Archive for Senta Berger

Primal Screen

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on December 29, 2020 by dcairns

I didn’t particularly enjoy THE ANGEL’S LEAP but this image is nice, and neatly illustrates that thing Luis Bunuel was just saying:

Octavio Paz has said, “But that a man in chains should shut his eyes, the world would explode.” And I could say: But that the white eyelid of the screen reflect its proper light, the Universe would go up in flames. But for the moment we can sleep in peace: the light of the cinema is conveniently dosified and shackled.

I chose to watch this Marseilles-based thriller because I wanted some distraction as my favourite aunt just died from Covid-19, under the most miserable circumstances. It’s not director Yves Boisset’s fault that his film is full of death, hospitals, funerals, making it not perhaps the best distraction you could have. But it’s fairly mindless so it had that in its favour.

It’s a bit more visually attractive than Boisset’s Manchette adaptation, FOLLE A TUER, but much less involving. Basic revenge stuff. Jean Yanne, a good actor, is a rather doughy action hero, Sterling Hayden struggles to express himself in French, but Senta Berger is great as ever and Gordon Mitchell is an interesting screen presence. The only Italian muscleman star with an interesting rather than bland face, and (and this is a surprising thing to find) he wears clothes really well.

The main villain has a preposterous Bondian lair and keeps vultures as pets. Idiot. He gets slung off his balcony and lands on some power lines in front of a drive-in screen, all pretty preposterous (every aspect of it: why would a rich man live over a drive-in?). Boisset’s main visual trope is to track around his characters in a half-circle, which is nice enough but it’s the only thing of note the camera ever does. Like they had a length of curving track and they wanted to get the most out of it.

THE ANGEL’S LEAP stars Jean-Paul Marat; Elisabeth Sibelius; General Jack D. Ripper; Napoleon Bonaparte; Maciste; Victor Maigrat; Eurylochus; Alessio Karenin; and Louise Danton.

Neapolitan Style

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on August 2, 2019 by dcairns

Dino Risi’s caper comedy OPERAZIONE SAN GENNARO should be enjoyably silly but it has a running “gag” about protagonist Nino Manfredi slapping his character’s fiancee (and later, wife) Claudine Auger, which makes it hard to like. Some things just don’t age well, and domestic violence comedy appears to be one of them.

The plot is very silly, rendered even dafter by those moments when visiting American heisters Harry Guardino (!) and Senta Berger speak English — she’s been dubbed with a broad yank accent, not her own, but apparently all they could find for poor Harry was a thickly-accented Italian.

Mario Adorf is funny — he’s developed a really funny run, and he runs a lot in this film. Toto, seemingly a required presence in any Italian crime comedy, blesses the proceedings with an appearance by his chin, followed some minutes later by the rest of him.

The airport chase at the end is great. THIS shot appears to be real, and very, very irresponsible if so.

“What’s it like being so sexually attractive?”

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2017 by dcairns


YES! You should see THE QUILLER MEMORANDUM, the film in which Max Von Sydow asks this question of George Segal. You have to wonder if screenwriter Harold Pinter knew what the casting was going to be and how funny this line would seem. I mean, some don’t like George Segal but I do, I find his presence sympathetic. But I don’t see him as any Cary Grant in the glamour department. I think Pinter must have known, and intended the line to be funny (it also has, like everything Max says in this film, a definite Comedy of Menace undertone) but he also has the sexy and soft-focus (cut that out, cameraman Erwin Hillier!) Senta Berger fall eagerly into bed with George, in a way that’s even more suspicious than Eva Marie Saint’s come-ons to Cary in NORTH BY NORTHWEST. This has the potential to blow a giant hole in the plot, and is either deliberate but inexplicable, or a consequence of Harold not being as good so writing women.


“We could do an underwater ballet,” says George to Senta as they wander an empty swimming pool, causing Fiona and I to exchange surprised glances at this synchronicity — this being the first non-Esther Williams film we’ve watched in some time. And then a tiny John Moulder-Brown turns up, future star of DEEP END, the all-time great empty swimming pool movie. Perhaps when you start tuning in to Pinter’s cryptic subsubsubtexts, the universe begins to seem full of significant insignificances.

This is a sixties spy film — it seems to have all the same Germans as FUNERAL IN BERLIN, including the Gay German Christopher Lloyd — as written by Pinter. The characters meet with elaborate coded conversations about cigarette brands — “Is it milder than other brands?” “It’s milder than some other brands,” and then go into more spontaneous discussions that have exactly the same coded quality. The whole thing looks pretty ugly for the first half, modern Berlin looking like one big hideous airport, but the chance to see Alec Guinness, say, or George Sanders, doing Pinter makes it electrifying. Guinness chooses to make his irksome spook slightly lower middle-class and a lot more camp than we’re used to, making the shady rendezvous at the start more resonant — or it would be if George Segal weren’t George Segal, bless him. Also, Guinness is constantly nibbling, especially during the nost ominous moments…


Then Max shows up, the settings get older and grungier, and suddenly the film becomes extremely beautiful and extremely tense. Director Michael DAMBUSTERS Anderson is one of those first ADs who moved up to directing and was generally efficient, sometimes inspired. The compositions in Max’s truth serum dungeon are fantastic, with lurking henchmen of various sizes dotted around the frame as you might say MUTE SENTINELS. And there’s a great bit of interrogation where Max walks to and fro before the seated George and George’s close-up is filmed from his approx POV, tracking past George first one way, then the other. I  wonder what Michael had been looking at — the same thing Leone was looking at for Charles Bronson’s rotating close-up in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST?


Then the whole third act is basically George wandering helplessly around the city at night, shadowed by the Mute Sentinel guys, with elevated trains and derelict buildings making for a much more gritty and habitable world than the airportscapes of the first half. It’s incredibly tense and almost nothing is happening: an ideal Pinter climax.

And then a rather chilling ending. It’s one of the best visualisations of Pinter Wonderland, which usually revolves around dialogue. George and Senta’s last scene is amazingly cryptic, with every thought and emotion clouded by obfuscating billows of terse dialogue, and then we’re just pulling back from a school. But the school itself is like a Pinter sentence, bland and companionable on the surface, threatening and loaded with sinister meaning just underneath. The new Nazis are coming, and as Guinness remarks earlier, “They look like everybody else.”


Nibble, nibble.