Archive for Michel Lonsdale

Double Trouble

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2011 by dcairns

I had two reasons for watching Joseph Losey’s MR. KLEIN, but one of them I can’t talk about. The other one is this here Late Movies Blogathon, into which the film sort-of fits, being a highlight of Losey’s final re-invention of himself as a European arthouse wizard (having been a gifted C-list Hollywood smuggler, then an ambitious British straddler of the commercial-arthouse divide). And a third reason, actually, is I’d been ignoring Losey since I did Losey Week way back, having maybe exhausted myself slightly with his glorious composition and camera movement, inscrutable humour, icy pessimism.

All are present and to the fore in MR. Klein, and it was good to see them again. Alain Delon is Klein, an art dealer in occupied Paris making a killing by buying cheap from Jews. But then a second Monsieur Klein appears on the scene — well, just offstage, actually — his life intersecting with and interfering with Delon’s in myriad ways, sparking an obsessive detective story as Delon seeks his double.

So, after SPIRITS OF THE DEAD, another film in which Delon chases/is chased by his doppelganger. His Delonganger. Doppeldelon. Whatever. This ought to be a trilogy, and somebody should make the third entry, right away. I’d vote for a version where aged, raddled Delon is persecuted by his younger self (pilfered footage from old Georges Lautner movies), the joke being that thanks to plastic surgery and heavy fog-filters it’s impossible to tell them apart.

Gerry Fisher is DoP — Losey used him a lot (ACCIDENT was Fisher’s first gig) and this is one of his loveliest films (he should be more celebrated — other work includes films for Huston, Wilder, Lester, Richardson, Lumet, Hodges), aided immensely by the happy confluence of Fisher’s lighting, Losey’s intricate camera moves, and the production design of Alexander “trop chere” Trauner, “that little wizard” as Billy Wilder called him.

There are elaborate camera moves pirouetting in spaces you’d swear were cramped locations, and brilliant use of shooting through doorways — figures appear partially eclipsed by door frames, in extreme longshot, three rooms away from where the camera observes foreground action. I could fill a post three times this length just by grabbing frames entirely at random, and they’d all be beautiful.

For a film that opens with a woman undergoing a humiliating medical exam in a doomed attempt to prove her Aryan roots, this movie is surprisingly Christmassy.

Delon is very much the man for the job, since Klein is required to be morally repellant, slippery and yet fascinating. To give Delon credit, he never shirked from playing unappealing characters in an utterly unapologetic way. Maybe he himself is so unpleasant he can’t actually tell when a protagonist is unlikable, or maybe he just doesn’t care — to give him credit again, I’ll plump for the latter.

Writer Franco Solinas has fascinating credits — this is a late film for him, alright, he only did one more — THE SAVAGE INNOCENTS pops out among all the Euro-political-thrillers. Even TEPEPA (aka BLOOD AND GUNS) is a neat, bleak political spaghetti western, with Orson Welles ffs.

A bleak, crisp, desperate film — a study of obsession, the fragility of identity, how clinical paranoia can mean not being paranoid enough. Delon, and Michel Lonsdale, are perfect for this kind of thing, as they’re compelling without being even slightly ingratiating. Juliet Berto is both radiant and jittery. A frequent Godard and Rivette muse, she died much too young.

The name’s Bunuel. Luis Bunuel.

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2008 by dcairns

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A VIEW TO A KILL.

If you’re like me, you often wish Luis Bunuel had directed a Bond film. One, probably anything’s better than Marc Forster directing a Bond film, and two, Bunuel was riding high during the heyday of 007, so why couldn’t it have happened?

Looking deeper, we see that Bunuel directed Bond girl Carole Bouquet in THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE, in which she played one half of the object, shortly before her appearance in MOONRAKER, and furthermore MOONRAKER bad guy Hugo Drax was played by Michel Lonsdale, seen getting his bottom thrashed in Bunuel’s PHANTOM OF LIBERTY back when Roger Moore was battling Scaramanga.

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“No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”

Like Bond, Bunuel’s characters, at least in his later films, are always impeccably turned out, and demonstrate perfect sang-froid even in the most stressful situations, whether it be alligator attack or the army arriving for dinner unexpectedly. Like Bond, they are famous for their discrete charm.

Bunuel’s enthusiasm for fire-arms is well documented. You can even see him shooting a mountain goat in LAS HURDES/LAND WITHOUT BREAD (well, you can see the puff of smoke from the right of frame just before the goat falls off the mountain). Don Luis’s enthusiasm for experimental weaponry had him making his own bullets, playing around with different charges, trying to develop a bullet with just enough momentum to leave the gun barrel before bouncing lightly off its target. This interest in fancy weaponry surely marks him out as the ideal man to bring Bond to life.

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“Do pay attention, 007!”

While Bond favours the vodka martini, Bunuel leans more towards the dry martini made with gin and angustura bitters, but that’s a minor point. The martini is a creative drink, also favoured by Busby Berkeley (a Busby Bond? Why not? But later.)

So it’s not an implausible idea, OK?

Scaramanga’s dwarf sidekick, Hervé Villechaise, would have been right at home in any of Don Luis’s films (dwarfs trot through SIMON OF THE DESERT, THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY and several others), and Bond’s tendency to run up against scorpions, tarantulas and other obscure fauna would be quite in keeping with the action of a Bunuel. My Bunuel 100 Anos book (or, as I call it, The Boys’ Big Book of Bunuel) even includes a Bunuel Bestiary in the back.

So, Dan O’Herlihy as Bond. Celtic Bonds have been successful before, of course, and as Bunuel’s Robinson Crusoe, O’Herlihy got in plenty of experience in exotic locations. I’d love to see what he made of the part.

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Mister Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Fernando Rey, suavely villainous in Hollywood movies like THE FRENCH CONNECTION, would make a great master-criminal. Could we resist Catherine Deneuve as Bond girl Anne Dalou, and could she resist playing it if the high priest of cinematic surrealism were in charge? Zachary Scott, fresh from THE YOUNG ONE, could play Bond’s CIA counterpart Felix Leiter. Oh wait, he died in 1965. Damn. OK, Bernie Hamilton then. Sean Connery always thought Felix should be black — I presume on the basis that it was the kind of thankless part where nobody would object, and therefore you should make the effort.

Ken Adam, I submit, would have had a great time building sets for Bunuel, who loved “secret passages leading on to darkness”.

THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL would make a great title for a Bond. Imagine what Shirley Bassey could do with a lyric like that. Much better than QUANTUM OF SLOSH, anyway.

But let’s call our imaginary Bunuel Bond GRAN CASINO ROYALE. The globe-trotting narrative will take us through Spain, the U.S.A., Mexico and France. Bond will battle tarantulas, snakes and flesh-eating ants, and face enemies armed with razors, rifles, burlap sacks and buggy-whips. All in search of a mysterious box with undisclosed, buzzing contents…

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That Obscure Odd-Job of Desire.

Euphoria #6

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2008 by dcairns

Craig Keller nominated this way back and it’s taken me and age to watch the film and then get the scene up on VousTube. Nice film, nice scene, Craig!

[Oh, the subtitles didn’t load, so you can (a) learn French before watching it, which will probably be useful in later life, or (b) watch it without understanding all the dialogue, which will, I promise, STILL be a sweet and blissful experience.]

Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel project is one of cinema’s most intriguing undertakings — a study of a fictional character from childhood on through life, like THE TRUMAN SHOW brought half a step closer to reality. One can’t help wonder what additional Doinel stories Truffaut would be telling now had he lived. Of course it’s inconceivable for anybody else to pick up the baton and continue the character’s adventures: that’s why France is not America and Antoine Doinel is not Inspector Clouseau.

As the series progresses, one can’t help but notice a certain loss of cohesion: Doinel began, in childhood, as a Truffaut-substitute, “the author in disguise” to use Alan Bennett’s charming phrase, but as fictional and real life went on, they diverged: once it became clear that Doinel was not going to become a celebrated film director, large areas of Truffaut’s life were excluded from the films. In a way, LA NUIT AMERICAIN / DAY FOR NIGHT is more of a direct sequel to the first Doinel film, LES 400 COUPS than any of the later Doinel films: here, the character has split in two, one half growing up to be the film director played by Truffaut himself (seen in flashback as a kid committing a very Doinellian petty crime), the other has become leading man Jean-Pierre Leaud, the actor who personifies Doinel in all the films.

Anyhow, one consequence of the divergence between auteur and creation is that the films immediately get lighter. The Doinel episode of LOVE AT TWENTY (and is there any chance of somebody releasing the rest of this fascinating-sounding compendium film?) lacks the tragic undertones of LES 400 COUPS, and BAISERS VOLES, the first feature length sequel, is basically an amiably disjointed comedy. As such, it’s delightful, and I could nominate a few other scenes for Cinema Euphoria status — the mini-documentary about the pneumatic tubes beneath Paris (Wow!) and Delphine Seyrig’s moving proposition to Doinel, for instance. Michel Lonsdale’s first scene doesn’t quite qualify, perhaps, but it’s uproariously funny in its cockeyed peculiarity. Lonsdale for president!

Thanks to Craig for recommending this one, I had fun re-seeing the movie, having forgotten many of its quirks and twists. It’s encouraged me to have another look at some of the later films in the A.D. cycle too.