Daily Archives: May 16, 2021

Questions in and about AVA

How much of the pain of Sadaf Foroughi’s first feature — winner of one of my Fipresci jury’s two prizes at the Toronto International Film Festival, a film from Iran — is the pain of being a teenager, and how much is it being a teenager at a particular place and time? How much is personal and how much is institutional, familial, cultural, social, political, architectural?

These are the questions raised by Foroughi’s exquisite, unorthodox framings and reframings of her characters, each one posing a separate inquiry. [9-20-17]

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A Possible Solution to a Mystery

For me, the most valuable single piece of film criticism by François Truffaut — the one that has taught me the most — is a fairly early one, “Un Trousseau de fausses clés,” about Alfred Hitchcock, that appeared in Cahiers du Cinéma no. 39, octobre 1954. I first encountered this article in an English translation (“Skeleton Keys”) that appeared in Film Culture (Spring 1964), then in Cahiers du Cinéma in English No. 2, 1966. I find it far more ingenious as well as useful as criticism than Truffaut’s over- fetishized “Une Certaine Tendance of Cinema Française,” and the part I remember best (I don’t have a copy handy, but trust my memory on this) is a detailed analysis of Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt in terms of “rhyming” shots and scenes, such as the two reproduced above. Many of these visual/ thematic rhymes involve the film’s two Charlies, a serial murderer of women (Joseph Cotten) and his young and beloved niece (Teresa Wright).

This is an essay that clearly helped to spawn Godard’s own best (and most detailed) work of film criticism — “Le cinéma et son double,” about Hitchcock’s The Wrong Man — as well as the structure of doubling shots and scenes in Rivette’s Céline et Julie vont en bateau.… Read more »

LA NUIT DU CARREFOUR: At Long Last Available

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Unavailable just about everywhere — except for on a SECAM French video that is now so scarce it sells for 100 Euros on French Amazon — Renoir’s gorgeous, sexy, and scandalously neglected second sound feature, a Simenon adaptation with Pierre Renoir as Maigret that is arguably the first film noir ever made anywhere, has finally made it onto DVD, with English subtitles no less, and available here. Thanks to Connor Kilpatrick for making me aware of this. (For a paragraph about this movie that I once wrote for DVD Beaver, go here and page down.)

Perhaps the biggest revelation of this film (and there are quite a few) is the young femme fatale lead, Winna Winfried, who according to Renoir was only 17 when she made it, her film debut. Her other film appearances were so few and far between that I’ve never met anyone who has ever mentioned seeing any of them. [8/24/10]

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Recommended Reading: JACQUES TOURNEUR

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JACQUES TOURNEUR, edited by Fernando Ganzo, Locarno Festival/Cinémathèque Suisse/Capricci,224 pages, 23 Euros.

Published to accompany the Jacques Tourneur retrospective at the Locarno Festival last August, this collection has been issued in separate English and French editions; Capricci has kindly sent me a review copy of the former, and although I’ve only just started to dig into its contents, I’m looking forward to many pleasurable and profitable times with the rest. Apart from translating a few important texts from the past — extended interviews with Tourneur in Cahiers du Cinéma and Présence du Cinéma (both in 1966), an essay by Petr Král from Caméra/Stylo in 1986 — this book mainly consists of new essays, most of them translated from over a dozen French writers (including Pierre Rissient, Patrice Rollet, and Jean-François Rauger) and two Americans (Chris Fujiwara and Haden Guest). There are also many illustrations in this slightly oversized volume, My only complaint is with the layout that prints about two dozen pages of the text on a shade of dark grey that makes them extremely (and needlessly) difficult to read. If Marc Lafon, the book’s design person, was trying to approximate some notion of Tourneur as the poet of shadows, I’m afraid this effort was misguided, because all that comes out of this exercise is murkiness, not poetry.… Read more »

GOLDEN YEARS

Written for the Chicago Reader (October 12, 2017). — J.R.

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Golden Years

Nos Années Folles, the French title of this exquisitely upholstered and mysteriously provocative period drama, means “Our Crazy Years.” But as writer-director André Téchiné has suggested in such masterpieces as Wild Reeds and Thieves, being “crazy” simply means being human, alive, and horny. The protagonist (Pierre Deladonchamps), a passionately heterosexual soldier, disguises himself as a streetwalker to escape combat in World War I, then continues to wear drag in peacetime, yet his behavior seems no less rational (to him or to us) than that of little boys playing at war, or his adulterous wife (Céline Sallette) playing at marriage. For better and for worse, the mysteries remain unsolved and Téchiné’s elliptical tragic poetry prevails. —Jonathan Rosenbaum

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