Archive for Andrzej Zulawski

Muckrakers

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2016 by dcairns

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I always had slight doubts about the authenticity of my South Korean DVD or Zulawski’s LA FIDELITE, but when I finally got around to playing it and the label promptly shredded off of disc 1, I began to think it might not be wholly legit. The muddy transfer and the odd ratio of 14:9 — not anyone’s standard frame, anywhere, since the sixties — seems to further suggest that I may have been sold a pup.

The film itself is fairly terrific, and I should invest in an upgrade. Zulawski’s partner, Sophie Marceau, with whom he had already made three films (which I still have to look forward to), stars in an adaptation/update of Madame La Fayette’s 1678 novel La Princesse de Cleves. I must admit I’d underrated her, having only seen her in Tavernier’s DARTAGNAN’S DAUGHTER and the Bond film THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH. Oh, and bloody BRAVEHEART. None of which are her best work, it seems. I hate BRAVEHEART, in which her main purpose, like that of most female leads in action films, is to alibi the lead’s heterosexuality (but see here for a problematizing fact-check at around 3:50). On D’ARTAGNAN’S DAUGHTER she was responsible for getting octogenarian maestro Riccardo Freda fired from his last chance of directing a film, which rather makes me despise her. Later, giving her opinion about the film, she said that there was too much about Philippe Noiret and the other musketeers and not enough about her. Needless to say, I found her cold-blooded bitch character in THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH quite convincing.

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But in fact, whatever she may be like in real life (and I have no actual way of knowing), she can be a tremendously sympathetic and intelligent and compelling presence onscreen, as LA FIDELITE shows — she humanizes the extremes of Zulawski’s cinema in a way no other actor I’ve seen can do. In fact it’s the husband character in the film (Pascale Greggory) who goes in for more of the director’s favoured mannerisms, flailing, spasming and twitching, though he does this less often and less frenetically than, say, the stars of POSSESSION. In fact, in many ways he has the feminine role, stuck in the role of “good spouse,” largely passive and pensive — he even writes a message on a mirror in eyeliner (it’s a lengthy quotation, so lipstick wouldn’t have worked).

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As so often with historical material dragged kicking and screaming into the modern age (the twenty-first century, just), there are some awkward plot hurdles where society today may not offer exact analogues for the source’s action. Here, Zulawski contrives a subplot about illegal organ-trading which doesn’t seem to even try for plausibility — a shot of bootleg eyeballs shows a fuming tray with eyes, complete with eyelids and dainty eyelashes — periodic bursts of John Woo-style slomo machine-gun action interrupt the relatively naturalistic moments of emotional turbulence with surprising frequency. Relocating the plot from the world of aristocrats to the world of a modern press tycoon works neatly, though, and the film does remind you how detestable the tabloid press is. Hilariously, the saturnine tycoon is called Rupert Mac Roi.

Marceau emotes movingly, and indulges in vigorous sex scenes with Greggory while yearning for loutish-yet-sensitive Guillaume Canet. She’s also convincing as a photographer and artist. Edith Scob blows a raspberry. She didn’t do that in EYES WITHOUT A FACE — her mask would have blasted off.

L’Amour FUBAR

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

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Zulawski’s SZAMANKA — translates, sort of, as SHAMANESS. His return to Poland after several years making movies in France and elsewhere. Completely bananas. Sometimes a strong central performance anchors a Zulawski film to some kind of relatable reality. Sometimes it blasts it off into space. In SZAMANKA, our attention is split between the male and female leads, and he’s rather dislikable — the critique of macho intended by Zulawski and his young female screenwriter comes across fairly strongly. The teenage actress cast as female lead delivers a compendium of Zulawski tics and fits, which alienates us a bit more than is perhaps wise. I admire Zulawski’s ability to get actors to go to insane extremes, but I also like it when he works with Sophie Marceau and you actually see human behaviour you recognize.

Zulawski’s discovery, Iwona Petry, with whom he enjoyed a somewhat stormy collaboration, at times seems to be channelling Isabelle Adjani in POSSESSION, which gives the crazy effects a second-hand feeling, despite the wild imagination on display throughout. As is generally the case with Zulawski, though, you’ll see a few things here you won’t see anywhere else… a shame that Hannibal Lecter borrowed so freely from the film’s climax…

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All Zulawski films feel valedictory, because he always seems to be burning his bridges, his reputation, his relationships, himself.

More on this marvellous maniac soon…

 

 

Godunov for Me

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on March 3, 2016 by dcairns

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The late Mr. Zulawski’s BORIS GODUNOV is one of the most stunning-looking films ever made, and the subject of this fortnight’s edition of The Forgotten.