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Adieu Philippine (1962)
The last New Wave film?
This is a very uneasy amalgam of a satire on the French television industry (the production of a cheap show called Montserrat), a commentary on French society (the dinner scene with Michel's family spouting slogans), and an improbable travelogue on Corsica. Since it does not--could not--hang together to form a unified work, my rating is lower than it might be.
The acting is first rate especially the two young women, Liliane and Juliette, who act with an impressive naturalness. Vittorio Caprioli is excellent as the oily and fairly stupid Pachali, a man who promises everything and delivers nothing. I'm left with the feeling that if Jacques Rozier could have kept to a central theme when writing the scenario the movie would have been really memorable, in the way of the first two Doinel films of Truffaut, or Godard's Bande a part.
Drive, He Said (1971)
He said what?
(...) shall we &/ why not, buy a goddam big car/ drive he sd, for/ Christ's sake, look/ out where yr going. (I Know A Man by Robert Creeley). This poem is recited at the beginning of the film; I guess Nicholson was trying for some cultural reference that escaped me. The times were rough on those who sought meaning in the arts; there were too many filmmakers, painters, writers who were more interested in reshaping their consciousness than communicating with the world.
I give this 4/10 because of Karen Black, because of the basketball sequences that are quite well shot, because Black and Tepper have an entertaining argument in the supermarket. The rest of the movie doesn't interest me in any way. It will go into the bargain bin of film history along with Head, Alice's Restaurant, The Strawberry Statement, Zabriskie Point and many more once lauded, now forgotten efforts.
Io la conoscevo bene (1965)
Fellini, but without the fun
The Criterion release has been prepared with the loving care we've become accustomed to from this company; if only the film had been more deserving of this fine treatment. It's sub-Fellini: you wait for a scene to develop with a certain verve, excitement--and you're so often let down by the plodding approach of Pietrangeli. This man was no master, take my word for it. The scene between Baggini, Roberto and Cianfanna, meant to be so humiliating for Baggini, comes off, but barely. There's a limpness and a rushed quality in the handling that is surprising in a veteran film maker.
I do enjoy Sandrelli in everything she does but I reserve my praise for her work in The Conformist, where she worked for a master, Bertolucci. As Baggini, Ugo Tognazzi is his usual superb self.
Maybe the problem is the story
It starts off very effectively; a car containing two people who are bickering loudly goes off the road, and both are injured. The reasons for the argument are brought out during the film. I had no concerns about the acting since Laurent Lafitte, Melanie Laurent and Audrey Dana handle their roles very well. Especially Melanie Laurent who can make the most banal, trite story seem like a masterpiece.
My problem was with the story which seemed old-fashioned: one character is positively Victorian in her moral judgements while another seems badly out of tune with the France of 2016. If you're going to make a film that feels like a Simenon tale, it's better to set it in the 1950's, let's say, so that characters and actions can mesh better. With this reservation noted, I want to finish by saying that this film is well worth your attention. I gave it 8/10.
L'amour fou (1969)
Yes, on the face of it, four hours spent in the company of stage actors rehearsing a Racine play might seem excessive. After all, how many changes can Rivette ring on a discontented couple who do all sorts of things to hurt each other? How many times can Claire cheat on Sebastien with that weedy fellow, and how many times can Sebastien flirt with the brunette who's going to replace Claire as Andromaque? Whatever the answer, I have to say I find the whole thing fascinating. The film crew sent in to cover the proceedings seems to comment on everything. At times it has the air of a high school dramatic society offering, at other times it's deadly serious.
The performers do everything expected of them. Bulle Ogier became Rivette's favourite actress; she is stunning. Bright, sullen, depressed, elated--she goes through it all. Kalfon appeared in a later film, L'amour par terre, as a playwright. He's all silky assurance until the confused ending. A wonderful experience, a must for Rivette enthusiasts.
This one is mainly for Rivette completists. There are gaps in the plot and a lack of commitment on the part of some actors, notably Schneider which ensure that this film will not be counted among Rivette's greatest. I watched it on YouTube as part of my review of his works following the news of his death. The story is not weak--it's an amalgam of film noir and road movie--but the way it is told, in a slap dash manner leaving too much up to chance, disappointed me.
The great pleasure in Merry-go-round is provided by John Surman's mournful noodlings on bass clarinet, which often seem more interesting than what the actors are doing. Joe Dallesandro exercised a fascination on more than one filmmaker (I remember how Louis Malle used him in Black Moon, and his films with Andy Warhol are still around) and he does here too. His mad chase through the woods pursued by a knight in armor recalls the fight scene in Black Moon.
Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003)
I was delighted
I have never been to Los Angeles--let's get that out of the way first. I have been watching movies set in the city for most of my life. It was great to see excerpts from Kiss Me Deadly, Sunset Boulevard, Rebel Without a Cause, Double Indemnity and many other films both great and terrible shown here. If some films are missing from the compilation (I missed Boogie Nights and Shampoo) many are there and testify most eloquently to the power of the city.
I've had Reyner Banham's book LOS ANGELES THE ARCHITECTURE OF FOUR ECOLOGIES for forty years and have been waiting for the documentarist who would give me the Bradbury building on film, who knows the importance of these buildings to architectural tradition. Richard Neutra and John Lautner must be pleased, if the film is playing in Heaven, to see their work so lovingly presented.
L'amour est un crime parfait (2013)
Up in the mountains
This is my third Larrieu brothers film. I like their work because they have found a way to work within the film industry that does not involve the streets and houses of Paris (however beautiful these streets and houses may be). The peace and quietude of the Pyrenees are their environment, and the source of the pleasure these films bring me.
The acting by Amalric, Viard, Maiwenn and Forestier is strong. The occasional unlikely development in the script doesn't bother me because the actors are on target all the time. How about Forestier as the nightmare co-ed of the decade, if not of all time? And Karin Viard whose neurotic sister is very well drawn. Amalric always impresses me, he's really the strongest actor in France now. Only trouble: 10-15 minutes could easily have been cut to make a tighter story.
Man's Castle (1933)
My first Borzage
My parents lived through the depression, and they would have found themselves right at home in the world of Man's Castle. Bill's roughness is entirely appropriate for the times, given that he must live by his wits in a difficult world. Trina's sweetness seems a bit unreal, given the cynicism of our times, but I believed in it because Loretta Young gives a very natural and moving performance. She was only 20 and acts like a much more experienced performer.
The romanticism of the movie is wonderful to see. Borzage--whose work I'd never seen before--believes in what he's doing and makes us believe in it too. Roosevelt is fresh in the White House and there is a spirit of hope and renewal in the country. I could criticize the editing for being a little too abrupt (cutting the film down to fit the B part of a double-bill), as an example the scene with Bill and Fay in her rooms, but that doesn't detract from my admiration.
L'étrange Monsieur Victor (1938)
Victor and his friends
I saw it back in the 70's at a university film club, thought the acting was excellent, especially Madeleine Renaud and Pierre Blanchar, and then forgot about it for 40 years. Now YouTube has graciously let us see it again (along with scores of other French classics) and it is time for a reappraisal.
I found some awkward moments; Gremillon can't hold back the force of nature that is Raimu--he sputters and wind-mills his arms a few too many times for me. Raimu had carte blanche to do pretty much what he pleased, just as Gabin had, and it could hurt a film's impact. With that said, the other actors do a fine job. Andrex and Georges Flamant as the thieves have the right menace, Viviane Romance is wonderfully sensual (just watch her in the shoe store scene) and Blanchar's unjustly convicted man is a textbook acting job. Gremillon went on to do finer work such as Lumiere d'ete and Remorques.