Archive for Jules Dassin

Bande-Dassin

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2021 by dcairns

Our copies of TALES FROM THE URBAN JUNGLE, Arrow new Jules Dassin box set, just arrived.

It contains both BRUTE FORCE and THE NAKED CITY, plus a booklet with

Fiona and I contributed a video essay, edited by the estimable Stephen C. Horne, and I made my first audio commentary, assisted by brilliant actors Steven McNicoll and Francesca Dymond, who enact unused script extracts by Malvin Wald & Albert Maltz — also in the mix are movie trailers, documentary extracts, old-time radio, TV… a melange of audio to create a sense of the media world from which TNC emerged, and to mirror the film’s extraordinary soundtrack of narration and semi-diegetic vox populi… It was kind of a ridiculously complicated way to make a commentary track, and a ton of work, but I hope somebody enjoys it.

The set also includes a booklet with terrific new writing but also Richard Brooks’ simply WONDERFUL elegy for producer Mark Hellinger (this is really a shared Dassin-Hellinger set). Worth the price of admission alone.

https://amzn.to/2QStC6s

Urban Explorer

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , on January 5, 2021 by dcairns

Upcoming release from Arrow!

Fiona and I contribute a video essay, edited by the redoubtable Stephen C. Horne, for Jules Dassin’s searing BRUTE FORCE, and for THE NAKED CITY I contribute my first ever commentary track. Since I’m not a huge fan of commentary tracks, I felt the need to REINVENT THE FORM.

Naked City Radio is a kind of alternative soundtrack to the movie. I discovered that I had taken a form that should be easy, if somewhat specialised, and made it very complicated and difficult. But I hope you’ll find it worthwhile.

I finished this one and went almost straight into another feature-length project, still under wraps.

More soon!

Noir is Hell

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on September 28, 2020 by dcairns
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Two French crime stories. I first wrote about THE SLEEPING CAR MURDERS, Costa-Gavras’ directorial debut, when it was only available to me as a pan-and-scan off-air recording from Scottish Television, dubbed into English. Now seeing it in widescreen and French and decent definition, its youthful vivacity combines nicely with its dark sensibility. But it’s far from nihilistic — Costa-Gavras clearly loves his naïve young couple, and his sniffle-afflicted detective (Yves Montand gets to be a handkerchief actor). It goes like a train. The novel by Sebastien Japrisot is also excellent but the solution to the mystery involves a fairly wild coincidence of murderers, if I recall it aright. CG changes the ending and it makes more sense. Probably his least political film for years but it does slip in some social comment, however maybe it’s highest achievement outside of the kinetic thriller dynamic is the miniature character portraits it offers en route.

RIFIFI is of course too famous to require comment on its spectacular cinematic merits, particularly the 45-minute (can this be right? It isn’t: see comments) silent heist. What makes it so tense and exhilarating IS the quietude. Director Jules Dassin’s European comeback after the blacklist, it shows his willingness to let the bad guy heroes BE bad guys, until the third act, when he gives anti-hero Jean Servais something noble to do, and includes a speech about how the real tough guys are those born to poverty who nevertheless go straight. He couldn’t help himself — Dassin needed some nobility to get behind.

Servais, visibly dying, is a magnificently raddled central figure (you can see him as a fresh-faced juvie lead in LES MISERABLES 20-something years earlier), shrivelled in his baggy suit. During the feverish final journey by convertible through Paris, he’s accompanied by a little boy with a toy cowboy pistol, draped in an adult coat to keep warm, who comes to seem like a crazy parody of him. Dassin, working with editor Roger Dwyre for the first time, creates a sequence of pure rhythm — from his very first short, Dassin has a heightened sense of visual and aural rhythm. If you start to notice it, even his supposed “worst” films become impressive.