Happiness is no Lark

Last full day of Il Cinema Ritrovato — I gave it a gentle start with Borzage’s STREET ANGEL at 11.15, entering Fox’s studio “recreation” of a smoky, crumbling Naples — 100% unlike the real thing but unbelievably beautiful. This was with a Movietone soundtrack, which at first seemed to impose a distance between me and the film, though having sat near the entrance I was also getting a distancing effect for free from all the latecomers stumbling in. (Cinema etiquette at Bologna is not quite as exemplary as one might hope.)

But, as with SUNRISE and TABOO, the music and film seemed to come closer together as the film went on, and the miraculous climax saw sound and image in perfect harmony.

Also: I think that was Josephine the capuchin monkey, star of THE CAMERAMAN and THE CIRCUS, nestling in Janet Gaynor’s arms, making this a hat-trick for the celebrated simian.

Lunch was followed by Dick Cavett’s Show — having failed to read the programme, we expected this to be a documentary about the eminent talk show host, but it was actually the episode where John Cassavetes, Peter Falk and Ben Gazzara turned into the Marx Bros. to promote HUSBANDS, which was screening in a new restoration. I think the sales tactic didn’t work because we didn’t rush over to the Cinema Arlecchio to see it, instead dropping in to three shorts by Franju, which seemed a nice circular way to more or less end a festival that began for us, more or less with his NOTRE DAME, CATHEDRAL DE PARIS.

I’d seen EN PASSANT PAR LA LORRAINE and found it weirdly boring — being an English-language version and a ratty print didn’t do the uninspired travelogue any favours. Joseph Kosma’s music was the only poetic element.

LES POUSSIERES, a short film about DUST, was not as dry as you’d expect. Jean Weiner, the reappearing pianist of Rivette’s NOROIT DUELLE, provides a spooky, beautiful soundtrack which I want to rip off someday. The subject is broad enough to allow Franju some room to be strange and poetic.

LE THEATRE NATIONAL POPULAIRE was a bit flat by comparison, but we got to see an extract of Maria Casares playing Lady Macbeth — every bit as intense as you might expect, and a revelation to me since my main references for the role are the Welles and Polanski film versions. In the hands of a powerhouse professional, the role is transfigured.

We SHOULD have stayed in our seats for SANGEN OM DEN ELDRODA BLOMMAN, a 1919 Mauritz Stiller with Lars Hansen, but we were fading, so we went out into the blazing sun, ate at the flat, and separated, Fiona finally managing to stay awake through WAR OF THE WORLDS (not an easy one to fall asleep in, you would have thought, but then have you experienced Bolognese weather?), me heading to the Piazza for LE PLAISIR, a favourite Ophuls now magnificently restored — the grain was imperceptibly fine, the images radiant and impossibly detailed. Each time I see it I’ve seen more French films, so actors like Gaby Morlay, Madeleine Renaud and Paulette Dubost mean more to me.

This was sort of the last Piazza Maggiore screening of the fest, so I forgave the loquacious Gianluca Farinelli his tendency to talk, untranslated, for twenty minutes at a time. A movie like LE PLAISIR makes up for a lot.

4 Responses to “Happiness is no Lark”

  1. ehrenstein47 Says:

    Jean Weiner plays live piano accompaniment in Rivette’s “Duelle.” his “Noroit” has a different ensemble of live musicians.

    Sorry those Cavett show shenanigans discouraged you from seeing “Husbands.” Cassavetes made it right after the surprise success of “Faces” and it’s one of his most elaborate and expensive projects. Cassavetes, Gazzara and Falk on a bender following the death of a very close friend. Parker Tyler wrote about it in “Screening the Sexes” as he felt the trio’s frequent verbal declarations of “love” for one another meant ” strange twilight urges” were to follow. But he was, I feel quite mistaken. The trio’s interactions were in fact about their narcissism. They hung together to bolster their own rampant egos. Quite a shocking film in that and a perfect compliment to Elaine May’s truly incisive exploration of the subject “Mikey and Nicky.”

  2. It wasn’t the Cavett show that put us off, really, we were tuckered out and didn’t see anything at six. This allowed us to recuperate in time for our night shows. I’ll try to catch up with Husbands another time.

  3. artihcus022 Says:

    You know Hartmut Bitomsky made a documentary about Dust (called Staub in German) and that’s pretty interesting and weird.

    Le Plaisir of course has maybe the ultimate great last line in any movie, Fassbinder used it as an epigraph for Ali Fear Eats the Soul and everything. That line is original to Ophuls’ film, so most likely the screenwriter came up with it and so on.

  4. Ophuls actually improves on the stories in a number of ways — the last line of The Mask is also new.

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