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Different from many other Chabrol movies that follow "Hitchock-like" patterns, _Jours tranquilles à Clichy_ relates the days a young American writer (Henry Miller) spent in the Gay Paris of the early thirties, with his polish-descent friend and their young Colette, a 14 years old-ish girl with whom they both fall in love. The story in itself doesn't send us from a surprising even to another but slowly lifts the curtain over the prostitution, pornography, libertinage and partying that seemed to oppose Paris so much to New York, in the eyes of Miller, searching for a change from the dull like he lead before. The story is a quest for Proust and his lost time, a quest for a new life, for thrills, for truth in forgetting oneself...
This one is, by far, the most surprising project to be tackled by
Claude Chabrol and one that seems to be greatly despised by devotees of
Henry Miller (author of the autobiographical source). Being an
aficionado of the French director myself (especially after going
through the current comprehensive tribute and even if I omitted several
of his best-regarded work, with which I was already familiar), I give
no weight to such criticisms and, frankly, having preceded this with
the vulgar 1970 Danish version, Chabrol's stylish treatment of the same
material grew that much more in my estimation (despite this being a
rather choppy edition, since it loses some 20 minutes from the original
running-time)! If anything, the film under review is far closer in look
and approach to Philip Kaufman's biopic HENRY & JUNE (1990), a portrait
of the life and times of the taboo-breaking novelist himself, than the
earlier cinematic rendition!
Whenever he chose to make period pieces, Chabrol always managed a detailed evocation of time and place: here, he seems to be particularly inspired by the ornate production design (not least a flashback/fantasy structure set in a desert limbo that recalls the "Angel Of Death" sequences in Bob Fosse's autobiographical ALL THAT JAZZ ), which provide a striking visual backdrop to the necessarily candid narrative. That said, the ample nudity (in this case, all the women are gorgeous) and potential tastelessness (the two protagonists simultaneously marry an underage girl, who is also not the retard depicted in the earlier version) are handled with sensitivity, eschewing sensationalism to the point of them appearing quite natural!
Incidentally, the loosely-related events of the original (and, presumably, the book) are presented here in a fairly organized manner and, while the whole may still feel insufficiently interesting (as per the "Cult Filmz" website), they certainly hold one's attention much more than before. One of the thorns in the side of Miller fans here is the central casting, which I admit Chabrol could have improved upon, and also the way that their constant penury is basically ignored in this version (while adding a political subtext in its latter stages). That said, Andrew McCarthy (looking quite a bit like Johnny Depp!) is better than one could have anticipated in the role of Miller's alter-ego Joey, while Nigel Havers is appropriately urbane as his more experienced pal Carl. By the way, one of the venues where McCarthy goes for a pick-up is a cinema which is screening Fritz Lang's THE TESTAMENT OF DR. MABUSE (1933) this is not only in keeping with Chabrol's renowned admiration for the Austrian master film-maker but also foreshadows his very next effort, DR. M (1990), in which McCarthy himself appears in a bit part!
As I said earlier, the gallery of attractive females is given its due here: Barbara De Rossi (as McCarthy/Miller's true love Nys, though she finally opts for security with mild-mannered Dominique Zardi, a Chabrol fixture), Stephanie Cotta (as the teenage temptress Colette even lustfully ogled by middle-aged aristocrat Mario Adorf), Eva Grimaldi, Anna Galiena (perhaps coming off best as the client who demands payment for her services at gunpoint a scene which turns up towards the end here whereas it opened the 1970 version!) and, of course, the ubiquitous Stephane Audran the former Mrs. Chabrol and whom he apparently still could not do without, at least in his films as a sprightly Madame. Ultimately, therefore, while I was all prepared to hate this going in - after having bumpily made it through the 1970 original - and denounce it as a huge mistake for Chabrol, I have to say that I was sufficiently entertained and titillated by the (pardon the pun) heady cocktail of sex and death.
The American writer Joe (Andrew McCarthy) arrives in Paris to research
and write about Proust. He meets the Polish Karl (Nigel Havers) and
they become friends and costumers of brothels and restaurants. When the
fifteen year-old Colette (Stéphanie Cotta) arrives in Paris, they both
fall in love with her.
"Jours Tranquilles à Clichy" is a dull and pointless movie by Claude Chabrol based on the story of Henry Miller and Alfred Perlès. The movie is boring and absolutely different from the other works of this great French director. My vote is four.
Title (Brazil): "Dias de Clichy" ("Days of Clichy")
Reviewers have complained that this film does not capture enough of the
book by Henry Miller and includes things he did not write. Of the
additions, for me the frame story rings poignant and true. On the
Californian coast we see the dying Miller obsessed by one last
unconsummated passion for a beautiful young nude model, a recreation of
the bewitching teenage Colette he had lost. Outside on the beach the
ghosts of his old Parisian friends gather for him to join them. Then we
move into his memories.
Of these, the added stuff about fascism and communism in 1930s Paris does seem feeble. But my defence for both departures is that they are at worst ironic and at best comic. The real Miller and some of his friends may have taken themselves fairly seriously but in this film the cavortings and occasional soul-searchings of American exiles in Paris, immune from the harsh political facts of European life, border on the absurd. His devotion to Proust is treated satirically and to a Parisian his frequent comparisons with Brooklyn are merely ridiculous.
In fact we see virtually no real Paris, the city being most of the time conveyed by sets, which deliberately distance the story to a dreamy insubstantial past. Like the artificiality of the book, the film creates a fantasy world, one of untrustworthy recollection from a gifted, persuasive but ultimately unreliable narrator. Though actuality does intrude when Colette runs away and jumps onto a very real Metro train, so leaving the imaginary sphere for the quotidian.
While intensely autobiographical, incorporating wholesale people he knew at the time, Miller's work is fiction. It is not a diary but a melody spun out of his experience, looking beyond outward events to his inward poetic and philosophical reflections. This last dimension is what I miss in Chabrol's film, which mostly stays closer to the colourful surface occurrences of the characters' lives. Although I don't think many male viewers will complain about the often revealed surfaces of the many lovely women.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I read "Quiet Days in Clichy" maybe 50 years ago. It is one of Mr.
Miller's more porno-graphic stories--that is a story line graphically
This movie glosses over all that. Very little depiction of outright nudity much less pudenda. Something tells me that the explicit Henry Miller would have dismayed by a whitewashed sterile presentation of his great explicitly erotic/pornographic storyline. I mean, the ladies raise their skirts to reveal--what? The camera doesn't show?! It ended up being a tease. And the one place that had explicit nudity was the shootout--
Clearly, part of the movie (exterior shots) is filmed on an obvious studio set, and that detracts from film. It ended up looking hokey.
I thought the movie was interesting in that interesting sort of way--but not especially gripping. I saw it once, I'm good for another fifty years.
This Claude Chabrol film is (obviously) quite unpopular with Henry
Miller fans because it is not especially faithful to his original book.
Still, the late Chabrol was a talent nearly on par with Stanley
Kubrick, and has certainly earned the right to "re-imagine" works of
literature the same way Kubrick often did with stuff like Stephen
King's "The Shining" or Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita". Miller was a
better writer than King, of course, if certainly not in the class of
Nabokov. Like Nabokov though, a faithful film adaptation of his best
books would be well nigh impossible, which is why this unfaithful one
is really no less successful than the more faithful 1970 Danish
version. It has its share of sex scenes, of course, but is not as
sexually fixated as Miller's writings or the earlier Danish adaptation,
choosing instead to focus on the two male characters'
fixation/unrequited love for the teenage "Collete" character, who falls
into their lecherous hands after her prostitute grandmother dies and
wills one of them her brothel.
The modern-day flashback story where an elderly Miller is painting a nude picture of a "Collete" look-alike (who may only exist in his imagination) while cursing the "one-that-got-away" has nothing to do with Miller, of course, but is actually the best scene in the movie (unrequited fantasy is always more thematically interesting than the sexual over-indulgence Miller usually traded in). At any rate, the modern-day scenes don't detract from the 1930's setting nearly as much as the hippie-looking girls and that horrid Country Joe and the Fish title song featured in the dated 1970 Danish version.
The acting is indeed a liability. Andrew McCarthy is better than usual, but then he's usually awful. Barbara DeRossi (as a prostitute/love interest) is good, but underused, and newcomer Stephanie Cotta (who plays "Collette") doesn't need to act too much, which is fortunate because she really can't. This IS certainly a misfire within the oeuvre of Chabrol, who is much better at subtle Hitchcockian thrillers and is actually one of the few French directors who HASN'T generally traded in sex-oriented films like this. This isn't bad, just not really noteworthy either.
This film is to be avoided by anyone wanting to see something worthwhile. If you are a Chabrol aficionado, well, you might just want to quench your thirst on completing your knowledge of his filmography. Chabrol totally misses the point of the novel. Although he interestingly casts the two main characters as somewhat resembling the original Jens Thorsen film main actors. Nothing of the situationist atmosphere of the book and the 1970s film is preserved. The plot is located in the 20ies/30ies with some nonsense political threads thrown in. The 70ies film apparently was reshaped to the 50ies/60ies (without much mention, but the street scenes would suggest so) - and that actually made more sense. Chabrol invents two threads of a night club and the dying Miller which just don't make it and turns the film into a tedious experience of wannabe cinematographic art. Having re-written the plot does not help anything in this flick - it finally just goes nowhere at all. Waste of money and waste of time. Take to the UK original version of Jens Thorsen in any case, even if this is VERY bleak and 70ies-ish. If I were Henry Miller, I would have shot Chabrol for this. Another thing I cannot understand is the rating. NOTHING in this film justifies and 16 or even 18-up rating. The French rated it at 12+ which is about what it deserves. *grumble*
As a big fan of Henry Miller, I must vehemently trash this movie. The director misses the point of the novel completely, and instead INVENTS a tediously pretentious story around the most basic elements of Miller's book. It's an embarrassment, really. Miller and Carl's poverty is such a factor in the book, yet the movie's setting is extravagant and overblown. I had thought that the 1970 version was a poor facsimilie, but I see that that film at least attempted to capture the down-and-out feel of the book, the crudeness of Miller's language in that particular telling, and made some effort to follow the plot of the book. Andrew McCarthy is a snivelling newt with no charisma. McCarthy as Miller? I was cringing the entire time. I couldn't even bear to fast-forward the second half of this version. Dear god, avoid this waste of everyone's time. Why did the director even bother?
this is not a terrible film, and probably even a good one, but couldn't
help but question the ethical issues of translating this particular
novel into film. charbrol seems all too ready to exploit his underage
actress, which does tell the story effectively, but then begs the
question, why tell this story at all? probably such concepts as "age of
consent" are somewhat arbitrary, but then again most very young women
who have sexual experiences with older men as young teenagers don't
exactly appreciate it, and appreciate it even less in hindsight.
had to delete from my hard drive for obvious reasons, won't be watching again in the foreseeable future.
Henry Miller, the famous nefarious American writer in the twilight
years remembers his youth spent in Paris at the dawn of the thirties. A
life of debauchery guided by the search for rapture and intense
pleasure of the senses through sex, food and literature (he was a
profound admirer of Marcel Proust).
Amid a bushy and patchy filmography, Claude Chabrol admits liking this movie very much. That this movie makes him feel good is a mystery to me for it showcases none interest. His lack of input in his film, even his absence in the directing are blatant. He shot in a glib way an amorphous biopic to which one doesn't succeed in getting interested beyond the first ten minutes. The characters (Henry "Joey" Miller, Alfred "Carl" Perlès, Colette Ducarouge) have little depth and thickness and their acting mainly consist in wandering from brothel to brothel, from restaurant to restaurant (as Chabrol's inclination for gastronomy has it) and from flat to apartment. Probably to obey to the famous Latin expression "Carpe Diem". The action is sluggish and it's nearly a feat that the filmmaker could stretch his film for two hours with such a thin, stale, repetitive screenplay. It's all the more infuriating as the scenario doesn't live up to some heaven-sent opportunities. The ones through which one could have remembered Chabrol's trademark like unearth the hateful flaws of a posh bourgeoisie. But alas, Chabrol contented himself to skim over this point. Bereft of this asset which might have justify the vision of this film and of rigor, Chabrol installs the audience in a deep torpor and one stays out of this derivative picture of the Paris during the Roaring Twenties.
The cast is totally undistinguished, a far cry from Chabrol's great family like Jean-Claude Brialy, Michel Bouquet, Jean Poiret or Isabelle Huppert. Yes, the luminary Stéphane Audran is part of the cast but she's completely wasted in a role unworthy of her skills. Anna Galiena is also included in the cast but she will be given the chance to shine the same year with Patrice Leconte's dreamy "Mari De La Coiffeuse".
Chabrol beat his dead horse with this mediocre commissioned film which is now in limbo. Anyway, 1990 was a dreadful vintage for him with these "quiet days in Clichy" and also with another fiasco the same year: "Dr. M".
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