The Judex Files: The Look

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Episode 2 of Louis Feuillade’s JUDEX introduces the Liquorice Kid (La Môme Reglisse), screen left, and we wonder how we ever got by without him.

The Liquorice Kid is one of nature’s aristocrats. A streetwise urchin on the side of good, he walks into the story, wedges himself there, and refuses to budge. There are perhaps elements of Chaplin to this minute hobo, but he’s also a sterling example of the deus ex machina device at its most charming. René Poyen, child star of Feuillade’s BOUT-DE-ZAN series of comic shorts, is an engaging little fellow. Like many of the characters in this serial which keeps a toe in theatre, he can turn to his chums in the audience and display what he’s thinking with facial expressions, gestures, or even silent utterances. But the Kid does this more often than the other characters — just like Chaplin, he enjoys a special relationship with his fans. We know he knows we’re watching, but the other characters are less aware that they’re in a movie. Even Judex doesn’t have the Kid’s cinematic awareness.

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You might think constant knowledge that one is being observed by either a camera, or an audience of people ranging in period from 1916-2016 and possibly beyond, depending on how you imagine the Kid’s experience, might be distracting, might put one at a disadvantage. But the Kid is far from put off: basking in our admiration, he enjoys miraculous levels of self-confidence.

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8 Responses to “The Judex Files: The Look”

  1. The kid appears in the modern version, but seems to be a small town waif instead of the Chaplinesque urbanite.

    Reflecting on how the original was made in a time of seeming calm before the Great War, while the feature uses hindsight to knock the ending sideways.

    In the comparatively recent “Miss Pettigrew Lives for the Day”, they place the imminent British entry into WWII in the foreground, while the book — written pre-war — never alluded to wider events. Trying to think of other adaptations or remakes that were shaped or at least affected by historical perspective unavailable to the original creators.

  2. There must be others, but my mind is a blank. There’s a recent-ish film of Wodehouse’s Piccadilly Jim which is set in a non-specific period, a la Delicatessen or Brazil, a nod to the fact that Wodehouse took his cue from pre-WWI England but incorporated elements of later society. A bold idea, but the film is not widely acclaimed (Wodehouse is evidently supremely difficult to adapt, judging by the fallen bodies on the wayside: odd, since he provides ideal plots, dialogue and characters. TONE seems to be the sticking-point).

  3. Fox did a couple of Jeeves pictures with Arthur Treacher. The first had David Niven as Bertie. For the second they dispensed with Bertie and had Jeeves working for some awful people when he quits and goes to America, lured by some swindlers and playing fish out of water instead of perfect butler. These are B movies that are almost okay if you forget who they’re supposed to be.

    The DVD at least had some nice featurettes about Wodehouse. The item that stayed with me was somebody saying the carefree drones Wodehouse wrote about died in WWI trenches, and were all but extinct after the war.

    There was a recent pastiche that ended with Bertie finding the Right Girl; the review I read savaged it for placing Jeeves and company in a very specific historical moment.

  4. In Franju’s remake the kid, by now exhausted, falls asleep at the climax of the story. Consequently the final confrontation between Francine Berge and Sylva Koschina takes on the aspect of a dream.

  5. ” Trying to think of other adaptations or remakes that were shaped or at least affected by historical perspective unavailable to the original creators.”
    The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973) has some quiet “foreshadowing” of the Holocaust, while Bruno Schulz wrote The Street of Crocodiles and Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass in the mid 1930’s.

  6. Oh, well in that case, Welles’ The Trial, with its Holocaust intimations and (disputed) atom bomb climax. Yes, that would be my prime example, with Welles saying he couldn’t use Kafka’s ending after the six million dead.

    Been meaning to watch The Hour Glass Sanatorium for AGES! I like Has’ film of Confessions of a Justified Sinner.

  7. I heard – i might have misheard – that Complicite put Nazis into their Street Of Crocodiles, which annoyed me: Why should Schulz’s murderers get a look in? Conrad seems an author it would be pointless to adapt without nodding to the century he foresaw. Every “Secret Agent” adaptation has its own take (apt, since the book’s dedicated to H.G. Wells) – Hampton’s has the Professor prophesy (again) the Nazis, and the recent TV adaptation turned him into a suicide bomber. Speaking of Wells, there must be hundreds of science fiction adaptations and remakes that meet this criteria. Oh, every single adaptation of Jeckyll and Hyde possibly ever – I don’t recall Hyde murdering prostitutes in the novella.

  8. George Pal’s film of The Time Machine takes the action through modern times, though doesn’t linger on the contemporaneous present tense (what an odd phrase to have to type). The pathetic remake jumps straight into the far future, which seemed like a waste, but then the whole film was a waste.

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