6 items from 2013
The bloodless Cahiers du cinéma wars induced a vague but hugely influential criterion for what was to be considered good and bad in film. Elaborate sets, one of French cinema’s major traits that, in certain genres, could compete with Hollywood, were deemed stifling and were rejected in favor of urban spaces and real locations.
The infamy that Cahiers du cinéma’s critical bombardment brought to certain filmmakers, at least among a small circle of cinephiles, took years to reverse. While Cahiers du cinéma happened to be more generous to American cinema, fewer French directors were allowed to enter their cannon. If, for instance, one Robert Bresson did, otherwise many Jean Delannoys did not. While the art of some great filmmakers was acknowledged and they were given the throne, many others, who were less stylistically consistent, fell into oblivion.
Today, more than half a century after the Cahiers wars, and regardless of their accomplishments, »
- Ehsan Khoshbakht
There is an exhibition of the great German graphic designer Hans Hillmann currently running at the Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany. Devoted entirely to Hillmann’s film posters from 1952 to 1974, the show, called The Title is Continued in the Picture, runs through the 1st of September and I’m sorry that I didn’t know about it sooner. But for those of us who can’t make it to the Ruhr in the next three weeks, the website Kunst + Film has posted a wonderful, almost-as-good-as-being-there video of the show.
The revelation of the video for me is the size of that Seven Samurai poster. Where most of Hillmann’s film posters are 33" x 23" (slightly smaller than a Us one-sheet), and the Cassavetes above is only 16.5" x 23", that glorious Seven Samurai is 93" x 132", or 11 feet wide.
While many of Hillmann’s witty, »
- Adrian Curry
Although L'auberge rouge, directed by Claude Autant-Lara in 1951, is a well-loved classic in France, it's little enough known in the English-speaking world to rate discussion here. Besides, it's one of the best comedies I've seen this year.
The star is Fernandel, that long-faced clown. He has a philtrum you could ride a toboggan down. From certain angles, he resembles a melting wad of taffy in a tonsure. His simian features contort in ways unknown to the most experimental physiognomists: that unwieldy length of Neanderthal face looks incapable of the most standard expressions, but in fact it has more of them stashed away than the entire casts of lesser movies. When it splits open in a fearful chimp grin, great stretches of loose face-meat are abruptly hoiked skywards.
The movie serves as an excellent introduction to Fernandel's charms: playing a monk, he finds his buffoonery slightly constrained, which adds focus to it. »
- David Cairns
On May 24th, New York’s Film Forum will continue their ongoing resuscitation of the French Old Wave with a revival of a 1956 film that has been all but forgotten outside France: a film whose French title translates as The Crossing of Paris, which was originally released in the Us as Four Bags Full, but which is being re-released now with its more alliterative and far more charming UK subtitle A Pig Across Paris.
Set during the Occupation, this black-sausage comedy may not be quite as cute and animal-friendly as Clément Hurel’s brilliant poster suggests. A hilarious, nail-biting companion of sorts to Wages of Fear, which had been released three years earlier, A Pig Across Paris follows two men (Jean Gabin and comic star Bourvil) who must transport not nitroglycerine across South American mountains, but four black-market suitcases of pork across nighttime Paris, under the nose of the Nazis. »
- Adrian Curry
Images Of Black Women Film Festival | London Palestine Film Festival | Marcel L'Herbier: Fabricating Dreams
Images Of Black Women Film Festival, London
This festival has a clear mission: to promote women of African descent, in front of and behind the camera. The result is a spread of films from around the globe that you're unlikely to see anywhere else. Family drama Elza is the first female-directed feature from Guadeloupe; Pariah charts the coming out of a Brooklyn lesbian; and Black is a polished Senegalese action-thriller. There are docs on Nigerian women who protest against oil companies by threatening to strip naked, plus various art and children's events.
Various venues, Sat to 11 May
London Palestine Film Festival
History inevitably weighs heavily on Palestinian culture, but this festival regularly finds fresh perspectives on what feels like an age-old issue, both from the past and the present. Director David Koff revisits his once-controversial »
- Steve Rose
Concluding a three-part series on cinema's most flamboyant production designers.
Marcel L'Herbier arguably confused great design with great filmmaking, but he did deliver consistently on the former. And some of the time, influenced by and in rivalry with Abel Gance, he produced the latter.
Years before the moderne/streamline/art deco style conquered Hollywood, L'Herbier was featuring minimalist art nouveau decor and Bauhaus architecture in his French productions. In L'inhumaine (The Inhuman Woman, 1924) he has the services of Alberto Cavalcanti as production designer.
Cavalcanti's career took not only design, but experimental sound editing (Night Mail, 1936), and the production, writing and direction of both documentaries and dramas (Dead of Night, Went the Day Well?) in France, Britain and his native Brazil. And everything he did was touched with genius.
- David Cairns
6 items from 2013
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