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, 9 July 2011

Romy, Michel, Yves et Claude Sautet

I have only now caught up with the films of Claude Sautet (who died in 2000). His 1969 LES CHOSES DE LA VIE (THE THINGS OF LIFE) was a big hit in London in 1970 but has not been available for years, but now it is going to be a movie I will return to, as I will to CESAR & ROSALIE from '72, and I have now just seen the 1971 cop thriller MAX AND THE JUNKMEN. Sautet in all did 5 films with Romy Schneider in the '70s, her great era in France - it is fascinating seeing how she blooms in his films, she just looks so radiant, beautiful and relaxed as obviously star and director have such rapport - so along with Dietrich with Von Sternberg, Sophia with De Sica, Monica Vitti with Antonioni, Anna Karina with Godard, we have Romy with Sautet.

The films too are fascinating - I will have to catch up with his other 2 with Romy: MADO and A SIMPLE STORY [and his other films like UN COEUR EN HIVER]. I was reminded of Claude Lelouch at times, as there are lots of cars and driving, and that good life where the characters' milieu is that comfortable bourgeois life taking place in desirable mansions and seaside homes.

LES CHOSES DE LA VIE is all driving in fact, as Michel Piccoli is having a fatal crash as he remembers moments of his life. The crash itself is amazing with terrific editing and Piccoli slowly comes to and realises he is lying in a field. We see how he left his happy marriage to Lea Massari and his son whom he had just re-connected with when he visited the family home for some papers, and indeed had agreed to go on holiday with his son which meant postponing going away with Romy, whom he loves but she senses he cannot commit or sign the papers that need completing. Lots of middle-aged angst then on the choices one makes and has one done the right thing, but it is freshly handled here. That score is Phillipe Sarde is perfect too.
40 years later what stands out now is how they smoke all the time - Piccoli lights up one cigarette after another, "I smoke too much" he says at one stage; one feels that the cigarettes will get him if the crash doesn't! One can see why it was such a hit, and, cigarettes apart, it still works now.

CESAR & ROSALIE is a total joy, you may be laughing and also have a tear in your eye by the end. [They smoke too on the poster...]. One does not want to reveal too much of the plot, as it is best to see it unfold for yourself. Yves Montand is Cesar, the self-made man, a wealthy scrap dealer, jovial on the outside but wants things his own way and will not be beaten, even if a car overtakes him. Rosalie is the divorcee he is happily living with, then another man she loved David (Sami Frey) now a successful cartoonist returns from America and quietly tries to win Rosalie back. Cesar realises what is happening and tells David to back off and invents stories that Rosalie is pregant and going to marry him, which only succeeds in driving Rosalie and David together. In a rage, Cesar wrecks David's apartment and art works, Rosalie relatiates by taking David to Cesar's office and taking money from the safe and they move away to a seaside town with her little daughter. Some time passes, and then Cesar turns up, he has bought her childhood seaside home and they all spend the summer there with her parents and extended family. It seems they are going to be a threesome but Rosalie is an independent woman and one day she moves away (to Grenoble) leaving Cesar and David who become good friends ..... and then one day Rosalie returns. What is going to happen now? Montand is marvellous here, Schneider never looked more beautiful or animated, it is just so engrossing. It is essentially a frivolous romantic movie with twists and turns, as scripted by Sautet regular Jean-Loup Dabadie, and scored again by Philippe Sarde. Isabelle Huppert has a small role.

A change of pace with MAX AND THE JUNKMEN (Max et les Ferrailleurs) as we are in Chabrol or Duvivier or Melville territory. Michel Piccoli is Max, a Paris detective who used to be a judge but got tired of letting guilty criminals go free for lack of evidence and he is independently wealthy. The film takes it time, Romy does not appear until half an hour in as the prostitute girlfriend of a scrapyard dealer who is an old acquaintance of Max. Romy skillfully captures Lily, this German streetwalker whom Max becomes fascinated by. He buys her time but does not want her body (yet) and begins to hatch a plan to catch some criminals in the act. He sets himself up as a banker in a new apartment where he meets Lily, who is dissatisfield with her own life and that her junkyard lover Abel. Abel and his cronies are soon hatching the plan to rob the bank, which Max has told Lily about, so all they need is the day when the big money is in, while the police surround the area waiting to pounce. And so it happens - the robbery takes place .... fascinating stuff then, but who has trapped who.

Romy was very prolific around this time and I have seen some others of hers from this era recently, ranging from dreadful (MY LOVER MY SON, BLOOMFIELD) to ok (QUI?) [as per reviews at Romy label] but the Sautet films are in a class of their own.

Soon: Ozon, Techine, Assayas et les autres, plus several Catherine Deneuve titles; also more Romy's LE PASSANTE DE SANS SOUCI, CLOUZOT'S INFERNO, a German 3 pack THE MOST IMPORTANT THING: LOVE, LE VIEU FUSIL and INFERNAL TRIO, plus re-looks at BOCCACCIO 70 and 10.30 PM SUMMER.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed, Romy hit her stride under "La Magie Invisible" of Claude Sautet. Les Choses de la Vie was the most powerful of her films with Sautet, but for me the most enjoyable was Cesar and Rosalie.

    I think it's clear that she's returned to Cesar at the end of the film. It was his house in the suburbs that she came to, and was pleasantly surprised to witness the friendship that had developed between Cesar and David. And look at David looking at Cesar (looking at Rosalie) and the slow, subtle smile that comes across David's face--at last he has accepted it's "Cesar and Rosalie," but he now has Cesar as a friend.