Archive for Jacques Becker

Penultimate Tango in Bologna

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

bigarmofpola

Big arm of Pola

Pola Negri hits small-town America as a tattooed countess in A WOMAN OF THE WORLD and hits a local dignitary in the face with a bullwhip. Always good.

LA MANO DELLO STRANIERO — THE STRANGER’S HAND — is Mario Soldati’s Graham Greene movie, with THIRD MAN stars Trevor Howard and Valli, plus Eduardo Cellini and a dash of THE FALLEN IDOL. A small boy hunts for his kidnapped father in Venice. The sprog is played by as juvenile Richard O’Sullivan, his seventies sitcom days still a ways off. An unusually weak plot for Greene, but a great IDEA…

I was so soaked with sweat by the end of this one that I crapped out and missed MONTPARNASSE 19, a film I love, but at least I managed to recommend it to a few people, who ended up admiring it as much as I did.

quai-des-orfevres

Somewhat recovered, I hit the Piazza Maggiore and drank in QUAI DES ORFEVRES in a 4K restoration from the camera negative. Clouzot’s sweetest film, though what constitutes sweetness in Clouzot’s world is a little acidic if what you’re used to is, say, Capra…

Louis Jouvet’s Inspector Antoine is my favourite police detective in all cinema. Though I also give points to Bernard Blier in BUFFET FROID, Stanley Baker in HELL IS A CITY and Stephen Fry in GOSFORD PARK.

 

Alternative Universe Viewing Schedule

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2016 by dcairns

jazzkonig-big

Instead of writing about what I saw on Monday at Il Cinema Ritrovato, I *could* write about what I failed to see — Edward L. Cahn’s searing pre-code LAUGHTER IN HELL has been wowing them in the aisles, and I hope to catch it later in the fest — missed Arthur Penn’s THE CHASE, just as I have missed all the Brando so far — a program of Italian shorts from 1896 — a clip-show of classic Technicolor material including scenes from ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS, RIO BRAVO and Cukor’s A STAR IS BORN — Mario Soldati’s MALOMBRA — Pierre Chenal’s film of Native Son, SANGRE NEGRA (American book filmed in Argentina by a Frenchman) — LA MORTE DE CYGNE, a film about ballet school by the great Marie Epstein and Jean Benoit-Levy — Jacques Becker’s RENDEZ-VOUS DE JUILLET and TOUCHEZ-PAS AU GRISBI (the latter is on again later, so maybe…) — Pola Negri in A WOMAN OF THE WORLD, which also screens a second time soon — the restored MCCABE AND MRS MILLER, apparently looking quite different — VALMONT, Milos Forman’s film of Les Liaisons Dangereuses, made shortly after the Stephen Frears version. Someone asked the producer if the film’s commercial failure imparted a lesson,. and he said, “Yes. Never make a film someone else has just made.” It’s a good movie though, now restored by Pathe.

Still, what I did see is a nice list, even if shorter — another episode of THE CLUTCHING FOOT and the last episode of Abel Gance’s daffy serial LES GAZ MORTELS (hero rides on horseback to save town from poison gas. He wears a gas mask and his horse wears what seems to be some kind of hygienic nosebag. Saving the town, he kisses his horse with passion) — KING OF JAZZ, the grotesque, bloated musical revue in two-strip Technicolor produced at Laemmle’s Universal in 1930, appalling yet wonderful — A JAZZ GIRL IS BORN, a 1957 teen musical from Japan, shot in a three-strip process called Konicolor, blindingly vivid (includes renditions of Blue Moon, Jambalaya and Come-On-a My House — really — I’m not making this up!) — and Carné and Prevert’s LES PORTES DE LA NUIT, which is a comparatively obscure masterpiece, another film I discovered via the Lindsay Anderson Archive.

 

Good start

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 26, 2016 by dcairns

casque

On Friday, saw Jacques Becker’s CASQUE D’OR in the Piazza Maggiore. Looked up and could see the rays of the projector beam spreading across the stars. If I were the hardcore cinephile you all expect me to be I would have seen Bertrand Tavernier’s 3hr+ documentary on French cinema also, but the trip had been somewhat strenuous.

Today the screenings started at the civilized hour of half past two in the afternoon (or 14:30 as these crazy continentals call it) and I saw four shorts by Slovenian filmmaker Karpo Godina, all recently restored, then a recently rediscovered Argentinian slice of poetic realism from the thirties, then a silent French film by Marie Epstein and Jean Benoit-Levy, then MODERN TIMES in the Piazza, crammed full of people as never before, as Timothy Brock’s reconstruction of Chaplin’s score was played live by a 65-piece orchestra.

  1. Cinema Ritrovato’s lavish program book quotes Lindsay Anderson on Jacques Becker, which made me smile as I first saw CASQUE D’OR via the critic/filmmaker’s personal VHS recording. It’s a lot better on the big screen!
  2. Godina’s films were ALL suppressed by the Yugoslav government, and he was nearly jailed for one of them. He is a cinematic hero! Using static shots as a formal restraint and sometimes as a formal joke, he gets unexpected laughs and sews indefinable disquiet. One film was banned purely for this sense of not being quite sure what he’s up to. More on him soon.
  3. A season of Argentinian oddities opened with ESCALA EN LA CIUDAD, whose most famous crewmember was ace cinematographer John Alton (here “Juan”) — Alton spent 8 formative years shooting in South America, but little of this work survives. This one had profoundly amateurish acting and dialogue, weirdly messy sound (mixing was apparently nonexistent in Argentina), but a touching story showing the influence of Carné, and fine work from Alton, though the master had not yet fully learned to limit his light sources to create his trademark source-lit chiaroscuro. Some lovely camera moves and a gorgeous score by various artists.
  4. PEAU DE PECHE gets rediscovered partly because co-auteur Marie Epstein is a valuable addition to the pantheon of female cineastes, but her work with Benoit-Levy is so moving, eloquent and innovative it would be deserving of celebration even if she had been a mere man. If her gender forms a convenient peg to hang the film from, so much the better. I already admired LA MATERNELLE by the same pair, and I will try to see more in this season. Also of note: charismatic child star Le Petit Jimmy, who does a hilarious Chevalier impression. (This film, accompanied by John Sweeney on the piano, brought a fat tear to my right eye.)
  5. MODERN TIMES? What is there to say? With live score, it’s different but the same — the most notable departure was the singing waiters’, who are now mute, making Chaplin’s the first voice we hear which is not a mechanical reproduction (all the other speakers are on closed-circuit TV, gramophone or radio). Arguably an improvement, but a slight distortion. The music sounded pretty great, though, as did the five thousand or so people laughing and applauding.

Chaplin_-_Modern_Times

Last time I was in Bologna, I never seemed able to fit in five shows in a day, because I had a half hour trip in to town every day and a half hour trip back at night, so my energy didn’t sustain. This year, I’m in a hotel five minutes from the Piazza and fifteen from the Cinemateque, though in this 38° heat every Google Maps estimate is somewhat optimistic. At any rate, four shows in a day that only started in mid-afternoon strikes me as a promising start. Tomorrow I’m aiming to start at 9 a.m. and finish around midnight.