HOLLYWOOD NOW, FRANCE THEN, HOLLYWOOD WAY BACK THEN

Rick’s Journal    —    MY FILM CAREER

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WHAT I SAW LAST WEEK

BLACK MASS     Scott Cooper     2015

Johnny Depp is excellent and scary; but he is not the star of Black Mass.  He is the key figure in the story; and   —  as Charles Bickford playing Oliver Niles promised James Mason playing Norman Maine  —  the audience is thinking about him all the time.  But it is Joel Edgerton who leads with screen time, and he handles it very well.  Kevin Bacon, Benedict Cumberbatch and Peter Sarsgaard are very good in small roles.  But as the FBI buddies up with the Family against those Irish upstarts, there are no admirable, much less likable, characters; and  —  as in Goodfellas  —  it is hard to care when they’re beaten to death and/or have their brains blown out on camera, on spattered camera.

The language is preposterous, and unreal.  American filmmakers have succeeded in making the word fuck boring.

MY NIGHT AT MAUD’S     Eric Rohmer     1969Jean-Louis TrintignantJ-L T
(Ma Nuit chez Maud)

Eric Rohmer’s thoroughly talky but forever interesting 1969 film more than holds up.  This has in part to do with some outstanding acting.  The beautiful Françoise Fabian and the beautiful Marie-Christine Barrault are superb without showiness, and the great Jean-Louis Trintignant, perfectly cast, makes the most of his role and of his mask-like, then mobile face.  Being a serious and practicing Catholic in the France of modern times is an interesting experience; and Trintignant and his writer/director make the most of it as he deals with one beautiful woman resisting his advances and another one trying to pull him into bed.  —  Antoine Videt is good in his necessary but thankless role as friend.

LA COLLECTIONEUSE     Eric Rohmer     1967
(THE COLLECTOR, aka THE COLLECTOR-GIRL)

I find this title less interesting than others in Rohmer’s series of “Six Moral Tales,” but as I stayed with it, I found it growing on me.  Two longtime friends are on vacation together in a house lent by another friend.  SPOILER ALERT:  Also staying is a nubile, apparently promiscuous young woman.  The two friends  —  one of whom is our unreliable narrator  —  call her a slut.  But we gradually learn that she has more principle and basic morality than either of her accusers who don’t let their judgment of her interfere with their interest in bedding her.  This is a slow, rather long but ultimately satisfying look at male ego.

Roger Ebert wrote:  “Rohmer had a deliberate narrative style that postponed or sidestepped events that a conventional director would have supplied right on schedule.”  And Philip Lopate, in the Criterion Collection’s issue of the film:  “a very precise portrait of the misogynist, entitled, self-loathing psyche of men.  And unlike, say, most Woody Allen movies, it does not let the rationalizing male character off the hook.”

I am indebted for both quotes to imdb.

Photography is by Nestor Almendros.

FRENCHMAN’S CREEK     Mitchell Leisen     1944

This is a superb presentation of Daphne du Maurier’s story,  a truly romantic novel which might be described as the finest or at least one of the finest nineteenth century novels of the twentieth century.  Very faithful to Du Maurier’s plot and charactersit has excellent pacing and fine suspense.  However, the print I saw on Turner Classic Movies, which I am assuming is the best available, shows us just how much has been lost.  All of Mitchell Leisen’s typical attention to sets and costumes and photography is  more than faded.  It’s washed out.  But Joan Fontaine is not.  She perfectly captures the flair and flamboyance, the disillusionment and loneliness of Lady Dona.  I have always maintained that she was less versatile than her sister; but I am rethinking that.

Art direction:  Hans Dreier, Ernst Fetgé, Sam Comer (Academy Award)Joan_Fontaine_1942
Costumes: Raoul Pene Du Bois
Photography: George Barnes

NEXT FRIDAY POST APRIL 22
Until then,
See you AT the movies (Get up and go.),
Rick

 

 

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