Archive for Eric Thompson

The Monday Intertitle: Loose Lip Synch

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2014 by dcairns


There’s a lot to enjoy in Alain Resnais’s PAS SUR LAS BOUCHE (I’m slowly familiarising myself with his post-sixties career, aided by the fact that Fiona seems to enjoy all of them, despite never having cottoned to MARIENBAD.) In fact, what is there NOT to enjoy in it? But most enjoyable of all may be Lambert Wilson (above, right).

Lambert is playing Mr. Eric Thompson (NOT Emma Thompson’s dad, the one who re-voiced The Magic Roundabout for the BBC), an American in Paris, and with his exquise comic timing he is partaking in a proud French tradition — the unconvincing American. For while his attempts to speak French clumsily and with an American intonation are quite good, they’re not exactly believable, and that adds to their hilarity.

The first French talkie was LES TROIS MASQUES (1929), a Pathe-Natan shot at Pinewood by special arrangement with John Maxwell, the Scottish lawyer-turned-exhibitor-turned-producer who had been working with Alfred Hitchock. Pathe head Bernard Natan seems to have gotten along well with Scots — his TV company was co-founded with John Logie Baird. But LES TROIS MASQUES is a dreadful film, stilted and static in the manner associated with the worst of early talkies. It’s as if British reserve somehow soaked into the celluloid and stifled any Gallic joie de vivre.


Much, much better is CHIQUÉ, a forty-five minute comedy set in a Montmartre dive and exploiting that old joke about the American tourist who doesn’t realize the apache dance is an act. Adrien Lamy plays the American, who says things like “Pas Anglais! Amurrican I am!” He’s wonderfully, hilariously awful. The film is everything its predecessor is not — fluid, rhythmic, pacy, atmospheric, alive. Pierre Colombier directed it, and went on to make Pathe-Natan’s best comedies.

Another early precedent for Lambert’s perf must be the 1931 film version of the same operetta, co-directed by Nicolas Rimsky, who also plays Thompson. A Russian playing an American in France — I assume he’s enjoyable, but I haven’t tracked down the film.

My faulty memory tells me there are other examples of Frenchmen playing Americans, also Brits playing Americans, and also Americans who aren’t actors playing Americans, but I can’t seem to put a name to them. Let me know if you think of any!


Everything in the Resnais film is in quotes — a theatrical piece from a bygone age performed, archly, on artificial sets by artistes who disappear by slow dissolve each time they start to exit a scene, with a sound midway between applause and a batting of wings. Such artifice courts sterility, but in Resnais’s hands it’s both funny, the way it would have been on stage in 1925, and something else — a scientific experiment in temporal bilocation, perhaps.

The Wicker Roundabout

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on June 8, 2011 by dcairns

Ali Catterall made this.

Awesome, no? Of course, it helps if you already know both THE WICKER MAN and The Magic Roundabout. While giving all due credit to the guy who first spliced audio from APOCALYPSE NOW and BLUE VELVET onto video from children’s shows, I think this one is neater and more startlingly apt. And Florence’s rendition of Willow’s Song is nearly as erotic as Britt Ekland’s.

The Magic Roundabout was a Belgian children’s show imported to the UK. Eric Thompson (father of Emma) was put in charge of dubbing it into English, and rather than work from a translation of the script, he just projected prints of the episodes onto his kitchen door and made up whatever he felt the characters ought to be saying. So there is a proud history of revoicing this show…

The clips Ali has used come from the feature-length version, DOUGAL AND THE BLUE CAT, also dubbed by Thompson for British screening (although the vagaries of ’70s distribution meant that I was unable to see it as a kid). There was also a 2005 feature, THE MAGIC ROUNDABOUT, a CGI dayglo atrocity with voice artistry from Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue. How can such a civilisation survive? It won’t be long now, comrades.

Thanks to Steven McNicoll and Ali Catterall.