Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Cinema obscura - some more European rarities...

That Michelangelo Antonioni has a lot to answer for... The early '60s saw European cinema awash with "imitiation Antonioni" all trying to recreate the mood of Antonioni's masterpieces. This one, IL MARE (THE SEA) made in 1962 even played at London's premiere art house, the now defunct Academy in Oxford Street, in '64. As directed by Guiseppe Patroni Griffi its a moody piece with long pauses about 3 people, or lost souls, in out-of-season wintry Capri: The Man (Umberto Orsini), The Woman (Francoise Prevost) and The Boy (Dino Mele). It hasn't been seen here since but I saw it at the time and still remember the unintentional hilarity of them stalking each other: The Man sleeps with The Woman, but seems to want The Boy. The Boy and The Woman become friends - she is taking masochistic pleasure in selling her house to a wealthy vulgarian as part of her divorce; The Man and The Boy seem to be flirting with each other - is there going to be a threesome or not? Griffi is very "school of Antonioni", [French actress Prevost also scored about then in a tense British thriller PAYROLL with Michael Craig and Billie Whitelaw]. I will be in Capri myself next month (as part of a trip to Sorrento and Amalfi), wonder if I will recognise any locations?

(Bisexuality and threesomes also raised their head in Griffi's next, A SMALL CIRCLE OF FRIENDS in '69, which was more art house soft porn, and featured actors like Jean-Louis Trintignant and Annie Girardot as well as the smouldering Brazilian Florinda Bolkan. Griffi also directed the art house hit TIS PITY SHE'S A WHORE in 1971, with the incestous Charlotte Rampling, Fabio Testi and Olivier Tobias, which was very bloody and looked teriffic with those renaissance settings and costumes and lots of nudity ... One of his last credits was that bizarre Elizabeth Taylor film THE DRIVER'S SEAT, in 1974, which seemed an incoherent mess when I saw it last week, it was in fact so boring that I had to see most of it on fast-forward! Andy Warhol was among those involved (and a more mature Dino Mele from IL MARE) but why on earth did Taylor bother to appear in it? - even it is from a Muriel Spark book. She plays a disturbed woman [as is evident from her wardrobe] travelling around Europe looking for a man to murder her...)

Another Rene Clement treat! After re-discovering his 1954 KNAVE OF HEARTS (or MONSIEUR RIPOIS) with Gerard Philipe and Joan Greenwood recently, and his classic PLEIN SOLEIL (see separate post on here) and the '58 THE SEA WALL (or THIS ANGRY AGE), ditto posted here - here is his splendid 1964 thriller LES FELINS (THE FELINES), also called JOY HOUSE or THE LOVE CAGE (which would seem the better title). Henri Decae's crisp black and white Cinemascope images, a terrific score by Lalo Schifrin, Alain Delon's first English speaking film and Jane Fonda's first French, what's not to like? It exists in both French and English versions on the disk. Then there is that little seen superb actress Lola Albright ... she is a wealthy widow of a mobster who has a luxury mansion on the French riviera, Fonda is her cousin staying with her; Delon (not as engaging as his Tom Ripley - he is just a blank cypher here) is the guy on the run from some mobsters who is taken in by the two women, who find him in a refuge for the homeless. What are their motives? Who is the strange person behind two way mirrors who is hiding in the house? The goons sent by the mobster turn up again ... its nicely worked out and the jazzy score by Schifrin is a distinct bonus. I will now have to finally see Clement's all-star IS PARIS BURNING? which must be worth investigating, featuring as it does, in 1966, Welles, Belmondo, Delon, Caron, Perkins, Montand, Signoret, Kirk Douglas and Glenn Ford. Not quite one of the New Wave brigade, his films are certainly fascinating, I also need to see those early ones of his like FORBIDDEN GAMES and GERVAISE.
Below: Clement directing Delon and Fonda.
LA RONDE - Roger Vadim's 1964 remake of Ophuls' 1950 classic is worth a look too, seeing as it features the crop of new European players of the early 60s: Jane Fonda in her first with Vadim, Anna Karina, Catherine Spaak, Maurice Ronet, Jean Sorel, etc. They wear the period clothes but somehow just look too modern - perhaps the hairstyles and make up are too modern for the period? Its the usual round of assignations played out in the Belle Epoque period ... perhaps just an excuse to feature these players and have a bit of fun ? The cast is a who's who of the 60s French cinema, as was the Ophuls film was (with Signoret, Simone, Darrieux, et al) Francoise Dorleac is supposed to have a small part too, but I couldn't see her. Vadim's LA CUREE (THE GAME IS OVER) with Fonda and Peter McEnery seems to have vanished, but was a delirious delight at the time.

THE BEST WAY TO WALK - This 1976 film by Claude Miller was a hit on the London art house circuit at the time, I wonder if it stands the test of time? Claude Miller has made some interesting films in France since the 70s - I recall Depardieu in a Highsmith adaptation THIS SWEET SICKNESS, and GARDE DE VUE with Romy Schneider in one of her last roles. THE BEST WAY TO WALK (LA MILLEURE FACON DE MARCHER) is an intriguing tale of the conflict between two teachers at a summer camp, as one - Patrick Dewaere - is a bit of a bully and seizes on the gentler other - Patrick Bouchitey - whom he is always picking on - there is a simmering sexual undercurrent which comes to the fore when Dewaere catches Bouchitey in drag, dressed in his girlfriend's clothes, which confirms his feelings about him. Violence ensures and there is a nice coda set in Paris some years later, when Bouchitey now married to the girlfriend goes to view an apartment, and Dewaere turns out to be the agent showing it to them. Roles get reversed as Bouchitey now has the upper hand and Dewaere dependent on the sale. Its both engrossing and pleasent. Dewaere always seemed to be in the shadow of Depardieu, with whom he made several films, including the groundbreaking LES VALSEUSES in 1974 - very dated now with those flared jeans! - where they are the two tearaways on the run who will have sex with anyone - including each other, when no females are around. Jeanne Moreau and Miou Miou are also excellent here. Dewaere though committed suicide with a gun in 1982, that year that Romy Schneider, Ingrid Bergman and Grace Kelly also died.

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