Jours tranquilles à Clichy (1990)
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Whenever he chose to make period pieces, Chabrol always managed a detailed evocation of time and place: here, he seems to be particularly inspired by the ornate production design (not least a flashback/fantasy structure set in a desert limbo that recalls the "Angel Of Death" sequences in Bob Fosse's autobiographical ALL THAT JAZZ ), which provide a striking visual backdrop to the necessarily candid narrative. That said, the ample nudity (in this case, all the women are gorgeous) and potential tastelessness (the two protagonists simultaneously marry an underage girl, who is also not the retard depicted in the earlier version) are handled with sensitivity, eschewing sensationalism to the point of them appearing quite natural!
Incidentally, the loosely-related events of the original (and, presumably, the book) are presented here in a fairly organized manner and, while the whole may still feel insufficiently interesting (as per the "Cult Filmz" website), they certainly hold one's attention much more than before. One of the thorns in the side of Miller fans here is the central casting, which I admit Chabrol could have improved upon, and also the way that their constant penury is basically ignored in this version (while adding a political subtext in its latter stages). That said, Andrew McCarthy (looking quite a bit like Johnny Depp!) is better than one could have anticipated in the role of Miller's alter-ego Joey, while Nigel Havers is appropriately urbane as his more experienced pal Carl. By the way, one of the venues where McCarthy goes for a pick-up is a cinema which is screening Fritz Lang's THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE (1933) this is not only in keeping with Chabrol's renowned admiration for the Austrian master film-maker but also foreshadows his very next effort, DR. M (1990), in which McCarthy himself appears in a bit part!
As I said earlier, the gallery of attractive females is given its due here: Barbara De Rossi (as McCarthy/Miller's true love Nys, though she finally opts for security with mild-mannered Dominique Zardi, a Chabrol fixture), Stephanie Cotta (as the teenage temptress Colette even lustfully ogled by middle-aged aristocrat Mario Adorf), Eva Grimaldi, Anna Galiena (perhaps coming off best as the client who demands payment for her services at gunpoint a scene which turns up towards the end here whereas it opened the 1970 version!) and, of course, the ubiquitous Stephane Audran the former Mrs. Chabrol and whom he apparently still could not do without, at least in his films as a sprightly Madame. Ultimately, therefore, while I was all prepared to hate this going in - after having bumpily made it through the 1970 original - and denounce it as a huge mistake for Chabrol, I have to say that I was sufficiently entertained and titillated by the (pardon the pun) heady cocktail of sex and death.
"Jours Tranquilles à Clichy" is a dull and pointless movie by Claude Chabrol based on the story of Henry Miller and Alfred Perlès. The movie is boring and absolutely different from the other works of this great French director. My vote is four.
Title (Brazil): "Dias de Clichy" ("Days of Clichy")
Of these, the added stuff about fascism and communism in 1930s Paris does seem feeble. But my defence for both departures is that they are at worst ironic and at best comic. The real Miller and some of his friends may have taken themselves fairly seriously but in this film the cavortings and occasional soul-searchings of American exiles in Paris, immune from the harsh political facts of European life, border on the absurd. His devotion to Proust is treated satirically and to a Parisian his frequent comparisons with Brooklyn are merely ridiculous.
In fact we see virtually no real Paris, the city being most of the time conveyed by sets, which deliberately distance the story to a dreamy insubstantial past. Like the artificiality of the book, the film creates a fantasy world, one of untrustworthy recollection from a gifted, persuasive but ultimately unreliable narrator. Though actuality does intrude when Colette runs away and jumps onto a very real Metro train, so leaving the imaginary sphere for the quotidian.
While intensely autobiographical, incorporating wholesale people he knew at the time, Miller's work is fiction. It is not a diary but a melody spun out of his experience, looking beyond outward events to his inward poetic and philosophical reflections. This last dimension is what I miss in Chabrol's film, which mostly stays closer to the colourful surface occurrences of the characters' lives. Although I don't think many male viewers will complain about the often revealed surfaces of the many lovely women.
Amid a bushy and patchy filmography, Claude Chabrol admits liking this movie very much. That this movie makes him feel good is a mystery to me for it showcases none interest. His lack of input in his film, even his absence in the directing are blatant. He shot in a glib way an amorphous biopic to which one doesn't succeed in getting interested beyond the first ten minutes. The characters (Henry "Joey" Miller, Alfred "Carl" Perlès, Colette Ducarouge) have little depth and thickness and their acting mainly consist in wandering from brothel to brothel, from restaurant to restaurant (as Chabrol's inclination for gastronomy has it) and from flat to apartment. Probably to obey to the famous Latin expression "Carpe Diem". The action is sluggish and it's nearly a feat that the filmmaker could stretch his film for two hours with such a thin, stale, repetitive screenplay. It's all the more infuriating as the scenario doesn't live up to some heaven-sent opportunities. The ones through which one could have remembered Chabrol's trademark like unearth the hateful flaws of a posh bourgeoisie. But alas, Chabrol contented himself to skim over this point. Bereft of this asset which might have justify the vision of this film and of rigor, Chabrol installs the audience in a deep torpor and one stays out of this derivative picture of the Paris during the Roaring Twenties.
The cast is totally undistinguished, a far cry from Chabrol's great family like Jean-Claude Brialy, Michel Bouquet, Jean Poiret or Isabelle Huppert. Yes, the luminary Stéphane Audran is part of the cast but she's completely wasted in a role unworthy of her skills. Anna Galiena is also included in the cast but she will be given the chance to shine the same year with Patrice Leconte's dreamy "Mari De La Coiffeuse".
Chabrol beat his dead horse with this mediocre commissioned film which is now in limbo. Anyway, 1990 was a dreadful vintage for him with these "quiet days in Clichy" and also with another fiasco the same year: "Dr. M".
The modern-day flashback story where an elderly Miller is painting a nude picture of a "Collete" look-alike (who may only exist in his imagination) while cursing the "one-that-got-away" has nothing to do with Miller, of course, but is actually the best scene in the movie (unrequited fantasy is always more thematically interesting than the sexual over-indulgence Miller usually traded in). At any rate, the modern-day scenes don't detract from the 1930's setting nearly as much as the hippie-looking girls and that horrid Country Joe and the Fish title song featured in the dated 1970 Danish version.
The acting is indeed a liability. Andrew McCarthy is better than usual, but then he's usually awful. Barbara DeRossi (as a prostitute/love interest) is good, but underused, and newcomer Stephanie Cotta (who plays "Collette") doesn't need to act too much, which is fortunate because she really can't. This IS certainly a misfire within the oeuvre of Chabrol, who is much better at subtle Hitchcockian thrillers and is actually one of the few French directors who HASN'T generally traded in sex-oriented films like this. This isn't bad, just not really noteworthy either.
This movie glosses over all that. Very little depiction of outright nudity much less pudenda. Something tells me that the explicit Henry Miller would have dismayed by a whitewashed sterile presentation of his great explicitly erotic/pornographic storyline. I mean, the ladies raise their skirts to reveal--what? The camera doesn't show?! It ended up being a tease. And the one place that had explicit nudity was the shootout--
Clearly, part of the movie (exterior shots) is filmed on an obvious studio set, and that detracts from film. It ended up looking hokey.
I thought the movie was interesting in that interesting sort of way--but not especially gripping. I saw it once, I'm good for another fifty years.
Enter young Colette, a beautiful girl, what, 12, 14 years old at the most. They both marry her at a fake ceremony lead by the brothel's matron. They get all confused, and so did I
Boring as hell.
had to delete from my hard drive for obvious reasons, won't be watching again in the foreseeable future.