Archive for Jean-Luc Godard

A Mess o’ Flowers

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , on March 13, 2018 by dcairns

Was talking to my first year students about editing. Showed them a robbery scene from BONNIE AND CLYDE. Probably didn’t say as much as I could’ve, but the clip was well received, and the first question, from two separate sources at once, was “What’s the name of that film again?” because they immediately wanted to SEE the whole thing.

Which has to be good. And if you’re shocked that they didn’t already know it, remember they’re young, they haven’t had the chance to see everything.

(If you want to get angry at anyone, the BBC and Channel 4 would be suitable targets for their willfully falling down on the job of introducing their audience to great cinema.)

I introduced the film’s stars with their names and the words “And the Oscar goes to…” because that is likely to remain the principal recognition factor for those actors for a little while, but they WILL live it down…

Why this scene? Well, Dede Allen’s cutting of the robbery itself is masterful, with the tautness of each movement, the sparse soundtrack a series of steps and clicks and thuds with dead air between, creating a sense of a tense but very METHODICAL operation being undertaken.

(Gene Hackman was recognised as someone who was grumpy to Wes Anderson.)

And then the car chase — the music being an existing recording rather than a specially made score, simply dropped into place and cut in and out of as required. The fast-and-loose continuity, designed to get a sense of life and jeopardy and velocity into the ponderous movements of aged vehicles. I didn’t have to point out the moment when one camera operator jerks sideways as a jalopy gets a little TOO close for comfort (Objects in Wide Angle Lens May Be Closer Than They Appear).

And the recklessly bold interruption of the chase with cutaways to the bank where witnesses are being interviewed by the papers: sudden silent static shots interrupting the flow of the chase with TOTAL RUDENESS, bringing things to a momentary standstill, seemingly slamming the brakes on every aspect of the tone and pace the sequence is otherwise trying to achieve. And yet, it’s absolutely right. Because the filmmakers have decided, for the sake of the story, that robbing banks is exciting and fun. And the bank scenes are hilarious.

“There I wuz, staring into the face of DEATH.”

“All I can say is, they did right by me, an’ I’m bringin’ me a mess o’ flowers to their funeral.”

By the second interruption, it’s no longer an interruption but part of the peculiar rhythm of the piece, which behaves like a game of musical chairs. The brutal treatment of the music is probably the main survival of the early notion of Jean-Luc Godard directing the picture.

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Jamais

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 22, 2016 by dcairns

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I think I’d seen MAUVAIS SANG (ridiculously translated as THE NIGHT IS YOUNG) in around ’88, but maybe I only saw bits, on TV. At that time I thought Beineix was cool and I found Carax annoying. Now, though Carax is perhaps a bit precious at times, I regard my late-teenage affection for BETTY BLUE and DIVA as mostly youthful folly, and Carax seems like the true filmmaker.

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What’s black and white and red all over? This film, though it also has grey, and blue (so it can do Godardian tricolor shots) and the hero’s jacket is a sort of leather harlequin thing with a lot of yellow, a colour that appears otherwise only on the ubiquitous yellow cigarettes the cast smoke. Those yellow cigarettes, and the film’s fictional STD and sinister big pharma company (“Darley-Wilkinson” — always say the name twice, ominously — and those initials recall Griffith, from whose vaults Carax is stealing a disease called cinema) show Carax’s interest in world-building — a few little clues tell us that we’re at a slight remove from our usual reality. I suspect Carax of being inspired by REPO MAN.

The only movie flat-out quoted with a clip is the Pathe-Natan production LA PETITE LISE, seen on a TV set, and referenced in dialogue whenever the young Denis Lavant speaks of Julie Delpy’s character (“Ma petite Lise”). LA PETITE LISE, by the way, is the most important earl sound film that few of you will have seen. Like that film’s hulking hero, Lavant is newly released from prison but his freedom is to be short-lived…

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Lavant is so young! Bizarre and compelling and strangely beautiful, except when he smiles, terrifyingly, a lipless lesion crammed with crockery abruptly splitting his porous deadpan. He looks like if Lee Marvin had a monkey.

Fiona had been utterly charmed by Michel Piccoli in DIABOLIK. “Inspector Ginko is so NICE! He’s the nicest man in this whole film festival.” I don’t know if he’s that nice, but Piccoli plays him that way. He’s back here, older and heavier (Carax cruelly makes his aging crooks play lots of scenes shirtless. Crime seems very very homosocial, to say the least, despite the presence of Juliette Binoche.

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Binoche is already slightly annoying. But also sweet and gamine and surprising and stunningly photographed.

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The film is so fey — and it’s probably forty minutes too long — its B-movie antecedents moved their crime stories forward along with their romances, whereas this one drops the heist for huge stretches. I wish Carax was just 1% more into plot, or brought a friend along who was. But the charming bits are charming indeed, and the visuals beautiful, and Carax’s use of music, which somehow frustrated me as a kid (he cuts it off dead sometimes, like JLG) now seems generous and ecstatic.

EIFF is showing a season of Cinema du Look classics — LES AMANTS DU PONT-NEUF tomorrow!

Les tetes parlantes

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , on May 7, 2015 by dcairns

vlcsnap-2015-05-07-08h38m24s57 HITLER, CONNAIS PAS (HITLER, NEVER HEARD OF HIM) is director Bertrand Blier’s first feature, a 1963 documentary which is on the one hand completely suis generis and unrelated to his other work, and on the other, absolutely archetypally him. It’s also a fantastically interesting accomplishment. Opening titles inform us that the film gathers a bunch of twenty-something french people and interviews them. none of the young folks knew each other or met each other during the shoot. This information is vital as Blier consistently intercuts his interviews, creating purely fictitious reaction shots in which each interview APPEARS to be listening to and reacting to the others. In reality I guess they’re reacting to Blier’s questions — which we never hear. vlcsnap-2015-05-07-08h39m37s21 Blier’s other most striking technique is to expose the mechanics of the shoot, showing the studio, the lights, the crew and the cameras and dolly equipment. When he appeared in Edinburgh with LES ACTEURS some years ago, he said that his life’s mission had been the Godardian one of “exposing the mechanics of cinema while preserving the emotion of cinema.” Brechtian alienation without the alienation, I guess. So showing the kit is one way of doing that (we see Blier directing within LES ACTEURS and MERCI LA VIE also, movies which implicate the filmmaker quite openly). Here, he may well have been influenced by THE PICASSO MYSTERY, in the sense that Clouzot in that movie turns his own film shoot into a show, with the clicking of the footage meter used to generate suspense and the presence of cameras not disguised but positively celebrated. The film is its own making-of documentary. vlcsnap-2015-05-07-08h38m58s142 Blier’s array of cameras is so extensive he could probably have created a bullet-time sequence if the digital technology had existed. Apart from being able to cut in a semi-circle from one camera position to another, showing his subjects in profile, three-quarter-face, full-face, and multiple sizes, he also has a semi-circular track passing behind them, allowing for lovely circling/stalking movements shooting straight at the bank of cameras in front. The interviewees themselves are fascinating. The range of social classes was obviously a deliberate choice — each seems tightly circumscribed by money and upbringing — the poor have limited options and the rich have limited understanding. One girl is heartbreaking — she escaped her oppressive family home (a mother whose health was wrecked by having ten kids, no money), got herself a job in Paris at 14, got knocked up, and now lives in a charitable institution with her baby. Another girl, sexually liberated to a fairly far-out degree, seems to have no emotional connections to anyone in her life. One young man describes mugging an elderly woman, getting arrested, and then turning his life around. He’s now an electrician. The most disturbing character is the boss’s son, who says he floundered through life for years not knowing what he’d do with himself, before deciding he’d probably go into business with his dad and wind up running the company. An easy choice. He keeps files on all his activities — he has a dossier with details of all his holidays. You start to suspect he has a folder on all the little boys he’s abducted and eaten, but perhaps I’m being unfair. He’s certainly lacking insight into the rest of society. Workers are “simple and honest” but obviously “lack ambition” otherwise they wouldn’t be workers, would they? Blier’s chauvinism, a constant in his filmmaking, is readily apparent — he films a girl’s knees and crosscuts with men staring and licking their lips. He doesn’t pursue stuff that seems really striking and worthy of interrogation, as when a girl says “I don’t believe rape exists.” We want to know more about this shocking statement. We learn that the men certainly believe it exists, as several have seen it. The boys and girls have a lack of respect for the opposite sex that’s a little worrying. We can certainly see why the girls think the way they do though. vlcsnap-2015-05-07-08h39m10s5 The title is slightly opaque as there’s no pop quiz to see if the Youth of Today, wrapped up in their jazz clubs and they Brigitte Bardot movies, are aware of larger social and historical issues. I suspect it’s a reference to some meme of the early sixties in which the lack of cultural awareness of these modern kids was being bemoaned. Blier’s film is more of a sympathetic exploration than a conservative angst-piece.