Archive for Barbarella

Durand Durand Durand

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on September 20, 2016 by dcairns


No, I’m not singing the PINK PANTHER theme tune — Durand Durand is a character in BARBARELLA who is introduced to us by Barb’s boss*, Claude Dauphin, and Durand singular is a character played by the selfsame M. Dauphin in LE MONDE TREMBLERA (1939), first mentioned yesterday. So I’m obsessed with completing this incipient trilogy, either by finding a third Dauphin sci-fi movie, or a third Dauphin movie involving a character called Durand. Call it OCD (Obsession Claude Dauphin).


Durand/Dauphin, assisted by the poacher from RULES OF THE GAME, has invented a sort of Strickfadenesque apparatus which allows him to expose a kind of photographic plate which then yields a sort of life-line which can be interpreted to yield the exact date of the subject’s forthcoming demise, no matter what causes it. It’s tested on a prisoner bound for the guillotine — the authorities attempt to pull a fast one by commuting his sentence — and he expires of an infarction on the spot and at the exact moment foretold.


Along for the ride is his backer, Erich Von Stroheim (a nimble and heartfelt bit of work from the occasional leaden star), whose Big Idea is to sell the machine to an insurance company which can use it to eliminate bad risks. But Dauphin/Durand, possessed of the Edison spark, wants his gift to be available to everyone who can afford it. The trouble is, once wealthy, powerful individuals have yielded to the morbid urge to gaze upon the hour of their ends, they tend to become disincentivized with regards to running huge corporations or whatever important work they do. Worldwide economic chaos looms. And then Durand/Dauphin, perhaps foolishly, pulls a Seth Brundle, getting drunk and testing his invention on himself…

Richard Pottier directs, not too ably — he persistently fails to match closeups so that a shot of Stroheim looking screen left is intercut with a shot of Dauphin also looking screen left. “What is there, screen left, that’s so interesting?” the audience wonders. But the photography and script are strong — Clouzot and his collaborator J. Villard pull of a great running gag with a poltroon who’s been promised he’ll live to be 100: bored already in his 40s, he attempts to shoot himself but continually fails… The film’s jarring tonal shifts aren’t typical of Clouzot, but its cynicism is — even as it positions itself as a warning against cynicism.


*Being Barbarella’s boss sounds like a pretty good position to have. How do you get to be Barbarella’s boss? Is there a form you have to fill in? I hate forms, but I would fill this one in quickly and efficiently. I guess, technically (and according to the credits) he’s actually President of the Earth, which sounds like a lot of work, responsibility etc. I wonder if you could leave the presidential duties to someone else and just be Barbarella’s boss. It would be worth being President of Earth if Barbarella was included in the deal, I guess, but I would worry that running an entire G-class planet might eat up most of my time and leave me with very little opportunity to tell Barbarella to do things (missions, etc), which would be a bitter irony indeed.

A Date for Your Diary

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on September 19, 2016 by dcairns


Henri-Georges Clouzot co-scripted LE MONDE TREMBLERA (1939), in which Claude Dauphin (yay! Barbarella’s boss!) invents a machine that can predict, with total accuracy, the time of a given subject’s death, is quite an interesting piece of work. I mean, that’s a subject nobody else has tackled in that way, ever.

Fiona pointed out that Clouzot, who had been in a TB sanatorium for years, was uniquely placed to address this topic. And he gives us, in Dauphin’s cynical scientist, one of his most unsympathetic leads — and that’s arguably a crowded field.


Dauphin is essentially unrecognizable if you know him only from fifties and sixties films, as we did. Until he opens his mouth.

So, this is Barbarella’s boss’s first sci-fi film, and BARBARELLA is his last — we just need a middle one to complete the Informal Trilogy. Anyone?

Chamber of Dreams

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2016 by dcairns


One after another, the films in out POW!!! retrospective turn out to be far better when seen on the big screen than one would expect — DANGER: DIABOLIK’s somewhat episodic plot seems to flow more smoothly, MODESTY BLAISE’s jarring tonal shifts seem more thought-through, and BARBARELLA —


I used to assume that of the army of writers on this film (including Hammer scribe Tudor Gates, also credited on DIABOLIK), Terry Southern was probably responsible for the funniest lines, but when I got ahold of the Grove Press (!) edition of Jean-Claude Forest’s comic strip, I found they’d been lifted straight from its speech balloons. (“A great many dramatic situations begin with screaming!”) All of them are enhanced, however, by Jane Fonda’s witty and inventive line readings. How many ways of doing wide-eyed innocence ARE there? An infinite number, apparently. Fonda not only makes the film funnier, she defuses offense in the more exploitative scenes, reassuring us that good taste, and the heroine, will not be violated altogether.


Embodying a very up-to-the-minute view of the future, 1968-style (the swishy shipboard computer seems like a riposte to 2001, but surely can’t be), the film is also, by movie standards, comparatively generous towards its source, crediting Forest once for co-co-co-co-co-co-writing, and once for design. Combining his art with the craft of production designer Mario Garbuglia (THE LEOPARD) results in wonderfully Felliniesque settings.

In my intro I said that Roger Vadim’s direction was the weakest link, but after watching the film with an audience I would have to retract that halfway — true, Vadim’s marshalling of his resources into camera coverage sometimes seems a bit random, so that you frown at shapeless footage of clearly magnificent environments and crowds — not as bad as CALIGULA, say, but a milder version of that effect — “I know we’re in an amazing set, but we just can’t see it!” As if, having covered his wife/star, Vadim had no clear plan for how to present anything else, and just let the cameramen roam about as if in a behind-the-scenes documentary. But the pacing of the film is really good. Despite their charms, DIABOLIK and MODESTY BLAISE are both peppered with dead spots in their talking scenes, partly a result of rather thin sound design, partly a result of directors who are either not so comfortable with actors (Bava, I’m afraid) or with comedy timing (Losey, unquestionably). BARBARELLA, in front of an audience, really PLAYS.