Monday, August 24, 2009

Quelle joie de vivre (1961)

After watching this, I don't understand why this movie was a failure. I think this René Clément movie is well-done and deserves wider recognition. Perhaps when the movie was released, people couldn't appreciate the humour, but now time has changed.

The story is set in Rome, 1921. Ulysse (Alain Delon - this was the 2nd time he worked with René Clément after Plein Soleil. Clément later would use him again in Les félins and Paris brûle-t-il?) and his friend Turiddu, have finished their military service, are looking for jobs. They join the fascist party and are given task to find a printing shop which prints anarchist pamphlets. Ulysse finds the shop, owned by the family Fossati, but falls in love with his daughter Franca (Barbara Lass), and pretends to join their resistance and adopts a name of war Campo Santo (=cemetery), and is about to lead them to bomb the generals who comes to celebrate peace in Rome. However, as usual, when important political guests arrive, the police come to arrest the Fossati family and all their friends. The real terrorists come and they bring real bombs (unlike Ulysse whose bombs are made of cauliflower and melon) to kill the generals, and to clean his name, Ulysse must stop them by gathering the bombs they have scattered in the Fair for Peace.

I read that in this movie René Clément poured in details about fascists vs anarchists, for example: how Fossati names his children, the anarchist flag in the sky of Rome, the fight in the butcher's shop, the man who lives in the attic. The 2 real terrorists are dressed typically. It's funny when the bouquet of flowers they send to the generals returns again to them, still with the bomb. The prison is like a hotel, the prisoners can get out and in as they like.

I love the cute theme-song, too.

The Lives of The Saints (2004)

I found this miniseries when I wanted to watch a movie with Sophia Loren. The price of the DVD was low and the title was rather intriguing. I only knew that this was an epic and expected the movie was about the lives of some Catholic saints. It turned out I was wrong and that the movie was much more recent.

I heard that the 3 Nino Ricci novels which this movie was based on, were very popular, but before this movie I'd never heard about them. This movie is about the life of Innocente family, in the span of twenty years. After WW2, Cristina Innocente lives with her boy Vittorio and sister-in-law Teresa (played by Sophia Loren) in Valle del Sole. The villagers don't like Cristina because of her free spirit and make lots of gossips about her, especially after she is pregnant again while her husband is away overseas. Cristina takes Vittorio with her to join her lover but she dies on the ship to America after giving birth to a baby girl. Vittorio and the baby are taken by Cristina's husband to Canada, where Teresa will join them.

The Italian scenes are beautiful. Beautiful Sabrina Ferilli plays an convincing Cristina. There is a lovely scene where she happily dances with Vittorio, ignoring the villagers who dislike her. I don't know who is more sinful: the adulterous Cristina or the villagers who have planted hatred inside their heart against her and therefore make her and Vittorio suffer. The opening scene is also lovely: Cristina returns home from the forest with a bouquet of flowers in one hand while another hand picking up cherries from her skirt (which she uses to wrap them) to her mouth.

About the title: little Vittorio is given a book named 'Lives of the Saints' by aunt Teresa. Two Santas are mentioned: Santa Cristina, a girl with an iron-will who did anything to keep her faith; and Santa Rita, the patron for impossible causes. Vittorio will name his little sister 'Rita'.

The movie as a whole is not as good as I have expected. It is not easy to realise a book - or in this case 3 books. I feel that there are some things that are missing.

Crime Novels American Noir of the 1930s & 1940s

At first I only wanted to read James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, but after searching I found this book which contained 5 more crime stories. I loved crime stories, so to get 5-in-1 book sounded like a great bargain to me.

The presentation of the book is very nice: hardcover, a ribbon for bookmark, with paper as thin as the Bible's (so the book is not so thick and easily carried in my little bag).

The Postman Always Rings Twice (by James M. Cain)
The title wasn't unfamiliar because of the 2 Hollywood films. I hadn't seen any of them, but my attention was drawn to this book because of Luchino Visconti's Ossessione - also based on this book. This is a story of an unhappy wife that after her prince has come, together they get rid of the husband. They can get away from the planned murder, but when the wife dies in an accident, the prince goes to jail for murder. It's the irony of life. None can run from their karma. One may be lucky once, but when the luck is pushed, a misfortune may come.

The Shoot Horses, Don't They (by Horace McCoy)
What is interesting from this book, is that from the beginning we know the narrator is a murderer who is receiving his death sentence. The verdict is told, sentence per sentence, with bigger and bigger letters as the chapter goes, intertwining with the marathon dance. The narrator will tell us how he is justified to do the crime (that's what he thinks), that by doing that, he is doing a kindness.

Thieves Like Us (by Edward Anderson)
For me, this book is a difficult read. It took me a long time to finish. It's about a group of fugitives who rob banks again and again. It centers on a character named Bowie, who promises his girlfriend to stop hanging out with his old friends, but never be able to keep it. I was relieved everytime I reached the part where newspaper article appears, since it was easier to read.

The Big Clock (by Kenneth Fearing)
The world is like a big clock, I think that's what Fearing wanted to say. We must adjust ourselves to it. The story is told by first-person narrators, mostly by a character named George Stroud, an executive in a big publishing company. Stroud's lover is found murdered and the murderer knows that there is an eye-witness and he gives a task to Stroud to find the eye-witness, which is no other than Stroud himself. Quite funny, this one. I love the smart plot.

Nightmare Alley (by William Lindsay Gresham)
This is also a difficult read. Traumatized by his mother's betrayal when he was young, a carnival hustler finds money by claiming that he could contact spirits of the dead. In the beginning of each chapter, there is a Tarot card picture with its description.

I Married A Dead Man (by Cornell Woolrich)
This is my favourite of all 6. The story is simple: a poor pregnant girl has been dumped by her boyfriend and is on her way to her hometown when she meets a young couple in the train. The couple die in the train accident and she replaces her, as a new daughter-in-law in a rich, warm family. The story is quite emotional (at least to me) and I was so happy when she finally found the happiness she had wanted. I don't like the ending, though, which hints that her happiness is fragile.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Petits meurtres en famille (2006)

This 4 part-series is based on Hercule Poirot's Christmas book by Agatha Christie. I am familiar with story because the book is one of the several Agatha Christie's I have. (Most of her works I've read were borrowed from a library.) About last year, if I am not mistaken, ABC broadcasted the movie version with David Suchet as Hercule Poirot. The main thing was, when TV5 started to air the first episode, I had already known the story and the killer.

Yet I enjoyed this very much and thought that it was the best adaptation of Agatha Christie's. The books, like the movie versions made in the UK, are about murders and social chats. In this Petits meurtres en famille, we also get love affairs and intrigues, but not like in those cheap soap operas. I never knew Agatha Christie can be so enjoyable! The sets are wonderful and cast are great (I almost couldn't recognize Robert Hossein! - but in a scene, a picture when he was young was shown.).

Those who have read the book or watched the version with David Suchet know that the story is about the troubles among father and his sons (although he did have one daughter) and culminates in one of them killing the father. The atmosphere can be found throughout the movie: the relationship between the butler and his son, Louis (the housekeeper) and his son, Alix and her mother - and later her father, and Inspector Lampion and his parents (If I am not mistaken, Lampion is an orphan). There is a little change in how the murder is done. In the book - and in the movie with David Suchet - to create the cry, the killer uses a balloon. Here, he cries from outside Simon's window. Oh, yes, Hercule Poirot is missing in this and the young Inspector Lampion is the one who solves the puzzle.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Les amoureux sont seuls au monde (1948)

After watching several movies with Louis Jouvet, he has become one of actors who I look forward to. I try not to miss his movies whenever they are on TV. In this movie, he plays composer Gérard Favier.

The movie begins with how he and his wife Sylvia (Renée Devillers) remember how they first met. With Henri Jeanson wrote the dialogues, I had expected some hilarious lines. All dialogues between Mr and Mrs Favier show how they love each other very much and they are comfortable with each other --> therefore I dislike the sad ending. Their relationship reminds me of something beautiful, which I won't write here.

One day, while walking around, The Faviers overhear Monelle (Dany Robin) plays Favier songs on a piano. Impressed, Favier decides to teach the young girl. A tabloid journalist prints a story about them, which makes Monelle realize that she loves Favier. The poor Sylvia is in doubt and when Monelle tells her that the Sylvia Waltz, the song which Favier promised Sylvia 19 years ago, which has finally been composed, was inspired by something Monelle said; Sylvia decides that it's all over, just when Favier plans a second honeymoon with his dear wife.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Le bossu (1959)

This is the 3rd version of Le bossu/Henri Lagardère movie I have seen. Although there are some differences in the story here and there, and as I haven't read the book I don't know which one is more faithful, I must say that I enjoyed all 3. My favourite is still the 2003 TV version with Bruno Wolkowitch, because I love how he tries to find the murderer of Philippe de Nevers by travelling all over Europe to find the man whose hand he has marked.

In this version with Jean Marais as Lagardère, the sword-fight scenes are much exciting. Philippe de Gonzague wants his cousin (Philippe de Nevers)'s money and wife, so he arranges to murder him. Lagardère saves Nevers's daughter and raises her, but Gonzague spreads the words that Lagardère is the murderer of Nevers and his daughter.

Bourvil plays Passepoil, who was first hired by Peyrolles to murder Nevers - although it seems like a joke considering Passepoil's skill, but later becomes Lagardère's faithful servant. Bourvil gave this movie a tender touch. He gives Aurore more fatherly advice than Lagardère. Both Aurore de Nevers and Isabelle de Caylus are played by Sabine Sesselmann, so actually without the birth certificate everyone can easily see that they are mother and daughter.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Boccacio '70 (1962)

Boccaccio '70 is anthology of 4 segments about love and morality in modern times, each directed by a great Italian director. Giovanni Boccaccio is a 14th century Italian writer and the stories in this movie is what he might have written. As for the year '70, the directors joked that with the censorship that time, the movie might would be released only in 1970.

1. Renzo e Luciana by Mario Monicelli
I have never seen Mario Monicelli work or Marisa Solinas before. What struck me at first, was the colour of this movie. Monicelli seemed to use limited colours (especially compared to the 3rd & 4th segments), but it looked wonderful. Luciana (Marisa Solinas), a book-keeping clerk, has signed a contract not to marry, so when she marries Renzo (Germano Gilioli), a courier in the same factory, they must hide the fact. There is also problems at home because in the small house, the new couple don't have their own private room. In the end, she realises that if they both are kicked out from the factory, with the bonus money, they can afford to have their own place.

2. Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio by Federico Fellini
Antonio (Peppino De Filippo) is a conservative who cannot stand the new billboard of Anita Ekberg in a sexy position selling milk. He complains everywhere but is ignored. In the end he starts seeing things. For me this segment is very scary - and I heard this was a comedy! There was a point when I couldn't stand it anymore (I was so frightened!) and moved forward to segment 3. Never knew that Anita Ekberg could be so menacing. Her face was so scary. I wonder what it would be like, if Fellini was to work on The Picture of Dorian Gray - perhaps it would be the scariest movie I have seen. The song "Drink More Milk" by Nino Rota is very catchy.

3. Il lavoro by Luchino Visconti
What would you do if a tabloid printed your affairs with call-girls on front page, which makes your father-in-law stops sending you money? Count Ottavio (Tomas Milian)'s source of money is his wife's father, a German capitalist. His lawyers advise him to talk to his wife Pupe (Romy Schneider). However, Pupe decides to be independent and finds a job. As she only can make love, she tells her husband that if he wants to make love to her, he must pay her the same amount as he gives to the call-girls - only since there is no pimp, he will spend less.

4. La riffa by Vittorio De Sica
To pay back taxes, Zoe (Sophia Loren), a shooting-booth manager in a carnival, offers herself for one night in a lottery. The men try to buy the winning number from a lucky sacristan, but he won't give up to prove himself to his mother and the town. On the same day, she is attracted to a handsome young man, who becomes jealous when he knows what she is about to do.

Each segment is very good and 4 the main actresses are outstanding, although in segment 2 the main character is a man.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Ne réveillez pas un flic qui dort (1988)

These 3 days I watched 3 collaborations between Alain Delon and José Pinheiro. Ne réveillez pas un flic qui dort is not so bad, in my opinion. People say this is worse than Parole de flic, but between the 2, I prefer Ne réveillez pas un flic qui dort. There is too much sweat in Parole de flic, men perhaps like it, but not me. I like watching neat actors.

I read that in the beginning of the shooting, Delon suffered a leg injury while trying to kick a door. As the producer, he told José Pinheiro not to slow down, so they had to make some changes in the scenario. As we can see, there is not much action scenes here by Delon, like in Parole de flic. The camera mostly only shot his upper body. Thanks to the scene where his character is shot in the leg, after that he can walk lamely in front of the camera.

The story is similar to Parole de flic. A group of police, led by Inspector Scatti (Michel Serrault), tired of seeing criminals walk free, under the banner of ‘Fidelity of the police’, execute the notorious gangsters in brutal ways. Inspector Grindel (Delon), with the help of officers Pèret (Patrick Catalifo) and Lutz (Xavier Deluc), is given the task to investigate the murders. Grindel will find that ‘Fidelity of the police’ is far more serious than he thought. To me, the plot is more interesting than Parole de flic, where we only have Pratt revenges the death of his daughter by killing the members of the group one by one. While in Parole de flic he lets the leader go free, in Ne réveillez pas un flic qui dort, he kills Scatti because Scatti kills Pèret. The relationship between Grindel and Pèret makes Delon’s character is not as lonely as usual.

Serge Reggiani made a brief appearance as one of Grindel’s informants. This is the 6th and last time Delon used the word 'flic' for movie title, if we include Il était une fois un flic (1971), where he only made a cameo.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Le lion (2003)

Movies about a friendship between a child and a dog are many, but a friendship between a girl and a big lion? Based on Joseph Kessel's book, Le lion is a beautiful movie, especially because of its African scenery and wild life. In the mid-fifties in Kenya, John Bullit (Alain Delon), an administrator of Park Royal, lives with his wife Sybil (Ornella Muti) and 10 year-old-daughter Patricia (Anouchka Delon), in the territory of the Masaï people. John Bullit is an ex-hunter, but now he dedicates himself to protect the reserve. Sometimes he has to deal with illegal hunters. There is also a rumor that the Mau Mau war will soon reach that area.

The story begins when Julien Keller (Heino Ferch), a journalist from France, meets Patricia for the first time. Keller is amazed by the strange relationship between Patricia and King, a big lion which she took care when he was a cub. Keller is a friend of Lise, Sybil's friend. Sybil is worried about Patricia and wants her to have a proper education in France. However, for Patricia, the place where she lives now is already a paradise. There is also a young handsome hunter named Oriounga, who wants Patricia to be his first wife. John Bullit says to him that he can only trust his daughter to a man, so to prove it, Oriounga intends to kill King with his lance.

The lion that plays King seems very tame and nice, except in the end when he fights Oriounga. King's death is not 100% John Bullit's fault. I think Patricia will soon understand. Also, why she doesn't tell King to stop attacking Oriounga? She even tells King to kill him.

It's a good idea to cast Ornella Muti and Anouchka Delon as mother and daughter; both have long dark hair and there is some resemblance. José Pinheiro directed this, a contrast to the violent Parole de flic.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Parole de flic (1985)

I expected little from this movie because I was not a fan of action movies. I even thought the DVD cover was horrible: Laughing Alain Delon playing with a hand grenade. Since I didn't expect much, in the end the movie became not so bad. There are lots of action scenes (and violence!) in it, with great stunts done by 50 year-old Delon himself. He also sings the end-credits song.

The synopsis is as follows: Daniel Pratt (Alain Delon), is an ex-cop, who after the death of his wife (who had been murdered but the killer could go free due to lack of evidence), spends his life in Congo. His days are full of gambling and playing with the locals. He is happy, until a telegram arrives, announcing the death of his only daughter, who was in Lyon to study. Pratt returns to Lyon for a revenge and finds that a group of people, unhappy with the system, carry out their own justice. His daughter's death is an accident.

Also starring is Jacques Perrin as Inspector Reiner, Pratt's best friend. Pratt finds out later that Reiner is the leader of the vigilante group. I am not sure why Reiner commits suicide in the end. I think he created the group in the first place due to Pratt's wife case and when Pratt doesn't care about his mission, then all is lost.