Léa Seydoux is a famous TV newscaster, known for onsite foreign reports and for giving playfully confrontational questions to the president at home, lives with husband and kid in an insane performatively-rich house. At work she gives too much on-camera direction, saying “got that?” a half second after every speech – her segments must be a nightmare to edit. There’s a minor car crash (she rear-ends a motorcyclist) and a major one (her husband and kid plunge off a cliff), and every personal tragedy or professional fuckup is just another tabloid headline. She starts actually caring about the stories she covers, but the public image and end result is the same.
France will be seen next in the Cronenberg, her TV producer is in the brand-new Quentin Dupieux and her husband was in Personal Shopper. Doesn’t feel very Dumontian, except when accident victim Baptiste is around. It’s all very nice-looking (and with great music by the late Christophe) but a traditional media/celeb satire seems like small fries after Slack Bay.
France with producer:
France with husband:
Despite technically being a Sundance premiere, we were the first in-person audience for a movie made to be seen on a big screen with a big soundsystem. I should look up whether the archival footage even had sound, or if this was a foley fest. It puts together a good heroic narrative, the volcanologist couple turning their studies from gently predictable “red” volcanoes to dangerous “gray” volcanoes, and after authorities ignore warnings in Colombia and thousands die, they make a scare film about those deaths, which convinces people to evacuate next time. Filmmaking saves lives. A slick movie, not as personally troubling as others today, despite all the deaths. Kyren Penrose opened, solo acoustic, and we got beer and pretzels at Broadway afterwards.
Famous lecturer Jean Desailly (of a couple Melville films) picks up stewardess Francoise Dorléac (a couple years before Cul-de-sac) and talks endlessly about Balzac at the bar. He falls for her, but is married, and the whole movie is about how hard it is to have a secret affair. It’s even harder because he’s well known, but he acts like Francoise has no other options, and is a pain in the ass to her for almost their own relationship, so when he finally proposes, she breaks up with him. And then his wife finds out.
The music took the whole thing seriously from the start. It’s a suave, smooth looking movie, each scene patiently revealing. A jump cut or two just to remind us this is the FNW, overall more admirable than any fun to watch.
In the back of my mind I figured I’ve seen this years ago and just forgotten most of it, but nope, I couldn’t have forgotten this – a jaw-dropping sci-fi story (with funky music). Humans are pests and pets, the planet controlled by blue gill-eared giants. A highly-placed alien child calls his pet human Terr, which grows up and starts playing pranks and spying, eventually defecting to lead the tiny human revolution. Truce is called after the humans build miniature rockets, travel to the Wild Planet and laser down the alien sex statues.
Michael Brooke for Criterion:
Over four decades after its May 1973 premiere, it remains more or less unique. Its peculiar universe, designed by Roland Topor and realized by a team of Czechoslovak animators in Prague, is instantly recognizable from virtually any freeze-frame, and the film as a whole is so rich, strange, and sui generis that nothing has emerged since to retrospectively blunt its impact … [Topor] cofounded the Panic Movement with Fernando Arrabal and Alejandro Jodorowsky, named after the god Pan and intended to make surrealism as shocking as it had been in the 1920s, before its imagery and ideas were co-opted and diluted by the mainstream … he wrote the 1964 source novel for Roman Polanski’s disquietingly paranoid The Tenant (1976), appeared in Dušan Makavejev’s Sweet Movie (1974) and Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979, as the lunatic Renfield).
Les Temps Morts (1965)
I’ve seen Laloux’s earlier Monkey Teeth short, but this is when he teamed up with Topor. A grim little anthropological study of man’s propensity for murder. I think their sensibility worked better when applied to a fictional scenario – and the animation is in very rough form here, illustrations cross-faded in sequence, drawings shuffling Gilliam-style, but mostly the camera panning around stills. Some sharp stills, though – if you cut the live-action atrocity footage it’d make a good picture-book of horrors.
Les Escargots (1966)
A different kind of apocalyptic movie, this one really takes a turn. Farmer realizes his crops will only grow if he cries on them, so he walks around the field holding cut onions, reading sad books, and wearing an ass-kicking machine. The giant plants attract snails, which also grow giant, slide over to the nearest major city and utterly destroy it. Little Shop of Horrors may have been an influence.
My third in a trilogy of White Nights adaptations. I belatedly discovered that James Gray’s Two Lovers is also a loose/partial adaptation, too late, will save it for my next Dostoevsky binge. All three are set in their own present-day, displaying current technology – Bresson’s tape recorder, Visconti’s jukebox, now Vecchiali’s cellphone.
He’s nasty in this one, but after a prologue where he insults an older man, he meets the girl and the dialogue veers close to the original. Video-looking long takes here, the actors standing still, one of them usually hidden in shadow. Besides the phone, her backstory monologue is interrupted by a couple things. Her voice fades out into the waves, then back in, repeating from earlier than where we left off but with the camera on him instead, reminding me of the Francisca repetitions. Also, he starts correctly guessing details of her story, as if he’s read this book before.
The long dance scene seems to reference the Visconti more than the novel. A b/w sidetrack conversation between him and his stepmom feels like filler, even if it does reference the cobwebs from the story and prove he wasn’t lying about being named Fyodor.
This played Locarno with La Sapienza and Horse Money. Vecchiali is a lesser-known Cahiers critic-turned-director, and I’ve heard his 1970’s work is good. Our lead actress is a Vecchiali regular, and our guy played the two Remis in Two Remis.
Finally getting to Dumont’s debut. Parts of this movie about a dimwit boy in a nowhere town look familiar from Lil Quinquin – a yard where they fix up their car even looks like a location from that movie, and there’s a character named Quinquin. But this was before Dumont had learned to be funny or unpredictable, from his punishing slow art cinema days. Maybe the crappy marching band was supposed to provide levity, but in the end it’s simply no fun to watch a crappy marching band. This doesn’t give me much hope for L’Humanité – I’m guessing that’s as misleading a title as this one, which follows a kid who Dumont wants to portray as a sensitive soul, with his epilepsy and pet finch and cute girlfriend. But the kid’s also a horrible racist, and finally catches the Arab guy he’d seen hanging around with his girl, and uses his head as a soccer ball. The non-pro actors in this stayed non-pro. I was surprised to recognize the finch-song contest from Arabian Nights.
Nicholas Elliott for Criterion:
Rather than a description of the film’s contents, the title is an unusually active element of the viewing experience, a riddle that prompts the viewer to see beyond the low horizons of Freddy’s existence and imagine how the spiritual might be reintroduced into this context. In the trickiest of ways, Dumont titles the film to prime us to look for good where there is evil. Yet he does not ask us to like Freddy, only to accept that he exists…
Opens with 80’s dance music… I’ve been thrown off by the music in my early-decade French films lately. Sabine is Béatrice Romand from Autumn Tale, and the good marriage is all in her head – her boyfriend is married to someone else, but she starts fantasizing and telling everyone she’s getting married. As soon as that proves impossible, she meets André Dussolier at a wedding, and gets ahead of herself again, quitting her job, believing that she’ll marry him and not have to work anymore, even though he keeps ditching her for work reasons. Good ending on a train, leaving the future open.
The second installment of Eric Rohmer’s “Comedies and Proverbs” is, like The Aviator’s Wife, a study in destructive imagination and the limitations of personal perspectives — which is to say that the characters talk as much as they did in the “Six Moral Tales,” but no one really hears what they’re saying.
Romand got an award at Venice, where Wenders and Zanussi also took prizes. Her blonde painter friend is Arielle Dombasle, last seen as the “American” in Time Regained.
The Bresson movie with the most fashion and music and humor, even an action scene. Bresson cuts absolutely loose – it’s practically a musical by his standards. I loved it very much.
On night one, dreamer Jacques convinces Marthe not to jump off a bridge. Day 2, Jacques paints, records a primitive podcast on a tape deck, then entertains an unexpected visitor who spouts art philosophy. Marthe Backstory: she fell for her mom’s boarder shortly before he went to America, promising to meet up in a year – a year and three days ago. No major progress day three (he records some pigeons in the park). Night four she gives into Jacques love for her, says they will live together, then drops him in an instant when the old boarder walks by.
Shot by Pierre “The Man” Lhomme (Army of Shadows), played Berlin along with The Decameron. Isabelle Weingarten was in The Mother and the Whore after this, and The State of Things/The Territory, and married two major filmmakers. Why does everyone on my letterboxd hate this? At least I got Rizov and Rosenbaum on my side (J.Ro was an extra!). Adaptation of Dostoevsky’s White Nights, and now I’m contemplating watching the Visconti and the Vecchiali for a White Nights Trilogy.
A perfectly fine historical drama with some fab lighting and good faces (La Pointe Courte‘s Silvia Monfort). Coming between Beauty and the Beast and Orpheus, it lacks most of the sfx magic of those, but it’s so neglected I was half-expecting it to be lousy. I didn’t even have the correct title, knowing it as The Eagle Has Two Heads, while The Two-Headed Eagle makes more sense.
Monfort is the audience-surrogate newcomer to a castle where the widowed queen has shut herself away for ten years, and is about to hold a ball. Queen Edwige Feuillère (just off starring in a Dostoevsky adaptation) is surprised by a visitor at her window who looks exactly like King Jean Marais, and the bulk of the movie is psychological spy games between these two. She calls him “My Death” (which is very Cocteau) since he’s meant to be an assassin, the corrupt cops outside pretending to search for him. He is of course a poet, and she of course falls for him, in a dignified/suicidal way.
Police chief Jacques Varennes (La Poison) hides in a treehouse, and he and the queen run around giving everyone contradictory orders, until she gets to die with her king as she’s always dreamed (Marais taking a nice fall down the stairs).
The queen uses a room-sized model palace as a shooting gallery: