Saturday, July 31, 2010

Don Camillo (1952)

This movie reminds me how I like French movies between 50's - 60's. I read that this is not the best work from director Julien Duvivier, yet it's so easy to like this movie. This and 'Le diable et les dix commandements' are my favourites. The dialogues make me giggle and the way it was made, watching this movie is like reading a book with its chapters.

Great French actor Fernandel plays Don Camillo, a parish priest in a little town in North Italy. In the beginning of Summer 1946, the Communists win the mayoral election and Peppone (played by Italian actor Gino Cervi) becomes the new major. At first Don Camillo - Peppone seems like enemies, but both are basically good hearted; so although they always compete with each other - either in building a citizen's center and a city park or in a football match, they actually care for each other. Don Camillo is not a perfect priest: he is hot headed and ready to fight if needed; luckily he has Jesus on his side who gives him useful advices - and yes, in this movie they really have conversations, like this one:
Don Camillo : None of the new councilmen know anything at all. The illiterate are directing town affairs.
Jesus : It's the heart that counts, not the grammar.

Look! There is a priest racing!

Friday, July 30, 2010


Csardas is a traditional Hungarian folk dance. With this title, Diane Pearson has written a historical fiction set mainly in Hungary, between 1914 - 1948, before the First World War until after the Second World War, focused on the life of the Ferenc family. The book is enjoyable to read and gives good image what happened in Hungary around those times.

Amalia and Eva are "the enchanting Ferenc sisters" and they have many suitors (it reminds me of Vivien Leigh's Scarlett in Gone With The Wind). They have a rich Jewish banker as a father, a silly mother, two younger brothers, and a plain but very rich cousin named Kati. The story begins when the Ferenc sisters go to Kati's birthday party without chaperon. There, Amalia meets her first love, a soldier from a poor family, and this relationship will prove to be difficult. Eva, the most beautiful of the two, falls in love with her handsome neighbour Felix, a gay and easygoing young man.

Interesting to follow the life of this half-Jewish family and people around them. The first world war comes and they have a hope that they will win. However, in the end of the war, men - those who are fortunate to come back - have changed. Many of them have endless nightmares. Political situation changes, too, and government comes and goes. Some people lose their land, and those who has hoped that Hungary will be an ideal place to live, must bury their dreams. However bad the WW1 is, the 2nd is even worse, especially if one is a Jew. Until the ending, Amalia never finds her lost sons.

The Tenant (1976)

The Tenant is a creepy movie from great director Roman Polanski, where he also played the main role. The 18 certificate made me expect something horrible - or horrible things - to happen and after the main character started to see a very weird thing, i.e. people stand in a bathroom opposite his room - just stand without doing anything - the tension was so high and I couldn't take it anymore. I stopped the DVD. I continued to watch it again the next day. That time I remembered how I hated to be scared. In the end I was glad there was no close up of ugly, terrible face, complete with loud soundtrack to make me jump.

Stella and Trelkovky visiting Simone

Roman Polanski plays Mr. Trelkovsky, who is looking for an apartment in Paris. We get the idea how hard it is to obtain a room in those days. Trelkovsky arrives in a building with a knowledge that a room is available. The concierge later tells him that the previous tenant, Simone Choule, is now in hospital after throwing herself out of the window. Trelkovsky visits Simone and meets Stella (Isabelle Adjani, still beautiful with those large glasses), a friend of Simone. Simone screams when she sees them, although Stella believes it's Trelkovsky who is the cause. The owner of the apartment building, M. Zy, tells Trelkovsky not to make any noise if he wants to keep the room. We will see the first mysterious thing: the disappearance of scattered garbage on the stairs. And later, when Trelkovsky looks at the bathroom which lies opposite his room, there are people (one at a time) inside, who are not doing anything. When he himself is sick and has to go to the bathroom (there is none inside his apartment), the walls are full of hieroglyphs, and look through the bathroom's window, he can see his room and himself, staring at the bathroom. About the noise, Trelkovsky only make noise one time when his friends come to visit him in his new apartment and he discards them a minute after the complain. However, there is a petition against him because he makes too much noise. He then starts to believe that the other tenants has been trying to make him crazy so that he follows Simone Choule's step. Is it true? Who is insane? Has he been hallucinating? To prove to the other tenants that he can fight ["They want to drive me to suicide. All right. I'll show them," he says], he wears a female wig and Simone's nightgown - what a strange idea! The ending becomes the beginning, makes it all an unending nightmare.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Le deuxième souffle (2007)

After watching this, I don't see why they had to make this remake. There are not many changes from the 1966 version by Jean-Pierre Melville. One big change I noticed was the location of the robbery: in the 1966 version it was on a remote road, in this new version it was in a warehouse - to protect the informer because if the attack was on the road, it would be dangerous for him as only 3 people knew the secret route.

I haven't read the book by José Giovanni, on which both movies are based, but I believe if the remake was based on that, it would at least more different, than working based on Melville's film. Many scenes are the same: the escape from prison, the train chase (which reminded me of the anecdote how Melville made Lino Ventura do the stunt himself), Orloff's room, the clothes [I read that in the 60's Parisians didn't wear trench-coats and fedoras anymore],... 

Escaped from prison, Gu (Daniel Auteuil) joins his mistress Manouche (Monica Bellucci) and her loyal bodyguard Alban (Eric Cantona) in Paris. Manouche helps Gu to escape to Italy and wants to go with him. In Marseille, Orloff (Jacques Dutronc - looks taller than usual) offers a last job so Gu can have money before going. The job is to rob a van contains gold ingots, with Venture Ricci (Daniel Duval), Antoine and Pascal, who are searching for the 4th man. Gu agrees, the job goes well, but smart Inspector Blot (Michel Blanc) knows Gu is behind the robbery and traps him, so other gangsters hear that Gu is a grass. Gu determines not to go across to Italy before clearing his name.

homage to Le samouraï--> homage to Le samouraï
Daniel Auteuil is a good actor, but he is not Lino Ventura. Funny, I always think of Lino Ventura as a wrestler-turned-actor (and Auteuil as a real actor), but to me Lino Ventura is Gu. The same goes to Michel Blanc, because Paul Meurisse is Inspector Blot.

Although Melville's film is in black and white, when he made a colour movie the next year, he put in his trademark: cold, bleak colour with bluish tint. My copy of Le cercle rouge from Criterion is in wrong colour (so I believe: too yellow) and I plan to get the version from Canal or BFI. This version of The Second Wind is also too yellow (it's the director's choice, of course), so you can see I don't like the colour of it. Another thing I like in Melville's films is although the stories are about gangsters and violence, on screen there are nothing so violent - especially compared with today's standards. Director of this new version, Alain Corneau, digs up the hidden violence, so we can see blood spurts and torn flesh - like watching a Quentin Tarantino movie. Well, I complained because the torture scene of Paul Ricci (in this version his name is Venture Ricci) had been taken out from the 1966 version - due to censorship, but am I happy because it is available in the new version? No, I am not. Well, at least those who care for Manouche can be relieved because in this version we can see Orloff will be taking care of her.

2007 version : too yellow

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ne le dis à personne (2006)

Last night I enjoyed this very much. The lead actor looked a lot like Dustin Hoffman and the lead actress Claire Danes. The good script made the movie thrilling to watch, with a sweet ending.

After a nocturnal swim, Alex Beck (François Cluzet) and his wife Margot (Marie-Josée Croze) are attacked. Margot dies, while Alex spends several days in a comma. A chain murderer is caught and punished. So much Alex loves his wife (they were childhood sweethearts) that he doesn't even think to re-marry. Eight years later two male bodies have been found in the same area and Alex receives an email... from Margot. From the link in the email, Alex sees his wife  on a web-cam. Is she still alive? "Tell no one. They are watching." - it says. [Alex tells his sister anyway.] Meanwhile, the police tries to re-open the case since all this time they have a suspicion that it was Alex who killed his own wife, and with two new bodies, they have a very good reason. However, there is also another group who follows Alex, and this one is without mercy. Did Margot have a secret? If she is alive, then whom they had buried?

Luckily, Alex, a pediatrician, is a good man. 'As you sow so shall you reap.' One of his patients's parent is indebted to him, so when he is wanted by both sides - police and gangster - Alex has a place to go. Throughout the movie, we believe that he is innocent and that he is a victim.

Also starring is Kristin Scott Thomas as Alex's sister and Jean Rochefort as the boss of Alex's sister's girlfriend. Another favourite character is Nina the dog, which is big, hairy and cute.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Scorpio (1972)

Scorpio is a movie about spy, but very different from James Bond. An ageing CIA agent, Cross (Burt Lancaster), works well with a French hired assassin: code name Scorpio (Alain Delon), and has taught him many things. Their relationship is more like father-son than teacher-student. [In The Leopard 10 years before, they were uncle-nephew.] Cross's boss, McLeod, believes that Cross is a double agent, and who is a better choice to eliminate Cross if not Scorpio, the only one who can anticipate Cross's next step. Scorpio follows Cross from Washington to Vienna and back to Washington again, but he won't kill Cross if McLeod cannot convince him of Cross's betrayal.

In the beginning of the movie, there is an excellent scene on how Scorpio does his job in Orly - I like the footage style. Unlike Jef Costello in Le samouraï, Scorpio is full of life. He does still have that icy cold look - sometimes melancholic, but he has a sister and a girlfriend whom he loves very much and he's ready to leave everything behind for her. He loves street cats - perhaps because they are wandering around like him - and is happy when he is holding one. He also loves Cross as Cross loves him. He didn't kill Cross in Paris and Cross has saved him twice. For Scorpio, the worst sin is betrayal. When he finds out about Cross's betrayal, he shoots him while looking into his eyes - and without blinking.

The chase scene in the subway, which was being built, is one of the best moments. Burt Lancaster is an ex-acrobat and Alain Delon was a marine. Looks like to me that they both did their own stunts, which made the director could take good shots. Michael Winner (director), Burt Lancaster, and Alain Delon are Scorpions; that was why the assassin was given code name Scorpio.

Actor Paul Scofield plays Zharkov, an ageing Russian agent. Cross goes to him in Vienna to hide. How can a CIA agent befriends a Russian agent? I guess in that field, one has to have contacts everywhere. Zharkov, Cross, and Scorpio are one of the bests - unlike McLeod's agents, although Scorpio will know in the end that McLeod was not as stupid as he thought. I don't like the scene between drunk Zharkov and Cross. Dialogues between 2 drunkards are usually useless - but at least this one tells us how Zharkov still believes in the ideology although the people ruin it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sois belle et tais-toi (1958)

"Be Beautiful But Shut Up" is said to be one of director Marc Allégret's worst works. This comedy thriller were meant to feature Henri Vidal and Mylène Demongeot, and it didn't do well when it was released, but now it's wanted because it's the first film which brought Alain Delon and Jean-Paul Belmondo together, both as young criminals. The two monstres sacrés would reunite only in Paris brûle-t-il? (1966), Borsalino (1970), and Une chance sur deux (1998).

L-R: Olga, Virgine, Prudence, Loulou, Pierrot

The story of Be Beautiful But Shut Up is not hard to follow: Having escaped from a reform school, Virginie (Mylène Demongeot) joins a band of petty criminals led by Loulou (Alain Delon). She is caught by the police in a stolen car which has been used to rob emeralds. Inspector Morel (Henri Vidal) believes that she can lead him to Charlemagne - the robber (Roger Hanin). Virginie-Morel relationship begins by misunderstanding, but they end up in a marriage and they learn to love each other day by day. Meanwhile, Charlemagne's fence hides the emeralds into an old camera which should be transported over the border by Loulou and his gang. The very camera is now in the hand of Virginie. When the fence is dead, Inspector Morel has a suspicion upon his wife and he sets a trap on her.

I myself find this movie quite entertaining. The story is simple and easy to follow, plus there are funny moments with Inspector Jerome (Darry Cowl) - how he could reach that position is a big question. Mylène Demongeot's Virginie is a lovely, merry girl who doesn't forget her friends who have helped her when she was in troubles. Young Delon & Belmondo showed that dangerous scenes were not a problem for them.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Dancing Machine (1990)

I think there are too many dancing scenes in this movie, that the thriller doesn't work. It lacks the scenes to built tensions. It doesn't have a good story to start with as well. In the middle of 70's, disco-musician Marc Cerrone wrote the story with Alain Delon in mind, but this movie was realized about 15 years later - though I hoped it had never been at all. The ending is absurd and I wished for a better explanation.

Alain Delon plays Alan Wolf [In Le samouraï, Delon's character is "a lone wolf" or "a wounded wolf"], the director of a dancing school. Once a very good dancer, Wolf's career ended after an accident, which also killed his mistress Melissa. He and his associate Chico run the classes harshly. His ex-wife, Ella, tells Inspector Eparvier (Claude Brasseur) who lives in the same apartment as her, about her suspicion that Wolf has killed 2 female students. "They died in shocking ways" - she tells Eparvier. The 3rd victim soon follows: a student who has been dismissed and dances on the street to attract's Wolf attention, and dies due to exhaustion and heart attack. The inspector begins to look into the matter seriously, especially after Ella and Chico consecutively are found dead, with Wolf in both crime scenes. Melissa's sister, Daphné, now joins the school and becomes Wolf's mistress, warned by the inspector that she is the next victim. 

Alan Wolf wears black throughout the movie, as though he is always in mourning and blames himself for Melissa's death. After Daphné came, he changes the black with red, then blue, and returns to black again after she left. I think without Alain Delon and Claude Brasseur, not many people would bother to watch this movie. If I'm not mistaken, this is their reunion after George Lautner's Les seins de glace in 1974.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fantasia chez les Ploucs (1971)

Based on The Diamond Bikini novel by Charles Williams, this Gérard Pirès movie is quite funny, although I think it's strangely edited. The director inserted little scenes here and there, which sometimes work and sometimes make me raise my eyebrow. Some parts have bad sound editing - although I'm not sure whether they did it deliberately. The underwater scene, for example, when Jean Yanne tries to grab the bikini while Mireille Darc screams; seems the timing is wrong.

A ruined bookmaker, Doc Noonan, brings his son Billy to visit his brother Sagamore who lives in Cicero county - that is in America. Sagamore owns a farm, but the sheriff has a suspicion that Sagamore is producing alcohol illegally. Nearby, lives Uncle Noé who believes the end of the world is coming, so he is building some kind of Noah's Ark. A couple arrive in the farm to stay for a while: Severance and Caroline Tchou-Tchou, a striptease dancer. The Noonan brothers will soon find out that the couple have stolen diamonds. Billy sees the jewels hidden in Caroline's bikini when she teaches him to swim. Some gangsters find it out as well and to escape them, Caroline runs in fear and is lost in the marsh. The Noonan brothers announce that whoever finds Caroline will get a big reward and this causes all inhabitants from the radius of 30 kms swarming the farm and the Noonan brothers get a lot of money from parking fee and the big fair.

There are funny moments, like the sheriff's failures to catch Sagamore red-handed, police cars which always burnt and blown, Caroline and Beethoven 5th Symphony which hypnotizes her to strip , and a dachshund with a broken leg. Both main actors, Lino Ventura and Jean Yanne as the Noonan brothers, are very good. Mireille Darc is very sexy here, and in many scenes she appears topless with only wears the diamond bikini. The gangsters have cool costumes.

Alain Delon made a brief appearance as a chief of gangsters. Most likely he was visiting Mireille Darc (they were a couple then) in the location and the director asked him to help in this scene.