A heartbreaking French melodrama (1990), adapted from a novel by Georges Simenon (Les fiancailles de M. Hire) about a shy and reclusive tailor (Michel Blanc) obsessively spying on a beautiful neighbor (Sandrine Bonnaire), who discovers and is touched by his voyeuristic interest. The plot also involves the mysterious death of a girl in the neighborhood. Paradoxically, director Patrice Leconte, who collaborated with Patrick Dewolf on the script, filmed this elegant, affecting, and highly claustrophobic chamber piece in ‘Scope; Michael Nyman contributed the haunting score. With Luc Thuillier and Andre Wims. 88 min. (JR)
This was reviewed at one point or another for the Chicago Reader. — J.R,
Monte Hellman’s remarkably hip avant-garde western (1967) was sold straight to television in the U.S.; while overseas it became a standard reference point for cinephiles, here, alas, it remains a cultist legend that’s never received the attention it deserves. A provocative and often witty head scratcher, it stars Jack Nicholson (who also produced) as a hired gun and Warren Oates, both at their near best, along with Will Hutchins and Millie Perkins. With its existentialist approach to treks through the wilderness, this is one of the key forerunners of Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man. (JR)
The second part of my reprinting of Moving Places: A Life at the Movies (1980); this part appeared originally in Film Comment, and for this appearance I’ve added several illustrations.
Note: The book can be purchased on Amazon here, and accessed online in its entirety here. — J.R.
What I Did on My Summer Vacation (September 1977)
Imagination believes before knowing constructs. Believes longer than remembers, longer than knowing even conjures. Knows believes conjures a highway in Mississippi, August 10, on the way to Faulkner’s home in Oxford, tracing a literary pilgrimage from Florence, my hometown in Alabama, part of whose route might approximate the pregnant journey of Lena Grove on the opening pages of Light in August.
What has any of this to do with cinema? First, the car’s languid progress up and down a straight road flanked by forest: a trick of suspended time, pure movie and pure Faulkner. Then the hot moist afternoon light filtering through the branches into a milky pool of delicate focus, like the last scene in Carl Dreyer’s Gertrud, making it easy to imagine in a tactile, even in a carnal way why Dreyer wanted to adapt Light in August, thinking Yes of course only Dreyer could have done it right, handled both sides of the dialectic, all the hot wood and cold flesh and embracing palpitant air, impregnable and inviolate.… Read more »