1960 “On n’enterre pas le dimanche"
Posted by Solomon on 5/30/2020, 2:53 pm
Don uncovered and featured this unknown film noir in his 6th French program. Thank you, Don. Little known, only 20 votes on IMDb, and their score is 6.5. No outside critical reviews.
It's also called "No Funeral on Sunday" and "One Does not Bury on Sunday".
The cinematography delighted me. The angles and compositions are novel and lovely, as much as the dark/light contrasts.
The music score features Eric Dixon on flute, a Count Basie orchestra mainstay for many years and at that time on tenor sax and as composer and arranger. The drummer is the very famous innovative bop drummer, Kenny Clarke. Their music creates a quiet jazz mood at critical times when there may be no dialog. Clarke appears on screen or plays in some other French movies of this time. One is "Un témoin dans la ville" (1959). Another is "Elevator to the Gallows". He's onscreen in "Le glaive et la balance". "Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" He performs in "Bird" (1988). Nicknamed "Klook": "a combination of a rimshot on the snare followed directly by a 'bomb', reportedly inspired Clarke's nickname, 'Klook', which was short for 'Klook-mop', in imitation of the sound this combination produced."
The story has many ironies. It uses narration carefully and effectively. It has an admirable grasp of psychology and brings the facets of character psychology out nicely on the screen. There is almost no outright violence shown. The inroads people make on one another and themselves are strongly present and brought out deftly.
The movie is as much as anything about the psychology of its main character, a West Indian guy, who is unsure of himself in several departments. He's depicted as a moral guy and naive. But through his experiences with a Swedish girl and a literary agent and his wife, the movie brings out their moral characters. And we feel that he has entered a corrupt world in order to make a living as a writer. He has his eyes open, but a combination of his position at the fringe of society, his natural ambition, and his weakness lead him to enter this world. As the consequences unfold, he sees what liars and hypocrites some people can be. But not all. Perhaps the most honest character is the agent's wife. Her interest is in seducing our hero, but she doesn't trick him.
There are one or two points that I haven't gotten straight in my mind. One is that he half-heartedly tries to hang himself. It's almost comic. It does show he thinks so very little of his life, but it also shows his weakness in that he doesn't really do it effectively. Another little mystery to me revolves around a lie that the Swedish girl tells him. He finds out or should have figured it out. Yet it's dropped, and there seems to be a reconciliation suggested between them.
Don't expect a bunch of great actors in this one. Don't expect charisma oozing off the screen. Philippe Mory took on a challenging role here, playing a character that doesn't really attract sympathy. The screenplay didn't offer those little devices that are sometimes used to make characters sympathetic. The chemistry between Mory and both the Swedish girl and the agent's wife was very light, and that's partly owing to what the script called for.
But in the end, Mory, in his own quiet way, managed to carry the film. He did it with close-ups of his eyes and face that brought out his isolation, his disillusion, his disappointment, and his distaste for life's emptiness. Christina Bendz was colorless. Albert Gilou had a little pizazz. He and Bendz did only this one film. Hella Petri was in her first film here; she showed some charisma and she went on to make 27 more film credits.
Posted by Don Malcolm on 6/2/2020, 10:08 am, in reply to "1960 “On n’enterre pas le dimanche""
Drach clearly knows Welles, and wants camera angles and editing to be simultaneously precise and idiosyncratic. He also knows that the New Wave is coming, and is ready, willing and able to meet them halfway by immersing his story with the fecklessness of youth (Bendz, an unschooled actress, prefigures the 60s look but doesn't radiate mystery--think Seberg or Moreau--or hyper-sexuality--think Bernadette Lafont--instead, she is truly the harbinger of hippiedom).
What you are overlooking is, of course, the thing that virtually everyone wants to overlook--racism and exploitation. The variant here is that the hero is being made into a celebrity, not a serious writer; Mory's character comes to know that, and, in keeping with the passivity that is one response to alienation, goes with it. And it leads to a series of highly ironic developments. Of course, the French (as with nations that practiced a very structured form of colonialism for more than a century, as opposed to the ham-fisted Johnny-come-lately "ugly American" variant...) showed much more "savoir faire" in their exploitation strategies.
(The above discussion could be expanded, but it makes people very uncomfortable, suggesting that this aspect of the story is "dated"--a particular kind of "enlightened," cynical nonsense that afflicts white folks on all sides of the political spectrum. Drach calls all this out by showing the psychological damage for what it is--the suicide attempt is a way of addressing the various, often paradoxical responses to alienation when the oppressive conditions overlap. Even overt acts are rendered passive and ineffectual, rendering life (or death) in terms of the absurd. In that regard, Drach is following Yves Allegret's approach--what I term in the (upcoming) book "absurdist existentialism."
The soundtrack is superb in its range of color within strains of jazz; it is tailored to the shifting ground of the story. Its looseness and divergence from either "cool" abstractions or "hard bop" insanguinations keep the story from getting too dark too soon--the ironies need to accumulate before the story and the soundtrack become ominous.
Drach would meet and marry Marie-Jose Nat right after this film and his approach would eventually merge into that creative/romantic association. His playful use of form that is his signature here will recede into a more orthodox alignment with sixties French filmmaking. He made a number of worthy film with her, but nothing else ever had the startling convergence of elements we see here.
It was our great privilege to bring it back to a film audience...
Philippe Mory went back to Gabon (born there in 1935), where he was the prime mover (originating screenwriter and lead actor) for one quite interesting film, LA CAGE (1963), with Jean Servais and Marina Vlady (which we've managed to get hold of and will roll out one of these days: it was a bit far afield for FRENCH 6, where it needed to play with a film dealing with other aspects of colonialism). After that, he remained in Gabon, became involved in what we might call "cultural politics" and is credited with developing the Gabonese film industry. A final irony WRT to ON N'ENTERRE PAS LE DIMANCHE--in 2016, aged 81, after a terminal cancer diagnosis, Mory committed suicide.
Bonnes a tuer (1954)
Posted by Solomon on 5/26/2020, 4:40 am
Literally means "Good to kill:, but the American title is "One Step to Eternity".
The IMDb rating is 6.4. There are only 93 votes. My opinion is that the film is well worth seeing. It's clearly a film noir done with class. It makes an impression, not least because of the very high caliber of the performances. Henri Decoin has to receive some credit for that. The settings are clean and elegant in keeping with the social stratum that's explored.
This is a suspense film that engages our curiosity in three main ways. One way starts at the end and that way frames the film into a recurring flashback structure. The second way, what the film is mainly about, is a story focused on social climbing and the uses and misuses of love. This involves 4 women and one man. It's somewhat fragmented but the script smoothly integrates its elements. The character revelations come clear, while not overdone. The touch is light. The third way is by bringing all the main characters together in one rich penthouse setting, as we wonder why and how they'll interact to create the ending.
The main drawback is not enough action to show what the characters are up to and too much talking about their actions. The film then becomes static, unless saved by tension between characters, and that's hard to maintain. Hitchcock could do it. Decoin is not up to that level in this film, much as I appreciate having the film at all.
Viewers are well-rewarded by the presence of Danielle Darrieux as Michel Auclair's first wife, and by his presence as the main social climber. She's an independent artist with some money and he's highly ambitious to be on top of the social heap. He's really good in the part in an understated performance. Corinne Calvet plays his current wife, an actress who benefited from his publicity job; but now she is divorcing him and wants 20 million. Auclair is basically an homme fatale who uses his women. His mistress, who is involved in his blackmail schemes, is played by an Italian actress, Myriam Petacci, who was the sister of Mussolini's mistress, Clara Petacci. She is more than a match for Auclair, unlike the more vulnerable Darrieux and Calvet. Auclair already has a third wife lined up, the pregnant naive daughter (Lyla Rocco) of his wealthy publisher.
What a brew this makes.
Posted by Don Malcolm on 5/27/2020, 10:26 am, in reply to "Maids to Kill (1954) "
Michel Auclair in good form here. A very versatile and prolific performer in French noir:
LES MAUDITS (1947)
LE PARADISE DES PILOTS LOST (1949)
L'INVITÉ DU TUESDAY (1950)
JUSTICE EST MADE (1950)
LE DUE VERITA (Italy-France, 1951 )
UNDER THE THOUSAND LANTERNS (Germany, 1952)
LA FETE À HENRIETTE (1952)
QUAI DES BLONDES (1954)
GOOD TO KILL (1954)
REPRODUCTION FORBIDDEN (1957)
THE FANATICS (1957)
MAIGRET AND THE ST. FIACRE (1959)
MURDER IN THE 45 ROUNDS (1960)
THE MIDNIGHT MEETING (1962)
SYMPHONY FOR A MASSACRE (1963)
TRAFICS IN THE SHADOW (1964)
CAMERA (TV movie, 1965)
...and on into post-classic period noir/crime until his untimrly death (only 66) in 1988.
Posted by Solomon on 5/23/2020, 6:39 am
Edited by Solomon on 5/23/2020, 10:57 am
Quite enjoyable and well-put together. Excellent film editing. Superior sets and production. Fine noir lighting.
This film made me think of Dr. Mabuse, including its climax on the road. It reminded me of a serial. It has just enough characterization to hold it together as more than a hectic serial. It has some humor. The good guys are a bit colorless and undefined, but Fantomas (Marcel Herrand) has tremendous presence and impact. Simone Signoret is around as his daughter attempting to marry a mere journalist. The serial-Mabuse aspect brings in lab settings something like a Universal horror film, with multiple scientists/engineers helping Fantomas blackmail Paris under the threat of a helicopter delivering a death ray and killing 30 people a night. Fantomas operates out of a hidden bunch of catacomb tunnels. It connects to a modernistic structure for his control center. He has a secure room with television cameras to handle the help. Shades of the Karloff-Lugosi outing (with walls crushing Lugosi in The Raven) and one of the Mabuse movies (flooded room), I think, he has a ceiling that moves up and down to crush his victims. This movie may be construed as having an impact all its own on the krimi genre. The editing employs sweeps at times, which also connect back to serials. Fantomas has the means to move at will into a dinner party. He can impersonate someone. His cape and mask are turned against him late in the story.
The Raven (1935) is way, way, way above Fantomas (1947) in every way. They're not in the same league. Unlike subsequent versions, this Fantomas is looking relatively good by being noir.
Fantomas originated as serials in 1913, five of them, so it's no wonder this occurred to me while viewing it. Much more can be said about this character and the novels. And it predates Dr. Mabuse (1921), so that the influence may run from Fantomas to Mabuse.
This version seems to be in noir style because that was the style of 1947, a very intense noir period. The director, Jean Sacha, is neither a top-tier director nor a man known for noir. The 1960s versions of Fantomas are much different in execution, being more like Bond spy movies. Below are some comments I jotted down on one of those Marais vehicles. And it mentions stunts, which I forgot above. The 1947 version has some fine stunt work too, aided by the editing.
Jean Marais in a dual role frustrates himself and Commissioner Louis de Funes, 21 November 2013
"Fantomas" is, in some respects, very good escapist fare, bearing the signs of the light-hearted comedic 60s fare that engulfed spy spoof and master criminal plots.
There are 5 main characters in this farce. Jean Marais plays a journalist who is trying to sell copy about a master criminal, Fantomas, whom he also plays. Fantomas, like Mabuse, is very clever. He dons face masks to throw everyone off the track. Marais falls in with photographer Mylene Demongeot. She’s very pretty, has a terrific figure, and shows that she means to be taken seriously for her talent, which includes being a comedienne. The bumbling, loud and persistent police commissioner who is after Fantomas is played by Louis de Funes. His straight man assistant is also notable, played by Jacques Dynam.
There are 3 chases in this film. All are excellent and two are extraordinary. The stunt work is exceptionally well-crafted, in every way. This raises the films greatly. The climactic chase is a very long one that involves, among other things, cars, train, helicopter, and boats. The ending is arranged so that a sequel could follow.
Posted by Don Malcolm on 5/23/2020, 6:17 pm, in reply to "Fantomas (1947)"
I've thought about a FANTOMAS show, which might be a fun diversion for a springtime event. It would include the serial as well, along with 1-2 other Fantomas vehicles.
But obviously not this year.
Note that Jean Sacha (who helmed the '47 version of FANTOMAS) directed one of the earliest and most successful Lemmy Caution tales, C'EST HOMME EST DANGEREUX (1953) after spending time working with Orson Welles on OTHELLO as a film editor. Tavernier is very high on this film, and features it in his documentary on French film. Sacha actually has a fair number of crime/noir films in his brief filmography.