Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
They are all talking some foreign language
Here we are in a colourful and dangerous past. Summer 1966, or are we in the whole of the sixties and seventies? Anyway, we are supposed to be in New England (made in California) or rather a very small part of it named Gloucester Island. The camera watches a well picked cast and plenty of fancy extras and a Russian (I recognize a red star) submarine commanded by Fatso Theodore Bickel, while having fun and chasing and threatening each other to death. Canadian director Norman Jewison (MOONSTRUCK, Jesus CRIST SUPERSTAR, THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR) at that time 40 years of age (the Khrushchev era with its freezing cold war fund shortly after J.F.K.s Cuba confrontation) tells in good humour the story of a Russian submarine, that collides with a fishermen island, gets stuck and can't get off the shore again.
Good for the story: About 20 Russian sailors face 50 or more (including beautiful Eva Marie Saint) strangely behaving American New England locals. Of cause the island people at first don't see much of the vessel and the daring aliens. But somehow people get to know of the arrival of almost the whole of Russia and gather to defend America. Between rumours and facts Jewison present us some strange local characters, good and almost evil, not so clever and stupid, tough and lovely - not necessarily like anywhere in the world. There is an old foolish fellow (Paul Ford), who tries to form a citizen guard and carries around a sword of former times and does and says some of the stupid things of the third kind. He just doesn't know better and strangely enough survives as well as the rest of the cast (and the crew).
Generally underrated Brian Keith is sheriff Link Mattocks. He knows much better and tries to find out, who at all has seen just one example of the alleged strangers. His great scene is at the harbour edge when he is trying to arrest Captain Bickel, and lieutenant (Alan Arkin) Rozanov translates into Russia and back into something like English they understand in New England. Captain Bickel is facing about 79 or probably even 92 different weapons of the less (?) dangerous kind, while he has directed a huge canon of the grey and very long type toward Chief Brian Keith and his xenophobe fellow men and women gathering behind him.
Not getting anywhere questioning fat man Bickel Chief Link Mattocks just wants to know and put it in his book, what the name of the captain is. We do not learn his name, the captain is a very quiet man, so that is why he doesn't even carries a name in the cast overview at IMDb.
In the meantime blond Andrea Dromm and (at that time) black haired John Phillip Law look at each other and this time we catch the names: She is Alison and he is Alexei. Great and good to know, but what for ? They kiss and part, I'm afraid for ever. He takes his love and not the girl across the ocean, but sure soon will forget her, because he is young and she is an American bore. And who after all wants to live in Russia, wherever that country may be.
Since the whole matter is of cause a fairy tale, the confrontation doesn't move into a bloodshed (Just imagine one Russian canon ball would blow off about 15 to 20 American fishermen and fisherwomen, while out of about 98 small American bullets definitely 3 or 5 will find the broad chest of captain Bickel and many of the rest will push the Russian sailors next to him into the harbour more or less wounded, more or less dead.)
They all come together trying (successfully) to save the life of a little boy, who hangs on a church tower hook, where the script (not good old deus/Lord) put him purposely to interrupt the confrontation. Now really everybody participates in saving the American island boy by building a circus pyramid of people - of cause a Russian American mixed life pyramid.
We leave the cinema or our place in front of the goggle box and have watched a very inspired and entertainingly written, fast moving, qualified directed and played peace satire (at the very end of the picture the sub is escorted to the open sea by the American fishing boats to shelter the Russians from the alarmed Air Force) with little but well calculated slapstick and some jolly surrealistic dialog.
We once more realize that time goes by. The lead actors are either dead or round about their 80ies. Some are still active, for instance director Norman Jewison himself. Eva Marie Saint is in her 80ies today, here on Gloucester Island she still looks like heading North by North West.
Cary Grant dropped making pictures the same year. In earlier OPERATION PETTICOAT he was head of a pink painted Submarine. And don't forget the fabulous Yellow Submarine....
Michael Zabel, Offenbach/Rodenbach
Le rideau cramoisi (1953)
Eugen Schufftan at his best
I saw this picture in the 60s quite often at the Thursday night film presentations at Frankfurt (Germany) University. Actually I thought to remember a color film, but IMDb mentions that it is a black and white film. Whenever they screened it I went to see it. I don't exactly remember what it was all about and why it was called the somehow red curtain.
I think someone died while making love. But I don't even remember whether it was a man or lovely Anouk Aime. I am sure that there was no use of the Schufftan process because it definitely was a chamber play and no outdoor action. Alexandre Astruc (one of the many fathers of the NEW WAVE in France) was directing with great elegance and Eugen Schufftan,who had shot PEOPLE on Sunday in Berlin before he emigrated to Hollywood, did great lighting work. Well, just after the war no one in France had money to buy Kodak color stock, so I guess I saw a fine romantic 'colorful' picture in black and White and I probably just loved to see Anouk over and over again.
Michael Zabel, Rodenbach/Offenbach
Beta Som (1963)
Gabriele looks in the eyes of Lilli
In world war II James Mason is the captain of a warship operating in the street of Gibraltar. Fercetti is the head of Italian submarine, that is hunted by white uniformed Cap. Mason. They meet in neutral Tanger (the submarine needs some repair) and can't avoid to meet each other as well as their hostile crews. Not a sailor is Lilli Palmer, at that time 39 years of age and a really beautiful woman. Facetti falls in love with her, so would I, he gets his submarine going, tries to escape into the Atlantic and has to (really?)torpedo the Brit vessel of Mason. Question ? Do they get help in time ? Mason was in in his next of his many pictures. This one, BETA SOM, wasn't his worst. Not at all. He is opposite Italian star Gabriele Fercetti (80 today and still going)and the film is about a possible friendship and the script divides the world not in good and bad. Of cause there is the usual fight in Rick's Cafe at Tanger, which is well cut by the way. There is luckily no political talk on any level. Great Lilli Palmer is swell to look at and has some quiet lines. Sort of a MacGuffin is penicillin. Good camera work also under water and the mines are placed by the bad cigar smoking Mr. Hodge who also walks some times to see Miss Palmer. Mines are no regular weapon for sailors.
Michael Zabel, Offenbach/Rodenbach
Le silence de la mer (1949)
adieu my love
France 1942. Jean Pierre Grumbach alias Melville is away in London with General de Gaulle. France is occupied by the German nazi swastika. Jean Bruller, actually an illustrator, writes a novel 'LE SILENCE DE LA MERE', which is published by the underground 'Edition de Minuit'. Bruller calls himself Vercors. On Feb. 22, 1942 the book is ready to be issued and distributed in Paris by messengers on bicycles.
Melville first read the novel in English. He reports, that he was absolutely determined, that it would be his first film. He returned to France and negotiates with Vercors to buy the rights for his resistance novel. Vercors refused to let Melville have it. The book had virtually served as a Bible during the war and had become part of the French national heritage. Finally Vercors and Melville make a deal: The future famous director guarantees to submit the film as soon as it was finished to a jury of resistant selected by Vercors. Should one single member of this Jury be opposed to the film being shown, Melville promised to burn the negative.
The trouble was, that Melville was unqualified professionally, had no union card and in fact not obtained the rights to the book. Still, the director of the GTC laboratories Colling encouraged Melville and did the chemical work for nothing and the later famous lighting cameraman Henri Decae was the operator of the hired and not so well working equipment. The film was made in Vercors own house and Howard Vernon, a German (Swiss?) starred, as well as a friend of Melvilles Jean-Marie Robain, a wartime comrade, and a family friend Nicole Stéphane, whose profile and limpid eyes Melville loved and who was according to him a Rothschild, what the CGT didn't like so much.
What is it all about ? Uncle (Robain) and his niece ( Stéphane) live together in a house outside some village that is occupied by the Germans (and drink expensive coffee all the time). They have to tolerate a German lieutenant (Vernon), who comes to live upstairs and has a bad leg and who works in the Commandantur. He is a well educated composer of music and has never been to France, though he has traveled the world except France. When he after work comes back to the uncle-niece couple (he sucking a pipe, she knitting) he knocks at the door and speaks (mostly in his German uniform) in French to the owners of the house, who never answer to him or comment on his statements, explanations, ideas, longings, who never say good night. They are just listening to him.
What is the lieutenant speaking and dreaming of ? He imagines the genius of German music and the greatness of French literature being united in a peaceful Europe. One day our lieutenant Werner decides to go to Paris, that he avoided a long time. The opera like action inside the (Vercors) house is now taken to open air Paris, Vernon with his officers cap is a tourist in front of several well known Paris Buildings and we watch him attending a party of officers, who wise Ebrennac up, that they never intended to respect the French culture or let it at least exist as it is. They make clear that the occupation has just one aim, finish the French for once and for all times. Ebrennac looses all hope, returns to the cottage of uncle and niece, packs his luggage and reports to them what he had heard in the officers Club in Paris. He decides to go back to the front. He leaves the house and this is the time, when the niece says just one word: Adieu.
Certainly the film has an anti-cinematographic aspect and there is little action. But you watch every minute with growing interest how the relationship between the three is developing. There are simple means, two or three walls, a ceiling, a door, a uniform, a ball of wool, a flickering fireside and the over and over repeated greeting of the officer, that he wishes a good night. Are we even witnessing a quiet love affair ? It is probably not in the book, but I like to accept that idea, sympathy for the devil. (Andre Gide: I think the girl was a fool. She deserved to be spanked.)
The film is full of fine details. All of them put splendidly by Decae into a black and white photography as if that sort of film was just freshly invented. The church at the horizon (where would that be ?) behind a field of corn and the forgoing panning shot followed by a slow pan toward a gun barrel. The scene when the lieutenant and his corporal cross a bridge and three French occupy the sidewalk and don't move a single inch. The group of officers caps on the table at the soiree, the perfect focus in the kitchen (Gregg Toland's way) and the nice scarf of the niece towards the end, which looks like decorated by Jean Cocteau, but was drawn by Melville himself, who greatly admired Cocteaus work. Its all much more than just a first film of a future independent film maker.
Melville tells us, making the film was the happiest year in his life. Decae and Melville did the editing from 35 mm rushes in a hotel room. They projected on to the wall. They filmed in total penury. After putting an original music to the film (cost as much as the whole film, 120 musicians) in October 1948 the film was first screened at the studio des Champs-Elysees, in the presence of a top-drawer audience. Now at last Pierre Braunberger came in and managed to persuade Melville to give him the film. It did well at the box office.
And thanks to young Howard Vernon, who passed away only recently at the age of 82. And Cocteau thought the mentioned scarf was a work of his.
Michael Zabel, Offenbach/Rodenbach
Helen of Troy (1956)
Featuring Brigitte Bardot
When I watched the film on TV the other day I kept thinking, that this is a pretty good picture. I missed the opening and didn't know all the time that I enjoyed a movie by Robert Wise, who tells us about Helen of Troy, who actually was the wife of an unloved Greek King, who took of cause the chance to follow a young good looking fellow to the town of Troy, which is the said reason for a 10 year long war that is told us from ancient times by Homer. (The troy people think the war is about their gold treasure - that was later stolen by a German. They didn't have any oil) The travels of Odysseus are not in this picture, but pretty Brigitte Bardot at 22. I didn't see the original version but I had the impression that the lines of the characters were taken straight from the Homer epic poem. At least the German voices did their best to give some idea of the high standard of Homers literature. The fighting scenes were arranged good to look at, the actors not as nice as lovely BB, who is going to be 70 in September this year and didn't make any films since the early 70s. I didn't see the new film by Petersen, his hero doesn't wear a beard, that is modern but surly hurt in the old days to shave all the time. So I understand well why except the women and Paris the rest of the actors in the Wise movie put on a beard. What Wise could not avoid was the music. Full orchestra, nothing left to the imagination. And the horizon full of battle ships according to the method of Eugen Schuftan. It was the pre digital time and not bad at all.
Bob le flambeur (1956)
Most of the Pigalle Blowing up the bank and robbing himself
His fourth film leads author/director Jean Pierre Grumbach alias Melville in 1955 right into the Pigalle milieu in Paris. Before and after WW II Melville obviously knew this territory well and wrote an original script and wanted to paint as truthful a picture as possible. The story is about an aging small time gambler Bob (Roger Duchesne a post war movie star), who doesn't sleep with the girl he loves (Isabelle Corey as Anne, according to Melville 16 years of age at that time), but leaves that to almost everybody else. Bob is a loner, smoking all the time dangerous cigarettes, drifting through the night and always ending up in the restaurant Carpeaux for an early morning gamble. Looking into a rusty mirror , he mutters: , A fine hoodlum face !
One day he looses his heart to a fluff, tells her the morals as well as his young friend Paulo ( Daniel Gauchy), is liked by really everybody even the police inspector (great actor Guy Decomble), is always halve broke and supports the girl, that shows us some nice black under ware. Bob is long time out of the gangster business since he was caught and run in jail by the inspector, who has it seems not much to do, so he sends out the pimp Marc to find something worth wile going after. Bob drives an American V 8 convertible through Paris, the police rides a 15 CV and out of every bar one can hear some different music. And Henri Decae is the lighting cameraman as in most Melville pictures, and he just pulls the trigger of his hand camera to catch the nightly beauty and morbidity of the Picalle area.
One night Bob is eventually totally broke and starts to plan a hold - up at the Casino of Deauville. He gathers a group of specialists (you can bring guns, but we don't use them) and being broke has to hire the money for the preliminary expenses from wealthy Howard Vernon (wearing obviously a false moustache and being almost a star in the fifties and the first leading character in Melvilles Film of 1947, Le Silence de la Mer ). Well, the inspector gets a hint because Paulo cant keep his mouth shut and wants to impress Anne, who doesn't love him at all, and stupid as she is tells the plan Marc. And it is the wife of the croupier, who tells the plan anonymously to the inspector. Many years ago Bob has saved the inspectors life, so the inspector runs around places to find Bob to tell him to stay away from the Deauville job. But the warning is too late. The action is supposed to start at 3 O'clock in the morning. To kill the time Bob is at the roulette and baccara tables, of cause starts to gamble and eventually blows up the bank and is late for the hold up. His beautifully prepared hold-up becomes completely unnecessary because he has just won the eight hundred millions in the Casino vaults by legal means. Paulo is shot dead by the police. Like a waiter the casino boy brings the money after the handcuffed Bob, who mentions to his friend the inspector, that he hopes that the money is safe with them....
Actually a comedy, not very light hearted thou, and only because of the ending. A fine black and white picture (made with very little money) with one black man at the piano, all the rest are people between night and day between a thing called love and making somehow a living. It is a rather cool picture, a love letter to Paris; no fast actions; there is only one outburst of hate, when Paulo shoots Marc, to stop him to tell the inspector about the Deauville Raid. You can see nice details from the time one is missing for over forty years now, for instance the small 4 door Renault with the engine in the rear and the doors opening the wrong way. And I liked the two ladies dressed by Ted Lapidus in the bar, I liked the one - armed bandit in the closet, the three wheel mini car being purposely put in front of the oncoming huge convertible (that is pure Tati), early tourists in American sailor uniforms driving motorcycles, and the relationship between Bob and the Cop. One can hear and see, that they are in the same business.
Buildings underneath Sacré Coeur are still, where they used to be. But nowadays the area is pretty well redecorated. Girls and lovers, gamblers and gangsters, inspectors and thieves, concierges and barmen are where they are supposed to be. You watch the picture and look into an authentic past, because Melville made a (as he would have said)movie' about stuff he not only knew from books or the screen. The picture includes one of the best gambling sequences in film history. Toward the end when Bob is in the Casino and starts to win Decae films and catches some great moments at the gambling tables and puts them together to a summary of post war melancholy and oncoming Gaullism.
Melville liked to have the film redone in colour. I don't. Still it was remade by Neil Jordan and called THE GOOD THIEF in colour and scope. I have my doubts if Melville would have liked that one. He cant object anymore. He was a conservative man.
Michael Zabel, Offenbach/Rodenbach
Liane: Die Weisse Sklavin (1957)
The Desert made on Sylt
No doubt that part of the picture was filmed in Cairo and other places next to the river Nil, but a very small part. Some of the sandy parts look as if they are filmed on the Island of Sylt in the North See. The black girl looks painted in black, the white girl with the never ending legs is beautiful Marion Michael, who walks through Cairo with rolled up shorts. That was German sex in the late fifties shortly after world war II. Still nice to look at and quite entertaining, the crew must really have had some fun with the girl or the other way round. Former German star Adrian Hoven is less sexy, but okay to look at and not a too poor actor. Rick Bataglia on the other hand is in no way an Arabic looking slave merchant, Friedrich Joloff is pretty good as the villain, but there is no reasonable plot, not to mention the absence of a director who has little more in mind than showing Marions nice body. Even the editor is so extremely fascinated that he allows Marion to ride beyond the horizon until he closes the take.
The guy mentioned as scriptwriter, if one is brave enough to call it
a scenario, is famous Ernst von Salomon the author of a great post war book 'Der Fragebogen'; well he also had to make a living.
Man on a String (1960)
Borgnine the brain
Ernest Borgnine, now almost 90 years of age and still acting for Hollywood, went in 1960 to Berlin to play the main character called Boris Mitrov in an east - west drama of director André de Thoth called Man On The String. He is the man on the (black and white) run for cover through east Berlin before the great Wall was built and Kennedy named himself a Berliner. Borgnine has learned in Moscow the names of American spies in the states; he memorizes them and is picked up by a friendly helper next to the American sector and is taken in a nice Mercedes sedan car back to Uncle Sams sector where he spills the beans. Not much later Billy Wilder went to Berlin as well an made a great comedy about Coca Cola and the rest of the world. De Thoth picture isn't funny at all and actually the time before and after the making of the big Wall was not to laugh at. So director de Thoth decided to play the semi documentary card and one must say he succeeded in giving an impression of the area around the Brandenburg Gate and the nowhere land that is today called again Pariser Platz. So the artwork he took straight from the streets and ruins of cause of the western sectors. 15 years after the war quite some parts of West Berlin still looked pretty far from nowadays and were well to use as action areas suggesting the Hollywood staff had permission to film beyond the American sector right in the middle of East Berlin.
Borgnine is an unusual type of spy and he decorates the scenes in the Moscow offices of the soviet secret service fairly well. Of cause he is not Paul Newman who is also a spy memorizing a secret formula in the Torn Curtain of Mr. Hitchcock a little later but not a bad alternative.
The area next to the reborn American embassy and also not far from the Russian embassy was in the meantime nicely swept and one would need skilled optical and digital works to bring back an image of the invisible iron curtain of 1960. Spy games of the old fashion type are presently not fashionable, spy games star no more Borgnine but Redford and Pitt and are placed in the near east in colour and scope. I am beginning to like Borgnine in his black suit tumbling over the ruins of Berlin and showing his life long gap between teeth.
Drei Tage Angst (1952)
Light comedy and Rudolf Platte at his best
Who ever has heard about Erich Waschneck. He made 43 films and I only saw one: DREI TAGE ANGST. An unknown gangster film ? Yes. But very funny stuff, made by someone who knew his job well. It was made in 1952 by a former saxon lighting cameraman of the silents born in 1887 and was his before last film. The late Rudolf Platte stars brilliantly in it, who is well known to the earlier generation of German film loving people and was always a little in the shadow of Heinz Rühmann.( Later he played The Hauptmann von Köpenick for TV.) Here Platte plays two characters, a humble master tailor from Hamburg, who gets involved in a jewellery theft in Cologne, because he looks very much like a small time crook, who belongs to the Beppo Brehm bunch, that is also after the bundle of jewels and who are trying to double cross each other. Black and white of cause and with a touch of pre war french comedy. Just great watching Platte hiding in women clothes and making his/her way into a lodgings to get hold of the jewellery hidden inside a huge heating oven. As you may imagine the poor tailor is constantly taken either for the crook either by the police or tall Beppo Brehm or the other way round and everything is so perfectly timed and mixed up you almost start thinking Cary Grant is walking around on high heels. And mind you: Little Cornelia Froboes is doing one of her early appearances in the pictures. The film is mainly studio works full of quick early 50s details and nice sound, but there is a traveling shot in the streets with post war ruins in the background. The director had made it through the Nazi years, but I wonder what his 1940 film is like that carries the title DIE ROTHSCHILDS. We know more about a film called Jud Süss.
Bomben auf Monte Carlo (1960)
Marion Michael was 20 when she made this film next to Eddie and as I can read in imdb's list of films, Marion was in her most famous film when she was only 16: Liane. I don't remember having seen the girl in the jungle in the 50s but I remember that one was sort of a scandal. Now in this Monte Carlo comedy I was reminded of her and strangely enough I recognized her after 45 years immediately. She is the one and only beautiful and entertaining decoration in this long forgotten German production. It is really a pity that Marion didn't enter the ladder of at least European success. She was a natural born comedian and definitely capable to follow the steps of for instance Lilo Pulver. She was obviously an amateur but once in a while I love to watch amateur stuff especially when they show early a maximum of future talent. Eddie is as usual in his early films, Gunther Philipp is quiet and has not so many lines but sings a song with the American in Paris Eddie. The mentioned director I don't want to mention. But Vive Marion ! But sorry: She died 40 years ago. (Instead of Constantin Hans Albers was in the first version, but I don't remember the girl.)
Le cercle rouge (1970)
We are all guilty
Commissaire Mattei(André Bourvil) is a single with a little gun who loves cats and his boss at the Paris police department is a philosopher who knows that even the police becomes sooner or later guilty. That is what the film is all about. And a jewel robbery at the place Vendome.
Corey (Delon) brings the plan from prison, Vogel(Volonté)joins him and helps him against two tough guys, who are after him, because he took mafioso Ricos(Andre Eycan) money, while Rico already took Coreys girl friend and left him very much alone for five years in jail. Corey and Vogel find a third man, Jansen(Montand), a former police officer and sniper who opens a security lock by shooting special hand made ammunition into a hole. A perfect plan and cooperation, but they have to sell the booty and there is Mattei in the role of a buyer in disguise. The circle closes. Running to help each other they are shot by the cat loving Mattei and his little pistol.
It took Melville 20 years he says to make a robbery film after he failed to get a contract for RIFFIFI. Melville wrote the screenplay and filmed in the south of France and in Paris of yesteryear. The great Henri Decae is as usual the lighting cameraman. It is the one before last picture of Melvilles who died after another film with Delon in 1972.
Melville actually wanted Belmondo instead of Volonté, he didn't like that Italian at all, but Volonté-Vogel is an excellent fugitive and gives next to Bourvil the most convincing performance. But mind you: Melville notes, that Volonté is an instinctive actor, a strange character, very wearying and absolutely impossible on a French set. Melville didn't like him at all and didn't want to work with him ever again.
Melville is wrong. Volonté give the most lively character in the nowhere of not so many interesting characters. You can see what he is feeling being chased by Mattei and his little dangerous gun and all the dogs of France in winter 70. A wild actor.
Also André Bourvil, who passed away close to the time of the filming. He also was not first choice, but definitely a great substitute. He carries the instinct of a lonely hunter through the whole film and gets in the end his chance to become guilty once more.
Jansen has entered at night the jewelry shop with a rifle and a tripod but risks eventually freehandedly a successful shot. When he meets Delon the first time we already know that the elegant Jansen has a severe drinking problem. After the robbery Montand renounces to take his part of the booty and mentions to Delon, who looks up to him, that he only got into the red circle, because he wanted to take revenge on the inhabitants of his wardrobe. Delon doesn't catch what he means. The audience recalls having seen Montand in a great scene in his haunted house fighting helplessly nightmare creatures that come out of the wardrobe and attack him. At that time a very rare scene, one recalls a long time after. I bet it was ever so difficult to arrange and direct that stuff at a time no one imagined the coming days of digital movie making. Great artwork when art was made by hand.
We sure will remember a crew like the actors, still it seems even after 33 years this one stays the less popular of the six thrillers of Melville. What is wrong with it? I am afraid one doesn't take much interest in those three actors (showing three criminals) and their police hunter. We learn too little about Corey and his fatal 5 years away from his beautiful girl(Anna Douking). Montand is still a great sniper, but what made him become a drinking man with funny creatures in his wardrobe. Delon acts as if he is in an earlier adventure of the samourai, Volonté is the man in the trunk of Delons American car and superbly moving and Mattei is swell to look at, a great actor at the edge of his life. But how could he ever possibly doubt that all are guilty ?
In an interview Melville states, that there is no woman in the film. Not in the very red circle, but I remember well that jolly good looking female Anna Douking (with no future career). We are in the 70s. There in fact rises a woman from the bed of an old mafioso wearing nothing and walks slowly to the door to listen to the voice of her old lover Delon. Bardot did something like that 10 years earlier. This time Melville was directing. Well done.
The RED CERCLE has certainly added a few but not many glittering gems to film history. The robbery at Place Vendome and Montands wonder bullet the inhabitants of the wardrobe and Volonté escaping Bouvil in white underwear and carrying his trousers carefully across a stream. That is too little for a great gangster and robbery movie. But the 110 minutes never bore you and it is a game on a high level. And there are probably some secrets you learn when you see the film over and over again. None of the secrets is that we are all guilty and the late Francois Perier is also featured.
nightmare on Rue Jenner
Jean Pierre Grumbach alias Melville - a so called conservative and admirer of the pre war Amercon film - is now dead a long time. Before his last good bye he made in the time of 25 years just a few films, one French in the US, an unsuccessful one (he exactly knows why), all the rest except part of 'Fercheaux' in France, some in black and white, some later in color and scope. He cultivated a list of 63 American directors, was friend to many new wave directors and Volker Schlöndorf assisted him for Le Doulos. He owned a private Film Studio in the Rue Jenner in Paris an let it to other directors and television productions. That studio burned down totally and the documentary shows Melville in his office talking about the past, the presence and the future and the plan to rebuilt the Rue Jenner Studio he loved so much. The documentary doesn't give all aspects of Melville (how could you possibly manage in 53 minutes), but you watch a man of the 7 th art telling the camera (at nighttime I presume)what is important for him in the very moment the film is made. The man in his private writing laboratory, not the usual Stetson on his head, no police glasses, just the ordinary surrounding of a writer-director, who fights himself from one film to the other and is soon after the documentary was made dead. No more films of Jean Pierre Grumbach, formerly officer in the de Gaulle London army, producer, writer, director of films, when Delon and Belmondo were still young and
Ernie Sch. probably didn't even know what a film studio is at all. Nice to watch him: You can much easier recognize him as an extra for instance in A Bout de Souffle, or opposit of Jean Cocteau in Les Enfants Terrible. A film long before the talk shows came to France. The film should be kept as long as Le samourai, Le Doulos and Le deuxieme souffle are being shown on TV and sometimes on the big screen.
Le doulos (1963)
black and white at his best
40 years ago very young Belmondo plays the police informer Silien who is about to retire as a crook and gets involved in a fatal affair of friendship and betrayal. Everybody gets what he deserves, mostly a mortal bullet.
After successfully (brilliant but unrecallable scene on location in a Paris cafe) convincing the betrayed loser burglar Serge Reggiani that he did not betrayed him at all, Silien runs into a already prepared trap on the countryside. His trench coat catches a hole in the back and the last thing Silien thinks of is to cancel his last appointment with his girl friend.(Melville originally wanted another ending: Silien calling the police) Silien looks into the mirror of death, and soon doesn't see anything at all anymore. Silien need lie no longer. His expensive mansion equiped with the good and the bad taste of the late 50s becomes the mausoleum of the only clear thing in this almost last film of the serie noir: Finally everybody is dead. Who knows why ! There are not so many films of this make to come, only director J.P.Melville returned a few times to the subject: The story of a loner on his way down the drain.
Nicolas Hayer (Orphée) behind the camera looks at Paris in a very winterly mood, we meet a few extremely corrupt characters in the shadow at the edge of nowhere, underworld pure. (Melville even sends a car over the edge as a help for those who think they caught the meaning of that all.)The story may be logic as a critic points out, but definitely untellable. But who cares. So one better just watches some highly entertaining and spirited sequences in black and white at his best, f.i. at the police station. Whatever they are discussing, one is fascinated by the almost 10 minutes of uninterrupted film shooting, or the great lighting job at the end, when Silien drives in his American convertible (rain is falling in the studios Rue Jenner)and walks along the gray bushes toward his mansion where he finds the already deadly wounded Reggiani who warns him of the hired killer behind the paper wall. Showdown at Siliens villa.
Looking at the strange doing of Belmondo and Reggiani and Piccoli and
Jean Desailly and Fabienne Dali and Aime de March you soon lose the interest in understanding what is going on and why, you plainly watch strange actions in the very backyard of Paris and you feel a little sad they dont make films like that any more. And you also start feeling that you better like to meet Belmondo in life than a gangster looking like Belmondo.
Who would I have liked to stay alive ? Maybe Reggiani. He is the better or rather at that time more experienced actor (and the better singer his life long).) But in this film he shoots a friend,and walks away. I never found out, why he shoots him. Well, the characters in the film are all double, all false. This is probably why Melville starts the film with a line from Céline: 'One must choose...die...or lie.' (By the way Céline not Melville ads: 'Me I live'.)