Archive for Georges Franju

The Judex-Files: Prologue

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


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…


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…


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…


To be continued…

The Sunday Intertitle: Birdman

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on February 8, 2015 by dcairns


Look, I don’t mean to brag — probably what I do mean to do is GLOAT — but I was turned loose in the Criterion storeroom during my recent New York excursion (alongside Scout Tafoya). I don’t actually have a bucket list — too cheap to buy a bucket — but if I did this would have shortened it to the tune of one item. Bill Forsyth had described to me how his wife tried to drag him from the room as he frantically tried to stuff more swag into his Criterion carrier bag — “No, it’s free! They said it’s all free!” and I shared his Scottish thrill at the offer of unlimited audio-visual riches, while also bitterly regretting that the wretched laws of physics wouldn’t allow us to simply put the storeroom inside the bag. What one feels, in short, is a mixture of pleasure and panic, rather like what I imagine it must have been like to meet the young Brigitte Bardot.

JUDEX was one of the films I not-quite randomly snatched up. Georges Franju’s knowing recreation of Louis Feiullade’s unknowing surrealism moves at his usual stately pace, something which confused me when I first saw EYES WITHOUT A FACE — GF just isn’t interested in conventional dramatic tension. Here, he even fades to black in the middle of what is technically an “exciting chase.”


Rather than tension, Franju relies on wondrous variety and what-fucking-next? plotting, mostly quite faithful to his source, but compressed and simplified. As I noticed while revisiting AN ACTOR’S REVENGE recently, movies based on serials pull all kind of tricks with narrative that normal movies wouldn’t go near — in particular, introducing new characters very late on, to reinvigorate the action. Ichikawa brings in a two-fisted priest, whereas Franju boldly has a travelling circus ride past, in a deserted street, at night, just when the plot requires the services of an acrobat (Sylva Koscina). And she turns out to be the detective’s ex-lover, newly liberated to marry him. The whole story is turned around because of this person showing up twenty minutes before the end (and having a girl-fight with the cat-suited villainess).


It’s interesting to see how Franju mixes the film grammar of 1914 — irises and intertitles — with fluid camera movements which look more like the 40s than the early 60s when the movie was made. Really magnificent costumes, especially for Francine Bergé, and art nouveau sets and props — everything’s a triffid!

Elsewhere, we have the avenging hero sans motivation, who has invented closed-circuit television in 1914, who can bring dead doves back to life, and who communicates with a prisoner using a kind of ceiling etch-a-sketch intertitle ~


And yet he has not thought to capitalize financially upon any of these inventions and abilities. Most extraordinary.

Extreme thanks to the great people at Criterion: Liz, Kim, Susan, Peter et al.


Son et Lumiere

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on January 14, 2010 by dcairns

Here comes Jean-Louis with a suitcase full of fun. This week’s Forgotten, as usual at The Auteurs’ Notebook, deals with a Franju obscurity I hadn’t even heard of until I stumbled upon it last week.