Archive for Marguerite Duras

It’s that light-bulb again.

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , on February 20, 2008 by dcairns

(Warning — contains the human body.) 

Just wanted to share this opening sequence with you.

Jules Dassin and Marguerite Duras’ 10.30PM SUMMER is available to rent or buy in the U.S. It contains passages of incredible Pure Cinema and the whole thing is pitched at a level too shrill and hysterical even to be called Camp. It’s just Something Else.

power shower

Apart from the heightened looniness of Melina Mercouri’s diva performance, there’s a sense that the film looks both back to the intensity of silent cinema melodrama and forward to the more delirious aspects of ’60s art-house. There’s a night drive through narrow streets, lit only by car headlights, that directly prefigures Terence Stamp’s Ferrari jaunt in Fellini’s episode of SPIRITS OF THE DEAD. Almost identical! And there’s the rather surprising nudity and sexual frankness. And this wild opening, which has Giallo tendencies, plus that mysterious symphony of sounds. Watch it, then watch it again with your eyes closed. I mean, LISTEN to it.

The editing is superb, even when it goes into paroxysms of anti-continuity to control the amount of Nudity Level. I love the three quick shots of thunderous sky which make the heavens alive and menacing.

last orders

local yokels

vocal local yokels

And Gabor Pogany’s lighting is something I can only describe using beatnik parlance (dons beret): he “blows my mind,” “flips my lid,” is “real gone,” etc.

Lighting

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , on December 27, 2007 by dcairns

bulb
Originally uploaded by donpayasos

that's blown itI figured out how to do frame grabs! And for a total techno-yokel like me, this is a considerable achievement.

This is a lightbulb which has a starring role in the first scene of Jules Dassin’s 1030PM SUMMER. Mr. Dassin is one of Shadowplay’s Official Nonagenarians, along with Richard Widmark.

The light bulb is the first casualty of this film, which has a fairly high body count for an art film, although admittedly one character departs the film without leaving any trace at all…

You can buy it!

Happy Birthday Jules Dassin!

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2007 by dcairns

I was rooting for Billy Wilder to outlive Leni Riefenstahl but he let me down. 

Poster. 

Director Jules Dassin is 96. Maybe he’ll do it. At any rate, I wish him good health and happiness.

Above is 10.30PM SUMMER, a massively underrated film by Dassin and Marguerite Duras. It’s available on DVD in the U.S. now, you should all get it. Gorgeous crazy lighting by Gábor Pogány that reminds me of Mario Bava, and an aesthetic reminiscent of silent movie melodrama, although I should add that the sound design is awesome. There’s a driving-around-at-night sequence that exactly pre-echoes Fellini’s TOBY DAMMIT, and the whole vibe is like an art film from two or even four years later. And given the speed at which cinema was moving in the mid-to-late sixties, that puts J.D. well ahead of the curve.

 Melina being mercurial.

Sadly, it was the last feature from Dassin’s years of peripatetic cinema: I’d love to see what he’d have done next. Back in America he made a “blaxploitation” remake of THE INFORMER called UP TIGHT, which is better than the title and concept suggest. And then he made one of Richard Burton’s last films, with a teenage Tatum O’Neal. No, it’s not very good, but he couldn’t get out of it.

(I heard that on 1984, Burton’s last film, his curiously weak arms had to be puppeteered from below the shot to make him seem alive. A great actor, reduced to the level of Kermit the Frog. This was an aftereffect of an operation to remove crystallized alcohol from the Great Man’s spine…)

There are 8 million stories in this Naked City.

In America in the forties Dassin had made THE NAKED CITY, THIEVES HIGHWAY and BRUTE FORCE, all compelling and poetic films noir.Mark Hellinger, who produced TNC, contributes a world-weary voice-over which smoothly lulls you into the subconscious of New York City, city of eight million stories.

Harry Fabian ~ an artist without an art.

Persecuted by the House Unamerican Activities Committee, Dassin headed for Europe, stopping in England to make NIGHT AND THE CITY, a US-style noir with a London setting and American stars. It’s a masterpiece and I hope to write more about it soon.

Then began the roving years. Dassin is undervalued, a bit like Alberto Cavalcanti: both men worked in so many countries, and did great work in all of them, and the people of those countries think, “He’s great, but he didn’t do much.” It’s almost impossible to gather all the films together and see the total achievement. Also, David Thompson’s overview of Dassin’s work in his Biographical Dictionary of Film is a disgrace: so often where DT could do some good by drawing attention to neglected work, he is lazy and bored and just piles on another layer of dust.

The REAL Perlo Vita.

Using the stage name Perlo Vita, Dassin acted in his first French film, the ultimate caper movie, RIFIFI. Using his own name, he starred in NEVER ON SUNDAY in Greece with his wife, the rather overwhelming Melina Mercouri.

Rififififi.

She also stars in TOPKAPI, a favourite film of mine. An archivist acquaintance claims it gave him a headache for a week, but never mind, *I* like it. A PINK PANTHER-like international heist comedy with no Americans in it. I like Americans, especially American actors, but there’s something refreshing about their absence here. And I would eschew the Rat Pack anyday to go on a caper with Mercouri, Maximilian Schell, Peter Ustinov, Robert Morley and Akim Tamiroff!

Colourful, that's the word for it.

There are still plenty of Dassins I haven’t had the pleasure of: PHAEDRA, THIS MAN MUST DIE, THE REHEARSAL. Hope to see them all soon, and I hope the happy longevity of this sparkling, sharp-eyed filmmaker continues for many more years.