Monday 17 August 2015

The Duvivier Dossier (2) - Early leads

A couple of emails came back very promptly after the announcement  that a little project to discuss the work of Julien Duvivier had been embarked upon. 
Neil McGlone was a researcher on Mark Cousins acclaimed documentary The Story of Children on Film  (UK, 2012) a wonderful film which premiered at Cannes and went on to screen at dozens of festivals including Adelaide and Brisbane in Australia. He draws attention to a piece he contributed to the  film's website which comments on some of the films not mentioned in the Cousins film including Duvivier's Poil de Carrotte (France, 1932). You can find it here.

In the meantime, for those who may have had their curiosity piqued, the quality American DVD label Criterion has announced that tomorrow, 20 August, it is releasing a box set of Duvivier titles from the thirties. The release is via Criterion's low budget Eclipse series and contains four films: David Golder (1930), Poil de Carrotte (1932), La Tete d'un Homme (1933) and Un Carnet de Bal (1937). Criterion's intro on the says: Remembered primarily for directing the classic crime drama Pépé le moko, Julien Duvivier was one of the finest filmmakers working in France in the 1930s. He made the transition from silents to talkies with ease, thanks to a formidable innate understanding of the cinematic medium, and he married his expressive camera work to a strikingly inventive use of sound with a singular dexterity. His deeply shadowed, fatalistic early sound films David Golder and La tête d’un homme anticipate the poetic realist style that would come to define the decade in French cinema, while the small-town family drama Poil de Carotte and the swooning tale of love and illusion Un carnet de bal showcase his stunning versatility. These four films—all featuring the great stage turned screen actor Harry Baur (see below by Barrie Pattison - ed)—are collected here, each evidence of an immense and often overlooked cinematic talent.

Here is the link on the Criterion webpage 

Supercinephile Barrie Pattison has also been in touch. He writes: You would raise Julien Duvivier when I was trying to finish proofs for the Curtiz book. As if I didn't have enough distraction already. However he is a topic that I can't resist.

One of my great regrets is that I wasn't around for the retro Langlois did when Duvivier died. I've been scrambling to catch up the backlog ever since. Yes, I do rate getting a 16 mm. of THE IMPOSTER and spotting UNTEL PERE ET FILS on free to air digital here as enterprising.

Fact is that the best of the seven films Duvivier made with Harry Baur were the most accomplished work of their day and it's easy to understand his frustration as he was dumped into the bottom drawer once the critics found Renoir and Carne (Yahoo won't support an E sharp). He embraced both Hollywood and post war Italy but neither one could restore his luster and his work took on an often alarming bitterness. I rated the 1957 Fernandel L’HOMME A L’IMPERMEABLE it's most entertaining manifestation.

Slight compensation - his output has been so neglected that it's still full of agreeable surprises.

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