Archive for the ‘French cinema’ Category
Here I have sketched the opening sequence. Jean Vigo didn’t live to see the film as it is available now. When you study frame by frame you are able to appreciate more of the art than merely a story. The plot is very simple and yet Jean Vigo was able to create a masterpiece with his innovative approach to the medium. Later a movement would arise by a group of film makers who looked to Jean Vigo as their inspiration. New Wave is history now but L‘Atalante, as a film has lost none of its power to move us.
Opening shots describe the wedding of Jean, the ‘boss’ of the barge L’atalante to a girl from the village Corbeil on the Seine. His mate Papa Jules(Michael Simon, in an unforgettable role) and the kid are introduced right in the beginning.
La Règle du Jeu, one of the greatest films in French cinema had a checkered career. When it was first released the critics panned it and the public were outraged. ( When the film opened in 1939, one viewer lit a newspaper and tried to burn the theater down. There were even threats to other theaters.) After six weeks the government banned the film. Rules of the game presents a comedy of manners of an effete class that had outlived its time and relevance. It is like Madame Marian took a look at herself in her cracked mirror and what she saw therein were the shades of de Beaumarchais and de Laclos. The French government stepped in and their argument for the ban was this:”to avoid representations of our country, our traditions, and our race that change its character, lie about it, and deform it through the prism of an artistic individual who is often original but not always sound.” (Bergan, 1992, quoting La Cinématographie française (France’s pre-war trade paper).
Jean Renoir, from the original scenario for The Rules of the Game gives us a clue to the film:
‘The world is made up of cliques, and not just the whole world, but every nation and every city. . . . Each of these cliques has its customs, its mores, indeed its own language. To put it simply, each has its rules, and these rules determine the game’. Renoir’s Game in modern parlance is more democratic and knowing the system is more to be desired than being born to a title. This sytem also have rules.
In Renoir’s eyes, the haute bourgeoise, fattened on privileges and idleness have ceased to feel any genuine emotions. Their estate is a setting for parties and balls and such frenetic pace of the landed gentry who hunts and opens their salons for guests merely hide their boredom with themselves and conjugal life. They are likeable and charming as long as interactions are set on a superficial level. Rules of their class dictate a certain conduct: they may carry on liaisons with wives of others but avoid such passion that might blow their discreet cover.
Renoir does not spare their hollowness in their domesticity or in their sports. Of the latter it is their scant respect for life is in evidence. He satires this aspect in a hunt brilliantly staged in the film. During this scene the servants drive the rabbits, pheasants, and quails through the woods to the ladies and gentleman waiting with shotguns and rifles behind blinds. Renoir establishes pace in this scene by cutting between 51 separate shots in four minutes. Climax of this hunt results in a carnage consisting of 22 rifles shots in 53 seconds resulting in 12 dead animals. Rules of the Game allows mindless sport but passion is no, no. The hunt scene was not included for its shock value but has is counter weight from the serving class. When a gamekeeper goes on a murderous rampage during the party, the houseguests assume it is just part of the entertainment arranged for them. To them, it is all a game. Rules guide the class be it upper or menial.
Renoir’s concern with class distinctions we see in some form or other in his films. La Grande Illusions dealt with ‘the Gentleman’s War’ that would take the aristocratic class to oblivion. In Rules of the Game there is no central character but several from the upper and the lower classes to juxtapose how each class deals with jealousy and cuckoldry.
After a record-breaking flight, André Jurieux (Roland Toutain) returns to France but is heart-broken when the woman he loves, Christine de la Chesnaye (Nora Grégor), is not there to meet him. His friend, Octave (Renoir), manages to have the aviator André invited to the Chesnayes’ country mansion for a weekend of hunting and partying. Christine’s husband, Marquis Robert de la Chesnaye(Marcel Dalio), has a secret affair, and he has invited his mistress, Geneviève (Mila Parély), for the weekend. He wants to break off their affair. Octave, who has had a crush on Christine since she was a girl, warns André that he cannot expect to win Christine, for that would breach the ‘rules of the game’.
There is another love triangle among the lower class servants. It involves Christine’s maid Lisette, Lisette’s husband Schumacher (Gaston Modot), who is gamekeeper at La Coliniere, and a poacher named Marceau, newly taken on as a domestic (over the objections of Schumacher) by the Marquis. Lisette is interested in any man other than her husband. She lives most of the time in Paris with the mistress, Christine, while her husband spends most of his time on the country estate. Secondary characters include a retired general (Pierre Magnier), a country neighbor, the chef, and various other servants and guests.
Whilst the party is in full swing, the Chesnayes’ gamekeeper, Schumacher, discovers that his wife, has been flirting with Marceau, and his jealosy gets the better of him…
‘In Renoir’s art, every line of dialogue, every action, every detail of dress, gesture, posture and setting needs to be taken into account if story, theme and characterisation are not to be misunderstood… Christine in La Règle du jeu convincing Geneviève she’s known all along about the latter’s affair with her husband. Some viewers believe her, despite the fact that her voice is shrill with strain, and other sequences clearly establish she has not been aware of the relationship until that afternoon’.(quoted from senses of cinema- James Leahy)
Marquis Robert: [to Schumacher] I have no choice but to dismiss you. It breaks my heart, but I can’t expose my guests to your firearms. It may be wrong of them, but they value their lives.
Robert: Corneille! Put an end to this farce!
Corneille, le majordome: Which one, your lordship?
* Director Jean Renoir recut the film numerous times, due to poor initial reception and damage to the negatives during World War II.
* Despite now being considered by many historians one of the best films made, the picture almost became a lost art. Claiming that it was bad for the morale of the country (due to impending war), the French government banned the film about a month after its original release. When Germany took over France the following year, it was banned by the Nazi party as well, who also burnt many of the prints. Allied planes then accidentally destroyed the original negatives. It was thought to be a lost picture. In 1956, some followers of director Jean Renoir found enough pieces of the film scattered throughout France to reconstitute it with Renoir’s help. Renoir claimed only one minor scene was missing from the original cut.
After the success of _Grande Illusion, La (1937)_ and _ Bête humaine, La (1938)_, Jean Renoir and his brother Claude helped set up their own production company, Les Nouvelles Editions Francaises. This was their first production.
The Disturbing Relevance of Renoir’s La Régle du Jeu
:: Travis Else ::
An axiom that European’s have used for years to slight America is “The United States has no history.” To which most Americans reply “That may be true, but Europe has no future.”
Despite our recent financial troubles (which have been slight, in fact, compared to our European allies’ woes), the U.S. still maintains such an overwhelming advantage in terms of economic prosperity, technological advancement, and overall vibrancy, many Europeans cringe to think that
perhaps the U.S. has assumed a position of superiority in matters of culture. I believe the U.S. has perhaps succeeded Europe in adopting amoral social mores, as well.
Watching Jean Renoir’s classic film La Régle du Jeu (aka The Rules of the Game) last night, I was struck by how much the United States has become like France of the early 20th century: disaffected, disillusioned, materially consumed, godless, and almost exclusively amoral. What is more, the current populace lacks the one merit, if it may be called that, of the 1930’s French aristocracy: class.
Ultimately, La Régle du Jeu follows Renoir’s theme in of exposing the idiocy of class structure. Where as Grande Illusion laments the absurdity of war as it mocks warmongers, La Régle du Jeu laments amorality as it mocks all social classes: the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, and the peasant classes.
Set on the eve of WWI in Paris, the film opens with hero-pilot André Jurieu returning from a record-setting trans-Atlantic flight. Interviewed upon landing, he sadly laments: “I have never been so disappointed in all of my life!” This because his lover has chosen not to meet him at the airport. As we are introduced to the primary players, we find that love is random and arbitrary: husband and wife maintain illicit, though indiscreet liaisons with friends. Renoir makes very clear that, to the aristocracy, love is as Chamfort says: “An exchange of two whims and the contact of two skins.”
Loneliness, alienation, and boredom are expertly conveyed by Renoir through the soulless dialogue of aristocrat Marquis la Chesney and his mistress, Genevieve. Upon telling her that their affair is over, and that he is committing himself to his wife, Genevieve is unmoved, other than to say she wants the Marquis to suffer as she surely will. The Marquis flippantly invites Genevieve to lunch, at which she replies benignly “I don’t know if it’s my emotions, but I’m dying of hunger!”
La Chesney’s wife, Christine, is the lone female of any perceived conscience in the film. The object of pilot Jurieu’s affection and herself a Parisian émigré, she exudes a winsome naiveté in regard to relationships: “You mean, I can’t be nice to a man in Paris without him falling in love with me?” We later learn, of course, that this naiveté is practiced, and not sincere. However, in the first half of the film we are allowed to sympathize with her.
The sadness of the bourgeoisie, here represented by pilot Jurieu, is unsympathetic and selfish. A victim of unrequited love, he considers suicide, and, despite his heroism and celebrity, considers his life a failure for not having won the charms of Christine. As his confidante Octave (Renoir himself acting as conscience of the film) tells him, “She’s a society woman and society has some stiff rules.” These are the rules of which the title speaks, and a profound statement on the idiocy of French society. Whereas it is completely appropriate (and quite expected, in fact) to have a mistress or lover, one must still adhere to the rules of class. For example, when Jurieu does eventually win the heart of Christine, he feels it is his duty to tell her husband, the Marquis, of their tryst: to him it is an obvious act of propriety and grace.
As the relationships continue to unfold in loveless liaisons and manipulative dalliances, even Octave begins to crumble: “(How I wish to disappear) so I could stop worrying about what is right and what is wrong.” Ultimately, each player is burdened with selfish desires and lack of morality. This amorality is shown quite humorously as Christine confronts Genevieve, her husband’s mistress, with the knowledge of their less-than-discreet affair. Both make an attempt at hurt and grief, but in the end simply share a laugh at the Marquis’ one fault (smoking in bed), and become preoccupied with what costumes they shall wear at the evening’s party.
Perhaps the most memorable scene from the movie occurs as the party goes hunting at La Colinière, the Marquis’ country estate. The group of friends, all of them carrying on some sort of affair with another, while away their time hunting rabbits, allowing their servants to root out the hare and pheasants, and taking turns shooting the helpless creatures. It is sporting and banal, exuding a grim pathos that seems to underscore the disillusionment that ultimately results in WWI.
As the story climaxes, we observe directly the lifelessness and depravity of the group. A party-goer exclaims “I’ve had too much to drink and don’t know what I’m doing…” to which her companion replies “Good!” As the dalliances further unfold and emotions surface (in fact, it is the jealous Shumacher, his wife fooling around with a fellow servant, who finally acts on conscience, and seeks to kill his wife’s lover), the party implodes. Aghast at what his soirée has disintegrated into, the Marquis instructs his servant “Corneille, stop this farce!” to which Corneille replies “Which one?”
Altogether it is a pathetic spectacle of depravity and amorality, clashing with the strict social code of the day. Though to carry on an affair is “fun,” to live under the same roof with one’s lover is “immoral.” There are random codes of conduct to which even the valueless must live by. Renoir’s derision of this valueless society begins as comedy, but ultimately ends in tragedy. Regardless of a society’s amorality, there is always a price to pay for that amorality. Which leads me back to my original thesis.
Fifty years ago, the United States could be stereotypically described as nothing other than a puritanical society (many would argue that this was, to be precise, a society of puritanical hypocrites, but that discussion is for another day). Marriage was a sacred institution. Illicit affairs were not something to be flaunted, despite their existence. As our nation’s history has unfolded, and as we have in fact become the center of world culture and economic might (this can and will be argued by many), we have shed the clothes of morality. An observance a friend and I have visited about recently is the apparent lack of moral structure, primarily in our young people.
This exists to the point of eye-opening sexual promiscuity amongst children, increased violent crimes committed by children, and a general lack of knowledge or interest in living by a firm set of values. This is not a statement of judgment. It is simply an observance. It is an observance that can only lead me to believe that our society is becoming what French society was in the middle of the 20th century: a collection of valueless nouveau riche desperately searching for meaning to the point of exhaustion, and summarily relying on material wealth and passionless relationships to fill a life devoid of meaning. It is a simple adherence to the idea that “Love is temporary, sex is forever.”
La Régle du Jeu is not a film about sex. It is certainly not a film that attempts to pass judgment on society. It is a film about the loneliness and disillusionment of a society. No class is exempt, however all are affected to varying degrees and with varying results. Renoir’s portrait could easily be applied to most social circles in the U.S. today. In fact, Ang Lee’s Icestorm is a film that immediately comes to mind in delving into such issues.
Renoir is a careful observer of the world. His filmmaking, especially in the late 1930’s seemed to be prophetic in its vision of cause and effect. Larger issues were always at stake in his films. By cutting to the minutiae (the unraveling of the gentleman warrior in WWI, the unraveling of class values in early 20th century European society), Renoir was able to comment on the future of his country and continent. And so, we now witness a collection of societies with no identity (the advent of the Euro and broadening of the European Union have seen to this) and very little influence in finance, politics, or culture.(ack.)
* Director: Jean Renoir
* Script: Jean Renoir, Carl Koch
* Photo: Jean Bachelet
* Music: Mozart, Monsigny, Sallabert, Johann Strauss, Saint-Saëns, Chopin, Roger Désormières
* Cast: Marcel Dalio (Robert de la Chesnaye), Nora Gregor (Christine de la Chesnaye), Roland Toutain (André Jurieux), Mila Parély (Geneviève de Marras), Jean Renoir (Octave), Julien Carette (Marceau, le braconnier), Paulette Dubost (Lisette), Gaston Modot (Schumacher, le garde-chasse)
* Country: France
* Language: French
* Runtime: 110 min, B&W
La Bête Humaine Is directed by Jean Renoir after his La Grande Illusion. The film has none of the grandeur of his anti-war movie. Jean Gabin stars in both films, The film is based on Zola’s novel in the Rougon-Macquart cycle where Emile Zola adopted a naturalist style in order to show the hereditary influence of alcoholism and violence over five generations of a single family. (The Human Beast was the last in the series. By the way Renoir had adapted Nana (1926) and this film was his second of Zola’s novels.) Renoir’s film opens with a quotation highlighting this theme:
At times this hereditary flaw weighed heavily upon him. He felt he was paying the price for the generations of his forefathers whose drinking had poisoned his blood. His head felt as if it would explode in the throes of his suffering. He was compelled to acts beyond the control of his will, acts whose causes lay hidden deep within him.
There follows a signed photograph of Zola, as if Renoir was intent on tacking his film on his name but in developing the story he made the film into a symbiotic relationship of man with his machine into which Séverine, the woman and le crime passionel are more incidentals than crucial pieces in explaining his falling apart. Instead of Zola’s painstakingly constructed theme of the “hereditary flaw” Renoir builds up a straightforward crime melodrama: engine driver Jacques Lantier (Jean Gabin) along with his partner Pecqueux (Carette) are waiting in La Havre for the repair of their train. Lantier witnesses the murder by stationmaster Roubard (Fernand Ledoux) of the wealthy Grandmorin (Jacques Berlioz). With that casual incident he is drawn into a domestic tragedy: Séverine (Simone Simon) the young wife of the murderer knows Lantier is an accessory and she is out to buy his silence in the only way she knows how. Of course her husband also thinks it is a good idea. Their friendship develops into a passionate affair whch can only end in tragedy.
This was Renoir’s second-to-last film before the outbreak of war. Perhaps the romantic fatalism of this dark tale must owe something to his previous film Le Crime de M. Lange in which he had teamed up with Jacques Prévert who went on to script Le Quai des Brumes (Port of Shadows) which was released in the same year as this film.
Lantier is flawed as we shall see as the film builds up but among his co- workers, and standing before the engine he is in his natural element. It is established by a lengthy opening sequence, where he along with Pecqueux are attending to their tasks. The two actors actually learned how to operate a train, which Renoir then filmed for this sequence. There’s an incredible dynamism here with the roar and din of the train as it rushes along the track, Lantier and Pecqueux working in perfect, almost wordless unison. There is a documentary quality to the way the sequence is arranged with the repeated point-of-view shots of the track ahead, the landscape and buildings flashing by, and the story begins to take on with their final entry into the Le Havre station.
Having positioned Lantier as a working man Renoir also takes pains to show him interact with his colleagues in everyday and casual details such as Lantier greeting other drivers, reporting the malfunctioning axle, and these serve a specific function of setting him in a social context which Zola would have recognized as naturalism expressed in cinematic idiom.
Renoir’s political leanings are evident in the way he develops his working class hero and pointing to the undercurrents of class distinctions that existed in the society.
Running Time: 96 mins
* Jean Gabin – Jacques Lantier
* Julien Carette – Pecqueux
* Jean Renoir – Cabuche, the Poacher
* Gerard Landry – Dauvergne’s Son
* Colette Regis – Victoire
* Jacques Brunius – Farm Worker
* Georges Spanelly – Grand-Morin’s Secretary
* Georges Péclet – Railway Worker
* Tony Corteggiani – Section’s Chief
* Emile Genevois – Farm Worker
* Simone Simon – Séverine
* Fernand Ledoux – Robaud, Séverine’s Husband
* Blanchette Brunoy – Flore
* Jenny Hélia – Philomene
* Jacques Berlioz – Grand-Morin
* Léon Larive – Grand-Morin’s servant
* Marcel Pérès – Lampmaker
* Charlotte Clasis – Aunt Phasie
* Guy Decomble – Garde-barriere
* Claire Gérard – Traveler
Curt Courant – Cinematographer; Suzanne de Troeye – Editor; Raymond Hakim – Producer; Robert Hakim – Producer; Joseph Kosma – Composer (Music Score); Eugène Lourié – Set Designer; Jean Renoir – Director; Jean Renoir – Screenwriter; Marguerite Renoir – Editor; Emile Zola – Book Author
Double Indemnity; In a Lonely Place; La Chienne; Le Jour Se Lève; Ossessione; Toni; Voici le Temps des Assassins; Le Dernier Tournant
Frank S. Nugent, film critic for The New York Times, gave the film a positive review even though he felt uncomfortable watching the film. He wrote, “It is hardly a pretty picture, dealing as it does with a man whose tainted blood subjects him to fits of homicidal mania, with a woman of warped childhood who shares her husband’s guilty secret of murder…It is simply a story; a macabre, grim and oddly-fascinating story. Sitting here, a safe distance from it, we are not at all sure we entirely approve of it or of its telling. Its editing could have been smoother—which is another way of saying that Renoir jerks his camera, jumps a bit too quickly from scene to scene, doesn’t always make clear why his people are behaving as they do. But sitting here is not quite the same as sitting in the theatre watching it. There we were conscious only of constant interest and absorption tinged with horror and an uncomfortable sense of dread. And deep down, of course, ungrudged admiration for Renoir’s ability to seduce us into such a mood, for the performances which preserved it.”
In 1954 director Fritz Lang remade the picture as Human Desire, a film noir featuring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, Broderick Crawford, among others. Fritz Lang had earlier remade another of Renoir’s film La Chienne (1931), a savage and dark drama about a man’s self-destruction, as Scarlet Street.
* Venice Film Festival: Mussolini Cup, Best Film, Jean Renoir; 1939.
At the outset I am partial to French films and especially for Jean Gabin. The Gallic spirit exuded by Gabin in the 30s and 40s is noteworthy in as diverse films as Pepe le Moko and La Grande Illusion. He is as French as Henry Fonda is American. Having seen quite a few of his films I think Gabin can make any film come alive. His naturalness and sincerity make whatever roles he has taken come natural.
Gabin in Le Jour se leve is a working class hero and works in an environment that is dangerous. He works in a sand blasting factory and its slow poison will make even the healthy lung of the young worker collapse sooner or later. Notwithstanding he goes through his routine as an exemplary specimen of a factory hand. It is on such a man with animal spirits love plays fast and loose. Shortly after he meets Francoise, an orphan he is ready to settle down. She is willowy and simulates a clinging vine but appearances are deceptive. She has already fallen into the coils of Valentine who is amoral and his sophistry can make white look as black. Gabin of course cannot match him and the stage is set for the fatal resolution: shooting down Valentine who has invaded into his privacy is the lynch pin that holds the story together.
Gabin is trapped and before the final showdown Gabin harangues to the gawks awaiting down below. Of course many of them are curious to see the outcome and some, from the neighborhood, view with some concern for they know Gabin as straight. He is not a criminal in the usual sense and not even a lush or brawler. But the society has already marked him for a bad end. Has it not slowly poisoned his lungs and made him sick? Drinking milk during pauses on the factory floor to fortify himself is as inadequate as the money in his pocket that cannot give him a clear head in a moment of crisis.
The question is then of double standard that a society holds for an individual and for a particular class like capitalists or arm merchants. The factory owners who put the lives of workers are not called to account as an individual who commits a crime of passion. Yes Francois( Gabin) has shot a man but where are those murderers who are at large? The music underscores the doom laden theme and it is a movie that haunted me as Les Enfants du Paradise for some other reason.
François (Jean Gabin) has killed Valentin (Jules Berry) and has locked himself in his apartment. It naturally comes under siege by the police. Over the course of a long night, he reflects on the circumstances of how he, someone who is a hardworking and basically a decent man, was reduced to murder. The events leading up to that fateful confrontation are recounted in a series of flashbacks.
Thus the viewer is told that François was involved with the young florist Françoise, and with Clara, who was formerly the assistant in Valentin’s show. Valentin, an older man became jealous, and confronted François in his apartment. He drew his gun but in the end he is shot by François.
‘The film’s unusual construction is served by its sombre dusky photography. Almost every shot seems to be loaded with significance and poignancy, particularly the night time scenes at the start of the film when François, cornered in his room, reflects on his predicament. Visually, there is no doubt that this is a work of poetic genius, heart-rending in its wistfulness, tragic in its stifling sense of melancholia’. ( quoted from James Travers 2001-filmsdefrance.com)
But as the sun rises, the siege is broken when two men throw tear gas into François’ apartment. François knows he cannot hold out any longer. In despair he shoots himself in the heart. This film was included in the first Sight and Sound top ten greatest films list in 1952.
The film was remade as The Long Night (1947), with Henry Fonda in the Gabin role.
Directed by Marcel Carné
Written by Jacques Prévert
Music by Maurice Jaubert
Cinematography Philippe Agostini
Editing by René Le Hénaff
Running time 93 min.
* Jean Gabin as François
* Jacqueline Laurent as Françoise
* Jules Berry as M. Valentin
* Arletty as Clara
* Arthur Devère as Mr. Gerbois
* Bernard Blier as Gaston
* Marcel Pérès as Paulo
* Germaine Lix as La chanteuse
M. Valentin: You’re the type women fall in love with . . . I’m the type that interests them.
Poetic realism as a movement was an artistic response to the state of things that existed in France under the Third Republic. The nation was like a house divided itself.
Many French filmmakers most notably Marcel Carné naturally transcribed it during the late 30’s in films. It was a symptom as a result of the decay that had set in the Third Republique. The fatalistic tone of the films gave the artistic expression to the concerns of the man on the street. It was proved to be right in the early Summer of 1940. In a span of six weeks France fell. Films like literature are fairly good indicators of a nation’s moral and intellectual vigor. (‘Literature is civilization itself.’ The dictum of Victor Hugo equally applies to films.) The doomed romanticism of French ‘poetic realism’ then was drawn from the pores of a national life and elevated into art.
The emergence and decline of the leftist Popular Front movement gave the filmmakers a boost to focus on working-class life, but with more fatalistic plots. Renoir’s La Bête Humaine(1938) is an example where Jean Gabin’s milieu is clearly that of working class and his irrational bursts of anger and his tragic end typify poetic realism in cinema. They also created a moody atmosphere through music, lighting, and vividly detailed but vaguely dreamlike sets as in Les visiteurs du soir(1942). Le Jour se lève, appearing on the eve of World War II was banned in December of 1939 and again during the Occupation, its air of defeat cutting too close to the bone for French authorities.
Films directed by Marcel Carne (1909-1996) enjoyed the greatest artistic success in French cinema (apart from that of Jean Renoir during roughly the same era) when poetic realism was in vogue: Drôle de drame (1937), Le Quai des brumes, Hôtel du Nord (1938), Le Jour se lève, Les Visiteurs du soir and Les Enfants du paradis (1945). Significantly, all of them featured scripts written or co-written by screenwriter Jacques Prevert (1900-1977) except for Hôtel du Nord, which was written by Jean Aurenche.
Le Jour se lève stands out for its purity of conception and its structural unity; its novel flashback structure has inspired many number of films since.
Jeux interdits in French is a film by René Clément and based on François Boyer’s novel of the same name.
Let me sketch out the opening scene:
During the Nazi invasion of France in 1940 the road out of Paris is clogged with those escaping the city. They are strafed by Nazi fighter planes. Among the panic stricken crowds we meet a 5-year-old girl named Paulette, with her parents. Paulette’s little dog runs onto a bridge. She chases it, and her parents desperately run after her. Bullets kill both parents and fatally wound the dog. Paulette, lying on the ground next to her mother, reaches out a hand to touch the dead cheek, and then touches her own cheek.
Is this a simple war movie? Of course not. In that very unconscious act of a child we note the slow contagion of man’s violence has visited on her, and she speaks for all who have been thus tainted; surely as night follows day every act, good or bad is carried on by our next generation. She may not rationalize death of her mother but connect that mother’s cold cheek to her own to give it a place as it were. This is a powerful movie and it is also an indictment of the world of elders who lay down the rules and add their litte riders to justify their breaking them. They shall speak of ‘Peace with honour or peace that passeth all understanding’ and at the same time wage war to bring their own brand of democracy to some country that holds no borders with them or has nothing by way of culture or religion in common.
A child cannot reason so must invent other means to cope as a hungry child will bawl till it is fed. Forbidden Games is that twilight zone, a territory the child must create for the sins of its parents whose ways are far beyond its ken. A child who takes his father’s pistol from home to school plays a game and it is a forbidden game. Is it forbidden? No, not if we look at the way NRA defends the right to bear arms. Coming back to the film, the traumatized orphan child is taken in by a peasant family and thus Paulette meets ten-year-old Michel Dollé (Georges Poujouly) She quickly becomes attached to Michel as her big brother and the two attempt to cope with the death and destruction that surrounds them by secretly building a small cemetery where they bury her dog and then start to bury other animals, stealing crosses from the local graveyard. “Paulette has never really dealt with the deaths of her parents. She acknowledges that they are gone, but they are gone in theory, not practice; that they are truly dead forever seems to elude her. Yet she becomes fascinated with death, and Michel joins her in burying a mole that was captured by an owl. Soon they are burying every dead thing they can find, even worms, even broken plates. At one point, while they are lying side by side on the floor doing his homework, he stabs a cockroach with his pen. “Don’t kill him! Don’t kill him!” she cries, and he says, “I didn’t. It was a bomb that killed him.”(quoted from Roger Ebert,- Dec18,2005)
Film critic Leonard Maltin has said: “Jeux interdits is almost unquestionably the most compelling and intensely poignant drama featuring young children ever filmed.”
‘Catch them young’ so says the old saw. Naturally the cemetery of Paulette and Michel grows larger as we in adult world enlarge the extent of war memorials all across the globe. Didn’t we learn that from the shadow of two world wars? The two also learn the importance of symbols in a curious way. A grave is no good without a cross they know from their very limited experience. So they begin to steal crucifixes to put above the graves. This entails a subplot involving a feud between the Dolles and their neighbors, the Gouards, who accuse each other of stealing crucifixes. There is also a scuffle between two in the cemetery and falling into a grave. All the while the secret cemetery in the old mill grows more elaborate.
The film was initially turned down by Cannes, then accepted after a scandal. It was turned down by Venice because it had played at Cannes, but accepted after another uproar, and won the Golden Lion as best film, with a best actress award for Fossey.
The film has a scintillating musical score, composed and performed by legendary Spanish classical guitarist Narciso Yepes.
“Forbidden Games” was attacked and praised by adults showing children inventing happiness where none should exist. Film critic Roger Ebert cites the Japanese animated film “Grave of the Fireflies” (1988) as another rare film that dared to tackle this theme.
* Georges Poujouly – Michel Dollé
* Brigitte Fossey – Paulette
* Amédée – Francis Gouard
* Laurence Badie – Berthe Dollé
* Suzanne Courtal – Madame Dollé
* Lucien Hubert – Dollé
* Jacques Marin – Georges Dollé
* Pierre Merovée – Raymond Dollé
* Louis Saintève – Le prêtre
* Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, 1952
* Venice Film Festival Golden Lion award for best picture, 1952
* New York Film Critics Circle Awards for Best Foregin Language Film, 1952
* BAFTA Award for Best Film, 1953
Directed by René Clément
Produced by Robert Dorfmann
Written by Jean Aurenche
Music by Narciso Yepes
Cinematography Robert Juillard
Running time 102 min.
The Spirit of the Beehive (1973, Victor Erice)
Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987, Louis Malle)
La Fracture du Myocarde (1990, Jacques Fansten)
Europa, Europa (1991, Agnieszka Holland)
Hope and Glory (1987, John Boorman)
Strayed (2003, André Téchiné)
Father of a Soldier (1965, Revaz Chkheidze)
Ezra (2007, Newton I. Aduaka)
Cria Cuervos (1975, Carlos Saura)
Empire of the Sun (1987, Steven Spielberg)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Is Paris Burning? (1966, René Clément)
Les Maudits (1947, René Clément)
Gervaise (1956, René Clément)
The Day and the Hour (1963, René Clément)
La Bataille Du Rail (1945, René Clément)
Monsieur Ripois (1954, René Clément)
Barrage Contre le Pacifique (1957, René Clément)
Au-Dela Des Grilles (1948, René Clément)
Other Related Movies
is related to: Fanny & Alexander (1982, Ingmar Bergman)
# In a television interview (“Vivement Dimanche Prochain”, France 2, 17 April 2005) Brigitte Fossey, who played the little Paulette, revealed that the film had originally been shot as a short, and then it was later decided to extend it into a feature film. Unfortunately she had lost her milk teeth and Georges Poujouly (who plays the boy Michel) had had his hair cut to play in Nous sommes tous des assassins (1952). So, in many scenes of the movie Paulette has false teeth and Michel is wearing a wig.
# Brigitte Fossey’s first film.
for films check out the author at cinebuff.wordpress.com
Most filmgoers would have heard the name of Hitchcock but the name Clouzot may not mean much to them. Henri-Georges Clouzot was in many cases the source of inspiration for the master of suspense who gave us Psycho, Vertigo and many other memorable movies. The formalistic and largely studio-based style of Clouzot of course was not in the same league as Alfred Hitchcock. Nevertheless his 1952 suspense thriller Wages of Fear (La Salaire de la Peur ) remains even now a masterpiece. His Diabolique (1955) is another. Wages Of Fear has everything that Hitchcock films do not carry. While Hitchcock teases Clouzout rivets us to the action. What is more he painstakingly develops characters and motives to engage the heart and mind of the viewer while Hitchcock passes on having pulled wool over our eyes. (When Kim Novak, during the filming of Vertigo questioned Alfred Hitchcock about her motivation in a particular scene, the director is said to have answered, “Kim, it’s only a movie!” It is typical of Hitchcock.)
Though Wages of Fear is set in Brazil, it was filmed entirely in studios in France. By the way Clouzot had worked in Brazil for several years and had married a Brazilian actress so he could achieve a remarkable degree of verisimilitude. His wife Vera Clouzot plays a significant role in the film.
The story opens in a decrepit rural town in Brazil called Las Piedras. Th opening shots establish the plot succinctly: a half-naked native boy has strung together four cockroaches on a thread. Like cockroaches are sport to some lad, four characters, all European outcasts, shall be strung together by the economic clout of Southern Oil Company to dare some dangerous job, all because they are desparate to escape the hellhole. The population of the town consists of a mix of European outcasts and the mostly black indigenous people. There is not much by way of jobs and the heat is killing.
One of the numerous vagrants is Mario (Yves Montand), a young exile from Corsica. Another is a blond Aryan, Bimba (Peter Van Eyck), who looks like a Nazi renegade (though he turns out to be a victim) Another is an Italian laborer named Luigi (Folco Lulli) whose work in a cement factory has put his health in serious jeopardy. Under the advice of his doctor he needs a change of place. Add to these desperate men the fourth, a newcomer. French gangster Jo (Charles Vanel), is on the run from Paris and his arrival suggests opportunity and Mario is soon showing him around what passes for a town, including his own room that he shares with the slow-witted Luigi.
Mario sums up the situation in Las Piedras in a terse commentary: “It’s like a prison here. Easy to get in but no exit. If you stay, you croak.”In the first part of the film Jo with his imposing swagger,- and nattily dressed to play a part complete with a flail, makes himself the man to reckon with.
The only employer in the vicinity is an American oil company, Southern Oil Company (SOC). SOC is unionized, however, and is restricted from hiring nonunion employees, so it has little to offer either the European drifters or the natives.
The somnolent dullness of Las Piedras suddenly changes when an oil rig fire breaks out in one of the SOC oilfields 300 miles away. The firefighters are at a loss to put the fire out. The one hope to end it is explosives but the necessary quantities of liquid nitroglycerin are located near Las Piedras and the special equipment required for transport is not available. The oil company needs volunteers willing to risk their lives to truck the nitroglycerin 300 miles over rough and rutted roads to the oil rigs. They’ll have to be nonunion locals since the union will not stand for that kind of risk for their union workers. Four drivers are needed for two trucks, two drivers apiece. There is so much poverty and desperation in Las Piedras that an offer of $2000 per driver draws plenty of volunteers. After a competitive evaluation of driving skills, four men are selected: Bimba, Luigi, Mario, and another man. Jo is promised a spot if any of the others don’t show up at the appointed time. When the last of the men mysteriously disappears, Jo duly takes his place. Mario and Jo are teamed up in one truck; Bimba and Luigi in the other.
The entire second half of the film follows the dangerous journey of the two trucks and four truckers across the rugged rural terrain. The four tough guys are effectively tethered together, as I mentioned early on, like the cockroaches. One substantial jolt could cause either truck to blow sky-high and in a manner of speaking they are strung together dependent on each other for survival. There is danger at every turn and a rickety old bridge to cross, and what not. It is then we see cowardice, resourcefulness, toughness and camaraderie among these four mismatched crew. There is also death. If I speak further I might only spoil for some the thrill of watching the brilliantly staged scenes that shall ever remain unsurpassed by way of adventure.
Do any or all of them make it to the destination? Do they collect their big paycheck? These are the questions that I must leave unanswered – in fairness to Clouzot and first time viewers.
The American oil company is so harshly depicted by the film that the film was cut by some 43 minutes prior to its release in America, to appease American sensibilities and, secondarily, to eliminate scenes depicting a degree of male bonding suggestive of repressed homosexuality. The foreman and administrators of the SOC are shown as willing to engage in a variety of unethical practices that risk the lives of employees or to protect themselves from financial responsibility for accidents. The issue of unethical acts driven by the greed for oil profits is as apt a topic in relation to America today as it has ever been.
Production Values: Wages of Fear is a superbly directed film with an intricate script that delivers taut suspense. Armand Thirard provides rich black-and-white cinematography and the score by Georges Auric adds to the dramatic tension. Clouzot’s editing is highly effective in generating a long series of surprises for the audience. Although Yves Montand had already appeared in several movies, this was his first significant role in a high quality film and it helped launch him as an international star. Charles Vanel’s performance as Jo was outstanding as well, especially because his character goes through dramatic changes. The part was originally offered to Jean Gabin, but he was worried that portraying a coward would damage his career. Vanel’s other work includes Diabolique (1955), To Catch a Thief (1955), and Three Brothers (1980). Peter Van Eyck was noteworthy as Bimba. William Tubbs played as the foreman of the oil company competently. He previously appeared in Paisan (1946).
Wages of Fear deservedly won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1953. It has influenced the suspense thriller genre to a considerable extent and films like Speed (1994)
La Mort En Ce Jardin (1956, Luis Buñuel)
They Drive by Night (1940, Raoul Walsh)
Thieves’ Highway (1949, Jules Dassin)
Speed (1994, Jan de Bont)
High Explosive (2000, Timothy Bond)
Bush Pilot (1947)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Diabolique (1954, Henri-Georges Clouzot)
Quai des Orfèvres (1947, Henri-Georges Clouzot)
Les Espions (1957, Henri-Georges Clouzot)
L’Assassin Habite au 21 (1942, Henri-Georges Clouzot)
La Verité (1960, Henri-Georges Clouzot)
Le Corbeau (1943, Henri-Georges Clouzot)
La Prisonnière (1968, Henri-Georges Clouzot)
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965, Martin Ritt)
Other Related Movies
is related to: Black Dog (1998, Kevin Hooks)
has been remade as: Sorcerer (1977, William Friedkin)
François Truffant received critical acclaim with “The 400 Blows” (Les Quatre cents coups) in 1959 and it was his first feature film. The film was autobiographical while Jules and Jim, his third is an adaptation of a semi-autobiographical novel by Henri-Pierre Roché. With the first film he had made himself as the prime exponent of New Wave that was in vogue. The second film focused on two of the French New Wave’s favorite elements, American film noir and themselves while Jules et Jim defined New Wave as truly rooted to the French, meaning doing away with cinematic traditions of French cinema.
Style of this film is the substance. There isn’t much of a plot anyway. Set between 1912 and 1933, the film revolves around two friends Jules and Jim falling in love with the same woman.
The style of the film came as a revelation in 1962. Truffaut skips lightly through the material, covering 25 years while never seeming to linger. It opens with carousel music and a breathless narration into which newsreel footage to recreate WWI and the next (Nazi book burning) is an element typical of New Wave. Another is acute compression of certain narrative from the rest since the focus is on what follows as in the Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons. Remember the Welles’ more famous film Citizen Kane? It isn’t hard to see from where the cinematic idiom of French New Wave has drawn. A good representative of the literary and cinematic allusions to America,- and Hollywood will be found in Godard’s Breathless. I found Truffaut more satisfying than other practitioners since he had full control over his material and technique. ‘His camera is nimble, its movement so fluid that we sense a challenge to the traditional Hollywood grammar of establishing shot, closeup, reaction shot and so on; “Jules and Jim” impatiently strains toward the hand-held style. The narrator also hurries things along, telling us what there is no time to show us. The use of a narrator became one of Truffaut’s favorite techniques; it’s a way of signaling us that the story is over and its ending known before it even begins. His use of brief, almost unnoticeable freeze-frames treats some of the moments as snapshots, which also belong to the past.’(Roger Ebert)
It is 1912. The film essays the friendship of two kindred souls. Jules (Oskar Werner) is a writer from Austria who strikes up a friendship with the more extroverted Jim (Henri Serre). They share an interest in the world of the arts and the Bohemian lifestyle. “They taught each other their languages; they translated poetry.”They are both intrigued by a statue with enigmatic smile and they find Catherine (Jeanne Moreau) who is as enigmatic as that statue. Art and life told in cinematic language and it neatly explains the crux of the film: dilemma of two falling in love with the same woman. Unfortunately life is much more complicated than our responses to a work of art. The rest of the film is taken up with dealing this dilemma into which war is an intrusion as a child borne out of a loveless marriage is a complication. Equally complicated is the failure to conceive a ‘love child.’ It could write finis to love that one is capable of. In all Truffaut’s movies we see him warily examining marriage and the vacuous social traditions this entails. Another of his curious ambivalence regarding women (Catherine for example) and it perhaps reflects his own childhood. Perhaps it is relevant at this point to mention that the original of Catherine was still alive when the film was released. Her real name was Helen Hessel, so writes Daria Galateria in the Bright Lights Film Journal) she attended the premiere incognito and then confessed, “I am the girl who leaped into the Seine out of spite”. This shot is revealing as to the key to the mind of a woman brilliantly portrayed Jeanne Moreau. Jules and Jim learned to give friendship their best and Catherine in middle was life as we all live in this imperfect world and yet we warm our hands by the pyre lit by life’s capricious gifts. Their friendship was doomed to fail. I shall end this overview by quoting Galateria once again. She quotes Truffaut as having said: “I begin a film believing it will be amusing — and along the way I notice that only sadness can save it.”
The evocative musical score is by Georges Delerue. One song, “Le Tourbillon” (The Whirlwind), summed up the turbulence of the lives of the three main characters, becoming a popular hit.
* Quentin Tarantino references this work in his film Pulp Fiction in the line “Don’t fucking Jimmy me, Jules”.
* Two sequences from the film appear briefly in a cinema scene in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie.
* It is also heavily referenced in Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky where: a clip featuring Jeanne Moreau appears during the finale montage; a poster for the film is displayed in the main character’s bedroom; two best friends fall in love for the same woman – who leaves the insecure one for the passionate one – causing friction between them; a climatic scene involves a woman driving her car off a bridge with her lover.
* The song “When the Lights Go Out All Over Europe” by The Divine Comedy references Jules and Jim in the lines ‘Jeanne can’t choose between the two / ‘Cos Jules is hip and Jim is cool / And so they live together’.
* The song “Speedboat” by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions refers to the film in the lines “Jules said to Jim, ‘Why don’t we jump in,/ While the water’s clean and we are still friends?’”
* In the short story, “Las dos Elenas,” by Mexican author Carlos Fuentes, one of the Elenas watches Jules et Jim and it influences her perspective on life and relationships.
* The original music video for the popular song “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer pays tribute to the film and recreates many of the classic scenes.
* In Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Steve Zissou and Ned Plimpton are standing outside Jane Winslett-Richardson’s cabin door. Steve says “Not this one, Klaus”, a little homage to the character of Jules in the Truffaut film.
* In the “Bastille” episode, from the film Paris, je t’aime (2006), the wife (Miranda Richardson) uses to whistle “Le Tourbillon”.
* Pete Townshend’s album Empty Glass includes a song entitled “Jools and Jim”.
* In the opening chapter of the novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (1989) by Michael Chabon, the narrator observes a fight between two men over a woman. After the woman chooses one of the men, named Larry, the narrator walks off. Another man watching the fight asks the narrator, “Which way were you going, anyway, before you ran into Jules and Jim back there?” The narrator replies “Jules and Larry”.
Directed by François Truffaut
Produced by Marcel Berbert
Written by Henri-Pierre Roché
Music by Boris Bassiak
Cinematography Raoul Coutard
Release date(s) January 23, 1962 (French release)
Running time 105 min.
We played with life and lost.
Catherine: Watch us well, Jules!
Catherine: You said, “I love you,” I said, “Wait.” I was going to say, “Take me,” you said, “Go away.”
Jim: Either it’s raining, or I’m dreaming.
Catherine: Maybe it’s both.
Jules: But not this one, Jim. Okay?
Jim: What is it?
Catherine: Sulfuric acid, for the eyes of men who tell lies.
Récitant: Catherine’s plunge into the river so astonished Jim that he drew it the next day, though he didn’t usually draw. Admiration for Catherine welled up in him and he sent her a kiss in his mind.
Jules: She’s more optimistic than you where time’s concerned. She was at the hairdresser’s and and arrived at 8:00 to dine with you.
Jim: If I’d known she might still come, I’d have waited til midnight.
# In Jean-Luc Godard’s picture Une femme est une femme (1961), Jeanne Moreau appears as herself. This becomes obvious because Jean-Paul Belmondo’s character, while meeting her at a café, asks her: “How is ‘Jules And Jim’ coming?” Une femme est une femme (1961) was released in 1961, while Jules et Jim (1962) in 1962, but the reference exists because François Truffaut and Godard were friends at the time, and often collaborated in each others movies.
# When Jim first visits Jules’ home in Austria, Catherine shows him a picture of Jules costumed as Mozart. Oskar Werner, the actor who plays Jules, also portrayed Mozart in an earlier film.
Two English Girls (1971, François Truffaut)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988, Philip Kaufman)
Lovin’ Molly (1974, Sidney Lumet)
Love Etc. (1996, Marion Vernoux)
Toutes les Nuits (2001, Eugène Green)
Bandits (2001, Barry Levinson)
The Dreamers (2003, Bernardo Bertolucci)
My Night at Maud’s (1969, Eric Rohmer)
Bande à Part (1964, Jean-Luc Godard)
Cesar & Rosalie (1972, Claude Sautet)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Two English Girls (1971, François Truffaut)
The Man Who Loved Women (1977, François Truffaut)
Bed and Board (1970, François Truffaut)
Shoot the Piano Player (1960, François Truffaut)
The Wild Child (1970, François Truffaut)
The Woman Next Door (1981, François Truffaut)
Love on the Run (1979, François Truffaut)
Small Change (1976, François Truffaut)
Other Related Movies
is featured in: Amélie (2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
is related to: Love Me If You Dare (2003, Yann Samuell)
The Fortune (1975, Mike Nichols)
has been remade as: Willie and Phil (1980, Paul Mazursky)
check out more French films cinebuff.wordpress.com