Daily Archives: August 25, 1989

White Shanks

Perhaps the most neglected of all the major French directors, at least in the U.S., Jean Gremillon (1901-1959) was a figure of such versatility that it’s difficult to make generalizations about his work. (One can, however, speak about its close attention to sound and rhythm–he started out as a musician–and its frequent focus on class divisions.) White Shanks (Pattes blanches), made in 1949, is not one of his very best efforts–I prefer Lumiere d’ete (1943) and Le ciel est a vous (1944). But this moody melodrama of adultery set on the Normandy coast is still full of punch and fascination, and shouldn’t be missed by anyone with a taste for the classic French cinema. Coscripted by Jean Anouilh (who originally intended to direct), it’s a noirish tale about a promiscuous flirt from the city (Suzy Delair) who marries a local tavern keeper and becomes involved with a plotting local malcontent (Michel Bouquet) and a faded aristocrat (Paul Bernard), nicknamed “White Shanks” because of his spats, who is the target of a revenge plot. A sensitive maid with a hunchback who loves the aristocrat rounds out this odd quintet, who are regarded with a caustic compassion that recalls Stroheim. The lovely camera work is by Philippe Agostini, and the great Leon Barsacq is in charge of the sets.… Read more »

Rude Awakening

Two hippies from the 60s (Eric Roberts and Cheech Marin) emerge from a Central American jungle, where they’ve been smoking dope and hiding from the feds, come to New York, and discover what the U.S. in 1989 is all about. Aaron Russo (Bette Midler’s former manager) and David Greenwalt codirected this comedy from a script by Neil Levy and Richard LaGravenese; Julie Hagerty and Robert Carradine play the heroes’ now-yuppified friends who are gradually inspired to return to their former values. As disheveled in some ways as its leading characters are, this movie is still something of a rarity: a sincere, somewhat nuanced, relatively uncliched, and actually judicious look at both the 60s and 80s and what they mean in relation to each other. A far cry from the more reductive treatment of these issues in various sitcoms, this movie is genuinely interested in the question of what happened to 60s ethics, and in spite of an occasionally awkward plot that weaves in and out of comedy, it manages to come up with a few answers. The costars include Louise Lasser, Cindy Williams, Cliff De Young, Andrea Martin, and Buck Henry; the latter two are especially funny in the one extended sequence in which they appear.… Read more »