From the Chicago Reader (August 1, 1999). — J.R.
Claude Chabrol’s first color feature (1959), also known as À double tour and Web of Passion, adapts a Stanley Ellin thriller in which a bourgeois family’s oedipal conflicts lead to murder. The beautiful color cinematography of Aix-en-Provence is by Henri Decae, and the film is plotted with a mise en scène that suggests Alfred Hitchcock. The lively if uneven cast includes Jean-Paul Belmondo, the creepy André Jocelyn, Madeleine Robinson, Bernadette Lafont, and nouvelle vague axiom Laszlo Szabo. It’s not a total success, but it was one of the first pictures to translate the French New Wave’s genre interests into mainstream terms, and it’s full of sexy and irreverent (as well as brightly irrelevant) details. (JR)
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Written for Criterion’s “The Complete Mr. Arkadin a.k.a. Confidential Report” DVD box set in 2006. — J.R.
Broadly speaking, the features of Orson Welles fall into two categories: those he finished and released to his satisfaction and those he didn’t. In the first category are Citizen Kane, Macbeth, Othello, The Trial, Chimes at Midnight, The Immortal Story, F for Fake, and Filming “Othello.” And in the second batch are The Magnificent Ambersons, It’s All True, The Stranger, The Lady from Shanghai, Mr. Arkadin, Touch of Evil, The Deep, The Other Side of the Wind, The Dreamers, and Don Quixote.
Is it correct to regard the second ten as unfinished? I think it is — at least if we continue to regard them as films by Welles, and agree with Welles that the editing was crucial to what made them his. (Although he came relatively close to finishing half of the latter ten — Ambersons, The Stranger, The Lady from Shanghai, Touch of Evil, and Quixote — we no longer have access to any of those cuts.) Yet the standard practice has been to regard all of the ones released when he was alive as finished, regardless of whether he approved them or not.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (March 9, 2006). — J.R.
Moments Choisis des Histoire(s) du Cinéma
Directed and written by Jean-Luc Godard
Ironically, the two greatest works by the two most innovative filmmakers of the French New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Rivette, were originally designed as TV series. Rivette’s 760-minute, 16-millimeter serial Out 1 (1971) was rejected by French state TV, and he spent most of a year editing it down to a 255-minute version to show in theaters, Out 1: Spectre (1972). Less a digest than a perverse variant — some shots were rearranged so that they had radically different meanings and contexts, and much of the comedy was turned into psychodrama — it’s the only version that’s ever shown in the U.S., though it hasn’t been screened for years. The original — almost certainly the best film ever made by anyone about the 60s counterculture and its demise — still shows periodically in Europe.
Godard’s eight-part, 264-minute video Histoire(s) du Cinéma (1998), conceived and made over 20 years, has fared better, but it’s still pretty hard to come by. The only version ever sold in France is a lousy mono video transfer; a package of CDs and books in several languages transcribing major portions of the stereo sound track came out here years ago.… Read more »