Delon, yes, and with him Lino Ventura, finest of all pet detectives. We’re continuing the Robert Enrico appreciation begun yesterday over at The Daily Notebook with this week’s edition of The Forgotten.
Archive for Robert Enrico
Part Two. Fourteen to Twenty-Six.
This fake 1920s movie-within-a-movie in BOULEVARD DU RHUM is extremely beautiful, but it’s not a bathroom. nobody goes to the bathroom at all in this movie. Lino Ventura wears a bathrobe at one point, and Bardot walks past a swimming pool and is elsewhere seen by the seaside, but she’s wearing a swimming costume therefore she’s not washing. I repeat, it’s as beautiful as a bathroom but it’s not a bathroom.
14) LUMIERE D’EN FACE is another film set in a nightmare alternate universe where bathrooms don’t exist. In desperation, Brigitte bathes in a stream. The stream is thus an honorary bathroom. If that doesn’t convince you, she washes her feet in the kitchen sink. Together, that definitely adds up to a bathroom. It does!
15) LA VERITE de Henry-Georges CLouzot. Probably BB’s best film and performance, though she had a somewhat sparky relationship with HG. “I need an actress, not an amateur,” he growled. “And I need a director, not a psychopath,” she replied, rather smartly.
Here, Dany Robin usurps Bardot’s rightful role by undressing. In a bathroom. While Bardot lies helpless in the foreground. But our girl conquers the next salle de bain she finds, and order is restored.
16) LES PETROLEUSES. Once again we see how all the outdoors is essentially one big bathroom. Frenchie King and her gals freshen up after riding the range. So it’s a bathroom! It bloody IS! But if that doesn’t satisfy you, here’s a room and bath, with Brigitte in it. Not her best angle, but that’s because this is Michael J Pollard’s POV as he dangles off a rooftop.
17) LA MARIEE EST TROP BELLE. Written by actress Odette Joyeux, this piece of fluff features a rare glimpse of Bardot in the shower — an old-fashioned girl at heart, she generally seems to prefer the tub. Here she’s wiping herself with a cloth, but she shower isn’t running, so it’s possible she’s just standing in the bath. Or else attempting to dry-clean herself.
By contrast with LA VERITE, Bardot mostly just bounces in this film.
18) MIO FIGLIO NERONE was recommended by GeraldF, since it’s ancient world setting practically dictates that BB, as Poppea, bathe in asses’ milk. She does! Too bad the makers of HELEN OF TROY didn’t have the wit to enhance their tedious spectacle with the more edifying one of an undressed Andraste.
19) VOULEZ-VOUS DANSER AVEC MOI? Bardot is seen changing in her bathroom early on, in front of her mastiff-headed husband. Later, she spies from a vent into the men’s showers — I include her POV just to show we’re not sexist, and because the men’s showers is a form of bathroom we haven’t seen yet.
20) LES NOVICES — Brigitte cleans a bathroom. There is no form of interaction with bathrooms Brigitte has not had on screen. Except taking a dump.
21) VIE PRIVEE — another variant: Brigitte uses the bathroom mirror to write her suicide note in lipstick. Class with a capital K! The sensitive pan-and-scanning on UK TCM’s (dubbed) print robs us of the opportunity of seeing what she’s written, and how she’s spelled it.
22) CETTE SACREE GAMINE already featured last time (BB in a red towel, matching her later turn in LE MEPRIS), but here’s BB in the ladies’ showers, which offers yet another variant.
23) AMOURS CELEBRES — it’s Agnes Bernauer’s bum. I had to look Agnes Bernauer up, despite the celebre of her amour, and a good thing too, or I would have believed she was burned at the stake, as in the film, as opposed to drowned in the Danube, as in life. One would have thought a watery death more appropriate for BB, but she’s also incinerated in IF DON JUAN WAS A WOMAN, so she seems to arouse elemental associations of all kinds.
At any rate, this is another al fresco bathing. It’s bathing, so it’s a bath, but is it a room, without walls? An ancient philosophical question receives a saucy update, courtesy of BeBe.
24) SHALAKO — and the question becomes truly pressing. I’m surprised Guy DeBord or someone clever like that hasn’t written an appreciation of the light Bardot has shone on this particular issue.
Note Bardot’s shocking modernity — caught bathing by Sean Connery, she actually smiles. Saucy trout!
25) The observant among you will have noticed that apart from bathing, the activity most associated with Bardot is sun-bathing. Now, what those two forms of relaxation have in common is not bathing, since a sun-bath in no way involves immersing oneself in the blazing hydrogen of our nearest star, but the exposure of skin. Why this activity should so fascinate Bardot is another question for the philosophers.
To be honest, I’m not so much surprised that Ambrose Bierce’s work has inspired so many filmmakers, as I am surprised that it hasn’t inspired more. I guess the fact that he eschewed long form storytelling (as a matter of principle, to hear him tell it) is a factor, but so for the most part did Poe and Lovecraft, who are much more frequently filmed. I can’t account for that.
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge was most famously adapted by Robert Enrico, and the resulting short became, somehow or other, an episode of The Twilight Zone, exposing it to a much wider audience that Enrico’s other two Bierce films, CHICKAMAUGA and THE MOCKINGBIRD. But for my money, Charles Vidor’s version, entitled THE BRIDGE, is much much better.
It’s available on the extraordinary box set UNSEEN CINEMA, which you should all immediately buy.
The bit that really grabs me, in a film full of fascinating visual ideas, is the superimposition of the drumsticks beating the skin over the hero’s chest. Two images united to create more than one idea and emotion — by showing the drum and the man at the same time, anticipation is heightened, but the beating of the drum comes to stand for the racing of the man’s heartbeat, evoking something a silent film can’t make you hear, or feel. That’s CLEVER.
Some imaginative trope of that kind was surely required when Tony Scott filmed ONE OF THE MISSING, another of Bierce’s Civil War horror stories, but although he pulls off some good angles and generates a fair bit of suspense (you can see this short on the CINEMA 16 collection) he never gets near evoking the striking passage in Bierce’s tale where the soldier, trapped by rubble with his fallen rifle pointing straight at his head, primed and ready to fire, imagines the sensation of the bullet passing slowly through his brain…
Vidor really displays moments of similar zest in GILDA (the giant dice in the opening shot) and I guess in COVER GIRL, also LADIES IN RETIREMENT and BLIND ALLEY. When the project roused his enthusiasm, he was quite an expressionist.
Further reading: The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce
Of course, Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionaryis wickedly funny, but less known than either his supernatural tales and his war stories are his grotesque, jet-black tall tales, which are quite incredibly sick and extremely amusing.
Further viewing: Unseen Cinema – Early American Avant Garde Film 1894-1941 An amazing treasure trove of obscure fragments of wonderment.