Saturday, June 23, 2007

Est que tu est mon frere?

So I've been really diving into French cinema lately. I discussed Malle a bit in the last post. Definitely check out Au Revoirs Les Enfants if you haven't seen it. It was made in the mid 80's, and is about some of Malle's own experiences during WWII when France was occupied by Germans, and it takes place in a Catholic boarding school. Engrossing and moving, and also fits in the tradition of The 400 Blows of films that don't romanticize childhood.

But what we really need to talk about here are two overlooked titans of French Cinema: Jacques Becker and Jean-Pierre Melville. I've only seen two of Becker's films and three of Melville's, but I'm convinced I need to see everything that either of them has ever done. Remember what I said about all those highly respected yet boring french films. Well, these are two guys who know how to deliver the goods.

Touchez pas au Grisbi by Jacques Becker: take everything you love about The Godfather, and set it in France in the 50's in black and white with a jazz score. The thing that's so great about this film is he doesn't focus so much on the action, the typical things that are a big deal in movies. You never even see the robbery. Instead, he focuses on the little details. The guy brushing his teeth, sharing bread and pate with his friend. One of the few pre-60's films that I totally got wrapped up in.

Le Trou by Jacques Becker: Wow. I'm already a fan of prison escape movies in general. Tunnels, disguises, secret passageways, makeshift tools, these are all things that get my little heart racing. But this one is right up there with A Man Escaped and The Shawshank Redemption. There's one shot where they are pounding a hole in the concrete floor of the cell, and the guards could show up for inspection at anytime, in fact they're making their way down the hallway, and the shot goes on for five or six minutes uncut, so you see them breakint this real hole in the floor and it's so intense I love it.

Bob le Flambeur by Melville. This was the first one I saw, largely on the strength of the graphic design on the dvd cover. Not his best, but also one of his earlier ones. But still a lot of interesting stuff going on. Kind of an Ocean's Eleven style plot.

Le Samourai by Melville: This one, on the other hand, is top notch entertainment. It's about an assassin who has to go into hiding both from the police and those who hired him. This is everything I was hoping for but didn't receive when I misguidedly rented The Transporter.

Army of Shadows by Melville: Just watched this one last night (Orem Library bought it just for me). Yes. Yes. Yes. This one about a small group of French Resistance fighters and their various jobs: punishing traitors, rescuing captives, delivering contraband goods, parachuting, etc. Rent it as soon as possible.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Le Trou. I show it to people but they don't get it. They stay with it, but at the end they are always frustrated and mad at me. I love how plainly and matter of fact the action is. There is never a forced moment or whiff of sentiment. This is a good example of letting the elements of filmaking disappear in the movie. You don't think about editing, or camerawork, or anything at any point in this film. Also the film is incredibly patient. I remember watching them break through the concrete wall in real time and really imagining the smell of dust and concrete. When you finally get a glimpse of the outside, it almost feels like a litteral breath of fresh air hits you in the face and if you didn't feel this, the whole film would not work. And oh, what a great 3rd act!
Wanting to see more Becker, I bought Touchez pas au Grisbi. I liked it fine, but I think Riffifi is still superior. I'll have to watch it again.
Looking forward to Army of Shadows.

P.S. Brandon, just curious if you ever rented "I am Cuba" from the Orem library. I was blown away by this film.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

I'll second the motion on Rififi.

I have seen a clip from "I am Cuba" but not the whole thing. I'm going up to Orem today, so I'll see if it's there.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Who's Nick, you may be asking? It's actually me, Brandon, but I guess this computer I'm using was already logged on as "Nick" without me knowing. Now let's see if he's still logged on to Ebay...

9:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I watched I am Cuba at the recommendation of Drew and it was pretty great. There was some really cool cameral work in it. Definitely worth checking out.

Also, a couple of years ago I bought Le Samourai on a whim. I thought, "I like samurai movies, I like 60's french pop culture, I like assassins... This movie can't fail!" And it didn't fail. I quite enjoyed it. There were some really cool things going on throughout the movie. Now days everything is so techno savy that it was kind of cool to see the old school methods of surveillance and stuff. Great art direction, great camera work, great music, great acting, great directing. After I watched the movie I watched the special features on the disc and I thought I definitely need to check out this directors other stuff, but then I never got around to it.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

Yeah, I love the old school stuff, like those shots of him going through his huge key ring one by one until he finds a key that starts the car. And he's so calm about it! Nowadays it's all, "bust open the steering wheel, connect those two wires, badabing the car's started within two seconds of breaking in..." no class.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

thanks for the recommendations Brandon and thank you to Nick for your inspired input.

2:18 AM  

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