Archive for George Segal

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.


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2020 by dcairns

A busy day at Il Cinema Ritrovato online:

LIEBLING DER GOTTER, Emil Jannings in an early German talkie. Surprisingly sophisticated — I guess Europe had a couple of years to absorb the early mistakes and discoveries of American sound film, so there’s immediately an understanding that UNsynchronised sound — separating sound from image — offscreen voices and noises overlaid on top of contrasting images — is one of the most powerful and absorbing techniques, at least as valuable as lip-synched dialogue.

CALIFORNIA SPLIT — I’d seen this years ago and knew it was good — Fiona hadn’t. More sound innovation, as Altman mixes untold layers of overlapping gab, sometimes allowing a clear conversation to emerge from the wordstream, sometimes smothering bits of it in crosstalk, sometimes submerging everying in burbling accretions of babel.

The film itself is terrific. I recall Elliott Gould talking about it in Edinburgh. He was a producer on it and said that the ending was originally supposed to show him and George Segal exiting the casino, filmed from outside: they’re friendship is over.

Altman approached Gould and suggested, it being very late/early and everyone tired, that they could end the film indoors and save themselves relocating and setting up a new shot. Gould agreed, and has wondered ever since if he made a mistake, and if the film underperformed because of it.

Maybe the very end is a tiny bit lacking — but not in a way that hurts your memory of the experience. A good illustration of Kurosawa’s point that, when you’re tired, your body and brain tell you that you have enough footage when you really don’t. The only solution, AK counsels, is to go ahead and shoot twice as much as you think you need.

A hard lesson!

The movie is wonderful — I miss the pre-McKee era when films could shamble along loosely, apparently neglecting all rules of structure, until at the end you realised that everything was there for a reason and an artful design had been functioning all along, UNDETECTED.

We also watched TAP ROOTS (George Marshall, 1948), beautiful Technicolor but by God it was dull.

Apart from Boris Karloff as a Native American with an English accent, and a fairly well-written part for Van Heflin, and the odd political interest of this GONE WITH THE WIND knock-off (Susan Hayward being flame-haired at the top of her voice) in which the South wins the Civil War against itself (a valley of abolitionist Southerners is invaded by the Confederates), the most striking moment was a surely unplanned incident in a river battle where one horse, improvising wildly, mounted another, trapping the hapless actor on Horse (2)’s saddle in a kind of Confederate sandwich with horses instead of bread. Looked painful. I have never weighed a horse but I believe they’re not featherweights.

Cuisine of the Crime

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2019 by dcairns

I hadn’t seen WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CHEFS OF EUROPE for decades and Fiona had never seen it. And I only just realized that Peter Stone had a big hand in the script — he’s also a key figure in the writing of CHARADE, ARABESQUE, MIRAGE, FATHER GOOSE, SWEET CHARITY… which are all quite sprightly examples of the dying days of the golden years of Hollywood. And this one tries hard to evoke the feel of classic romantic comedy thrillers, while sharing some DNA with the novelty murder cycle begun by THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES.

Someone IS killing the great chefs of Europe, in their own kitchens and using their own favourite methods. Meanwhile dessert chef Jacqueline Bisset (last on the menu) and her ex-husband, fast food entrepreneur George Segal, are squabbling and wooing in a manner vaguely reminiscent of Cary Grant & Ros Russell in HIS GIRL FRIDAY. Jackie B proves a very able performer in this genre, and Segal of course is a very fine light comedian but perhaps makes his already seedy character a bit too brash and unlikable and lupine. The only moment where he begins to gather some sympathy is a fine bit of writing where he seems about to be humiliated on UK TV after trying, in a quite well-meaning way, to save his ex’s life. But this happens at the very end of the film, so it’s a little too late.

The Hollywood trick of casting actors who are NOT like the character they’re playing — think Joel McCrea as a pretentious film director in SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS — might have been handy here. But for a brash and sleazy businessman, who do you cast in the seventies who’s NOT a bit sleazy?

Robert Morley hams with relish, but one of the film’s real treats is the casting of top European acting talent in rare English-speaking roles: Jean-Pierre Cassell, Philippe Noiret, Jean Rochefort and walking special effect Daniel Emilfork. Fascinating to watch them in a second language: Cassell’s suavity transmutes into an engaging goofiness, Rochefort hams it up enormously and is a joy, and Noiret is really extraordinary, holding the eye and producing an effect of massive comedic overemphasis while actually underplaying like crazy. His tiniest ocular glint is like an explosion.

The mystery is well-played, delivering a genuine surprise out of a very limited (and ever-shrinking) field of suspects, and plays reasonably fair, though when you think about it, given the identity and motive of the killer, it does seem highly unlikely that they’d choose the novelty homicide MO we’ve all been enjoying. But Jackie gets to sleep with the most attractive Frenchman and doesn’t get punished for it, even though the plot positions her as potential final victim. (Neither the PHIBES films nor THEATRE OF BLOOD think of making the most sympathetic character the last person in jeopardy — though maybe we’re *intended* to care about Joseph Cotten and Ian Hendry?)

If the film, as directed by Ted Kotcheff, doesn’t quite come off, maybe it’s because it’s set in and made in the late seventies, with a brownish colour palette and all-location shooting in cavernous rooms. It somehow never has the lighter-than-air soufflé feel the story demands. We’re in London and Paris and Venice, and it always seems overcast and a bit dreich. Not Cary Grant weather at all. Although, if you have Cary Grant, ALL weather is Cary Grant weather. If you have George Segal instead, better hope for sunshine.

WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CHEFS OF EUROPE? (AKA TOO MANY CHEFS) stars Miss Goodthighs, Quiller, King Louis XVI, King Louis XIII, Cardinal Mazarin, Le colonel Louis Marie Alphonse Toulouse, another different Cardinal Mazarin, Dr. Branom, De Nomolos, Krank, Ralph Earnest Gorse, Sgt. Wilson and Wallace.