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, 14 August 2013

New Wave stars shine in Chabrol rarities


Claude Chabrol made his name with those 2 New Wave classics LE BEAU SERGE and LES COUSINS in 1958 and '59, both of which I have not seen since and need to acquaint myself with again. They are not in the two Chabrol boxsets I have, nor are a lot of his 1960s rarities by this very prolific director (who died in 2010 aged 80). We were there for his great era in the late 60s into the '70s: LES BICHES, LA FEMME INFIDELE, LE BOUCHER, THE BEAST MUST DIE etc, and I particularly liked his INNOCENTS WITH DIRTY HANDS with Romy Schneider in 1975. The early '60s saw Charbrol at his most playful with items like LANDRU, his rather comic bluebeard, in 1963, and that comedy thriller THE ROUTE TO CORINTH in '67 with Seberg and Ronet - a comedy thriller in bright Greek sunlight. and that recent pleasure of mine, his 1965 MARIE CHANTAL VERSUS DR KHA was also a bright sunny comedy thriller partly set in Morocco, with Marie Laforet and Stephane Audran. I must also catch some of his later films like LE CEREMONIE from 1995. Interesting now to go back to 2 of his early '60s ones:

The third film from Claude Chabrol and his first in colour, A DOUBLE TOUR (WEB OF PASSION) from 1959, is both a characteristically suspenseful thriller and a cruel portrait of bourgeois life. Henri Marcoux (Jacques Dacqmine) a respectable middle-class man living in Provence with his wife and 2 children, is having an affair with a younger woman Leda (Antonella Lualdi), an artist recently back from Japan and living nearby. His wife, the redoubtable Therese (Madeleine Robinson) is determined to avoid a scandal at any price, even to the extent of breaking off her daughter's engagement when she learns that her future son-in-law, the anarchic Laszlo (Jean-Paul Belmondo) sides with her husband. Then the unthinkable happens - Leda is found dead, but who is the killer? 
I liked this wayward thriller a lot - the cast is the thing here, Bernadette Lafont is a joy as the playful maid, while Belmondo (just before Godard's BREATHLESS) initially irritates as the loutish boyfriend of the family's pouting daughter. The son is a weirdo who listens to classical music in his room and may be too attached to his mother ... (interesting that Hitchcock was preparing/shooting PSYCHO at the same time...). We observe the bourgeois family life, as lushly photgraphed by Henri Decae (the same year he shot PLEIN SOLEIL): meals at table (Belmondo is always eating), going to church, lovely surroundings as family tensions simmer due to the father's relationship with the lovely Antonella Lualdi. Finally the murderer is revealed, in that long unsettling scene between killer and victim ...

My friend Daryl has some perceptive comments: 
His first film in color, it's a lively thriller, the very first of his bourgeois family melodramas (cf. LA FEMME INFIDELE, QUE LA BETE MEURE, LA RUPTURE, et al). It's a youthful film, and Chabrol encourages outrageousness in many of the performers. Jean-Paul Belmondo (as an anarchic guest of the family) disrupts every scene he's in; Mario David and Bernadette Lafont mug for the camera in hilarious fashion (Lafont, in particular, can't seem to deliver her lines without some facial contortion to let you know that this maid is fed up with the family she's working for). There's a great deal of emotion in this film, far more than in his more polished work, and the emotions aren't just expressed, they burst out, often in jagged spots. Lafont is very luscious here.

LES GODELURAUX (or WISEGUYS) which I had never heard of before - thanks Jerry for providing a copy - is an intoxicating treat from 1961, as we watch our young leads career around Paris in their cars. Ronald is the rich young man with a super apartment and a very "helpful" valet, but Ronald plots revenge against Arthur, for a perceived slight when Arthur and his pals moved his car from their usual parking place at Cafe Flore. 
Stephane dances and how!
Roland seemingly conjures Ambrosine out of thin air and sets the wayward temptress to lure Arthur and make him fall in love with her. Jean-Claude Brialy is in his element here as malicious Ronald and Bernadette Lafont is dazzling as the very capricious Ambrosine, strolling out in her tight jeans and causing mayhem whereever she goes, egged on by Ronald. They disrupt various events: tea with his aunt where she hilariously seduces the aunt's square nephew. or at that charity gathering which is suddenly dominated by a hilarious turn from Stephane Audran as a rather over the top dancer, Arthur's rich uncle's apartment is wrecked too as a Roman orgy gets out of hand while he is away. The plots twist and turn (sneezing powder and stink bombs play their part too!) as our trio commit all sorts of outrages and love too raises its head, in Paul Gegauff's fizzing script.  Its certainly an anarchic, young person's film - and pure Chabrol too, Jean Rabier's camerawork make the black and white images gleam. Jacques Demy gave us his free-wheeling LOLA that year, Truffaut then came up with JULES ET JIM in '62 as did Agnes Varda with CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 and LE BONHEUR in '64, and Malle stunned with LE FEU FOLLET, and Truffaut again with LE PEAU DEUCE (all at French label). Great years for the booming French cinema ... as per previous reviews, I also like Mocky's 1959 LES DRAGUEURS.
My friend Jorge has some nice comments on this quirky classic and its fascinating actress Bernadette Lafont (RIP label):
What an actress! I loved some quirky little touches in 'Les Godelureaux', Brialy's sensuous apartment, with flying pigeons, Persian carpets, and its greatest decoration: his very efficient "valet"! And the nearly palpable sense of macabre fun Chabrol has in casting Stéphane Audran as a burlesque danseuse - at a charity auction -, and even more so, a blink-you-miss cameo by Juliette Mayniel, as a nun!, drooling over Audran's performance!! Perhaps these bits and set-pieces - the juxtaposition between the Roman Orgy and apartment destruction, with the formal dinner at the restaurant, another example - are more memorable and sustain themselves better, than the whole, but it's a fun (occasionally uncomfortable, disquieting too) ride.

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