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.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Fantastic French flick

CHAIR DE POULE was directed by legendary French director Julien Duvivier in 1963 and what a treat it is - a blacker than black noir, which seagues off into THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE territory and then goes a whole lot further ... it's English title HIGHWAY PICKUP sounds kind of porny but also captures it's essence.

My friend Melvelvit-1 over at IMDB puts its so succintly in his review:

Locksmith Daniel Boisett (Robert Hossein) and his co-worker Paul Genest (Jean Sorel), friends since childhood, supplement their income with the occasional burglary until life spins wildly out of control one rainy night after Paul kills a man who catches them robbing his apartment. Paul manages to escape but Daniel's wounded by police and, taking the fall alone, is later sentenced to 20 years in prison but, enroute to the big house, he escapes and hitches a ride with the middle-aged Thomas (Georges Wilson) who offers him a job at his roadside restaurant. Daniel quickly accepts but soon finds out that Thomas' sexy young wife, Maria (Catherine Rouvel), has had her eye on the nest egg in her husband's safe for a long time and could use a man like him...

Julien Duvivier's classic French noir, based on a ripe piece of pulp fiction by James Hadley Chase ("Come Easy -Go Easy"), careens into THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE territory at this point but the story takes so many breathless twists and turns, any comparisons are ultimately unfair. All kinds of complications ensue when Maria's husband ends up dead and Paul pops up again but "no good deed goes unpunished" in this perverse universe where greed, lust, and self-preservation trump decent human emotions like love and friendship every time. Daniel's the quintessential noir anti-hero, caught in a vortex of nightmarish cause and effect, and the femme fatale's a feral sex kitten who double-crosses anyone who crosses her path. Like MGM's version of THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, much of HIGHWAY PICKUP takes place in broad daylight, giving the film an "evil under the sun" aura and even though a stylistic shadow world, hallmark of the American Film Noir, is absent here, thematically the film's as bleak and as black as they come. The bitterly ironic ending, reminiscent of both Robert Siomak's CRISS CROSS and Stanley Kubrick's THE KILLING, is a memorable one.

It is one of life's pleasures to see a movie that rivets one and leaves you exhilerated - and CHAIR DE POULE does this in spades. Duvivier of course is one of France's great directors, ever since PEPE LE MOKO in 1937. As good as De Broca's '64 Belmondo caper L'HOMME DE RIO then! And now for those Jean-Pierre Melville, Chabrol, Malle and Ozon titles I have been meaning to catch up with ...

Another Sorel flick I saw recently was a dreadful Spanish giallo DEATH SURROUNDS MONICA from 1976 which was for me dire on every level. I am not an expert on those Italian giallo thrillers popular in the 60s and 70s - I liked the Sorel ones like SHORT NIGHT OF THE GLASS DOLLS (with Ingrid Thulin), A QUIET PLACE FOR A KILL (one of his with Carroll Baker) and LIZARD IN A WOMAN'S SKIN (with Florinda Bolkan) (as per reviews) but this one was just a skinflick with laughable pretentions...

Here is Sorel with Sidney Lumet on A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE back in 1962, and with Lilli Palmer in ADORABLE JULIA (also 1962) which, as per my review at Sorel label, is a fascinating German-French co-production set in London's theatreland from the Maugham play, where Palmer, Boyer and Sorel all excel.

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