Cooler than a “based on a true story” title card is opening your movie with a guy telling the camera that this is his true story from 1947. Turns out it’s an extremely pleasurable prison break movie. Claude is accused by his wife of premeditated attempted murder, is looking at serious time, thrown into a cell with four guys, and they let him in on their scheme to escape. They haven’t even started yet, and it begins with a long take of real-time concrete floor destruction, wow. High ingenuity in their escape, and with more attentive guards than usual. Claude has to convince the others he’s not a threat after his woman withdraws the charge, but he’s a rat bastard and turns them in – they get taken down by 100 guards on escape night.
Final film by Becker, who died before its premiere. Engineer Jean Keraudy played himself. Geo was in the original Inglorious Bastards, The Reverend had a small role in La Vérité, Manu played the Monocled Nazi in The Night Porter, and dirty rat Claude is the star of Lola.
This movie must work, because even though I moaned about the family, and at the end wished their house would sink into the sea with all of them inside it, I also made a note to catch up with Pialat’s other 1980’s movies: Loulou / Police / Under the Sun of Satan. Sandrine Bonnaire is very pretty in this – talks about suicide over a Klaus Nomi song, leaves all the boys brokenhearted.
Self-consciously arty/stagey flick, part of the Brisseau canon of horny old frenchmen filming in their apartments. Cut from a sleeping couple to their “dreams” on 4:3 b/w lo-gauge film, my second movie in a row to do that. Shots and setups take their time, but there’s no apparent story so it’s not like we have anywhere else to be. Opens with a camera roaming a film set peeping through a keyhole-shaped mask, and easily tops that in the scene where an electric train-mounted camera drives beneath a nude woman. Seems to devolve at the end, with a break for a misogyny mass murder montage, getting really into being eaten by gators and strangling blondes. Overall more engaging than my previous Bressane, seems to bode well.
Camille is home during WWI waiting for her man, and when he sends a letter telling her to stop writing, she cuts her hair short and sneaks out of town, hoping to blend in with soldiers while tracking him down. She joins an increasingly suspicious troop company – turns out they’re deserters heading to the Belgian border, and they have a habit of pulling out makeshift instruments and singing a continuing song about a blind girl. The men get sick and fall in holes and hide in caves, she helps by killing a lookout guard, she admits her name is Camille but they continue thinking she’s a boy, somehow.
I was right to think this would pair well with A Very Long Engagement. She is Sylvie Testud (in Vengeance, stars in La Captive) and her man, who appears at the end, is Guillaume Depardieu (the same year he was very good in Don’t Touch the Axe). A European Barn Owl can be seen – and heard – towards the end, which gains the movie an automatic half star, but it doesn’t need to kiss up to me with owls, I was already charmed. On letterboxd it looks like nobody loved this, so now I guess I’ve gotta see his other features, which nobody also loved.
This was the end of a successful Cannes Fortnight, in which I watched a bunch of movies I’d never seen by directors who had new work premiering at Cannes: Serge Bozon, the Dardennes, Claire Denis, Hlynur Pálmason, Cristian Mungiu, George Miller, Sergei Loznitsa, Jerzy Skolimowski, and David Cronenberg.
Couple of juvenile delinquents, looking like the French Keanu Reeves and Natalie Portman (she’s Virginie Ledoyen of The Beach) are caught stealing Deep Purple records with great close handheld camera. Gilles buys dynamite after getting kicked out of class and clashing with his parents. Creedence “Up Around the Bend” plays at a fire dance party, “Me and Bobby McGee” plays in a concrete bunker, later we hear a Nico song from The Inner Scar. This is somehow my second movie in a row where a French person gets stabbed with scissors. The couple flees together into the country looking for a place that might not exist. He wakes up with the girl gone and finds a note we don’t get to read. Good movie, full of youth and fire, though not as good as the Jesus Lizard song.
Kid does not have a bike, and lives in a group home but keeps escaping to look for his dad, a sous chef who sold the bike and doesn’t want to be a dad anymore. Enter large-hearted hairdresser (and Haute Tension star) Cécile de France, who takes a liking to the boy (even though he’s a bit of an asshole) and buys his bike back. Gaining a new mother-figure is outweighed by Dad (Jérémie Renier, naturally) telling him not to come around anymore, so Kid immediately gets mixed up with a gang of criminal youths. He stabs Cécile when she tries to keep him from going out to conk a newsseller with a baseball bat. The newsseller takes revenge, but everyone is alive and intact in the end, and Cécile remains large-hearted despite having to pay back the money her shitty adopted son stole. The Kid would go on to play Jean Renoir’s little brother in a biopic.
As mentioned in the Loznitsa movie, I attempted to repeat White Nights Fest here, only to realize the Loznitsa was far from a straight adaptation. But once again, Bresson can be counted on for Dostoevsky fidelity. After reading the short story I rewatched the Piotr Dumala short, which makes more sense now as an adaptation, though he added the nudity and insects. In fact there’s more sex in all the movie versions than in the book, unless it’s implicit there and I missed it. No insects in the Bresson though, just monkeys, both alive and skeletal.
Our lead pawnbroker had been a bank manager in his dark past (a soldier in the book). Bresson’s film contains much media outside the main story – she listens to LPs of tinkly instrumental music, they go to the cinema to watch a Piccoli/Deneuve film, and to the theater for a Hamlet swordfight (practice for Lancelot). Bresson solves the problem of the entire book being an internal monologue by the pawnbroker after his wife has died, simply by having him speak aloud to the maid. The actors perhaps more actory than in his previous films – deadwife Dominique Sanda would go on to a long career, eventually appearing with Piccoli herself (and if not Deneuve then Nico and Bulle Ogier and Léa Seydoux and Isabelle Huppert ain’t bad).
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.