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Les assassins du dimanche (1956)
psychological suspense in a village and on the road
Saturday in a small village in the mountains in France, a german young couple has stopped to repair their Mercedes in a garage held by Jean-Marc Thibault. A business man drives very fast in the country and his motor breaks down, he arrives at this same garage and urges the owner to repair all night his motor. Early in the morning, the german couple leaves the village in their Mercedes without knowing the repair isn't finished. And from now, hell begins for the garage owner, everybody's against him though he isn't entirely responsible for this negligence that can be rapidly fatal. There are a lot of important scenes in all the major places of the village, café des sports, church, bike shop, bike racing in the streets, garages, local police... with all the picturesque characters of the village with crunchy dialogues. There is a lot of suspense with the Mercedes sequences, about what kind of road she's driving on? This original movie deals with dangerous speed on the road and responsabilities after a negligence. Lots of twists in this little known gem from talented Alex Joffé. Jean-Marc Thibault is touching in the character of the tortured garage owner, his scene with his kid at the police is so moving. Unforgettable. This movie is to be shown to kids so they learn about responsability..
the craziest Wild Wild West episode
Nasty week for movie fans : first Kirk Douglas' death ("20000 leagues under the sea" was my first movie seen in a theatre in the beginning of the 70's) and just after Robert Conrad (our weekly punchy secret agent with Ross Martin again in the beginning of the 70's on tv). So I had to watch again my favorite episode of Wild Wild West, this fabulous "Night of the Puppeteer" : not an ordinary episode, very fantastic, with weird settings and lightnings, a very frightening bad man (Lloyd Bochner) playing close to George Sanders and Vincent Price, Robert Conrad is playing stronger than usual in that face to face with that weirdo baddie and an atmosphere between Franju (yes) and "the Prisoner". No need to say more, it's a jewel to see again and again.
mission not impossible
1917 begins with a soldier under a tree, then he walks in a field where there are more and more soldiers, then he arrives in a trench full of soldiers, and the camera keeps on following him and his friend in their perillous mission. 1917 is shot in one real time shot (with some not too much visible cuts) like master Alfred Hitchcock did in "The Rope" in 1949 (there's another reference to Hitch with the plane sequence). As the two soldiers keep on running through different landscapes, the camera follow them closely in all positions, and some movements are really virtuoso (these movements also make me think of "Soy Cuba" and "The Cranes Are Flying"). So, the two soldiers have the dangerous mission to go deliver a letter to another position to stop an attack at dawn that is a trap to slaughter english troops. The two soldiers have to go fast and stay determined after a lot of nasty surprises. So there's no time for psychology (only one very touching sequence), just staying alive and keep on running to the objective. There are hundreds of details brilliantly directed by Sam Mendes and shot with genious by Roger Deakins. And in that bloody war, it's just a right vision of corpses with no gory sequences. Bravo !!!
Les pirates du rail (1938)
a boring Christian-Jaque
This adventure movie has not much rhythm, and the settings are really poor when an adventure movie needs impressive settings. As a set decorator, Pierre Schild worked in France in the 20-30's, and went in Spain in 1940. He worked on the settings of "les Disparus de Saint-Agil", the next Christain-Jaque far far above this one. The other set decorator is Pierre Linzbach who worked with the producer Christian Stengel on two films he directed, "Je chante" and "la famille Duraton" (only 5 movies in his imdb filmo). This movie would have needed Georges Wakhévitch as a decorator. I saw two interesting scenes, better than the rest but not exceptional. But, there is a third unforgettable scene with of course Erich von Stroheim, when he speaks with Simone Renant : this scene is unique, I don't remember any strong dialogue like this one in the 30's, even if it's short.
Menace de mort (1950)
exclusively for Dalio
"Menace de mort" is directed by Raymond Leboursier, an occasional director (only 8 movies) and writer, with no masterpieces in his filmography. This one is a kind of film noir. The major problem is the love story, quite far fetched and played by Colette Darfeuil and Jean Martinelli, completely dull and wooden, in fact, I do not see one scene where they're in love. Maybe it was the director's intention to be so wrongly dark, because the rest of the casting is as we can expect : a boozy Pierre Renoir, the smart concierge Pierre Larquey, and the real interest of this movie, the fallen inspector Dalio who plays delightfully a kinda of nasty Columbo tracking Jean Martinelli. He's really exceptional. Oh, and just enjoy the very last shot, so "unique".
The Bedford Incident (1965)
war noir movie
James B. Harris was Stanley Kubrick's first producer and he directed his own tragic version of Dr Folamour with "The Bedford Incident". It's not an action war movie but a psychological fight between a determined Navy Captain (Richard Widmark) and a russian submarine we do not see. And in this long psychological fight, Widmark becomes more despotic and psychotic with his team, stuck to his blind obsession. No need to say Widmark once again is fabulous until this terrific noir ending. On the french dvd, there is an interview of James B. Harris at the french Cinémathèque in 2014 (also on the web), I discovered a fine and inventive producer and director.
Mr. No Legs (1978)
Ricou isn't Tod
The intention to direct an original weird action drug murder movie is not at all obtained. The idea of an actor with no legs and karate champion was a great gimmick. And also the final very long car chase, though it has already been seen several times with real success (French Connection, Bullitt, the Seven-ups, Crazy Larry Dirty Mary). But the entire movie is poorly shot (no composition and point of view), and the script is lousy and cheap. When we see Mr No Legs fighting, standing on his hands and hitting with his body, it is shot in very slow motion just to enjoy the extreme rarity of such a scene, as it should have been shot in a more developped sequence with fast editing like in Hong Kong movies, there's really no imagination. Even Mr No Legs' exceptional character isn't developped, it could have been great, but Ricou Browning was not the right director for this exploitation movie, Ricou isn't Tod. What about the killers getting out of a flat with their corpse without looking if there is somebody outside and leaving finger prints everywhere in the flat? It could have been far better with a real script and more scenes with Mr No Legs, but it's a complete failure, flee. I wanted to offer this dvd for Christmas, but when I saw that junk, I didn't, really nasty experience, though I love action murder movies from 70's.
Cita imposible (1958)
decent spanish film noir
"Panique au music hall" is an ok spanish revenge film noir but with no surprises or important noir sequences, no violent scenes. I saw the version in french with the delightful Claudine Dupuis as Rosario Martin ; reading the cast, I see thre's a spanish actress I imagine for a spanish version. Claudine Dupuis doesn't shine playing her character searching for revenge and truth, she is much more pretty in comedies when she smiles. Philippe Lemaire is quite energic wishing to help Claudine Dupuis.
Gardiens de phare (1929)
Help, forgotten masterpiece waiting for restoration !!!
We know that Jean Grémillon is one of the great director in french classic cinema with great masterpieces as "Gueule d'Amour", "l'Etrange Monsieur Victor", "Remorques", "Lumière d'été", "le Ciel est à vous"... This "Gardiens de Phare" is forgotten because no decent print is available, only an ugly one. Close to horror movie, this unusual movie deserves urgently restoration to admire at last sumptuous sequences of the raging ocean, the lighthouse and a mad man affected by rabies having hallucinations and terrorizing his father (they work in the lighthouse for one month and stay prisoners because of the storm).
Jean Grémillon directed other movies in Britain, "Remorques" (Brest, Pointe du Petit Minou, Grève du Vougot at Plougerneau, in front of la Pointe Saint-Mathieu at Plougonvelin), "Pattes Blanches" (in Erquy) and "l'Amour d'une Femme" (isle of Ouessant).
Le président Haudecoeur (1940)
Harry Baur - Betty Stockfield
Not a major Jean Dréville movie but rather pleasant thanks to the meeting of a brilliant senior public prosecutor (Harry Baur) with a fresh young delightful anglo saxon woman (Betty Stockfield). Harry Baur tries to find a second youth by impressing Betty Stockfield with his brilliant conversation. Will she be impressed and fall in love with this distinguished powerful man? They are shot very close in case of an expected kiss, but ... The meeting of two very different characters have always made entertaining movies and the duo Baur-Stockfield is extraordinary. Still not on dvd.
La maison assassinée (1988)
unknown Lautner's atmospheric noir melo
Georges Lautner, like Edouard Molinaro and Gérard Oury, began his career in atmospheric noir movies, then turned to classic cult comedies. After a great number of these cult comedies, nearly at the end of his career, Lautner in 1988 directed this forgotten "la Maison assassinée", very atmospheric come back of a young soldier from WWI whose family has been slaughtered in a small mountain village. It's gripping from the very beginning and climax increases till the end. It's a dark stories full of hate and non stop murders and mystery. The casting is incredible from Patrick Bruel (yes) to an old woman (Maria Meriko) and the fabulous three young beauties of the village (divine Anne Brochet, sensual Ingrid Held, sweet Agnès Blanchot) and all the others. The entire movie is well done, there isn't any bad scene, and there are some exciting and successive strong murder sequences. Should be a real cult Lautner movie.
Juno and the Paycock (1930)
maybe from a good play ...
... but Hitchcock was ashamed of his direction. In his book by Truffaut, he declared he couldn't be inspired by this good play. So if you want to see an early inspired Hitchcock, jump on "Blackmail" and forget that one, I recognized only two pure Hitchcock shots, that's very light.
Dégustation maison (1978)
Beware, a Tati may hide another Tati
"Dégustation Maison" is a short directed by Jacques Tati's daughter, Sophie. And it's a nice treasure, very simple but with a funny and unique twist in the story about that special "patisserie". That special treatment transforms thousands scenes from french cinema. It's so unusual until the superb ending. And what a filiation with a Jacques Tati's masterpiece when you read in generic ending it has been shot in the village where this masterpiece has been shot. Unique.
Soigne ton gauche (1936)
masterpiece short by René Clément - Jacques Tati
"Soigne ton gauche" is a great surprise thanks to to artistic direction by René Clément, but I think you have to be french to appreciate in big laughs all the farm context and characters. As in "Gai dimanche", there are some early Tati's future gags and characters, like the postman François from "l'Ecole des facteurs" and "Jour de fête". In the 30's, Tati did a lot of music hall shows imitating funnily sportsmen, from tennis to boxing. Here Tati tries boxing as an amateur facing a brutal champion, he learns on the ring improvising from a book. This short has fast paced editing so gags are also very fast for spontaneous laughs.
Jean Faurez's filmography is a mystery : a dozen short documentaries and eight totally different movies (6 in the 40's, 2 in the 60's) from the best ("la Fille en gris", "Service de nuit") to the forgettable (well this "Histoires Extraordinaires..."). When having seen his best movies, I thought "Histoires Extraordinaires..." would be a fine entertainment, but the usual only connoisseur reviewer in french movie on imdb warned that it's finally rather dull. And so it is, "the Tell tale heart" is to forget being so far from Jules Dassin's Version, it totally lacks of frightening treatment, as in the first short. The confrontation of Fernand Ledoux and Jules Berry could have been great, it's just flat in the main sequence of Berry being buried alive. Same for the last short, completely flat, except maybe the final diner scene with guests boozing wine and receiving a huge case of Bordeaux Grand Cru from which appears the lost corpse : is it possible Clouzot has seen this morbid apparition, it really reminds me of Paul Meurisse come back in "les Diaboliques"?
Gai dimanche! (1935)
"Gai dimanche" is the third short in which Tati plays, he's still acting like in music halls, moving speedly and even talking clearly in less large shots than his long movies. As Tati and Rhum try to make money on touring tourists in parisian suburb in a damaged bus, they improvise everything as the catastrophic lunch. At that time, Tati observed a lot around his native house in Le Pecq and in "Gai dimanche", he shot in places he knew very well. There are some gags that will later be used in his masterpieces. I wish we could see more of this Tati's music hall era; like the sequence on youtube in which he compares a british cop and a french cop. That doesn't mean I do not appreciate his movies, they are fabulous, but there is a huge part of Tati's genius we totally ignore.
Romanzo criminale (2005)
Italian criminal cinema is back
When you've seen and appreciated a lot of criminal italian movies of the 70's, you can only regret that this prolific genre has vanished : these movies were an exciting blend of violence, sex, 70's music, 70's cars, and tough faces. I thought that genre had disappeared, but I recently discovered "Suburra" when it got released, directed by Stefano Sollima, son of Sergio. And I understood the genre was back, darker and colder than the 70's touch. "Romanzo Criminale" is a great saga of young kids whose fate is a powerful gang until the fatal implosion. I didn't see the 2,5 hours as the entire movie is pure entertainment, with a tense script (based on some historical facts), fine cinematography and editing, and superb score. The best is of course the casting, they are all good, and a special mention to Kim Rossi Stuart whose charisma is hypnotising.
Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
very poor casting
Terminator 2 is a pure masterpiece, from casting to story to cinematography. How could this "Dark fate" be so poor? First, the casting with absolutely very bad actors as the two terminators, one trying to look like Robert Patrick in T2 but with total lack of charisma, and the female terminator is total dull. Then the story : kind of empty remake of T2 without many new ideas, and a very poor center melo part, I nearly got out of the theater. So what to save from that disappointing "Dark fate"? I should say the first part, the action is ok, but why James Cameron didn't control more these bad Terminators, without him, they are immediately forgotten.
Café Paradis (1950)
realistic portrait of heavy boozers
"Café Paradis" is a danish strong drama about heavy drinkers who cannot live one day without drinking an important mass of alcohool, beer and aquavit. The beginning is amazing, an executive fires an employee because of his drinking, and during the interview, he answers on phone to an invitation to a boozing party that has already begun. The movie follows the two drinkers, the rich and the poor, and there are no concessions on that alcoholic picture. Ib Schonberg is perfectly realist as the very fat executive who drinks in any occasion and loses his health becoming impotent.
Five Star Final (1931)
Mervin LeRoy and E.G. Robinson in another strong drama
Mervin LeRoy did many intelligent movies in the thirties like this not wellknown "Five star final", violent and brutal portrait of the gutter press using awful methods and nasty journalists like Boris Karloff (in one of his greatest character), pushing nice people to suicide. The narration is fast and shocking, shot in noir style by famous Sol Polito. "Five star final" can be considered as a proto noir, like other titles by Mervin LeRoy, whose early filmography is to be discovered. Director Mervin LeRoy did two fabulous other movies with E.G. Robinson, "Little Caesar"and "Two seconds".
Joaquim Phoenix's "Night of the hunter"
If you like Robert Mitchum in "Night of the hunter", "Joker" is for you. Like Mitch, Joaquim Phoenix is a deranged character with no real purpose in life, just auto destructing. The omnipresent Joaquim Phoenix is really frightening with his skeleton silhouette, he is a tragic loser because of stupid people humiliating his weakness, he becomes sick and gets revenge, and finally his madness becomes infectious. He reminds me of the pathetic punk singer in Todd's Phillips first movie, the documentary "Hated". "Joker" is definitely not a movie for children.
In one of the chaotic last sequence, you can hear "White room" by cult group Cream, whose fabulous drummer died one month ago.
Hän varasti elämän (1962)
another cult finnish film noir about "a well respected man"
I loved "the Scarlet Dove", a brilliant finnish film noir from 1961. And here's another brilliant finnish film noir directed the next year by Arne Taarkas, "Hän Varasti Elämän" with a terrific Risto Mäkelä as the crazy who kills those who discover his new life. He was not a recognized accountant, and one night, while carrying a cash payroll, he kills a lonely man and takes his identity and flee with the fortune payroll. Arriving in a village with that fortune, he becomes admired and well respected man. But fate never sleeps, the incredible never seen ending concludes a mad criminal life, but maybe ... Shot on location, all scenes are really realistic, and Risto Mälekä is impressive as the killer, some kind od Edmond O'Brien in "the Third Voice". And his scenes with his sexy maid are daring for that time.
La famille Duraton (1939)
french villagers on radio
Radio man Jules Berry wrecks his car and is invited by a suburb family for diner. He finds the gossip conversation so funny he imagines a radio show around this punctual diner, without telling the family, the leader being Noël Noël. But at the café du Commerce of the village, local people meet at that hour for the ritual aperitif listening to the gossip family show they identify in their village. They wonder who's talking about themselves and funny misunderstandings appear. Director Christian Stengel and his writers Noël Noël and René Wheeler show how France was living just before WWII and the importance of radio broadcasting with all kind of shows. One of the radio employee is Jean Solar, cousin of Christian Stengel, who wrote songs with Francis Blanche for Charles Trenet. In some of his movies, Stengel was interested in new talents and way of life : singer Charles Trenet in "Je chante", radio TSF in "la Famille Duraton", television in "Seul dans la nuit", the famous car Dyna Panhard in "Casse-cou, mademoiselle". Stengel was not a great director, just popular and entertaining.
La cuisine au beurre (1963)
Bourvil and Fernandel in Martigues : Normandy / Provence, butter / oil.
When he was young, Bourvil admired Fernandel, and it was a pleasure shooting with him, but Fernandel was tough with Bourvil trying to steal the movie and Grangier helped Bourvil without showing it to Fernandel. Bourvil had already met the fabulous Jean Gabin in "la Traversée de Paris", Jean Marais in "le Capitan", and he was soon to team with Louis de Funès in "le Corniaud" and "la Grande Vadrouille". Bourvil and Fernandel are great in this confrontation of the two husbands with two different cookings in picturesque Martigues, and finally having big laughs together, these scenes are great. I'm not a fan of Fernandel, but here he is much tougher than usual and he gains a lot on the screen. Louis de Funès was soon shooting his own restaurant movie, "le Grand restaurant".
What happened around 1972 when so many shockers were directed? Dario Argento, Sergio Martino, Sidney Lumet (with "the Offence" I just saw), Wes Craven's "the Last house on the left", Misumi's "Baby Cart", ... even Hitchcock with "Frenzy". And "Sisters" by Brian de Palma, a unique trip into madness with impressive Margot Kidder as the sick woman and frightening William Finley as the mad doctor and husband. The story goes crescendo towards madness, using several way of shooting with different fims sizes (split screen, super 8, 16 mm, 35 mm, ...). The only sequence that bothers me is the end, I read de Palma didn't know how to end the movie, and yes it is quite weird, but the entire movie is a slap.