Archive for Fernand Gravey

Tuttle Recall

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2018 by dcairns

Frank Tuttle was a rather gifted director, I’m inclined to think, but he’s a bit problematic politically — in 1947 he was blacklisted due to his former membership of the communist party. In 1951 he gave HUAC thirty-six names (according to Wikipedia).

During the interim, he made GUNMAN IN THE STREETS in Paris, so I guess it’s the equivalent of Dmytryk’s rather good OBSESSION — the bridge between his pre-rat and post-rat phases. It’s almost a really good movie, too, though it lacks the verve and grit of something like RIFIFI (also made by a blacklistee in Paree). It’s more like the pre-war poetic realism stuff.

Dane Clark plays an American gangster in Paris, an ex-serviceman gone rogue, now a fugitive trying to get out of the country. Phlegmatic copper Fernand Gravey is hot on his trail, or as hot as Fernand Gravey ever gets. Clark turns to his former moll, Simone Signoret, and she gets funds from her current lover, Robert “who he?” Duke. There’s a double amour fou going on, with Signoret powerless to resist Clark and Duke in thrall to her.

The events of the story are all interesting in theory, and Tuttle’s visual approach — mostly elegant sequence shots — is fine, enhanced by Eugen Schüfftan’s misty cinematography (IMDb also credits Claude Renoir, but the movie doesn’t). The problems come from the script and the actors.

The great Jacques Companéez (listed as “Jack”), a master of this milieu, seems to have originated the story, but the dialogue feels like a too-literal translation from the French. We don’t need lashings of argot, necessarily, but we can’t have a hoodlum saying “I left my identification in my automobile.” It’s a slight problem having American and French characters and everyone speaking English, but the bigger issue is that it’s such flavourless, denatured English.

 

Gravey is good, but lacks the drive to propel his manhunt narrative forward with urgency, and he’s surrounded by Francophones whose timing is way off, a problem in Tuttle’s long takes. Then you have the romantic triangle, where Signoret’s style is rock-solid — her last close-up is devastating — Clark is miscast as a tough guy though he does his best — and Duke seems at sea in a difficult part. He comes across as a wimp and I’m not sure he’s supposed to.

Colourful supporting performance from Michel Andrê as a sleazy “artist” complete with dressing gown and cat.

Apparently there’s a simultaneously-shot French version of this movie, with several less writers, and Borys Lewin as credited director. Same cast. Wonder what that’s like?

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Thinking in the round

Posted in FILM, Politics, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2010 by dcairns

Watching LA RONDE again with an audience of one student (at this time of year they tend to be busy on shoots — but Joachim wrapped one project and came along to the screening the same evening, bless him: “I can go to the pub anytime.”) — struck as always by new details I didn’t remember seeing before.

When Simone Signoret rotates into view she’s standing under a little lamppost — an unlikely accoutrement for a carousel, but an apt one for a carousal.

Of all the guys in the film, Serge Reggiani may be the luckiest, getting to score with both Simones, Signoret and Simon, and he’s certainly the least grateful lover.

Always loved the scene where Walbrook leads Simone Simon through time, by walking in between sets, but this time I started wondering about the avenue of movie lights they pass — where does it lead? To other scenes in this movie, or to other movies altogether?

There’s something of an irony in Fernand Gravey playing Danielle Darrieux’s husband, since he was moonlighting as a resistance fighter during the war, spreading terror by night and shooting LA NUIT FANTASTIQUE by day, whereas Danielle’s record was slightly more spotty — she went on a goodwill tour of Germany (with Clouzot’s girlfriend) and got condemned to death by the Resistance for her troubles (a sentence which was later commuted to “Oh alright then we’ll let you off this time”). Her story seems to have been that she was trying to secure the freedom of her boyfriend, Porfirio Rubiroso, from the Gestapo. She succeeded, and being an international playboy he subsequently dumped her.

(Porfirio Rubirosa… How to explain the romantic appeal of this dashing Dominican diplomat? You know those long pepper grinders you get in Italian restaurants? Those are, unofficially, known as rubirosas. Think about it.)

I’m struck once again by the final exchanges between Gerard Philippe and Simone Signoret — what’s going on here? There’s a suggestion that she reminds him of someone, and she may in fact BE the person he’s reminded of, although he probably doesn’t realize it. And perhaps he was the young soldier who set her out on her strange path, sleeping with soldiers for free? But it’s all quite mysterioso and allusive. I watch the scene again when I get home, using the extended cut of the film that abruptly surfaced on Australian TV, without warning. The scene is longer but seems, if anything, more mysterious than before.

Plus there’s this great Walter Sickert-NIGHT OF THE HUNTER composition.

Most of the added scenes in the extended version involves Walbrook, but Jean-Louis Barrault’s whole section is a fair bit longer too. This includes an amazing transition from Barrault’s scene with the “grisette” (Odette Joyeux) to his scene with the actress (Isa Miranda). In a post-coital scene in Barrault’s split-level bachelor pad (fin-de-siecle version) Joyeux asks Barrault to put out the candles. Then a voice echoes out, “Yes, put out the candles!” Barrault looks up, and discovers that his apartment has no ceiling, and that he has Anton Walbrook looking down at him from a lighting rig. He does as he’s told, and Walbrook swivels the spotlight off Barrault and onto an entirely new scene, the theatre, where Miranda is taking her curtain calls. Walbrook announces the new scene, “The poet and the actress,” (which sounds like the set-up to a smutty joke, and almost is).

It’s a dumbfoundingly wonderful transition. The rest of the extended sequences are very welcome, but not to the same level of awesomeness, although there’s another shot of the intersticial space-time-continuum between sets, with Walbrook sweeping off into it in his opera cape, and a scene between Walbrook and Barrault in the snow outside the love nest he’s rented with Miranda, where both actors’ exhalations are visible in the cold air — Ophuls must have filmed in an ice-house, if not on location (my money’s on the former).

The reason for this long cut is apparently as follows — it was Ophuls preferred edit, but a preview audience reacted badly, so he pared it down to the version familiar to us. Following a quirky logic of his own, he didn’t much trim the opening scenes, saving his most severe cuts for late in the picture, effectively moving the scene of Barrault and Miranda’s consummation back from the countryside to her dressing room in the process. While many of Walbrook’s appearances were shortened (there’s some more business with him as a head waiter), the more extreme verfremdungseffekt moments, such as Walbrook censoring one steamy love scene by editing the film, were preserved in essence if not in length. Now Marcel Ophuls has done his best to suppress this alternative director’s cut, which I guess is his version of protecting his father’s legacy, but I can’t say I understand his logic (he’s also barred the German version of LOLA MONTES).

Even with the additional material, the film doesn’t quite have an end shot, surprisingly. There’s a cluttered frame incorporating theatre, street and movie studio all in one image, which is a nice idea but doesn’t quite come off compositionally, and then a freeze-frame of the idle carousel, which looks like something from the end credits of a US TV show. But so what? As Sidney Lumet put it, “Nothing has to be perfect,” and in a film as downright SUBLIME as LA RONDE, perfection might actually be a vulgarity.