Archive for Muriel

Everything is just like you

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on May 29, 2009 by dcairns


My friend B. Kite, the Manhattan mahatma, is author of a splendid piece in Masters of Cinema’s DVD of Alain Resnais’s MURIEL, a copy of which should rest on everybody’s shelf.

Bigger than HIROSHIMA, MON AMOUR! More recent than LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD! More decisive than SMOKING/NO SMOKING!

This brief extract gives you a flavour of the depths Kite seeks to chart, braving strong currents of received opinion and inky, obscuring clouds of ignorance. On the ocean floor lies the city of Boulogne, lost to time but now yielding her secrets to the submariner’s torch…

Wait, that’s Atlantis. There I go, thinking about Atlantis when I should be thinking about Boulogne. I’m always getting those two mixed up. Still —



Early on in Resnais’ first two features, [the] recording eye descends into a character in the film, and that character becomes in effect the dominant consciousness of the proceedings. At least that’s one way of interpreting the stark shift in Hiroshima, Mon Amour between the opening 15 minute meditation on the bomb and a distant observer’s capacity for understanding catastrophe, very much in the idiom of Night and Fog but already interspersed with a foreign substance in the recurring still lives of the lovers’ limbs, and the beginning of its story. That story belongs to the figure the script designates “She” – the film follows the movement of her thought and associations and raises the possibility that her Japanese lover (“He”) is wholly a projection of her desire, bearing, as he does, so few distinctive qualities beyond a consuming fascination with the melodrama she compulsively recounts. In Marienbad, the incorporation is much more brisk, taking only a handful of shots to link the flowing catalogues of ceilings and doorways, those characteristic threading motions seen most notably in Toute la memoire du monde, to the incantatory inventory of “X” (“Again I walk these halls, these corridors…”).


Both of these films are grounded in the solipsism of controlling figures, and both become exercises in perspective and point of view. What to make, then, of the aggressive flurry of brief, object-dominated shots that throw us piecemeal into the fragmented world of Resnais’ third feature, Muriel? Here, the thing-focus is unleashed and insistent: already the quick pan along the circuit of a cigarette lifted to lips and lowered seems to announce that for this observing eye, objects are at least as important as the characters that interact with them. In this strange reversal of hierarchies, it becomes difficult to say whether the object or the actor more truly merits the status of “prop.”

B. Kite 



12 Angry Films

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

There’s a mutating meme coursing across the interweb — bloggers challenging each other to name twelve films they haven’t seen. The task varies from blog to blog, sometimes amounting to a confession of what well-known or important movies the author hasn’t caught up with, sometimes tending towards a list of extreme rarities that nobody can find.

I think both lists have value. Maybe somebody out there will be able to help me out with the films I want to get my mitts on. And maybe naming the films I haven’t seen will shame me into watching them. I also like the Self-Styled Siren’s approach, which involves listing twelve films in her collection which she hasn’t gotten around to running yet (including LA FIN DU JOUR!).

So my first list will be twelve rare films that I went to considerable effort to get, then didn’t watch.

1. THE POWER AND THE GLORY. An early Preston Sturges screenplay. Looked for this for AGES, finally got it a couple months ago. Haven’t even peeked at it. What a maroon!

2. Early Hitchcock. I’ve seen most of the thrillers, but odd things like RICH AND STRANGE are sitting neglected. Nice quality, from the recent box set of early Hitch… I’m contemplating spending a whole week running all the Hitch I haven’t seen. Yep, I’m CONTEMPLATING it…

3. Murnau’s TARTUFFE. Bought the Kino edition from America. I keep putting it on, then getting distracted. It may not be major Murnau, but it certainly has inspired bits (I love the style of the modern framing story more than the actual Moliere adaptation), and if I watched it properly who knows what I’d get out of it?

4. Michael Powell’s quota quickies. A fascinating glimpse into the creative process: watch Powell slowly spread his wings and try things out and gain confidence, on threadbare budgets and schedules so brief the Kleig lights barely have time to warm up. I have a number of these, all more or less unwatched. Let CROWN VS STEVENS stand for them all.

5. UN REVENANT. A fog-bound Parisian gangster film in the poetic realist vein, directed by Christian-Jaque and starring the mighty Louis Jouvet. I paid good money for a fine copy of this. So why haven’t I watched it, two years later? BECAUSE I AM AN ARSE.

6. Resnais’s MURIEL. Got very excited about seeing this, bought it, watched ten minutes, was intrigued, got interrupted, never went back. I’m dreadful. A failure as a man, and as an assemblage of molecules.

7. LES ORGEILLEUX. Gerard Philipe gives an astonishing performance (I peeked) in Yves Allegret and Rafael E Portas’ sensational drama. An unusually articulate IMDb reviewer calls it “one of the greatest films I’ve ever seen”. It may be one of the greatest films I haven’t seen. How would I know?

8. THE HUMAN CONDITION. Masaki Kobayashi’s nine-hour three-film extravaganza, released by Criterion but now out of print. Miraculously got a copy via Mark Cousins, then failed to watch it. Kobayashi is one Fiona’s very favourite filmmakers, but I think the phrase “nine hours” is putting her off.

9. MARILYN. Wolf Rilla (VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED) directs this British B-movie answer to THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. Got a surprise TV airing this year, I recorded it. Then kind of set it to one side. We met Wolf Rilla’s son once, Nico Rilla. He recommended a Rilla movie with a terrific title: THE WORLD TEN TIMES OVER.

10. THE HONEYMOON KILLERS. Perfectly nice pre-record boxed DVD of this lying on the living room floor amid a heap. And yes, I know Scorsese directed part of it, I know the story behind his firing, and I was able to use that information to work out which bits he directed. And I’ve watched those bits. But I need to watch the whole thing!

11. LE TROU. I have this Jacques Becker crime yarn in a beautiful Criterion Collection edition, (and TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI too). I loan it to people. They watch it. I don’t. And yet I liked CASQUE D’OR quite a bit.

12. UNDERWORLD BEAUTY. I do like a Seijun Suzuki yakuza flick. I’ve watched BRANDED TO KILL numerous times (I still get utterly confused). And yet this one remains unwatched. I am an idiot!

Of course, I’ve barely scratched the surface…