The Judex Files: By the beautiful sea

Posted in FILM with tags , , on November 30, 2016 by dcairns

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I thought I might finish JUDEX before my micro-blogathon begins tomorrow, but I’ve blown that. Then I thought I might handle the last episode as part of The Late Show: The Late Movies Blogathon, but it’s not the right kind of late. But anyway, this is a sort of semi-penultimate episode of JUDEX: next episode is the climax, with just an eight-minute coda to follow that.

Now read on…

Crooked banker Favraux’s daughter Jacqueline is horrified to learn that her demented dad has been abducted. She wishes his old secretary were here: that crusty, trusty fellow knew how to get things done. Judex overhears this and promptly dons his aging secretary disguise and turns up unexpectedly to take charge of the situation. The whole throng are shocked to then receive a ransom note in the kidnapped man’s own handwriting — this signifies that he’s coming out of his catatonic stupor, which is good (I guess), but also indicates that he’s fallen in with his kidnappers, no doubt having been spun a web of lies by the villainous Diana Monti (Musidora).

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The demand is that Jacqueline should come to the jetty with her little boy/girl, and the three should run away together. Of course, it’s all part of Monti’s plan to get her claws on the banker’s ill-gotten gains. Judex proposes that he alone should attend the fearful rendezvous. We then get one of Feuillade’s grand crepuscular location interiors, with Judex in silhouette as he transforms back to his true identity. Renê Cresté has such a distinctive Dick Tracy profile that he remains completely recognizable when reduced to a cut-out profile.

But Jacqueline sees Judex, in his special crime-fighting hat and cape (shades of The Shadow), as he departs the villa, and goes to investigate. Finding a discarded beard, she stares at it in horror like one reading dire revelations from a hairy book. No dummy, she puts deux and deux together and realizes that her host’s nice son is also the aged secretary and also the hated and feared — JUDEX!!

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This is a moment of truth, not just in the plotty sense of one character learning something, but in the way it chimes with human experience. In any love story, there are moments of revelation, when one discovers who the object of one’s desire really is, under that false beard. The result is either catastrophe or a deeper sympathy…

To be continued…

The Judex Files: By the sea

Posted in FILM with tags , on November 29, 2016 by dcairns

 

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Now read on…

Occasionally, you can see Louis Feuillade trying things — like this low angle. He may have somehow been forced into it — there appear to be steps at the lower edge of the shot. It’s been noted that his pans tend to be a touch hesitant. This is probably down to hand-cranking — must be awkward rotating the camera while winding the lever at a constant rate, but it has the effect of giving every adjustment a trepidatious quality of “Dare we?” This is rather sweet.

And so is this whole episode, in which everybody takes off to the south of France, the kids play footer under the palms, and the adults just waft around, emoting distractedly. Judex drops his false beard so he can appear bare-faced before his love, but he still cannot proclaim himself to be the feared JUDEX.

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Most distracted of all is the still marble-less Favraux, formerly a crooked banker, now a shell of a man, or at least a shell of a crooked banker. But upon meeting his grand-daughter/son, he’s somewhat revived. Love finds a way.

There’s love in the air for much-baffled private eye Cocantin too, as he bumps into his surprisingly glamorous girlfriend, Miss Daisy Torp, champion swimmer and trapeze-artist. Romance blossoms, and an aquatic deus ex machina is introduced mere minutes before she will be needed. Love is rekindled by a desolate rotunda.

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For Diana Monti and her sick crew are in town also, aboard a boat. Principle henchman Morales looks absolutely darling in his sailor suit. Soon, Favraux has been shanghaied. A tragic climax is prepared…

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To be continued…

Into the Night

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on November 28, 2016 by dcairns

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Having enjoyed ARRIVAL, we went back in time and watched director Denis Villeneuve’s previous hit. SICARIO. It’s very impressive, but we were less convinced by the “human killing machine” tropes which climax it than we had been by the hellish drug war developments of the first two acts. Shot by the always-impressive Roger Deakins, it has a more classical style than ARRIVAL (Deakins weaned the Coens off the wide angle lens, and seems to have drawn Villeneuve away from extreme depth of field long lens stuff, but I’ll have to see even earlier Villeneuves to know if my guess is accurate) with several of the impressive dusk scenes that distinguished NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (cartoon violence by comparison with this). The above image is just about all we see of a harrowing torture scene — imagination does the rest.

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And then there’s this one, which recalls the closing shot of FULL METAL JACKET. The deceptive approach to perspective is an incidental pleasure which may not mean anything: the foreground figures’ bulk emphasises their closeness, but the low angle and silhouette effect makes them seem to be the same distance away as the line of smaller figures. Giants and dwarfs walking together. A Wellesian defiance of space, in the service of graphic impact.

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But the fact that, as the figures advance, they sink below the horizon line, swallowed up by the same liquid darkness they’re composed of, gives the sequence a doom-laden quality, as if the men are descending into the Underworld, or beneath the surface of a dark ocean. Chills.

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