Archive for La Baie des Anges

City of Angles

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on September 4, 2013 by dcairns

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In LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF, Thom Andersen’s magisterial essay film, he cites Jacques Demy’s underrated MODEL SHOP as perhaps the best evocation of LA light and life and look. Starring 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY’s Gary Lockwood as an architect who loves LA (“People say it’s ugly but I think it’s beautiful) and Anouk Aimee reprising her LOLA role, it’s an addition to the Demy universe, tying together several of his movies — Lola’s photo album connects her to Jeanne Moreau in LA BAIE DES ANGES and maybe even the sailor chap in Agnes Varda’s CLEO FROM 5 TO 7.

Anyhow, the movie isn’t quite as compelling as it should be, but it’s lovely to look at and Andersen is right — that strange beauty of LA sprawl is captured precisely.

You may have noticed that I didn’t post anything yesterday — Shadowplay’s first empty day in five and a half years of existence, I think. That was because something important happened which I’m not allowed to tell you about, yet. But I will soon.

Nice.

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on June 23, 2008 by dcairns

OK, so LA BAIE DES ANGES, Jacques Demy’s second film, stars Jeanne Moreau and Claude Mann, but I was very taken with Conchita Parodi as the manageress of the Hotel Mimosa in Nice. With a perpetual but subtly-shifting expression of generalised disdain, she exists from the waist up behind a counter, dangling her plump hands in front of herself like drying squid, occasionally letting the fingertips descend to the counter-top as if to draw nutrients from it. This is her only film. A shame — she should have CONQUERED CINEMA.

When I could wrest my vision away from the glorious sea monster, I began to realise that this is one of Moreau’s very best performances. Her face is always a revelation, from moment to moment, and it functions just as well under the rather startling Jayne Mansfield hair she’s been equipped with here. Jackie’s perversity is perhaps more rounded and fully-examined than Catherine’s in JULES ET JIM — you can’t shrug her off with a “women are mysterious” type homily.

Demy’s filming helps enormously because his style evolves from one scene to the next, and he throws in surprising angles, often at the very start of scenes, moving closer than you’d expect in a 1963 film, and treating Moreau with the same gobsmacked attentiveness as the naive young hero. Claude Mann’s protag is something of a twerp, objectively speaking, but he comes across as sweet and melancholy and irresistible thanks to Demy’s surety of tone and gentle yet unflinching observation.

This is a gambling movie — pair it with Karel Reisz and James Toback’s grainy ’70s grunge-wallow THE GAMBLER (very good indeed) for maximum contrast: James Caan never gets to wear a Pierre Cardin bustier. Demy, assisted by Michel Legrand’s insistent, passionate score, serves up the world’s least dynamic gambling montages: face / roulette wheel / face / face / roulette wheel, dissolving together while the music insists we get excited. And we do. The thrill of winning — that unbelievable thing — and the inevitability of losing, are terrifically evoked in Demy’s script and in the performances.

At the end, our man abandons Jackie to the palatial lure of the casino and heads despondent for the bleary dawn. A rapturous and rather unheralded catharsis possesses Jackie and she runs to get him back, calling his name. Demy cuts to an empty frame showing only the mirrored pillars of the lobby, and Jackie flashes past in each of them, one after the other, a white blur, before arriving in person to ensnare the willing hero. Demy appears to want to believe in this reconciliation, but he’s given us far too much information about Jackie’s obsession to allow us to do the same. I found that schism fascinating. Demy seems to be forcing a happy ending upon us by arbitrarily calling “cut!” before the inevitable consequences of the story are played out. It’s an intriguing kind of romanticism.

The film deserves to be considered among his very best.

Coming out of my ears.

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2008 by dcairns

Wednesday morning I bussed up to Edinburgh Filmhouse for the official launch of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. It was nice seeing some old friends, like Scottish Screen’s Becky Lloyd, whose new baby tried to gum my finger off, Mary Gordon, Shona Thomson, Kristin Loeer, Robert Glassford — and then there was the festival programme as well.

The Jeanne Moreau retrospective includes most of the things I’d want it to, although not her Lillian Gish documetary, and there’s been no mention of Moreau attending. It’d be be a shame if that doesn’t happen. I’m particularly keen to see Joseph Losey’s EVA on the big screen, and Demy’s LA BAIE DES ANGES. Duras’ NATHALIE GRANGER is one of the more obscure films screening, which I should be sure and catch.

New films from John Maybury, Werner Herzog, Errol Morris (who’s attending), Gillian Armstrong, Andrei Konchalovsky, Bill Plympton, Ole Bornedal, Bernard Rose, Terence Davies, Cedric Klapisch, Wayne Wang, Lucky McKee, Shane Meadows, Olivier Assayas, Brad Anderson, plus shorts and lots of films from people I never heard of. I’m going to try and see as many as I can.

Two people from my circle, or intersecting circles — Martin Radich, whom I know, and Chris Waitt, whom I haven’t met, also have features showing.

And there’s Pixar’s WALL-E, and a FEARS OF THE DARK (pictured), a French animation created by Charles Burns (who illustrated the cover of the issue of The Believer I’m in!), which looks rather beautiful.

Appearances by cinematographers Brian Tufano, Christopher Doyle, Seamus McGarvey, Roger Deakins, and actor Brian Cox and stop-motion monster legend Ray Harryhausen (THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS). Fiona squealed in excitement at the thought of the last-named, even though we’ve seen him interviewed in person before.

skeletal army

On that very special occasion, Ray H produced a few of his miniature creations (the skeleton came in a little coffin), and suddenly every child in the cinema was down in front of the auditorium to be close to them. I think we may have been amongst them.