Timehorse

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LE TEMPS DE MOURIR (1970) is one I started for Seventies Sci-Fi week but didn’t finish quickly enough. Despite some shaky direction — first timer Andre Farwagi hadn’t learned the 180º rule yet — I was sufficiently intrigued by the basic plot premise to finish watching, and was reasonably glad I did.

Anna Karina starts the movie by riding her horse into a tree, She’s rescued by millionaire Bruno Cremer, who is startled to discover in her possession a video recorder showing him being shot by a man he doesn’t know (but we know him: it’s Jean Rochefort!). Both Karina, who has total amnesia of the kind only available in sensational fiction, and the tape appear to have come from the future. With the aid of bodyguard Billy Kearns (one of the detectives in Welles’ THE TRIAL, speaking execrable French), Cremer tries to find out why a total stranger is apparently going to kill him on camera.

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What nobody, including the writers, explore, is how Karina time-traveled back from the end of the film to the beginning. She’s a one-woman Moebius strip, apparently existing only in this temporal loop, her memory erasing itself as her life circles eternally round. This is actually the film’s most intriguing element, and it’s left to the audience to explore it after the story is over. Nobody in the movie gets a chance.

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Is Anna Karina’s horse a time machine?

I was very taken with Cremer’s home computer, a tinted plastic face, illuminated from behind, set into the wall. I would like a computer like that.

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Farwagi’s career has been quite sporadic. His next production was in 1978, a sexy girl school romp with Nastassja Kinski, LEIDENSCHAFTLICHE BLUMCHEN, which I watched on late-night TV as a teenager in hopes of nudity. I was not disappointed: Farwagi opens the film with a zoom out from a close-up of a tit. Probably influenced by Kubrick.

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19 Responses to “Timehorse”

  1. chris schneider Says:

    Not sure I know what “the 180 degree rule” is, but I do know what the TWILIGHT ZONE rule is — namely, “If you see a threatening person whose presence can’t be explained, it’s bound to be a messenger from the future.”
    (See the Diana Hyland episode, “Spur of the Moment,” among many other examples.)

  2. The 180 rule is about keeping the camera on one side or other of the invisible eyeline when you cut. If you cut to a viewpoint from the opposite side, spatial confusion is likely to erupt, and it will look like the actors swapped places.

    For some reason, if your name begins with the letters Ku, you can probably break this rule. Kubrick, Kurosawa, probably Kusturica.

  3. Ozu always broke this “rule.”

  4. Yes, Ozu had his own, quite individual rules — and he never broke THOSE.

  5. chris schneider Says:

    Let me specify that the TWILIGHT ZONE episode referred to above was written by Richard Matheson and directed by Elliot Silverstein (Sarris-worthy director of CAT BALLOU). The reason why that episode came to mind was, I s’pose, that it combines the “messenger from the future” angle with a horse. What stuck with me is that Hyland, not an actress to whom I’d given much attention, gives a florid performance of Bette-Davis-wannabe proportions. Not a Davis-ite level of achievement, perhaps, but one that grabs the viewer by the metaphorical scruff of the neck.

  6. There’s SO much astonishing acting in The Twilight Zone.

  7. I’ve looked at a number of your posts, and you cover an eclectic collection of movies and shows. These reviews are certainly not typical of what I see on other sites.

  8. henryholland666 Says:

    “There’s SO much astonishing acting in The Twilight Zone”.

    A local cable channel runs “The Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (half hour) which became “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour” back-to-back, a big fan of both.

    While Hitchcock directed a handful of episodes, he’s mostly there to do sardonic intros > outros. There’s a lot of very good talent in front of and behind the camera. “The Glass Eye” with Jessica Tandy as a lonely spinster who falls in love for the first time was excellent, I think it won an Emmy.

    “Death Scene” from 1965 has John Carradine as an aging silent-era film director who is bitter about his career fading out, Vera Miles is great as his daughter and a hunky James Farentino is the idiot they ensnare in their nefarious scheme. Then there’s “Thou Still Unravished Bride” with David Carradine and Sally Kellerman which is really dumb as for no good reason it’s set in London but even the “Englishmen” speak with New York accents.

    They were all filmed on the Universal lot, it’s funny to see the same buildings show up no matter where the story is set.

  9. I was just reading Terry Southern’s “Outline for a Novel: Blue Movie”(1966) in Now Dig This, which goes into the Lesbian sequence in considerable detail, and the Nympho sequence as well, but gives not a hint about what will occur during the incest segment. I wonder if he took a look at that episode of Spirits of the Dead with the Fondas and instantly conceived Dave and Debbie Roberts.

    Bonus Joke with a Punch Line Almost 50 Years in the Making: when the original actress hesitates about performing the hardcore scene in the Moroccan ménage à cinq, the Kubrick character tells her she’ll be replaced by “her arch rival, Jennifer Lawrence.”

  10. Robert, thank you. I am always seeking out odd stuff, and my desire to find interesting ways of approaching it takes me into some unusual areas!

    Ha! I had forgotten there was a Jennifer Lawrence — because back when I read the book, no such person existed.

    I looked at all Hitchcock’s episodes during Hitchcock Year, but I still have many many AH Presents episodes to enjoy. Anything with Vera Miles is a must, so I shall seek out Death Scene pronto. Sounds like there’s a bit of Sunset Blvd going on there, as with The 16mm Shrine, a fine episode helmed by Mitchell Leisen and starring Ida Lupino as a faded star.

  11. Jennifer, it breaks my heart to say, did not make it into the novel proper, only into the outline.

  12. Damn, that would have retroactively added so much. I find the book pretty hard to take. Is the starlet’s suicide supposed to be funny??

  13. I hate to say this, but I think it was. I mean the starlet is not unsympathetic, she’s already had all manner of humiliations heaped upon her, and the screen writer who’s been responsible for much of the heaping is Southern himself in all but name (they even share initials). The tone of the writing doesn’t change at all after the suicide, it’s still madcap antics and hipster snark right to the finish line (only 10 pages off!) And it’s all in the original outline. It wasn’t like he was stuck for an ending, and in desperation, etc. It seems ridiculous to talk about an appalling lapse of taste in a book like Blue Movie but it surely is.

  14. Did he dream up the suicide in The Loved One too, or is it in the book? I imagine it’s in the book. Maybe that mde him think he could get away with it.

  15. Yes, it is in the book. Both Loved One suicides are in the book. Neither one of them comes as a total shock, and they both carry an emotional charge. The suicide in Blue Movie IS a total shock but that’s because it doesn’t belong in the book. It’s as if Madeline Bassett blew her brains out when Gussie Fink-Nottle eloped with Emerald Stoker In Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves.

  16. An excellent analogy.

    I got a sneak copy of an umade Southern script about the Nazis once… I couldn’t finish the thing. Too creepy and not funny in any way. Somebody was still trying to get it made, but there wasn’t a chance.

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