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The real serpent, 1 August 2015

This is really a poor man's "Cleopatra" but there are lessons in politics in it: The imaginary Lucilius character shows that opportunism does pay:changing sides every ten minutes leads him to a glorious happy end,brother in arms with Octavius, whereas Cleopatra and Mark Antony commit suicide (which anyone past infancy already knew).

If terrorism does not pay (the murder attempt) ,at least we learn that Cleopatra's people are starving ,and that gives Lucilius a good reason to rebel against this tyranny (and to ease his conscience)for very little:he knows (and so do we) that in Rome,everyone lives in the lap of luxury!

In fact,Mark Antony nursed a viper in his bosom ,and it was not the queen of Egypt.

Big Brother is watching you, 31 July 2015

At the time ,Bertrand Tavernier (hardly) anticipated the future television in "La Mort En Direct".Stéphane Kurc's movie deals with the contemporary TV.

It tells the story of two journalists ,an idealist ,Marc ,and a go-getter,François.

François asks Marc to make a documentary about a burning subject :"the Harkis" (=Algerian soldiers loyal to the French during the Algerian war of independence).But the censorship keeps an eye open on trouble.

Freedom of expression and of information had still a long way to 2015,still has...

La Vache Et Le Fermier, 31 July 2015

What a rating!(at my time of writing) "Tendrement Vache" is country comedy ,which tends to show the peasants as morons,naive persons...Jean Lefèvre's part could have been played by Bourvil or Fernandel a quarter of century before...Needless to say ,this portrayal has nothing to do with a French farmer from the late seventies!

The plot:Henri Duchemin has just lost his good wife,Mary,and he is inconsolable ;after watching a TV broadcast about reincarnation,he does believe that the dead woman is reincarnated as a cow.So he treats the animal like his wife (no zoophilia though),eating with her and kissing her good night.His niece and her nasty self-interested husband are very cross because the farmer's inheritance might pass to the new "wife" .

The gags are repetitive and the interventions of the doctor and of the vicar are not fully exploited;neither is the rivalry between the hubby and the bull .

The movie never broaches the fantasy genre ,except for the last scene.

Serge Pénard is Emile Couzinet's psychic son.You do not know Couzinet?Well,you should.....

'Cept for the pope maybe in Rome....., 30 July 2015

Maurice Cloche has not a good reputation in his native France.Now and then,however,in his career,some works stand out and show the good director he could have been;his adaptation of Daudet's "Le Petit Chose" was a good surprise.In 1947,abetted by Pierre Fresnay on top form,he released a memorable "Monsieur Vincent''(De Paul).

"Monsieur Vincent" already displayed spiritual concerns which would emerge again,for worse ("Les Filles De Nuit" ) or for better (this movie).

"Monsieur Vincent " was a revolutionary ,his life was devoted to the poor,he was not part of the high clergy who would live in luxury.Peppino ,the endearing Young hero of this beautiful fable,although he is a priest's friend ,is not understood by the almighty clergy:his donkey is ill,and he does believe that Saint Francis Of Assisi (Peppino lives in Assisi)can cure his pet. After all,He did heal his pal's kitten (the two boys are adorable);but to get a donkey into a crypt comes against a refusal .Nevertheless, the boy "never takes no for an answer" and he will walk all the way to Rome to see the holy father.

The story might seem trite in the beginning,but it grows on you and gets better and better till a final which avoids the usual cliché (pay attention to the boy's and the priest's last conversation:the conclusion makes sense ) Memorable scenes :

-Saint Francis celebration when all the children gather in the crypt.

-The "crying " statue.

-The boy running in the corridors of the Vatican and the multiple echo of the voices .

-The discovery of the "treasure",which tends to show that these men of God have nor really renounced worldly goods ,with the exception of the brat's chum.

In Cloche's uneven career,it is really a small miracle in itself.I recommend it to my compatriots.

Two of Us (2000) (TV)
not on our way home ., 29 July 2015

Made by a director who had known the Beatles since he made the ill-fated "let it be" ,at a time when the Fab Four were on the verge of split.

The dialog is essentially made of elements of interviews (notably the last ones by Lennon),of famous anecdotes.But all in all ,it is a well-chosen menu ,as exquisite as the Italian chocolate the two pals savor at the café.

It takes place in 1976,when McCartney enjoyed huge popular success (a sell out tour and a top single and album -with hindsight,his "wings at the speed of sound" sounds rather weak compared to many of his other albums- With the exception of Sean's phone call -Lennon's son was hardly one year old in late June 1976!-,all rings true ,which is quite a feat for an imaginary meeting .

Aidan Queen gives,IMHO, the best performance :happy-go-Lucky,charming,diplomat ,but with a sensitive side -see his eyes clouded with tears when they talk about the loss of their moms.

Jared Harris is not as convincing as,say ,Aaron Johnson in "nowhere boy" ;but the screenplay made him a sullen grumpy unsympathetic artist .

Both have remained competitive ,even if Lennon was inactive circa 1976: in the café ,Lennon wants his young fan to say that "silly love songs" is lousy (which it is,compared to Paul's best works);but Paul takes his revenge when the middle-age couple asks John to sing a bit of "yesterday" (an anecdote which reportedly actually happened, but Lennon's reaction was not so crude) A Prologue (the broadcast),four acts (in the apartment,in the park,in the café ,on the rooftop where they hint at their last live concert Lindsay-Hogg was compelled to include ) and an epilogue (Paul alone in his car phoning Linda);All in all ,this is a worthwhile MTV work ,which people interested in the Beatles should see .

I saw Paul live in Paris last June:after all these years,he is still on top form and his 2 hours 45 min concert was terrific,without "silly love songs".

Minne (1950)
The libertine ingénue, 28 July 2015

Based on a Colette novel,directed by the writer's regular director,Jacqueline Audry ,whose career began before Agnès Varda's.

The best moments are to be found at the beginning:Minne has just married to a less-than-handsome cousin ,and her mom gives her a piece of advice for her wedding night.Actually,mother frets over the slightest thing -this night must bring back bad memories to her- for mommy's little Darling has her feet firmly planted in the ground;the title "L'Ingénue Libertine" tells it all.In the same way,daddy tells his listless blue-eyed boy what to do on a night like this...

A good flashback is given over to Minne's so called racy past she tells her hubby : the pictures categorically refute her words .The soundtrack is based on an old French song ,'J'ai Un Beau Château" ,a transparent metaphor of virginity.

Three years after the wedding,the father-in-law has this priceless line: "you've been married for three years and still you're happy;this is worrying".

The movie might possess considerable appeal for a female audience;men may sometimes yawn their head off ,but Danièle Delorme's charm can win them over.

OSS 117 takes a holiday:let's get cracking Art!, 28 July 2015

First thing to bear in mind is that the screenplay is based on Jean Bruce's novel and is part of the OSS 117 spy novels ;However the movie (directed by a French and a French /Italy co-production) does not feature Hubert Bonnisseur De La Bath alias OSS 117 :he is replaced by an American secret agent Art Smith (played by Sean Flynn ,whose short career essentially took place in Italy.)Part of the reason can be found in the numerous OSS 117 films which were produced at the time in France ,portrayed by Kerwin Matthews,John Gavin ,Frederick Stafford...before being brilliantly parodied by Jean Dujardin in recent years: Flynn would have been another OSS 117 ,so they changed his identity.Actually Toublanc-Michel was not allowed to use the character :he would have infringed copyrights.

As for the story itself ,it is an implausible story of marines ,mysteriously disappearing:your disbelief must be suspended when you discover what terrible fate lays in store for them;nevertheless,it has become some kind of cult movie ,weren't it only for its title (the word game ,present in all Bruce's titles,"Cinq Gars Pour Singapour" (=five guys to Singapore)which is lost in translation and its extravaganza.A female part (gorgeous Marika Green) was fleshed out and became European.

Fathers and sons., 28 July 2015

I saw this film when I was a child and I was disappointed but I did not remember why;when I saw it again yesterday,it was obvious :Zorro was not the masked hero with his whip under a stormy sky streaked with lightnings ;the hero wears a mask in one sequence and that's it.There's no sergeant Garcia ,and the comic relief is provided by a lookalike ,an alcoholic oaf(Folco Lulli) ,the hero's servant ,thus not on the side of the law (and not dumb,as Guy Williams' faithful Bernardo).Actually Don Ramon is the son of a wealthy generous man who was to free the country before being killed (with the help of a clergyman and the landlords' sons whose dads find time to do before joining the rebellion).The story begins in Europa ,in the Pays Basque ,in a melodramatic way ,but continues with plenty of fights (Sean Flynn is good at fencing).The sign of Zorro (check the title) is not used that much.

What is fascinating is not this simplistic screenplay ,which could have been written by a eleven-year-old as an essay :it's the son of legendary actor playing the part of a son of a legendary hero-although E.FLynn never played Zorro-,just after "the son of captain blood" ,made on the same pattern.

Saxo (1988)
Our producer is the Lord ., 24 July 2015

In "souvenirs souvenirs"(1984) ,an ex-rock star ,coming back from the Algerian war,tries to relaunch his career.

Ariel Zeitoun carried on with a similar subject,but in a darker mood ,in his sophomore effort :Gerard Lanvin portrays a music manager who discovers two black musicians ,a sax and a guitarist/vocalist ;perhaps he dreams of another Ike and Tina Turner. Sam is a pure guy ,he works for the sake of art ,but he has forgotten that the others do not.

"Everybody's guilty,but the woman has to take it and love the pain away" Puppet desperately sings;and this brother-and-sister team is odd:Sam is often disconcerted by their attitude:they do not want to stay in France,they are not interested in being rich and famous,they only work when they are inspired by the Lord (the scene when Joe wants to erase the tapes is revealing).On the other hand,there's a short unexpected S/M scene and Joe's frustration leads to tragedy.

This is a genuine Film Noir of the eighties that should be rediscovered.

NB :Zeitoun and Lanvin teamed up again for the disastrous remake of "Angélique". Stick with "Saxo" .

Duel in the mud, 23 July 2015

The lord of the manor (Julien Guiomar) wants to cancel a rural lease and get rid of the good farmer (Jean Carmet,true to life,and the only reason to see this flick) who is not prepared to accept it;so he calls his two-bit psychologist (Pierre Richard ,in one of her worst parts)to the rescue.

The first scene between the squire and the peasant promises a good comedy;but you are becoming somewhat disenchanted soon.This is a coarse comedy,vulgar ,the screenplay is a dreadful jumble and the contribution of psychology is minimal,to put it mildly:outside of the ink stains test cliché ,the shrink studies the behavior of the owner of the manor,stuck in liquid manure on his horse (Where are the SPA, the RSPCA and the ASPCA?) .The final rebel against the authorities may recall an updated "Jacquou Le Croquant",but it's so heavy-handed -complete with a duel in the mud ,à la "A thousand hills"- that you might be give up before .

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