Archive for A Bout de Souffle

…and on the second day…

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2020 by dcairns

Started to feel I wasn’t getting the most out of the online Il Cinema Ritrovato. This may in part have been because I wasn’t watching any films. But you see, I have a DVD of THE GRAPES OF WRATH so watching it streaming didn’t make sense to me, even though it’s well overdue a watch. So I’ve been looking at shorts, documentaries, interviews, masterclasses…

By some odd quirk the festival is streaming an interview with Dario Argento and a session on the restoration of FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET, but not the film itself. For that you have to be in Bologna. The Argento interview was unsatisfactory from almost every point of view — a camera in Bologna filmed an auditorium with a screen on which you could see the Maestro and his interviewer, fuzzily projected, neither one of them being present, while a simultaneous translation talked over both of them. So we couldn’t really see Dario or hear him, and we got the gist of his words but he didn’t seem to have anything exciting to say.

His film, however, is very exciting, even in the unrestored version I have access to. I can’t think why I always assumed it was inferior to THE CAT O’ NINE TAILS and BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE, it’s a worthy companion. The plot is completely barmy, full of unexplained lunatic touches, as when a blackmailing housemaid, waiting in a park for her victim, flees into an ever-narrowing cobwebbing passage. I admit I’m not personally familiar with Turin’s parks and recreation areas, but I have a hunch the shaggy DA is stretching verisimilitude here, as on a medieval rack.

We liked the idea of the gay private detective (Jean-Pierre Marielle), but of course he’s played in a wildly stereotypical, swishy way — yet this was still progressive at the time, by the admittedly demented standards of the Italian genre cinema. He’s allowed to make a brief plea for tolerance, to solve the case, and to win pathos. And the killer has a traumatic backstory which imparts a little sympathy, perhaps more than the “hero” gets — the sullen-faced Michael Brandon is quite good, though, managing to maintain a core of credibility in the midst of some of Argento’s more head-scratching dialogue and characterisation.

The main thing, though, is that Argento has an extravagant visual idea to explore in nearly every scene, and they’re mostly cunning rather than just sucky. There’s something wonderfully eerie about the hero’s darkened apartment with the trees outside brightly floodlit and sussurating in a phantasmal fashion. This lad has promise.

*

An interview of the Taviani Bros under a tree did not elevate me, especially when long swathes of it were just the Bros staring blankly into camera as Gideon Bachman attempted to formulate a protrated thought.

My chum Craig McCall delivered a detailed exposition on dye-transfer Technicolor written by Robert Hoffman, which worked better than Dario’s appearance because Craig was actually in the room.

A session on the restoration of A BOUT DE SOUFFLE and THE ELEPHANT MAN offered little for non-pixel-pushers, but it was good to hear that David Lynch insisted on his HDR restoration being performed with a cinema screen as reference.

And then at last there was a PROPER film doc, Cyril Leuthy’s MELVILLE, LE DERNIER SAMOURAI, which weirdly discounts BOB LE FLAMBEUR and LES ENFANTS TERRIBLE entirely and claims LE DOULOS as Melville’s first thriller, but is otherwise rivetting. It gets by with only sparse clips from the films, but just enough, and with a terrific wealth of archive footage of the man himself, and good new interviews with family members, Volker Schloendorff and Taylor Hackford. The stars are curiously absent, but the whole thing has a nice jazzy, nocturnal feel very suited to JPM’s cinema, and among the memories are striking moments — JPM screaming at Lino Ventura, captured on 1/4inch audio tape, and Delon, interviewed shortly after (a) falling out with Melville and (b) Melville’s death, talking about how they need to have a break before working together again. With extraordinary facial expressions, cognitive dissonance pulling the muscles this way and that — he KNOWS the man is dead, but he’s still considering working with him again after a suitable interval…

“You can’t love cinema without being a child,” says one of the assorted Grumbachs. Dario would agree, I think.

FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET stars Dempsey; Margareta Nikolajevna; renowned curator Jacques Saunier; La regina di Napoli; Mme Quentin; Fanny Hill; and Bambino, the left hand of the Devil!

Quote of the Day: The Girl With the Black Tongue

Posted in FILM with tags , , on June 6, 2008 by dcairns

More from Paul Donnelley’s compellingly horrible Fade to Black, I’m afraid. The entry on Jean Seberg is MASSIVE, since her eventual suicide took at least ten years to actually come to its ghastly and tragic fruition. Skip this entry if you’re feeling a bit fragile. Go watch some Preston Sturges instead.

Ah, Jean!

“She was paid $100,000 to appear as Confederate colonel’s widow Alexandra Mountford in MACHO CALLAHAN (1970). On set she contracted a disease that caused her tongue to turn jet black. She would wander the location jokingly asking if ‘anybody want[ed] to kiss the lady with the black tongue.’.”

And:

“The following month on a flight to America, Jean drank heavily, disappeared to the toilet and came out completely naked and screaming that hijackers were attempting to take over the plane. Her bodyguard managed to make her return to her seat where she gobbled tranquillisers. By the time the flight landed in Chicago, Jean was out of it, barely able to stand. Her bodyguard put her into a luggage trolley and began wheeling her through the airport. Then she spotted a black policeman and began screaming at him that he was a traitor to his race, making a grab for his gun.”

And: “On September 8, 1979, her decaying body was discovered by police. Jean’s car had been parked around the corner from her home for ten days. One of the first journalists to arrive at the scene noted: ‘It wasn’t a pretty sight. The car doors were the sort that close hermetically, so the body had literally baked in the sun for ten days. The odour was unimaginably foul. It just seemed to hang in the warm summer air for hours.'”

It isn’t always possible to help people who are dedicated to self-destruction. Seberg was obviously surrounded by people who wanted to use her (by definition, anybody making a film with her is in this category, however nice they might be), but also with quite a few people who loved her or wanted to help her. It’s the kind of story that’s heartbreaking, magnetically lurid, and ultimately depressing.

I hope no one films it.

Pardon the Intrusion

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2008 by dcairns

WORLD EXCLUSIVE from Shadowplay. This is INTRUSION, the first film by ’60s UK horror-film enfant terrible Michael Reeves.

Unfortunately, in the years since its production, the soundtrack has gone astray. Also unfortunately, since Reeves made the mistake of making his film exactly 34 seconds too long for YouTube, I’ve had to omit the opening title that reads, “This film is dedicated to Jean-Luc Godard.” It’s a dedication that makes me smile. Godard dedicated A BOUT DE SOUFFLE to Monogram Films, makers of low-grade quickies. Reeves dedicates his low grade quickie to Godard, without a trace of detectable irony.

dedicated to the one I love

The film isn’t exactly good or anything, but it’s historically very important and it’s been unavailable for years because the people who have their hands on the only print charge a fortune for video copies. Even Reeves’ biographer, Benjamin Halligan, got stung.

So now here it is for free, so you can all enjoy the first film performance of future Reeves star Ian Ogilvy as the Obsequious Butler (?) the fact that the bad guy wears Jean-Luc Godard shades, the novelty of a would-be hard-edged thriller being performed by public schoolboys in the leafy English countryside, and the complete lack of irony or plot twists.

Neon Ogilvy

It’s an early work, owing more to Reeves’ hero and mentor Don Siegel than to Godard, and probably of interest only to Reeves completists. We get the sex (sort of) and violence (sort of) and the rural and distinctly English setting, which connects it to other Reeves movies, even if it is basically a home movie by precocious teenagers. We’re certainly not talking TWO MEN AND A WARDROBE here. The rest of you should check out psychedelic psycho-thriller THE SORCERERS and vicious allegory WITCHFINDER GENERAL to see Reeves at his height, and mourn the loss to British cinema — Reeves died of an accidental overdose at age 25.

(I love the fact that for some reason INTRUSION is “A Leith Production,” since that’s where I live in Edinburgh. The name has fulfilled itself.)