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.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Two French Flicks: Back to Paris 1959 and Moreau as Mata-Hari

What a year! 1959 was one of those key years not only for American and British but also European cinema. The French and Italian new waves were in full flow ... In Paris Truffaut was shooting THE 400 BLOWS and Godard was preparing BREATHLESS while Chabrol after LE BEAU SERGE in '58 was filming LES COUSINS. Malle had also done LIFT TO THE SCAFFOLD in '58 - but another lesser known film was also shooting on the nighttime streets of Paris: Jean-Pierre Mocky's LES DRAGUEURS (THE YOUNG HAVE NO MORALS) which is a pleasure to catch 50 years later, it comes across as fresh and spontaneous as it is not as well known as the others of its era.

We are back in the Paris nightlife of the late '50s as two young men - Jacques Charrier (whose main claim to fame would be as Brigitte Bardot's second husband) and Charles Aznavour - drive around trying to pick up girls, so we have lots of episodes of them meeting various girls and it all seems very free-wheeling ... the girls include Dany Robin, a starlet of the era; Anouk Aimee in just one scene and later at a decadent party there is English starlet Belinda Lee who gets a lot of screen time and is as usual fascinating. (She died in a car accident in 1961 when she was a star of the Italian sword and sandal peplum movies). So, in all, a fascinating movie ...

Also, just re-seen is MATA HARI - not Greta Garbo's 1931 classic but a 1963 French version, scripted by Francois Truffaut, directed by Jean-Louis Richard and starring his ex-wife Jeanne Moreau. This and LES DRAGUEURS were earlier posts of mine at the start of this blog over a year ago, but I only saw them in French versions - now, with sub-titles they are just as fascinatng. Moreau is in her element here, whether giving messages in code while doing her exotic dance, or luring men to reveal military secrets as she tries to evade her nemesis until it is too late. This was Moreau's great era of the early '60s when she was THE actress everyone wanted for their films.

The full title is MATA HARI SECRET AGENT H21. Truffaut injects a lot of romance into the spying tale and the period detail of World War I is interesting, a few Hitchcockian touches as well - like when Mata is stealing documents - is she going to get caught? The ending too while brutal is perfectly romantic as Mata and her love Jean-Louis Trintigant are together at last.... the film though is very little known, I don't think it even played in London back then.

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