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, 16 February 2011

More French flicks ....

L’HOMME DE RIO – Back when I was 19 in 1965 I saw THAT MAN FROM RIO as a supporting feature. I have no idea now what the main movie was but I never forgot the deliciously zany French film dubbed into English, where Jean-Paul Belmondo was That Man (a soldier on leave) on the trail of his kidnapped girlfriend Francoise Dorleac and of course some stolen treasure, as the action heads from Paris to the Amazon jungles, it is surely an Indiana Jones before its time. This Philippe De Broca confection was a real movie – fun, exciting, romantic, brash, it is simply one of the best adventure capers ever made (and a perfect 60s movie), so I cannot understand how I have had to wait until now see it again (as it never shows here in the UK) and the version I now have is in French with sub-titles! There is also a great soundtrack with lots of Brazilian sounds – the bossa nova was really taking off in the mid-60s. This was filmed at just the right time just as all things South American were taking off.

The Tom Cruises and Gerard Butlers of the current filmworld should study this and see what a real caper movie is like and without those phoney-looking CGI stunts as the charismatic Belmondo goes on that rollercoaster ride from Rio to the jungles and the bright empty spaces of the new Brasilia! Belmondo is at his peak here, as is Dorleac as the capricious girlfriend who has a lovely sequence dancing on the beach - she's a carioca! There is also of course the obligatory cute streetwise kid (with an idyllic beach shack) who helps our hero evade the goons with guns, and some terrific airplane stunts ... and Adolfo Celi is splendidly over-ripe as usual. So from now on whenever I am depressed I shall play this and be flying down to Rio! No wonder there are raves on its comments page on IMDB. L'HOMME DE RIO is now officially 'A Movie I Love' and Belmondo is my new hero!

My friend Daryl has commented: How strange release patterns are: in the US, THAT MAN FROM RIO was a big deal indeed, winning the New York Film Critics Circle award for Best Foreign Film and running in the first-run art houses for almost a year!

LES AMANTS DE MONTPARNASSE – 1958 movie about the artist Modigliani, directed by Jacques Becker and dedicated to Max Ophuls. It follows the last year of Modigliani (or Modi as everyone refers to him) and is the usual story of the artist starving in a garret, set here in 1919 [in the Montparnasse area of Paris]. One does not have much patience with him though as Modi is hellbent on drinking himself to death and treats everyone – not least the women in his life – badly. Lilli Palmer is the rich Beatrice who does not mind too much, in fact she quite likes being slapped around, while young Anouk Aimee is Jeanne, the well to do girl who gives up everything for Modi, her father even locks her in her room to keep her away from him. Modi is Gerard Philipe, that pre-Delon/Belmondo heartthrob who died young in 1959.

I have only come lately to the cult of Philipe, having sought out his 1954 KNAVE OF HEARTS (MONSEIUR RIPOIS) for Joan Greenwood’s performance, and then getting Ophuls’ LA RONDE and the terrific FANFAN LA TULIPE. This builds to a chilling climax though as the ailing artist is reduced to selling his sketches to indifferent café diners, while being observed by Morel (Lino Ventura) a collector who knows that the works of a dead Modigliani will be worth more than those of a living artist. We watch fascinated as Modi finally collapses, stalked by Morel, who after the artist has died at the hospital rushes to the garret and begins buying the paintings from the unsuspecting Jeanne. We see glimpses of the paintings and that distinctive Modigliani style, it reminded me I used to have some reproductions pinned to my wall when I was a teenager. An interesting curiosity then - it is all very French, and just before that New Wave took off....

THE SLEEPING CAR MURDER - Costa-Gavras's 1965 French flick, a routine thriller, but expertly done, COMPARTIMENT TUEURS (it's original title) follows the police investigation of a murder in the sleeping car of the train. Then the other occupants are killed off one by one as weary police chief Yves Montand (with a head cold) essays all those cops who followed in tv series and movies as he tracks down the suspects. It is pretty much a family affair for the Montands as Simone Signoret has a showy role and her daughter Catherine Allegret is also on board. She gets involved with Jacques Perrin and others include Charles Denner, Michel Piccoli and Jean-Louis Trintignant. A very French affair then, but just as effective dubbed, in gleaming black and white. I have now also got Costa-Gavras's 'Z' to have another look at, I have not seen it since its release back in 1970, it was one of those prime thrillers of its era, 40 years ago, and no doubt still is very effective.

Also to be seen now, goodness knows when, are two Claude Chabrol box sets, 14 films in all!, along with his LA CEREMONIE. We saw a lot of Chabrols back in the late '60s and into the '70s, when he was doing that brilliant series of thrillers with his then wife, the marvellous Stephane Audran, particularly LE BOUCHER and LA FEMME INFIDELE and the brilliant THE BEAST MUST DIE etc. I liked that comic thriller in bright Greek sunlight LE ROUTE DE CORINTH (with Seberg and Ronet), Romy Schneider and Steiger in INNOCENTS WITH DIRTY HANDS (a valentine to Romy really), and that good Canadian one with Donald Sutherland BLOOD RELATIVES, so I really must find time to go back and see all those ones I missed like those with Isabelle Huppert (VIOLETTE NOZIERE, MADAME BOVARY). Chabrol was nothing if not prolific, good though to see how highly regarded he is now. The same applies to Louis Malle and Jacques Demy.

Next: I need to go back and re-visit those Malles like LIFT TO THE SCAFFOLD, ZAZIE DANS LE METRO, VIVA MARIA and my favourite back then, LE FEU FOLLET where the very under-rated Maurice Ronet gives that staggering performance. The later Demy films did not make it to London, so one shall have to seek them out, but I have covered those early ones I like so much on here, Demy label. There are also some late Truffauts to see: THE LAST METRO and VIVEMENT DIMANCHE (FINALLY SUNDAY) with the adorable Fanny Ardant, and that amusing Hitchock pastiche THE BRIDE WORE BLACK with Moreau (my favourite Truffaut though has to be THE HISTORY OF ADELE H, with Isabelle Adjani, a movie that overwhelmed me at the time, 1976).
I also want to see (and re-see) those Francois Ozon's I missed: the camp extravaganza 8 WOMEN, the grim TIME TO LEAVE, Charlotte Rampling in UNDER THE SAND, etc. And I have just discovered a Jean-Pierre Melville set of 6 (more on that later). Back though to Chabrol....

It is an absolute pleasure seeing LA FEMME INFIDELE again, that perfect late '60s setting, as the loving jealous husband Michel Bouquet begins to suspect the wife he loves so much is having an affair during her frequent trips to Paris. He soon discovers the truth and calls on the lover, Maurice Ronet (once again). It is a brilliant scene as the men talk, the lover feeling awkward and guilty, the husband not know what to do - but a casual remark of the lover suddenly leads to blind anger ... he thinks he has covered his tracks, and the ideal domestic life with their son resumes - but of course, being Chabrol, those police and detectives keep calling and finding out more details. It is all impeccably done with those lovely circular camera movements as we circle the husband and wife as they both realise the trap they are in. She finds the evidence and cooly destroys it as she is now back in love with her husband. Stephane Audran is of course so divinely cool and poised and attractive here. Classic French cinema then. And there are those Delon and Varda boxsets to explore...her CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 was one of my discoveries of last year.

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