Daily Archives: April 3, 2024

Army of Shadows

From the Chicago Reader (May 26, 2006). — J.R.

Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1969 thriller about the French Resistance, finally receiving its first U.S. release, is a great film but also one of the most upsetting films I know. Melville based his story on a novel by Joseph Kessel (Belle de Jour) that was published during the occupation and is reportedly far more optimistic; in the movie a resistance leader (Lino Ventura) gradually discovers that he and his comrades must betray their own humanity for the sake of their struggle, though in the end their efforts are mainly futile. As Dave Kehr wrote, “Melville is best known for his philosophical pastiches of American gangster films (Le Samourai, Le Doulos), and some of their distinctive rhythms — aching stillness relieved by sharp flurries of action — survive here.” With Simone Signoret (in one of her best performances), Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, and Serge Reggiani. In French with subtitles. 145 min. Read more

Recommended Reading: Capricci 2012 & Leo Robson on Wes Anderson (significantly updated)

1. Film buffs who read French should be alerted to Capricci 2012, subtitled Actualités Critiques –- the second issue of an annual book-size magazine, a little over 200 pages in length, tied in various ways to some of the recent publishing activities of Capricci, many of which I’ve blogged about in this site in the past (e.g., LES AVENTURES DE HARRY DICKSON: SCÉNARIO DE FRÉDÉRIC DE TOWARNICKI POUR UN FILM [NON RÉALISÉ] PAR ALAIN RESNAIS in 2007, J. Hoberman in French in 2009, two books by or about Luc Moullet along with a DVD of his short films in 2009, and, 2011, LA SAGA: CINÉASTES, DE NOTRE TEMPS: UNE HISTOIRE DU CINÉMA EN 100 FILMS).

Edited by Thierry Lounas, the director of Capricci, Capricci 2012, which can be ordered for 18,81 Euros from French Amazon, includes, among several other items, 20-page dossiers on both James L. Brooks and Wang Bing (mostly drawn from exclusive interviews); a very polemical chapter from Luc Moullet’s autobiography-in progress De l’art and et d’un cochon (most of which is slated to be published only posthumously) devoted to his notorious 1981 TV documentary about teaching himself how to swim, Ma Première Brasse (in which he reveals, among much else, that he actually had no desire to learn how swim, a project he embarked on only so that he could make a film about it); a French translation of the Prologue of Hoberman’s latest book, An Army of Phantoms; a 14-page interview with Otto Preminger conducted in 1971 by Annette Michelson for a still-unseen Cinéastes, de notre temps TV documentary, currently scheduled to premiere at a Preminger retrospective to be held at the Locarno film festival (an interview so contentious and unyielding that Preminger virtually concluded it by calling Michelson an evil woman), and other features dealing with everyone from Charlie Sheen to Albert Serra. Read more

Belle Toujours

From the Chicago Reader (October 20, 2006). — J.R.

Manoel de Oliveira’s sequel — or tribute, or speculative footnote — to Luis Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carriere’s Belle de Jour (1967) differs from that transgressive classic by being less about Severine (played here by Bulle Ogier, in the original by Catherine Deneuve), a devoted wife who secretly works as a prostitute to fulfill her secret masochistic desires, and more about Henri Husson (Michel Piccoli in both films), a rakish aristocrat who discovers her secret. (It’s also more about class and less about sexual desire.) Husson arranges a meeting with a reluctant Severine many decades later, and de Oliveira stages their dinner like a lush religious ceremony, albeit one with a couple of witty and pungent punch lines. In French with subtitles. 70 min.

  Read more

A Moon For All Seasons [on MOONWALK ONE]

From the Village Voice (December 7, 1972). – J.R.

 In case you’re wondering why MOONWALK ONE,

 a film produced for NASA by Francis Thompson, Inc., 

 is currently showing at the Whitney Museum — rather

 than, say, on CBS or Channel 13, or at the Little Carnegie

 or Radio City Music Hall — I can offer a clue, if not a

 definitive explanation. Feeling as intimidated as the next

 layman about my ignorance concerning the moon shot, I

 thought of boning up on the subject before writing this

 review, and checked the neighborhood bookstores to see

 what was available. Apart from [Norman] Mailer’s book

 [Of a Fire on the Moon],what do you think I found in the

 three fairly well-stocked shops that I visited? Absolutely nothing.

 No scientific accounts, no popular treatments, no picture books,

 no personal reflections. The moon landing may have been,

 according to Nixon, the most important event in the history of

 mankind since the birth of Christ, but apparently a lot of people

 would rather read about the making of STAR TREK. (On the

 other hand, if Christ had been born three years ago, I doubt that

 many people would want to read about that, either.) Read more