the case, I find I like the endings more with each viewing.

    Carne might have seen himself in Fassbinder’s artificial studio world. I’m not sure if Carne wanted to make a gay film any more than Cukor did — La Merveilleuse Visite looks pretty gay with small “g” but it’s really no more “out” than Les Enfants — but it’s nice that he appreciated one when it came along.

  9. True, it might have dampened the fun a little! I think of that hanging around ending of the original Italian Job as sort of ironic anyway – a form of karmic penance for the glee with which the gang had pushed their faithful Minis out of their bus and off of the cliffs from the previous scene (a betrayal of the cars, who in that film are the true heroes).

  10. And as we are talking about Fassbinder, one of my favourite experiences of the year was seeing the whole of World On A Wire for the first time. I have to think you Mr Cairns for the opportunity a couple of years ago to watch the first half, which brought that wonderful piece of work to my attention.

  11. I only provided the first? How mean of me. Actually, I think the person who provided me with part one was refusing to send part two until I’d watched it, and I was refusing to watch it until I had both parts. Of course, now I have the DVD release and I still haven’t watched it…

  12. Ha. I think that’s called a pissing contest. And all for naught.

  13. There’s a lot to discover and re-discover in Fassbinder. Back in the 80’s I seriously c0ontemplated doing a book about him, but hit a wall when I realized I’d have to be able to speak and read German. Got to inerview a number of people, however, including Ingrid Caven, Lou Castel, and Raul Gimenez (hubba-hubba)

  14. He certainly packed a lot into his short life (which is partly why it was so short, I guess). Another talent I need to dig deeper into in 2011. My New Year’s Resolutions include more by Chabrol, Fassbinder and Borzage.

  15. And one of my resolutions would be to see more Duvivier who is largely unknown to me. Any recommendations where to start? (Preferably something easily available on DVD.)

  16. Pepe le Moko would have to be it, then, as there’s still criminally little available. It IS a very good one, though. Anna Karenina might be practically your only other option.

  17. Yes indeed! A very strong selection indeed, although all us Duvivieristes have our own personal favourites.

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