Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Le chat (1971)

This work of director Pierre Granier-Deferre is interesting to watch, since two great actors, Jean Gabin and Simone Signoret, are in it.

Having married for 25 years, Julien Bouin has lost his passion for his wife Clémence. He sneers at her, but they are not divorced as he cannot leave his home. It's amazing to see how two people can live side by side that way. One day, Julien brings home a cat. Seeing how he loves the cat so much, but ignores the wife, Clémence first slanders the cat, next leaves it in a supermarket (but it comes home), and finally shoots the poor creature. Julien puts the dead cat in a trash-bin and moves to a hotel owned by his ex-mistress. He finally returns home, worrying about his wife's heart disease; but he never speaks a word to her anymore and his wife to him. The story is told in flashbacks, so in the beginning of the movie we see Julien and Clémence both do his&her own shopping and cooking. First she enters into a shop and he only comes in after she has gone out. She buys the last bottle of his favourite rum and doesn't share it with him. He cooks his dinner and doesn't share it with her.

I've seen old couples who are not in love anymore, but this couple in this movie is a very bad example. Each day must be like hell. Imagine Julien, after working all day, when he returns home, he must be wanting to rest - mind and body; yet he must face a wife whom he doesn't want anymore. It's better if they had been divorced, in my opinion, because often, when two people haven't seen each other for a while, perhaps they will forget each other's faults and keep the happier memories. "There should be a law which prohibits two people who don't love each other to live in the same house."

Returning to the house is like a habit for Julien Bouin, even if inside it lives his biggest enemy. The cat triggers the cold war between the couple, and the news that they are to be evicted from the house also adds fuel to the aversion.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Monk

First published in 1796, The Monk by Matthew Lewis is set in Madrid. Like the title suggests, a monk called Ambrosio is one of the central characters. When the story begins, Ambrosio is the idol of Madrid, and as the story progresses, we see how his falls. Ambrosio's demise begins from his nearest friend, a monk who adores him very much. This monk turns out to be a disguised woman and she will do anything to please Ambrosio. Unfortunately she is not a faithful friend, because she doesn't give him good advice. She encourages Ambrosio to go on with his desire, whatever it is, even though they know that the Church forbids it.

Other characters are Don Lorenzo and Don Raymond, two noblemen who each has their own sweetheart: Don Lorenzo loves Antonia, a far relative of Don Raymond; and Don Raymond loves Agnes, Don Lorenzo's sister. Both love stories seem to end tragically, although in the end Don Raymond gets his Agnes after a tribulation; while Don Lorenzo loses his Antonia but gets a worthy replacement.

The novel is well written and fast paced, often using story within a story. There are robbery attempt, ghosts, murders, rape, incest, tortures and black magic. Ambrosio is not the only bad priest in here, because the Prioress of St Clare is also ruthless. These are church leaders and people listen to them, but they have no pity and give no mercy. A mistake like what Agnes has done, which Ambrosio happens to find out, makes the Prioress punishes her with maximum because the Prioress feels she has lost a face in front of Ambrosio, the idol of Madrid. Ambrosio can tell the Prioress to be softer, but he is afraid he will open his own mask, so he stays silent and let Agnes face her doom.

People come to the church to listen to Ambrosio, yet this monk doesn't really know about the Grace of God. After he fell to temptation and is facing a court, they break his body and spirit in a torture, and he surrenders to the darkness. Doesn't he know that misery in this world is only for the time being and that in other world it is eternal? He escapes the 2nd torture from the Inquisition by selling his soul to the devil, believing the Father of the Liars's words that after what he has done to Antonia and her mother, he will never be saved.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Blow-Up (1966)

Having seen one work of Michelangelo Antonioni before, I prepared myself to enjoy this without trying to understand.

David Hemmings plays Thomas, a photographer in London who likes to bark to his models, thinking he is above them. One afternoon he photographs 2 lovers in Maryon Park, but the woman (Vanessa Redgrave) chases him and tells him that she wants the negative. This makes Thomas curious so he gives her another roll. After he blowups the pictures, he thinks he has photographed a murder. The enlarged, distorted pictures show a gunman and the body. Thomas goes to the park that night to find that the body is still there, but when he returns to his apartment, the pictures are gone.

I guess in the end it's better for Thomas to forget the whole thing because now he has no proof. The body has gone when he returns to the park again in the morning. Another new day comes and let's forget the past. It's symbolized in a scene when Thomas sees a group of mime artists watching their friends playing tennis with an imagining ball. No ball, but the players and the audience all enjoy the game.

There is an interesting scene when Thomas spots the mysterious woman (Redgrave) on his way to find his friend that night. He tries to find her by entering into a concert of The Yardbirds. The guitarist goes mad because the sound system goes wrong, and he breaks his guitar and throws the neck to the audience who goes wild. Thomas wins and runs out, chased by a mob. Outside the building, when he is no longer chased, he throws away the guitar's neck. This time the relic is seen as a trash - none wants it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Harold Lloyd - The Definitive Collection

I only heard the name of Harold Lloyd a couple of months ago. By now I have learned that in his time he was a great name in cinema, along with Charlie Chaplin. I watched Safety Last! then and liked it very much, so I bought this box-set.

When it arrived, I surprisingly found that inside there were 4 postcard-size pictures of Marylin Monroe (taken by Harold Lloyd). One of my uncles is a big fan of her, but as I showed him the pictures, my boss saw them, too; and she wanted them for her own. So I scanned them. So I have to be satisfied with the digital version in my computer, my uncle gets the copies and my boss gets the original.

I prefer Harold Lloyd silent pictures than the talking ones. I find the dialogues are not so funny, or perhaps it's because I cannot understand what they meant. Without subtitles, it's hard to listen to word per word. On the other hand, I think that we here have different taste of humour from Americans. Silent comedy is easier to accept and that is why Mr Bean and Shaun The Sheep are very successful.

Harold Lloyd was a wonderful film-maker. I enjoy how he did dangerous stunts, and admire him more after I learned that he had lost 3 fingers on his right hand and had to wear a prosthetic glove. It is difficult to hang on balustrade of tall building, or hang from a hand of a clock; and he did it all with imperfect hand. I love to see how he hid under a hanging raincoat. He played with camera angle and timed the scene well, and if it's done well, it's great, no matter if the film was made 90 years ago. My 7 year-old niece love watching Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin. [I'm planning to get the Buster Keaton box-set.]

Screencap from The Kid Brother

Apart from Safety Last! - first impression is never forgotten - my most favourite in this box-set is The Kid Brother. When the film starts, there is this wonderful song by Carl Davis, which reminds me a lot to Loch Lomond song. The film is hilarious and I am amazed by those old version of washing machine and dishwasher. We all laughed throughout the movie and screamed when the hero was in peril. Who would have thought that a movie made in 1927 could be so exciting.

Police Python 357 (1976)

This movie starts slow at first and reminds me how French movies in the 70's like to study human relationship. Yves Montand looked so elegant and I think he looked better here than in Le cercle rouge.

Inspecteur Marc Ferrot (Yves Montand) is a good cop, a good shooter. One night, when snaring 2 thieves, he meet Sylvia - who is taking photos for her window dressing job. They start an affair. However, Sylvia has another lover and this other man is Ferrot's boss (François Périer), Commissaire Ganay. Knowing that Sylvia deceives him, Ganay kills her. Ganay wants to confess, but his paralyzed wife (Simone Signoret) tells him not to. Meanwhile, all clues point to Ferrot as Sylvia's murderer. 

The plots are getting better as the movie goes. Sylvia has 2 lovers, but one is not aware of the other. Ferrot tries not to confront directly the eye-witnesses. When Ganay finally realizes that Ferrot is the other man, he commands his staff to gather all the witnesses and will parade Ferrot in front of them. But that night, Ferrot also realizes that Ganay is his rival and it's a matter of who's killing whom first. To avoid one good witness who remembers him, Ferrot does a very shocking thing: he destroys his good looks. The next day, after the witness describes the killer, Ferrot's staff sees the resembles between the drawing and his boss. He tails Ferrot and witnesses Ganay's widow implores Ferrot to end her life. This police plans to report what he has seen when there is a hold-up at Carrefour. Ferrot may have made a mistake, but he did not kill Sylvia, if Ganay is dead it's self protecting, and as for the widow, it's her last wish. Over all, Ferror is a good cop and the force still need him.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Le tatoué (1968)

Hobby is a strange thing - we can spend most part of our fortune to get what we want. Collecting a work of art can be very expensive, but what if that work of art is tattooed on someone's back? Will he sell his skin if the offered price meets his demand?

Louis de Funès plays Mézeray, an art dealer who sees Modigliani's work, tattooed on the back of an old legionnaire, Legrain (played by Jean Gabin). Mézeray sells the tattoo to two Americans, but before getting the item from Legrain, he must repair Legrain's country house first. Mézeray thinks he has cheated Legrain: Modigliani's work is swapped with the 'little house' renovation's cost. The house turns out to be a ruined 16th century castle. Meanwhile, the two Americans think Mézeray has deceived them. 

The music in this movie is very entertaining and this is my favourite Jean Gabin's performance. Never seen him in a comedy before, I think he and Louis de Funès made a wonderful pair. Disgusted with Mézeray's greed at first, in the end of the movie, Mézeray and Legrain become good friends.