Archive for Georges Franju

Fair Weather

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 22, 2019 by dcairns

First full day in Bologna and we scored four out of four.

While our friends Nicola and Donald were viewing PEPE LE MOKO — can’t go wrong there — we took a chance on Franju’s NOTRE DAME, CATHEDRAL DE PARIS. I happen to think Franju’s short documentaries are even better than his features, which are of course frequently great. But he’s uneven — half the shorts are dullish, half are inspired cinematic poetry of the highest order. This was a good one, we thought, and in widescreen and colour! Of course, as Meredith Brody remarked afterwards, it played entirely differently under the present circs. I watched it with my jaw hanging open at the magnificent framing and a tear in my eye at the poignancy.

Afterwards, two half-empty plastic sacks of plaster in a corner of the Cinema Modernissimo, still in mid-restoration but opened as a pop-up for the festival, made me see a couple of weatherbeaten stone saints, and I realised I was seeing with Franju’s eyes, the eyes of a surrealist and a visionary poet. I wondered how long that would last. Then I emerged into the rain-slicked streets of Bologna and my eyes became those of a mere tourist again.

Henry King’s STATE FAIR is a masterpiece — a great piece of writing, particularly (a small army of ink-stained wretches laboured to convert Philip Strong’s Stong’s novel to a screen play). The subject of a week-long fair combines with a theme of impermanence, and a romantic scene is undercut with the image of a billboard advertisement for the fair peeling in the rain — to reveal THE END underneath.

Janet Gaynor and Lew Ayres are a lovely couple, and so are her parents, Will Rogers and Louise Dresser. Sally Eilers, admired in BAD GIRL last year, is seductive. Norman Foster is the same charmless lump he appeared as in all his youthful movies, but he’s perfectly cast (and I love his “comeback” in THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND). A nubile Victor Jory plays a barker.

Terrific long tracking shots from King, and elaborate rear-projection shots of the fair, with some funny touches like two dialogue scenes between hogs, shot and cut just like regular conversations. Subtitles, however, were not provided.

John Huston’s MOULIN ROUGE, newly restored, looked magnificent — you can see a tiny crumb of charcoal flake from Lautrec’s pencil, and you can see the peeling edge of a prosthetic chin stuck to a dancer. I was struck by the strange similarity of the female characters’ faces — not an actual resemblance, just a sense that they had something in common. Then I realised that they all had lips Lautrec might have drawn.

This film is better than we’ve all thought.

Script supervisor Angela Allen, 90, was on hand to reminisce and answer questions.

We gathered in the Piazza Maggiore to see MIRACLE IN MILAN but the rain, forecast to end an hour before, was getting heavy. I might have braved it, but the womenfolk dragged me to the safety of the Cinema Jolly to see Felix E. Feist’s THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF, which was a really clever and slick B-noir, with Lee J. Cobb underplaying for the only time in his life, while John Dall as his brother projected every nuance from his face in letters a mile high.

It was produced by Jack Warner’s son and had a character named Quimby in it who was much as you’d expect.

More tomorrow!

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Shadowmen!

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , on December 8, 2017 by dcairns

Tim Concannon runs maybe the world’s best film podcast, Music for Movies — so I’m honoured to have him contribute to The Late Show: The Late Movies Blogathon, even if I’m a day late linking to his piece, which deals with NUITS ROUGES, the last work of sepulchral overlord Georges Franju, a deeply crazy modernisation of Feuillade’s master-criminal/superhero oeuvre.

Enjoy in good health!

 

The Judex-Files: Prologue

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on October 3, 2016 by dcairns

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Time I did another serial here. Opted to do a GOOD one. Louis Feuillade’s JUDEX somehow escaped getting watched by me previously, maybe because Georges Franju somewhat dissed it by saying he preferred FANTOMAS and only made his own remake of the mysterious crime-fighter’s adventures because he couldn’t get the rights to those if the mysterious crime-commiter. But then, he DID choose to remake it, so he must have liked it a bit, yes?

Anyway, I’m 100 years late to the party, as usual, but here goes…

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But JUDEX has all the charm you’d expect from its maker, with colossal old jalopies, elegant theatrical blocking, and Musidora skulking about under assumed names. Plus it has a slightly less episodic approach, with slow-burn plotlines set up in an elaborate prologue like a Victorian novel. A slightly daft Victorian novel, possibly, but a very constructed one, unlike the near-independent chapters of FANTOMAS and sequels.

Part one details the misdeeds of a nasty banker, who has a nice daughter and grandson. We meet various aggrieved parties, are introduced to the mystery of the old jailbird’s missing son, and the banker starts getting threatening letters, signed JUDEX. He hires a detective with an amusing comedy face and an un-amusing comedy sidekick. And then he drops dead of an apparent embolism.

“Where is this going?” 1916 audiences may have asked. And I did too, but none of us could stop watching…

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Star of the prologue is undoubtedly consulting detective Marcel Levesque. The banker is drawn to an ad in the paper representing a super-sleuth combining the best features of Auguste Dupin, Mandrake the Magician and Tarzan. But what he gets is this weedy figure reminiscent of James Finlayson, only without the machismo. I warmed to Levesque at once, even as he presides, as bodyguard, over the immediate death of his client. I’m sure his success rate will improve as the show goes on…

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To be continued…