Archive for Delphine Seyrig

The Home Film Festival

Posted in Dance, Fashion, FILM, MUSIC, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2018 by dcairns

It was rainy last Sunday so I suggested we have our own film festival at home. Try it!

An eclectic program, decided at random. First I watched THE ORE RAIDERS, and blogged about it, then I popped on THE BLACK WINDMILL (1974), which always looked like awful tommyrot when on TV, but it’s Don Siegel therefore worth a try.Reader, THE BLACK WINDMILL is indeed awful tommyrot, but with impressive credits. TV pan-and-scan showings, which I recall seeing bits of, ruined it utterly — the pleasure is all in Siegel’s framing and blocking. Ousama Rawi, the former Mr. Rita Tushingham, shot it, beautifully — there’s some particularly nice anamorphic city lights. Antony Gibbs, of PETULIA and PERFORMANCE, cut it, less successfully than one might have hoped, though the neatest bit is a long take from a locked-off position as bad guys frame the hero with a nudie photo staged in his own bedroom. Roy Budd, of GET CARTER, provides a GET CARTER type score, with added tabla drums. Veteran costume designer Anthony Mendleson makes his leading man look ridiculous. I think there’s a good argument for leading men dressing conservatively, as Cary Grant suggested. They don’t date, and anyway, why would a spy dress like THIS?I suppose, in a crisis, he could always turn sideways and hide behind his necktie.

A distinguished cast includes cast includes Harry Palmer, Dr. Crippen, Empress Alexandra, Elizabeth Bathory, Sheik Abu Tahir and Maya the shapeshifter from Space 1999.

   

Fiona only joined that one midway, then insisted on some Bette Davis so we ran JEZEBEL, which we hadn’t seen in ages. I’ve often felt that the Germans in Hollywood had more racial sensitivity than native-born filmmakers, but although the black characters here all get bits of characterisation, and Eddie Anderson underplays for once, the movie never misses a chance at a cheap joke. When Henry Fonda says he feels haunted, wrinkled retainer Lew Paton stammers, “H-haunted?” in terror of spooks.

Still, the soapy story compels, and Bette is playing a perverse, willful, stroppy filly much like herself. She adored Wyler’s disciplinarian approach, and dialled down her excesses. When she reacts to the news that Fonda has married, her face registers a dozen emotions and calculations at lightning speed, subtly enough that you can believe smiling Margaret Lindsay doesn’t notice them, and visibly enough that you can see Fonda does.

Also great work from Richard Cromwell and, shockingly, George Brent, whose sleepy approach to acting here becomes electrifying when he’s given something of real interest to play. His character is supposed to be a dynamic old-school swashbuckler, and by playing it with indifference he actually adds a convincing edge to it. This guy is so dangerous because he doesn’t advertise it.

The cunning use of POV shots I noted in THE ORE RAIDERS is present here, as Bette, embracing Fonda, makes particular note of the stick he’s left by the door. All her behaviour in the ensuing scene is an attempt to provoke him into using it on her, which he refrains from, much to her disappointment. Did I mention Bette’s character is a touch perverse?

Co-writer John Huston was drafted in to direct a duel scene, and in a film full of smart grace notes, delivers one of the neatest, as the duellists take ten paces, clear out of frame and two puffs of smoke issue in from the edges of the screen, rendering the battle an abstraction, its outcome a mystery.

We followed this with another, contrasting Bette movie, LO SCOPONE SCIENTIFICO (1972), which I’ve tackled at greater length elsewhere. Let’s just say that, cast as a kind of monster-goddess, Bette again is playing a character remarkably like herself: indefatigable.

Short subject: PIE, PIE, BLACKBIRD with Nina Mae McKinney and the Nicholas Brothers when they were small. She does an adorable rasping trumpet honk thing with her voice, an orchestra plays inside a giant pie, and the Bros. dance so hard, everybody turns into a skeleton. Will, if anybody was going to cause that to happen, it would be them.

It’s very funny to me that the props man couldn’t find a child skeleton — there was, it would seem, little call for such items — so he’s removed the shin-bones of an adult to make it dance shorter. Incredible to think that young Harold performed all those moves without knees.

Then MIRAGE, based on regular Shadowplayer Daniel’s recent recommendation. Sixties Edward Dmytryk, when he’s supposed to be washed up, but there’s some interesting stuff afoot, not all of it pulling in the same direction, but still. Stars Atticus Finch, Felix Unger Oscar Madison, Anne Frank’s sister Margot, Willie Loman’s son Biff, Gaetano Proclo and Joe Patroni. Which is to say, Walter Matthau and George Kennedy are reunited after CHARADE, which was also scripted by Peter Stone, and Matthau and Jack Weston are together, prefiguring A NEW LEAF.

Stone’s script is witty as usual, perhaps too witty — there’s a good sense of Kafkaesque nightmare going on in the crazy amnesia/conspiracy plot, but you have Gregory Peck being all Gregory Peckory, stiff and bashful, and then making quips, and the sense of waking nightmare rather deserts one.

BUT —

Dmytryk, a former editor, has discovered direct cutting — he’s seen MARIENBAD, in fact — or maybe the previous year’s THE PAWNBROKER. As Peck thinks back on baffling recent events, or retrieves fragments of memory from his earlier, lost-time spell, we cut in hard to snippets of dialogue from earlier or brief flashes of action. Best of all is a subway scene where the sound of the train continues unabated over glimpses of Walter Abel falling out of a skyscraper. Then he cuts to a watermelon hitting the ground and bursting, something that’s only been mentioned earlier. It’s a non-diegetic watermelon, perhaps the first of its race.

It’s dazzling and disturbing and would still look pretty nifty in a modern film. What makes it sellable to the great public of 1964 is that the odd technique is tied directly to the plot gimmick. Anyway, it’s very nice indeed, and makes you realise how conservative most cutting still is. Given Dmytryk’s late-career wallowing in turgid airport novel stuff, I wish he’d enlivened his work with this kind of monkey business a lot more. For a guy who’d sold out, who had to shore up his sense of self-worth with spurious justifications, accomplishing a nice piece of work like this must have been some kind of relief.

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Xanadu

Posted in FILM, literature, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2008 by dcairns

Enter the Dragon

Joseph Losey Week spills out of itself and out of Shadowplay, over into BritMovie, where I drunkenly sing the praises of BOOM (A.K.A. BOOM!), thusly. I’d like to add that, since writing the piece, my enthusiasm for the film has grown, perhaps as my memory of it dims or perhaps as aspects of its high camp art-movie miasma have taken on fresh resonance through bouncing around inside my reverberant skull. Whatever the truth behind that, I feel I can supplement the article by adding a clip from the film itself. This should confirm, for all enthusiasts of Edgar Ulmer’s THE BLACK CAT, the influence of the 1934 horror movie upon the 1968 art-trash mash-up. Specifically the floating camera as Burton rumbles through the opening stanzas of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, or a Vision in a Dream (Like an IDIOT, I refer to the poem as “Coleridge’s Xanadu” in the piece, ample proof that I’m overly obsessed with Gene Kelly and Olivia Newton John’s musical disasterpiece).


ALTHOUGH — there is another possibility, now that I think of it. Although Losey expressed tremulous reservations about Resnais and Robbe-Grillet’s LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, worrying if it would communicate anything to the general public, he was clearly much affected by it. The flashbacks and sound-image disconnections of ACCIDENT show an obvious desire to emulate Resnais’ fragmented mirror-maze montage, and Losey even abducts Delphine Seyrig from the cast of MARIENBAD and casts her, rather nonsensically, as Alexander Knox’s daughter.

But in that case, it’s clear that MARIENBAD is in thrall to THE BLACK CAT, which now that I think of it is obvious and has probably been remarked upon before.

See Douglas Slocombe’s camera, operated by the great Chic Waterson, drift like a phantom through Richard MacDonald’s insanely opulent sets, in the spectral footsteps of Ulmer and Resnais. And now here’s John Waters to put everything in perspective:

Euphoria #6

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2008 by dcairns

Craig Keller nominated this way back and it’s taken me and age to watch the film and then get the scene up on VousTube. Nice film, nice scene, Craig!

[Oh, the subtitles didn’t load, so you can (a) learn French before watching it, which will probably be useful in later life, or (b) watch it without understanding all the dialogue, which will, I promise, STILL be a sweet and blissful experience.]

Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel project is one of cinema’s most intriguing undertakings — a study of a fictional character from childhood on through life, like THE TRUMAN SHOW brought half a step closer to reality. One can’t help wonder what additional Doinel stories Truffaut would be telling now had he lived. Of course it’s inconceivable for anybody else to pick up the baton and continue the character’s adventures: that’s why France is not America and Antoine Doinel is not Inspector Clouseau.

As the series progresses, one can’t help but notice a certain loss of cohesion: Doinel began, in childhood, as a Truffaut-substitute, “the author in disguise” to use Alan Bennett’s charming phrase, but as fictional and real life went on, they diverged: once it became clear that Doinel was not going to become a celebrated film director, large areas of Truffaut’s life were excluded from the films. In a way, LA NUIT AMERICAIN / DAY FOR NIGHT is more of a direct sequel to the first Doinel film, LES 400 COUPS than any of the later Doinel films: here, the character has split in two, one half growing up to be the film director played by Truffaut himself (seen in flashback as a kid committing a very Doinellian petty crime), the other has become leading man Jean-Pierre Leaud, the actor who personifies Doinel in all the films.

Anyhow, one consequence of the divergence between auteur and creation is that the films immediately get lighter. The Doinel episode of LOVE AT TWENTY (and is there any chance of somebody releasing the rest of this fascinating-sounding compendium film?) lacks the tragic undertones of LES 400 COUPS, and BAISERS VOLES, the first feature length sequel, is basically an amiably disjointed comedy. As such, it’s delightful, and I could nominate a few other scenes for Cinema Euphoria status — the mini-documentary about the pneumatic tubes beneath Paris (Wow!) and Delphine Seyrig’s moving proposition to Doinel, for instance. Michel Lonsdale’s first scene doesn’t quite qualify, perhaps, but it’s uproariously funny in its cockeyed peculiarity. Lonsdale for president!

Thanks to Craig for recommending this one, I had fun re-seeing the movie, having forgotten many of its quirks and twists. It’s encouraged me to have another look at some of the later films in the A.D. cycle too.