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.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

L'Avventura again & another French flick

L’AVVENTURA – this Antonioni classic has been screened a few times lately here in the UK and although I have the dvd I keep been drawn back to it. It is indeed a masterwork and has caused considerable opinion ever since it opened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1960. Fascinating that at the same time as Hitchcock was filming PSYCHO Antonioni was also creating the story of a woman who vanishes and the people looking for her. Hitch shows us what happens in his masterwork, whereas Antonioni doesn’t, as we become involved in the story of Sandro and Claudia. Monica Vitti is indeed mesmerising here and it is a great performance, no wonder she became the face of arthouse cinema. It remains a very unsettling film, particularly those scenes on the remote island as we speculate on what happened to Lea Massari, and that bleak dawn at the hotel in Taormina at the end. One could say that this and PSYCHO really ushered in the new cinema age in 1960. Giovanni Fusco's score and those great black and white images are simply perfect for those characters in those landscapes prefiguring Antonioni's later films.

Another Julien Duvivier thriller, from 1956 this time: VOICI LE TEMPS DES ASSASSINS, which it was a pleasure to see last week. With most movies even if one has not seen them already one tends to know a lot about them, but these French thrillers which one knows nothing about turn out to be marvellously gripping and entertaining, like Duvivier’s CHAIR DE POULE (HIGHWAY PICKUP) I was raving about a few weeks ago.

Here we have Jean Gabin in his element as the successful restaurant owner in Les Halles, Paris, 20 years after divorcing his grasping wife, but along comes a shy young girl to tell him the ex-wife has now died leaving her, her daughter, alone and penniless. Gabin takes her in and gives her a job, but we begin to suspect the girl (Danielle Delorme) has her own agenda – and so it proves, as we see her plotting against him and planning to take over the business. Gerard Blain is Gabin’s protégé she has to get rid of first …. His aged mother though sees through her right away [and is a dab hand with her whip] so the stage is set for some tense moments, particularly when the ex-wife reappears. Nicely worked out and great to see Gabin at his considerable peak running his kitchen, coping with his fearsome mother and falling for a schemer.

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