Archive for Sophie Marceau

The Sunday Intertitle: Night at the Museum

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , on July 8, 2012 by dcairns

Bloody hell, he is, too! He’s Rene Navarre, alias Fantomas, here cast as “Chantecoq, King of Detectives”.

“I didn’t know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.”

(I’d love to see a movie with the King of Detectives vs the King of the Beatniks from THE HYPNOTIC EYE.)

Just as M. Vidocq turned from crime to detection, proving that it takes a thief to catch a thief, so Navarre has converted from being the terrorist master of disguise, to cop monarch Chantecoq.

BELPHEGOR, a four part serial from 1927, is a little slow-moving by the standard of these things, with much time spent on various characters’ domestic arrangements rather than running around the Louvre firing pistols at ghosts (in the inspirationally-named  Room of Barbarian Gods). But it has atmosphere, romance, and lovely art deco rooms. The hero’s wallpaper is thrilling, and if you run a bar code scanner over it you’ll find out what it cost.

Veteran director Henri Desfontaines’ four-part serial has a funereal pace for a thriller, but striking compositional sense and art direction. The effect is exactly as dreamlike as we Feuillade fans might wish it to be. There’s the masked phantom of the title, a sinister hunchback in Dickensian muttonchops, disguises, escapes, a historical flashback, and an unusual example of product placement. The story was originally serialized in Le Petit Parisian newspaper, and the hapless hero is himself a reporter for that organ. Instead of merely placing the product in the story, the publisher placed the story in the product too, creating a potentially infinite reality regression of the kind you get when you stand between two mirrors. Vertiginous.

Since there are four episodes, each nearly an hour, but only about half an hour’s worth of plot, interesting padding is devised. Random characters at various times see Belphegor, the Phantom of the Louvre, even when he isn’t there. In episode one he appears inside a loudspeaker broadcasting news of his criminous exploits, and also superimposed over a newspaper article. He’s clearly less a man than a media-spread terror meme, like Bin Laden.

BELPHEGOR later became a sixties TV show with Juliette Greco (acclaimed) a comic strip, an animated series, and a Sophie Marceau mess — it’s also a major influence on Luc Besson’s intermittently forgivable LES AVENTURES EXTRAORDINAIRE D’ADELE BLANC-SEC.

Paroxysm

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2010 by dcairns

“Freda’s THE TERROR OF DR HICHCOCK has an extraordinary funeral sequence. Black-clad mourners in black umbrellas walk under a silvery glitter of sunlit rain; they pass bright flowers; the grain of the coffin is warmly visible in the sun. The living wood… As the procession passes a row of silhouetted, green-tinged cypresses, a shaft of sunlight pours down on them and for a split second is broken up by the camera lens into all the colours of the rainbow. ‘Artificial’ as it is — the human eye wouldn’t see it — the effect ‘fits’, because it lifts to the level of paroxysm the tragic irony of sunlight at a young woman’s funeral.”

~ Raymond Durgnat.

Ashamed of how long it’s taken me to appreciate just how splendid his writing is. I corresponded with the Great Man late in his life, but I was mainly concerned with buying some rare movies from him (Michael Powell’s BLUEBEARD’S CASTLE), and I thought his prices a bit steep. Then he misattributed some garbled nonsense to me in his PSYCHO book, a work which I think betrays slightly his ill-health at the time of writing.

Now that I’m seriously reading The Crazy Mirror and Jean Renoir, I’m overcome with admiration for Durgant’s zestful and gripping way with both ideas and language, and also the bracing manner in which he shifts from high to low cinema without giving a hoot about class distinctions.

Riccardo Freda, on the other hand, is someone I already appreciated somewhat, having picked up a VHS of LA DOPPIA FACCIA in Berlin. David Wingrove encouraged me to see more, and TRAGIC CEREMONY was a mindblower. Freda isn’t as consistently gorgeous visually as Bava, but hits memorable highs and maybe takes a more intellectual approach. Although this manifests itself very oddly. HICHCOCK never even tries to make sense, and despite borrowings from both SUSPICION (nasty milk) and PSYCHO (doubled identities and schizoid delusions) it markedly refuses to wrap itself up with a cosy epilogue, despite a hero who’s studied under Freud and seems custom-written to perform such a function.

(Since the next draft of the script Fiona and I have been working on has to incorporate changes that don’t seem to make rational sense, which is worrying to my pedantic side, I should probably immerse myself in Italian horror, which follows what Dario Argento calls a “non-Cartesian” dramatic logic, and appeals to what Keats called negative capability — one’s ability to appreciate something without wholly understanding it; in fact, one’s ability to appreciate an object for its mystery.)

Freda’s career stretches from big Mussolini-era costume flicks, to the fantastical works he’s best known for, to his sidekick act opposite Bertrand Tavernier (an odd couple indeed). Tavernier managed to put together D’ARTAGNAN’S DAUGHTER for Freda to helm, aged 83, but Sophie Marceau seems to have had him fired, forcing Tavernier to complete the film. Boo! I read an interview with Marceau where she said she was dissatisfied with the resulting film because it should have been more about her. Marceau probably ought to make like her more talented namesake and keep her damn mouth shut.

Enjoying HICHCOCK so much has put me in the mood to re-see it’s quasi/pseudo/non-sequel, THE GHOST, which transports Dr. H (who conclusively died in the previous film) to sunny Scotland…

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