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O.S.S. 117 n'est pas mort (1957)
Not dead ? Half-dead,more like.
It was the first time Jean Bruce 's OSS 117 aka Hubert Bonnisseur De La Bath adventures had been transferred to the screen .
The plot is almost devoid of interest :it deals with thefts of secret documents and microfilms ;it seems that the safe in Mr Lead (sic)'s desirable mansion is not safe at all and that the Deuxième Bureau has been leaking.So begins the task for the best French secret spy and his female counterpart .The title "OSS N 'Est Pas Mort " is justified for the hero spends a good third of the film bedridden in a gloomy hospital where he pretends to be severely wounded after a car crash (sabotage).But he is presented with candied fruit (the box contains a small tape recorder ,smart,huh?)and pastries by sympathetic ladies.
This spy thriller is actually a whodunit: who,in Mr Lead 's house helps the villains get the stuff? Mr Lead? his wife? his daughter? his secretary?his servant?.One of the spies has his way with girls: he tells them nobody likes him,he is now a hunted man,and if she helps him ,he will take her away to the islands in the sun.
In the cast and credits ,the name of the actress who plays the OSS girl (hot Magali Noel )ppears before that of her male co-star;it may be a wise choice ,for Ivan Desny is a listless OSS ,and not handsome enough at that.Yves Vincent ,who created the part of Stanley Kowalsky in " a streetcar named desire" on stage in France ,tries his best with an underwritten (and almost ridiculous) part of the would be miserable spy .Marie Déa ("Les Visiteurs Du Soir" "PIèges" "Orphée" ) is wasted.
Any takers? Cheesecake all over the movie:scantily dressed ladies abound .
OSS 117 was not lucky in the movies: in the sixties,in the wake of James Bond ,six more movies -plus another one ,feat.Sean Flynn in which ,Bonnisseur De La Bath was renamed "Smith"- ,more entertaining ,but not particularly memorable.
It was the naughties before OSS 117 became a popular hero in the movies ,in the riotously funny spoofs featuring the excellent Jean Dujardin.
Jean Stelli was the melodrama past master;his "Voile Bleu " made sensitive people cry a river during the occupation days.
"Mammy" is a lovely film,half comedy,half thriller ,with a subject close of that of William Irish's ( aka Cornell Woolrich's ) "I married a dead man" .
It owes a big deal to its excellent actors foursome : the old ones (Pierre Larquey and Gaby Morlay ,the star of the before-mentioned occupation blockbuster) ,moving and endearing ,and the young ones (Philippe Lemaire and Françoise Arnoul ) ,both good-looking and playing with gusto.Pierre Laroche and Albert Valentin wrote spicy lines ,sometimes verging on black humor :that Valentin could not survive the liberation as a director was a major loss for the French cinema.
The movie begins with fire fighters cars coming to the rescue of two young lovers who have just committed suicide (it's actually a half- suicide ,for the girl turned on the gas unbeknownst to her boyfriend!);the lines do not lack black humor:
-What happened ?
-Nothing!two youngsters who gassed themselves!
-Nothing? Who pays the gas note?
A medical examiner whose wife is blind and could never get over her grandson's behavior who tried to steal from them and then exiled himself to Canada, has an idea: as the two young people are safe in the hospital ,he will pass them off as the grandson and wife:no sooner said than done .
Is the old lady fooled ? Anyway ,the so called newly weds -who do not get one very well and are both jealous- are welcomed in the desirable mansion where she gives them a superb bedroom (and tells them that a bed is not only made for sleeping and dying) .Very good scenes when the granny asks them to play the piano and tries to talk architecture with her grandson .
Unfortunately,when they were least expecting it,the "true" grandson reappears and he is short of the readies.
Even though the ending is too hurried for comfort ,it's a lovely movie,well written and well acted.
It's Great to Be Young! (1956)
Dead singers society
It's delightfully old-fashioned,but it's full of Joie De Vivre and it's really much fun to watch!
This grammar school is really too good to be true :all the pupils are very nice,very polite but they have a tendency to favor jazz music over classical ,predating ,in their own modest way ,the sixties'youth ,when England reigned over the whole musical world .
Mr Dingle,wonderfully portrayed by John Mills ,is a teacher with whom we do need education.When the new headmaster arrives ,none of his colleagues support him ,not even the gym teacher (and however his subject is not considered a serious one either). In the next decade,Dingle would have embraced the Beatles without a moment's hesitation.He's not only a teacher ,he is also the confidant (wait for the "flash"),and ,even without their instruments ,his class can play infectious music -in an extremely well-directed scene.
Imitating the beginning of the French Revolution,the students after a "singing strike" and a conspiracy of silence ,lock themselves in the gym to support their teacher who has been unfairly dismissed (and has become the toast of the local pub).
Plenty of fun with Mr Dingle!
How to tell a saint's life (or how to cut an orange)
This is a short which deals with the preparation of Alain Cavalier 's last mainstream movie "Thérèse" ,with depicts the life of the famous saint of Lisieux.We only see the director's hands .
It begins with a white sheet of paper which may represents the screen or the place where the director is going to write his script or draw important scenes of his future effort:like Hitchcock and Clouzot,we learn that Cavalier uses storyboards .He displays a series of photographs (taken by Therese's sister,who was also a nun) which spans the whole life of the saint ,from her vows to her deathbed ;the last picture shows a face of a suffering woman (tuberculosis ;a mortal disease in Therese's time);he reads some of Therese's words about God and the meaning of agony -nothing to relieve the excruciating pain).He shows us a model of a nun's cell (3x3 meters);we feel that the director wanted to put a lot into his work.
His movie was greeted by sympathetic reviews and proves successful with the audience: the Bressonesque treatment was utterly uncompromising but the saint's popularity was a strong hook.
Les lions sont lâchés (1961)
With a writer such as Audiard and five talented stars ,you should not be wrong.However ,today ,Verneuil's movie sounds as unfunny Théatre De Boulevard .
A young girl from the Province,who just broke with her husband,comes to Paris to find her soul mate ;we follow her as she meets a trendy writer ,who wins the Femina literary prize by writing his new novel based on her character,then a grumpy surgeon who wants to take care of her health.All takes place in very chic places ,luxury flats,homes in the country ,and the whole shebang.
This is an exceptionally poor screenplay based on a novel by Nicole(?),a subject Audiard does not seem to find inspiring:in this posh milieu ,he simply cannot write these lines which generally hit home .Danielle Darrieux is a wonderful actress and it's the first time I've found her really bad,overplaying all over the place .Lino Ventura is miscast as the doctor :not surprising,he is self- conscious .Michèle Morgan and Jean-Claude Brialy ,as the wealthy confidant and the smug impotent novelist seem to be bored to death . As for Claudia Cardinale,I confirm that it's her voice we hear in the movie,but her part is conventional (see the bourgeois happy end,told by Morgan's voice over).
And Darrieux 's son is Marxist ,to boot!As she says ": "it's the fall of the house of Usher"!
Une journée bien remplie ou Neuf meurtres insolites dans une même journée par un seul homme dont ce n'est pas le métier (1973)
Rousseau's busy day
Four comments on a movie which has fallen into oblivion in its native country; among the four -positive,quite rightly so- reviews,no one comes from Trintignant's land .
The first of the two movies the famous actor has directed (for the record,the second is "Le Maître Nageur " ) the movie belongs to the handful of works which goes off the beaten track ,a thousand miles away from the French seventies film scene.
The subject is close to that of Douglas Hickox's "theater of blood" (released the same year,coincidence)in which Denis Price and his daughter( Diana Rigg )slew all the panel of judges who had refused to give the actor the award ,imitating Shakespeare's tragedies
Shakespeare is also present in Trintignant's work ;the actor/director appears himself in a cameo :he directs "Hamlet" and delivers this excellent line" You don't make an "Hamlet" without breaking eggs" ,in French of course ,for the French language uses the same expression.
But "Une Journée Bien Remplie " is given a very different treatment,sometimes amateurish,sometimes self-conscious ,but never "politically correct" -and with his gruesome farce,it may be possible that Trintignant wanted to express his disgust for death penalty and the "right" some people have to send their fellow men to the guillotine -one must remember that death penalty was abolished by François Mitterrand in 1981- .And the "A Suivre" (= to be continued) of the final cast and credits might indicate that grandpa is ready to take over from the baker (and not for bread and croissants).
The absence of star may explain the complete commercial failure of the effort;nevertheless Jacques Dufilho is well known over here: a stage actor,he was almost always given supporting parts ( in a career which spans four decades)for his physical appearance is not what you call bankable.In the only film in which he plays the lead,he looks so much the part I do not really know who else Trintignant could have cast in the part of this deadpan cynical dispenser of justice ;dressed in black, in a black motorcycle and sidecar ,almost always silent ,in a movie which is half silent anyway.Editing is often disturbing, Trintignant often denies his audience the suspense and if he depicts the murder in the hospital in lavish details,some of them are told by the radio -and we can appreciate the brilliant superintendent 's deductive reasoning ! The director even allows himself ,when the murderer listen to the radio ,to announce :"the track you've just heard is taken from the "Une Journée Bien Remplie" movie score " ;the black humor is constant:" Five at noon! says grandpa,you're on schedule!"
Noblesse Oblige ! (kind hearts and coronets)
The Screaming Woman (1972)
Hush hush sweet Laura.
As a very big fan of Mrs De Havilland ,it was a great pleasure for me to see her with her old partner in crime Joseph Cotten (some will remember "hush hush sweet Charlotte" ),even though the latter has a too brief appearance.
Ray Bradbury 's short story was modified and her heroine ,a young girl named Margaret ,was replaced by an older lady ,Laura.Actually the story recalls that of William Irish aka Cornell Woolrich ,"fire escape" (transferred to the screen as " the boy who cried wolf" ) in which a little boy told imaginary stories till a true crime happens.....just as the sheriff and his deputy do not believe that old bat who sees prowlers everywhere ...and who do not want "riffraff " around -the short scene where the "commoner" tells her :"you made my day,no you made my week" is worth the price of admission -
Jack Smight succeeds in confusing the viewer: is Laura a lunatic? (after all,she forgot that the greenhouse was destroyed by fire)has she really discovered a buried alive woman ? Or has she been framed by her daughter-in-law who covets her money and would like her to be considered irresponsible ?As cousin Olivia and her old beau Joseph wanted to do pitiful Davis/Charlotte away from her valuable property in "hush hush sweet Charlotte" .
De Havilland and Cotten met again in "airport' 77" but the movie was a spate of clichés and they were given poor parts.
La jeune fille et les loups (2008)
Le Miracle Des Loups
As the good French cinema connoisseur Leon aka writer's reign wrote, "it's the work of writer-director Gilles Legrand who recently gave us the brilliant "You Will Be My Son" " (=Tu Seras Mon Fils ).Both movies have more in common you may think of:in both,there's a person ready to push the others out of his way to satisfy his selfish deeds ;in the "Tu Seras Mon Fils" a wealthy landowner disowns his own son and almost "adopts " a young Turk so that his vineyard will become famous around the wine connoisseur world.In this 2008 movie, a manufacturer's son wants to drive the wolves away from their natural surroundings (or to kill them all) to make the mountains more profitable,more "bankable" ...
Wolves have always had a bad reputation;a child is told "the little red riding hood" as soon as he' s able to understand a tale ...and however....remember the Romulus and Remus legend ;one of the most famous swashbuckler of French cinema "Le Miracle Des Loups " (two versions: a silent one and a well known one starring Jean Marais ) shows a young countess saved from the villains by a circle of wolves ;and I will not even mention Kevin Costner 's work ,which writer's reign smartly evokes in his witty title....
Gilles Legrand is a special case in the contemporary French cinema: his is the return of the popular cinema,in the noblest sense of the word ,his is the linear story ,the extraordinary sense of space: the scene when Angèle flies over the mountains is simply beautiful: a score,recalling sometimes Pachelbel's canon as well as the best of George Delerue,superbly enhances the scene .
WW1,which breaks out at the beginning of the story, is depicted in admirably succinct style,using archive films ;the death of the brother, "thanks" to the patriotic mom, urges Angele to take a rebel stand :if it was an awful slaughter,some were war profiteers ,as Emile and his father.Angèle refuses this macho world and wants to become a vet surgeon,which was unthinkable for a woman at the time (we're told that the first woman got her diploma in 1931).Because all the men around laughs at her,she will live with the wolves ,with Giuseppe , a young hermit who may be (or may not be) Emile's half-brother -which explains the hatred which explodes near the torrent- .A very modern woman,she refuses to marry Emile ,the ideal son-in-law to his old dad .This young Turk represents all that she hates.Her flee to fascist Italy may seem naive ,but she is true to herself and she does not care for politics as long as her wild life is preserved ;the last (admirable) picture shows Angèle and Giuseppe heading for a "marvelous" country .....
The cast is perfect: Leatitia Casta as the rebel woman,Jean-Paul Rouve as the greedy young heir,and Patrick Chesnais -Legrand would use again in "Tu Seras Mon Fils" as the terminally-ill dad- as the good father overtaken by events.
Au théâtre ce soir: José (1967)
José is never to be seen but he can be useful
A forgotten play which was broadcast as part of "Au Théâtre Ce Soir" TV series .Written by Michel Duran,the comedy got good reviews in the fifties when it was produced for the first time.
The plot:Jérome ,who enjoys a successful career as a songwriter for singer José ,was formerly in love with a girl from his hometown ,Florence .She married a wine merchant who is also a rugby player. On the occasion of a game in Paris ,Florence accompanies her husband and has arranged to meet her old flame (who is still in love with her) in his apartment.But a jealous starlet ,Aline,who 's got a crush on Jerome,is going to thwart his plans....
For many people,it was the first time they had seen Caroline Cellier (cast as the young Aline ),who appears mainly in the first part;as for José ,whose name is the title of the play,his character does not appear at all.
Sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction:two years later,Claude Chabrol released "Que La Bête Meure" (the beast must be) in which Caroline Cellier is cast as an actress: the clue which puts Michel Duchaussoy on the track of the hit-and-run driver who ran over his little boy is a TV program: precisely "José " which Cellier actually performed on stage.
A pox on it!
The movie was not given a distribution number and thus was never theatrically released ,because Dieudonné had become Persona Non Grata in France .He is probably the most controversial artist here.
I've made a list of ,IMHO ,the worst French movies of all time and this one goes directly to number one;crude,trashy,obnoxious,not funny at all : this is a sinister farce ,worthy of Les Charlots or Max Pecas .And although hopeless and abysmal ,those deplorable duds were harmless.This one is not ,an awful revisionist anti-Jew propaganda.
As soon as I saw the prologue, which "depicts " the concentration camps (using the silent era technique),I knew it would be worse than all I could imagine! It has to be seen to be believed ! No words can describe it!There are things which cannot be turned into spoofs ,provided you are a human being.Jokes on the concentration camps make me throw up ,and I do hope the same goes for you.
As for the plot,it goes like this : an anti-Jew die-hard hires a (Jewish) shrink to help him "heal" this fault;his wife who is dying of cancer urged him to do so.One hateful line (one can mention dozens of them)"you should look at your cancerous cells under a microscope :they might possibly be Jewish"
The film alternates "movie" (color) with " shooting the movie,making-of scenes " (black and white);The technique (the movie in the movie) is not new: Cayatte (1948) and Duvivier (1952) and much later Truffaut (1974)had already used it.
The director (in the movie) is a Jew and a gay ,or should I say, a caricature of a gay ,and I'm sure the LGBT would have sued Dieudonné,had he be allowed to release his piece of c.....
Einstein once said that only two things were infinite: the universe and human stupidity(and he added he was not sure of the universe)
NB:Jacky who plays the part of the shrink was once Antoine De Caunes 's partner in the (rare at the time) TV broadcasts about pop/rock: "Les Enfants Du Rock".