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Archive for the ‘French Subtitles’ Category

La Ronde – Ophuls

14 May

La Ronde – Directed by Max Ophuls. Satire. Eleven stories of French lust promiscuating until they circle around and meet up once more. 93 minutes Black and White 1950.

* * * * *

By the merest chance I saw this picture immediately after The Marriage Circle, a silent of Ernst Lubitsch. Both films have the same title and the same temperament of approach to the material, which is seriously humorous. They both deal with promiscuity, which in the French version is carried out and in the American version, of course, is not carried out. In both versions the women are the sensitive ones and the men the fools. The treatment is quite different, but the idea that lust is important is held up to the deracinating light of a wise smile. Ophuls’ movie is based on a play of Schnitzler which caused a riot, and a scandal, and an outrage, for it illustrated how sexual disease is transmitted. Ophuls’ version knows nothing of this. His version uses the word, l’amour, but it has nothing whatever to do with love; lust is the subject. 11 congresses link arms, but each one is told by the camera so luminously that nothing particular is actually illuminated. The sheen both allures and monotonizes the material. But we do have the wonderful décor, the fabulous lighting, and Ophuls’ terrific dolly shots which give us a barrier through which to peep at the principles. His placement of actors in motion, his symmetry, his fancifulness, his artifice and artificiality – all serve his turn. He has many superstars in this film, but the real superstar is his camera. His camera is the actor, the strong one, who reveals the forgivable nothing of l’amour. His cast is brilliant, particularly when you realize that some of the women playing teenagers are completely convincing although well into their thirties. Gerard Philipe is perhaps the best, as a chocolate soldier count in full regalia, entering the dressing room of a renowned comedienne and looking about sensitively at a setting which he judges to be far from noble. What a perfect decision for an actor to make. Simone Signoret, Simone Simon, and the magnificent Danielle Darrieux are wonderful. I saw this film when it first came out. I thought I was going to a dirty picture that would tell me something about sexual attraction, and I left feeling poisoned by it. Now I can see the truth of it. Which is that sexual attraction is simply a movie camera: it glamorizes, it luminizes what it lights on, and leaves it impenitently when the light moves on. This for me now is the masterful truth of this film.

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Going Places

13 Mar

Going Places — directed by Bertrand Blier – Crime comedy. Two drifters go on a crime spree. 118 minutes color 1974

* * * *

Only 4 stars because I wished it had ended sooner, Of course it is beautifully made by Blier and photographed perfectly. Being a picaresque tale it is episodic and being written by the director no episode is suitable for scrapping. No American actor would ever have assumed the roles taken by Patrick deWaere and Gerard Depardeau. In Parts unequalled for nastiness, even Sean Penn, a most unlikable actor, would not have touched this material. But these two actors go into it full bore. There is a good deal of really bad treatment of females, but these two are such crummy two bit thieves to make a case of misogyny against them would be pettifogging. Besides, misogyny is a word too grand for their conduct. Nor does one take to them in time. They are marvelous actors at the first pitch of their youthful brilliance. They had acted together often before on the stage in Paris, so they fit well into one another’s energy. Jeanne Moreau brings her tiny form into the picture and takes over the men for a time. But it is Miou Miou who carries the film. Her appearance and reappearance in it brings us along to see where she will arrive. A youthful Isabelle Huppert makes a striking appearance as a frisky teenager. This picture is carried forward by a ghastly wit, but it is wit, and so it is not to be dismissed, hard watching though some of it may be. And of course, de Waere was one of the greatest actors ever to live.

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La Vie Promise

08 Nov

La Vie Promise –– directed by Olivier Dahan –– drama of a prostitute and her estranged daughter on the lam –– 93 minutes 2002

* * * *

This is a beautifully cast and directed piece – though neither well photographed nor well edited. However, the content of the story is strong, convincing, well worked out, true, and inspiring. At the center of it is the character played by Isabelle Huppert, an actress of incomparable femininity, who understands herself as a woman and an actress on screen to the full. Her performance, and the performances of all the actors, adhere to the French school, which spurns virtuosoism and big effects, for un-actorish stillness and smallness of detail. Remember, when watching it, that French wines tend to be dry. The result is a sense of reality completely at odds with the TV-acting so frequently to be seen nowadays, a skirting of emotionalism that in terms of expected histrionics might seem unreal, but in terms of the material and the story at hand is realism incarnate.  It’s an acquired taste; you have to get used to it a bit. Huppert embodies this school, and she is in all ways wonderful. I won’t even describe the scenes where she achieves great things, because I don’t want to give anything away. She is touching, and so is everyone in it, and so is the picture. The subtitles are good –– and , since the dialogue is leisurely, they are easy to read. This is not a run-of-the-mill piece.

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Hereafter

27 Oct

Hereafter –– directed by Clint Eastwood –– a suspense drama, as three people, with three different relationships to the afterlife, work out their destinies. –– color 2010.

* * * * *

The story completes itself with that Dickensian coincidence of plot which it is always so gratifying to encounter, is it not? Nothing could be more true to life, as Dickens himself well knew, than coincidence. Indeed one of our trio is a Dickens fan, and this very passion is what eventually draws the trio together under one roof. Matt Damon plays him, and he is an actor so solid in his craft that his work appears simple, but it is not with a trick of emotion that he holds a film together, but rather with his ability to play fear of his own destiny, a talent that has held him before our willing eyes from the start of his career. Against this ground of being, everything plays off, with a mysterious quiet vitality. Frankie and George McClaren play the twins, and they are simply wonderful from beginning to end. Speaking of the beginning, it starts with the most spectacular sequence I have ever seen in a film. I shall say nothing more. Because of it alone, don’t miss this film. As with all Eastwood’s films, the narrative works when dialogue is on camera, but the passage work and narrative liaisons are flaccid. Here, for instance, when we move to Paris he shows the Eiffel Tower, then a medium shot of  a French building, then one of the lady; when in London, we get London Bridge, and so forth; when Matt Damon at work, Eastwood gives us the C & H Sugar factory in Crockett, then the interior, then Damon talking to a co-worker. These “strong” establishing shots are weak because disconsonnant with the paradox of the material. For a while now, this director has told stories that don’t involve revolvers, an assortment sometimes badly cast, as in the case of Angelina Jolie, and here, in the instance of the woman playing opposite Damon at the beginning. She giggles all the while and makes faces; she has come from the Situation Comedy School Of  TV Acting, and you really wish to push her into a ditch. Damon is manfully alive opposite her. In any case, we have Cécile de France, perfectly cast as the French TV anchor woman. The whole subject of the afterlife is treated warmly, respectfully, and interestingly. The playing of the boy and of Damon and of de France has the power of great emotional economy. This is not paranormal or supernatural material by the way. No, it’s quite real, and quite fine. See it. A film for grown-ups.

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Belle de Jour

11 Oct

Belle de Jour — directed by Luis Bunuel — a good looking young newly wed declines to have sex with her handsome husband but loves to do so as a whore with every slob who drops by — 100 minutes color — 1967.

* * * *

I seems Bunuel does not know anything about sex. The idea that this movie is really supposed to be about something else — society, the church, the price of vegetables in Paris — is silly. It seems he made the film with no sense of its subject matter, which has to do with the effect on a young woman of having been molested as a girl. In fact, all we are supposed to believe is that she would not have sex with her hubby but really and only wants to have it with the crumbs who turn up in a house whose madame hires her for afternoon tricks. Deneuve plays the lady with her chilling upper-eyelids in their usual position, and the problem with that is the problem of her entire career, built on playing just such manikins when, in fact, she was a light comedienne of great ability. We are supposed to believe she does not care about sex, but her hair is arranged to a fair-thee-well and her eyelashes precede her into a room by three weeks. Deneuve may be one or two things, but, unlike, as with Grace Kelly whom she so resembles, none of them is “fun”. The film is not mysterious, it is not ambiguous, it is not even a masterpiece of prevarication, and who cares if it were any of these things. The style is flat, routine, uninflected. The dialogue is pulp. The erotic scenes are puerile. But the actors in it are so good they lend the piece a quality of seriousness and craft that almost makes one take it seriously. These include Jean Sorel as a husband so sexy, young, good looking, and kind it defies probability that she should decline his advances. Michael Piccoli plays the friend who has her number. And Genevieve Page is superb as the smart lesbian madam who teaches Deneuve the ropes. Sometimes Bunuel actually makes a picture; at other times he makes a picture about a picture. This may be one of the second sort — aloof, political, biased, and prim.

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