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Together (1956)
Children of a lesser God., 17 July 2017

Mrs Mazzetti was certainly influenced by the grand tradition of Italian Neo realism ,particularly Vittorio De Sica (the atmosphere recalls "Umberto D".)Her movie was experimental ,but it's accessible to all these who have eyes and ears even to these who do not understand English .

Two dockers,both deaf and dumb ,live in London 's East end in the fifties .Together, they stand by each other and their camaraderie helps them to carry on their sad life on a wharf where cranes are more important than human beings and in a boarding-house where their landlady feeds them without any compassion ;the film ,and it's its main originality ,puts us in their shoes :when other people talk ,we do not hear what they say .Both our unfortunate heroes use the sign language ;and in a world of steel and stone, a smile often lights their faces ,cause they retain their Joie De Vivre and their optimism ,in spite of a thankless work in an indifferent ,nay hostile world .Besides ,all the brats on the block laugh at them,call them names .One of the first sequence shows a boy on the watch ,waiting for their punching bags ,and calling his pals to persecute them .Children's cruelty has seldom been harder than in "together" ;but they actually copy their parents' attitude.

The grown-ups live in their cocoon where the two buddies are outcasts ;the policeman does not intervene when he sees the brats laugh at them;the landlady feeds them,as though they were animals ,and even a dog is given strokes .Every dog has his day ,they say ...

But not these ones,the underdogs .They try to make the best of it,having a drink in a pub,or going to the fair.One of the boy sees a girl's erotic dance on the fairground ,then meets this semi-whore again in the pub.But love is forbidden when you can't communicate with your fellow men (and women) ...except in your bed at night when the dream makes every thing possible :the fact that even the holier- than-thou Office Catholique Du Cinema did not condemn this imaginary love- making speaks volumes about the strength of the scene.

The title " together " ,considering the tragic denouement , is the best possible one ;if they were not together,life would be unbearable for these God-forsaken men.The final tragedy,told with a stunning economy of means ,is all the more awesome : the deaf and dumb man will have cried for help in a selfish crowd ...till his last breath .But the crane brings only mud.And his pal still does know that ,from now on, he is alone in the terrifying world of sounds.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Erhal!, 17 July 2017

This movie deals with some weeks in Marwann's life in Paris during the Jasmine revolution and the fall of president/dictator Ben -Ali. This teenager is more interested in girls, especially Sigrid .When the teacher asks him to comment this historical event,he just mumbles some trite words.His mom wants to join her family who is still living there in Tunisia ,but the father,who is a doctor,is less enthusiastic .

A "Liberation newspaper" cover makes the difference :overnight being involved in a revolution can win Sigrid' s love ,even though when they get to Tunisia ,the only thing Marwann discovers is that "prawns are better than in France" .

In our trouble times of terrorism ," Ma Revolution" may seem like a breath of fresh air.But,aside from the Arab spring , the screenplay is the umpteenth story of a teenager's initiation rites ,it's always the same song.Grandpa may seem endearing ,but to my eyes,he's exasperating ;it is another cliché of the French cinema : grandparents ,should we believe the screenwriters ,are often more understanding and hip.

Did you hear about the Midnight Ramblers ?, 16 July 2017

Bad taste can sometimes be considered art ;it's Ben Soussan's wish ,but it's John Waters' reality .Let's be straight about this : a movie which makes a spoof on a teenager's funeral ,which wants us to laugh at the ridiculous priest ,at the parents' pain ,it takes obscenity to new limits.And it's only the first (obnoxious) sequence!

Malo is a very hung-up teenager ,who dreams of being the coolest guy in his high-school ..He tries hard to be a big boy and the toast of the girls.Wearing horrible glasses ,he has nothing to attract the beauties around . His mom is a busy executive , always dealing with the Chinese.His dad is a househusband .Family life suffers accordingly .So does the movie.

The German teacher urges the students to welcome a pen-friend in their home to improve their language .Malo dreams of a beautiful Valkyrie ,but his guest is a tall skinny sort of punk Sasha .First meeting does not bode well for French/German friendship.But you should not go by appearances.This German tomboy conceals a heavy secret: her father plays in a rock and roll band ,the " Midnight Ramblers",but she hardly knows him,for he left home a long time ago.

So both teenagers make a deal :let me go out at night (unbeknownst to your parents) and help me find my father and I make you a tough guy.("for the Americans won't come to your rescue this time")

The rest is predictable to a fault ,with a spate of clichés: the

big boy with Zoophilia tendencies, the girls in the boys toilet,the gay(?) teacher who embraces Malo's dad ,the difficulties to meet the famous (?) rock band (the boy uses transparent pseudonyms: Lennon,Jagger),daddy 's rebellion against his "macho" wife who sacrifices her children to her career.And of course the polite word "Bitte" which sounds like the French slang for "dick" is not forgotten.

The German teacher's accent is doubtful ,but Sasha is fluent in French ,without the slightest accent:OK her daddy rocker is French but he left home a long long time ago!

To solve your family problems,there's nothing like a tough punk Valkyrie ,the screenwriters do not even spare poor Malo the final "Ich Liebe Dich" .

The General De Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer would turn in their grave ,if they saw what the French/German friendship has become!I wish our German friends never saw this drivel!

Moka (2016)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Which beast must die?, 28 June 2017

Bearing more than a distant resemblance to Claude Chabrol's "Que La Bete Meure "(1969)since the basic scheme is virtually the same :the investigation to find the car, a despicable person (David Clavel)playing more or less the part of Jean Yanne, a teenager who is not a happy person ,in search of an identity ( a daughter replacing the son) , a first suspect (Nathalie Baye in the role of Caroline Cellier)who reveals herself a nice woman ;both movies end ,once the storm had died down, with a piece of classical movie.

It must be admitted Frederic Mermoud's suffers in these comparisons: the screenplay cannot match Gegauff/Chabrol's terrifying tale,and the director can't begin to touch the famous late master's brilliance ,when he was at the height of his career ,in the late sixties/early seventies.

His movie drags on and is saved by its actresses :both Emmanuelle Devos and mainly ,mainly Nathalie Baye give faultless performances .Baye ,now a sixty-something ,is like a good wine :she improves with time and she is as attractive as in the eighties ;but I must agree with the precedent user ,a French cinema connoisseur: "La Volante",also a variation on the hit-and-run subject ,was much more exciting.But the Devos/Baye invisible feud is worth the price of admission and the ending is deeply moving and shows us ,in our trouble time ,that forgiveness can bring peace of mind.

All about Audrey., 26 June 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is exactly the kind of movie which grows on you .It takes some time to take off and the first part begins to drag on till the confrontation happens .

Although on the dole (she's got the RSA,French minimum income),Constance (check the first name) has remained a self-assured woman,still believing that the Provinces world is still waiting for her and that she he'll make short work of any rivals .A go-getter ,she does her fitness trail every morning :to be supplanted by a rookie ,Audrey,is unthinkable. Audrey is younger,prettier ,not so naive as she appears first.It won't be long before she knows all the tricks of the trade."I 've slept with a man" she says to her"friend";pretty soon she's got the golden key to the labor market :a CDI (an open-ended contract,a permanent employee contract).It's the straw that breaks the camel's back! And the immoral ending makes sense ,even though when she sits in Audrey's office it may be short-lived for someone is watching her, with a puzzled look.

There is filler (many sex scenes and some nudity, scenes in a hospital, the night club)but every time Marina Fois and Josephine Jappy have a scene together ,it takes the film to stratospheric levels: pretending to make friends with Audrey, Constance goes out of her way to destabilize her rival,to discredit her in her boss's eyes.She urges her to follow her love Alexandre to Russia ("if it were New-York ,I would not think twice ,but Poutine,well ,it is not a safe place to be " " What do you know about it? Eloping with a true love is marvelous when you are young")

Another reason for which Constance hates Audrey is her youth :she's forty and she can't stand being ousted by a beginner .Hence the excellent scenes of the health trail when the older woman wants to prove her rival (and mainly prove to herself) she can live her far behind .

A cruel tale of the labor market in which they're always at each other's throats.

L'invitata (1969)
Two for the road., 24 June 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Joanna Shimkus's career was short ,but few have really forgotten her "burial at sea" in Robert Enrico's "Les Aventuriers"(1966).If she had not given up acting when she married Sidney Poitier,she would have certainly found her place in the European cinema.

"L'Invitata" is a fine road movie with two symmetrical scenes which depicts similar situations .Anne is upset when her boyfriend (Perrin)brings an English friend for the night (actually we do not really know whether they had an affair).In the last scene with François (Piccoli) and his wife (Clotilde Joano) it's Anne's turn to feel like an intruder ;when she's left alone by the sea on the beach of Saintes Maries De La Mer,she has understood that the whole world does not turn around her.

During the long travel from Paris to the south of France ,she and François have met people who may have helped her see the world in a different light: the baker and his delicious bread,fresh from the oven,Viennese pastries ,the wedding Anne seems to attend from the outside.The episode of the sculptor is more conventional ,but ,as far as François is concerned, it prepares the ground for the scenes in his house.

A lovely film.

Same meat,different gravy., 24 June 2017

Let's call a spade a spade :this is melodrama .Although it's given a "modern" treatment ,it is melodrama.Although Sir Bob Geldof is part of the cast ,this is melodrama .Although the movie desperately tries to sound "rock" ,this is melodrama.Although 25% of the dialog is in English (this quarter stems from the presence of the Boomtown Rats leader who says some lines in French much to his credit),this is melodrama.Although it's based on a renowned intellectual book, this is melodrama.

Melodrama all down the line .From the prologue where a little girl counts in English ,goes home , finds her mom in the bath with another woman ,and runs to her dad the ending ,where a little girl picks flowers on the graves in a cemetery and gives them to her (lonely? does history repeat itself?)mom.

Louise's parents did not care that much about her :mom was what the French call a Bobo (Bourgeois Bohème) ,Dad ,a rock star," constantly hopping from airplanes to luxury hotels to concert stages" (Fraghera).And just when Louise is pregnant by her loving boyfriend Pablo ,she learns that her mother has a cancer .The future mommy resents this coquette reckless mother and cannot make up her mind to tell her mom she will become a grandma soon.All people around urge her to do it,and when she does, it will be too late (the best scene is perhaps Louise showing her baby -in-womb radio-graphs to a mom who cannot hear her anymore -like Susan Kohner crying over her mom Juanita Moore's dead body in Sirk's "imitation of life" ,melodrama in all its splendor.)

Do not get me wrong .I do love melodramas,but this one is not thoroughly convincing : how can we believe Louise writes best- sellers when we never see her scribble a single line?Although praised for her over-the -top performance,one can think that Isia Higelin 's diction leaves a little to be desired.One can prefer seasoned Carole Bouquet although the part is not really worthy of her talent.Jacques Weber has a nice supporting part of a doctor who loves rock and cut singles when he was young.Sir Bob Geldof strums on his guitar and sings one or two tunes ,but as Rolling Stone wrote :"though it would be nice to report that his exemplary battle against world hunger inspired a satisfying solo career,such is not the case".The best song of the score does not belong to him ,it's Dick Annegarn 's splendid surrealist "Bruxelles".

"Mauvaise Fille " is same meat,different gravy: all the elements of good old melodrama are present :the little girl left to her own devices, who finds success in life, who sees her mom dying when she 's about to bring a new life to the "planet" (a line in the movie),her resentment,her fear to give birth ,her remorse near the deathbed ...

It's as though the screenwriters suddenly appreciated how humorless it was and attempted to introduce funny lines in the priest's speech in the cemetery.

Oceano Nox, 24 June 2017

A young man is seeking inspiration for his first poem in Sète,a city on the hot Mediterranean coast .The movie is divided into chapters ,a la "Cléo De 5 A 7" ,chapters which could be called : "Rémi and the fisherman" " Rémi and the poets from the past " "Rémi and Léonore" "Rémi and the dictionary" "Rémi and booze" etc ....The film itself falls into the Neo Nouvelle Vague genre and should be reserved for highbrows who like this kind of stuff .The others might yawn their head off for there's no real screenplay and its fortune- cookie philosophies can (it is useful) replace a sleeping pill in case of insomnia.

Maléfices (1962)
I put a spell on you., 22 June 2017

On Noirmoutier Island,The Passage Du Gois, a periodically flooded causeway is unique in the world for its length (4.5km), . Its 9 signals provide sanctuary to the more reckless who are taken by surprise as the water rises.(Tourist Office)Noirmoutier has been connected to mainland France by bridge since 1971-the film was made in 1962 ,so the only way to the island was the Gois.

Henri Decoin's Films Noirs of the second half of the fifties were only a pale reflection of his great movies ("Non Coupable" "La Fille Du Diable " " Les Inconnus Dans La Maison" ....)But in 1962,out of the blue, "Maléfices" nearly matched Decoin's heyday ,with its deadly charm,its oppressive atmosphere, its sense of mystery ,and unabashed confidence when the overrated Nouvelle Vague was ruling.Given inspiring material, the director could still rise to the occasion.

And the material is first-class: a diabolic(!) suspense by Boileau- Narcejac :must it be repeated that ,without them "Les Diaboliques" and "Vertigo" would never have existed ?

The movie begins with a long panoramic shot on the famous Gois (see above)enhanced by a lugubrious ominous score .François ,married to Catherine ,lives in Beauvoir/Mer .He is a vet surgeon and he travels all over the region ,in his Deux-Chevaux car .The first scene (not from the novel) shows a peasant whose cow is sick: he does not really believe in science ,but he does think there is a curse on his cattle .François does not take it seriously and however...

Called on Noirmoutier island to treat a sick leopard ,the vet meets a mysterious attractive woman,Myriam .Almost reluctantly ,he becomes her lover in a house where a statuette and disturbing paintings made by the owner who was born and lived in Africa for years seem to have maleficent powers .Myriam,jealous and possessive does not want to share her lover with his wife .And because of a strange (tropical?) disease , Catherine falls into the well:although she survived the "accident" she becomes sicker and sicker: illness or poisoning?Or did Myriam cast a spell on her? The disturbing woman wants to return to Africa and François to follow her there.Having read books provided by a strange doctor,François begins to believe in black magic power.The only way to save his wife would be to break the spell while following his mistress ...

Decoin takes advantage of the filming on location (the tragedy on the Gois is a model of simplicity and efficiency),he makes the Noirmoutier landscapes as threatening as Henri Calef did in 1949 with Le Mont Saint Michel in "Eaux Troubles" .And those who read the book will agree that Juliette Greco was the ideal choice (I cannot think of another actress in the part of this sexy witch ).

Against all odds ,and without writing a spoiler,one can go as far to write that "Malefices" is a story of Amour Fou ;and when it's over ,the viewer will not really know who really killed who.

The novel begins with a confession the hero sends to the police and the story is a long flashback.However the screenwriters did a very good adaptation,to creditable effect.

"Maléfices " was Henri Decoin's (short-lived ) renaissance.It's his only worthwhile effort in the sixties ,and it is a sparkling black diamond,the lost great thriller of the era.

Like this? try these...

"La Cage" Robert Darène 1963

"Rosemary's baby" Roman Polanski 1968 (note the similarities when François reads the black magic books.)

The parrot steals the show., 19 June 2017

André Hunebelle was an odd-job man ,always seeing which when the wind would blow when he made his movies;hence his eclecticism ,so to speak:comedies,swashbucklers (genre in which his gave his most pleasant works ),spy thrillers ,spoofs ....

"Ma Femme Est Formidable" belongs to the "Theatre De Boulevard " genre and conveys all it its clichés: husbands and wives ,lovers, intrusive mother-in -law ,curious concierges (the obligatory Pauline Carton),all happening in a bourgeois milieu : dentist ,artists,hint at a marquis , mom-in-law has a game of bridge planned and everybody meets for the Winter sports ,a luxury at the time.

All is borrowed in the exceptionally poor screenplay :the scene when Fernand Gravey takes revenge on his supposedly unfaithful wife strongly reminds you of Raimu in "La Femme Du Boulanger"(the baker's wife),the statues replacing La Pomponnette,the female cat.The trick of the costume ball has been used a hundred times or more.

Louis De Funès appears a a tourist who finds it hard getting a room in the hotel managed by Noel Roquevert who was featured in countless fifties French films.

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