Archive for Claudia Cardinale

C’est la guerre

Posted in FILM, literature, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2022 by dcairns

Having missed out on getting his ass shot off on Omaha Beach because he had to direct THE SEVENTH VICTIM (a positive result all round), Mark Robson then traversed the globe, expiating his absenteeism by celebrating every war available to him — Korea in THE BRIDGES AT TOKO-RI, WWII in VON RYAN’S EXPRESS, and in LOST COMMAND he follows some French paratroopers from Indo-China to Algiers, Admittedly, none of Robson’s war movies are wholeheartedly gung ho, perhaps gung hey or gung huh? at most. But they never quite commit themselves to a definite anti-war view either.

The result is choppy. His source novel by ex-army, ex-journalist Jean Lartéguy doesn’t supply him with a clear central character or a clear line of action, we jump forward in time and from place to place, and a story that could have been about an honorable soldier’s slow corruption by political pressures is muddied and diluted by mixing it with other stories, and by presumably commercial fears about character sympathy and overt political statements.

Shot in Spain — Al Mulock, the first face we see in THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, appears — the film also suffers from not having any real Arabs. We get George Segal in shoe polish instead, and the brown shine never seems to get far enough down his neck to suggest an all-over tan. Claudia Cardinale, appearing briefly, IS actually Tunisian, but sounds Italian. We can ignore that, though, if we can get past Anthony Quinn as a Basque peasant with an American accent, surrounded by French characters played by actual French people. It’ll be fine.

Stealing most of the glory from Quinn is Alain Delon, as the film’s conscience, which may seem ironic now in the light of his later politics. Delon sounds like Charles Boyer when he speaks English, and should have been a major Hollywood star, but his attempts at it were mainly this and a Ralph Nelson film. And in TEXAS ACROSS THE RIVER he supports Dean Martin. None of these were the right vehicles, and American cinema was turning inwards — exotic locales and cosmopolitan characters were no longer the staples. The New Hollywood, in essence a more realist cinema, naturally (it seemed) focussed on what was happening locally. And the collapsing studios couldn’t force a new star on the public by power of publicity and consistent casting — the result ever since has been that when an outsider does make a breakthrough impression in a Hollywood film, they have a hell of a time following up on it with an equally effective role.

The film’s messiness is evident immediately, as we begin in a battle and Robson ruins his big action scene by pasting enormous credits over it, which stick around over the edits, sloppily, forcing us to read them twice.

The film is notable for its cast — Maurice Ronet makes a strong impression — you won’t see Quinn getting yelled at by Burt Kwouk anywhere else — AQ has an age-appropriate fling with Michele Morgan — we pause to inspect the ruins of Jean Servais, moving his lips to someone else’s line readings.

General Melies, complete with moon rocket.

Politically, it’s mostly interested in being fair to the oppressed colonial peoples while blowing them up in exciting ways — Delon says it’s understandable that “the coolies” want a change — the illegal searches and use of torture are touched upon in “the battle of Algiers” sequence — but it’s all soft-pedaled. Comparing it to Pontecorvo’s hard-hitting, unmealymouthed movie of that name, is not only instructive but positively shaming. We can attribute most of the abuse to “a few bad apples” — in fact, viewers could reasonably conclude that Maurice Ronet and his blackjack were responsible for the whole dirty business, solo.

LOST COMMAND stars Zorba; Jeff Costello; Quiller; Joséphine de Beauharnais; Philippe Greenleaf; Jill McBain; King Brob; Tony le Stéphanois; Insp. Edouard Grandpierre; Cato Fong; One-Armed Bounty Hunter; and Cuchillio.

Checking Out

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2022 by dcairns

GOODBYE & AMEN is another Damiano Damiani thriller from the seventies. The CIA are the bad guys, which seems prophetic — later (disputed but, let’s face it, true) revelations about Operation Gladio would make this film seem tame. But still, it’s ahead of the game.

A sniper — psychotronic mainstay John Steiner — randomly kills two people and holes up in a hotel room, taking rich married lady Claudia Cardinale and her movie star boy toy Gianrico Tondinelli hostage. The dimwitted stud’s supposed to be starting a spaghetti western the next day, raising the intriguing possibility that DD is revenging himself upon some genre actor. Though he did push Gian Maria Volonte off his horse during a tiff on A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL, a better match for this prettyboy would be Terence Hill, star of DD’s ill-starred comedy A GENIUS, TWO PARTNERS, AND A DUPE (produced and part-directed by Leone).

The plot thickens as we learn that the hostage taker works at the US embassy, and then that he’s a spook. His supervisor, Tony Musante, is keen to stop certain secrets getting out. The honorable ambassador, John Forsythe, volunteers to go in and negotiate.

There’s a rather brilliant twist midway, but sadly it’s one that rather depoliticizes the proceedings. The CIA are still ruthless swine, but the sniper’s motivation becomes vague and flaky, with a movie disease invoked as explanation.

Still, there are some surprising images — the SWAT team’s scifi body armour; a journey through darkened hotel corridors by the sniper and three hostages, identically black clad and bearing flashlights; Tondinelli’s abrupt full-frontal comedy moment.

GOODBYE & AMEN stars Sam Dalmas; Jill McBain; Blake Carrington; Morel; Mr. Hammond – Second Minister of the Interior; Actress; Yuri Andropov; and Benito Mussolini.

After the Phantom

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2020 by dcairns

Well, in a fit of madness I viewed and wrote about all three of Blake Edwards’ post-Sellers PINK PANTHER films — TRAIL, CURSE and SON — so it seems appropriate to write about the early, funny ones, too. Only took me five years to get around to it.

THE PINK PANTHER is the first one which disappointed me as a kid — because I saw them out of sequence on TV, it was a shock to find Sellers as Clouseau as only joint lead, arguably below David Niven in narrative importance and just above Claudia Cardinale, Robert Wagner and Capucine. Plus, no Herbert Lom and no Burt Kwouk.

Of course, watching through more mature, informed eyes — which might seem like the last things you want to cram into your eyesockets before attempting to view a Blake Edwards slapstick farce — these “flaws” are nothing of the kind, and the one and only truly original PINK PANTHER emerges as the most carefully put-together film of the series by a country mile.Sellers stepped into the role of Clouseau three days before the shoot began to replace a departing Peter Ustinov (his wife, Welles’s Desdemona Suzanne Clouthier talked him out of it). Whether Ustinov was foolish enough to regret missing out on the most successful comedy series of the 20th Century is questionable — surely he knew that Sellers brought an entirely different genius to the film, and a Ustinov Clouseau might have been terrific but could not have been guaranteed to hit the mark commercially in the same way. Besides, success drove Sellers round the bend, in part because he felt it was given to him for the wrong films (newsflash: it usually is). Edwards fully agreed that Sellers’ work with Kubrick was more deserving, but there wasn’t much he could do about that.

We begin with ONCE UPON A TIME, an invitation for us to check any expectations of social realism at the door, I guess. Maybe we can find some more fairytale resonances later. Well, here’s a king and a palace and a princess, and the titular MacGuffin. The IMDb doesn’t know who any of these surprisingly credible “Lugashians” are, except for James Lanphier, an Edwards regular who is the only one who looks blatantly wrong ethnically and so naturally is the only one who will appear in the rest of the film.

The theme tune: “Can you IMAGINE being in the audience in 1963 and hearing this for the first time?” asked Fiona. Animated credits by DePatie-Freleng. For the only time, the cartoon panther has a feline body, not just a lanky man’s body with a feline head and tail. Edwards demanded that the Panther be patterned on him. And by the time the credits were made up (and did fifties-sixties audiences ever tire of these Saul Bass type pastel boxes? I never do), it was evidently clear that the film belonged to Clouseau, because here he is as the only other character to get a cartoon. And an antipathy between Edwards/Panther and Sellers/Clouseau is already established.

“When the picture was finished, I got the first sense of these unpredictable
crazy kind of actions when Sellers – after we had this wonderful time and
the picture was run – went crazy and sent word to the Mirisches that it was
a disaster, which was very typical of him on the films be would do.”

I realise I’m guilty of ignoring Edwards’ co-writer, Maurice Richlin (PILLOW TALK). Well, everyone else has: he didn’t receive a co-creator credit on any of the sequels until the very last one, SON OF (a film one might well sue to AVOID being associated with). I assume this robbed him of a fortune in residuals… Oh, he’s named on INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU, it seems. Must have had some special dispensation that only allowed him to be credited for shit.

The first frame after the titles is also the last frame of the film, further indicating how well worked-out it all is. A series of MEANWHILES take us around Europe and America, establishing a globetrotting scheme which isn’t really kept up in the movie itself, which plays mainly in Cortina d’Ampezzo, with a climax in Rome and a coda back in Paris.This might be Robert Wagner’s best thing. He’s quite deft. Of course, it’s a strain to even notice him with Sellers and the others doing so well, but my point is, he’s not boring in this. Capucine is very funny. Niven is fine, and I like that he has his good-luck charm, Michael Trubshaw, along for the ride. In later films, Sellers is the one who has an entourage of chums in minor roles. Claudia Cardinale is, as Fiona remarked, adorable. She seems to be dubbed — except for her lovely drunk scene, where suddenly her Italian accent emerges and her already husky, smoky voice suddenly gets even throatier. Well, who’s to say that Lugashians don’t have Italian accents?The fact is, probably Clouseau does make more sense as a supporting figure who adds slapstick to a sophisticated, or mock-sophisticated farce-caper, than as a hero. He’s incapable of real change, it seems, so you can’t give him a character arc. But on the other hand, it’s all but impossible to surround Sellers with subplots as entertaining and brilliant as him. All you can hope for, which Edwards achieves very well here, is that the surroundings will be charming so you don’t mind the genius being diluted. Although the supporting cast of the Clouseauverse are not in place yet, the man himself is fully formed. The appearance came from a matchbook image of channel-swimmer Matthew Webb. Sellers liked the moustache: “Very masculine.” He and/or Edwards conceived the character as an idiot who, unlike Laurel & Hardy, KNOWS he’s an idiot. But he’s determined not to let anyone else find out. He’s also too dense to realise the jig is up. So he’s under tremendous strain, maintaining this pretense of being a brilliant detective. You can feel for him. The Dunning-Kruger effect has collapsed under him.

And we understand this instinctively in his FIRST SCENE. Everything else Sellers will do across five films will be basically mining this one idea. A man whose idiocy is perfectly, agonizingly balanced between awareness of his own inadequacy and lack of awareness that it’s obvious to pretty well everyone around him.

Very good musical number, by Mancini of course. Italian lyrics by Franco Migliacci & English lyrics by Johnny Mercer. Mancini is other key figure of the series, and perhaps the only one who wasn’t horribly tortured by it. I certainly hope he wasn’t, and I can’t see why he should have been… he would be protected from Sellers and evidently didn’t mind Edwards.(Typing those names over and over again, it seems just perfect that both men contain multitudes: you couldn’t have a Blake Edward and a Peter Seller.)

Very good costume party gags. Edwards is OBSESSED with parties, of course. Two separate gorillas — I beg your pardon, two separate thieves DRESSED as gorillas — attempt to rob the same safe.  I remember watching this as a kid with my sister and she was overwhelmed with sympathy when he inserts his sexy strangler gloves into two perfect baby bear bowls of prison porridge, just as he’s attempting to gloat at the felons he’s captured. “It was his big moment!” she cry-laughed. Sellers can do that, even when his character is kind of a monster. Fred Kite can break your heart. And he does it even when, as here and in I’M ALRIGHT, JACK (the only Sellers film Edwards had seen), the film doesn’t need or even want him to.

So this is a really well-tooled entertainment. Sellers is again pathetic in the witness box — the only moment in the series when everyone laughs at him, which is what he’s spent his life and enormous energy trying to avoid. When he says that his wife has bought a mink coat with money saved from the housekeeping, it’s like a thing out of your nightmares — something you’ve always taken on faith is revealed to be ridiculous to everyone else.Fortunately the film gives Clouseau a happy ending, since being a Raffles-type jewel thief apparently makes you irresistible to women. And then the sequel is along, in less than a year, and it turns out Clouseau was never convicted of diamond-robbery at all, and is still an inspector… The clouseauverse is terribly forgiving of its policemen, which will be one bit of good news for Chief Inspector Dreyfus…

THE PINK PANTHER stars Sir James Bond; Evelyn Tremble; Number Two; Princess Carolyne Wittgenstein; Jill McBain; Maggie Hobson; Sgt. Arthur Wilson; Lord Dowdy; Poldi – Blackie’s Flunky; Leonora Clyde; and Dr. Rosen.