Thursday 31 March 2016

KAMIKAZE & THE BUSAN MAYOR - Tony Rayns writes a new open letter to the put upon people of Busan

Mayor Suh Byungsoo’s determination to end the programming independence of Busan International Film Festival – and his persecution of festival director Lee Yongkwan in the courts – is fast turning into an end-game which will have no winners. In January 2016 I wrote an “open letter” deploring the mayor’s attacks on BIFF and its director. My essay found a lot of international support: the blogsite which published it recorded a record number of visits, and an international petition signed by many famous and distinguished film people was sent to Busan Metropolitan City Council in support of the film festival and its director.  There has also been loud support in Korea, most recently from guilds in the Korean film industry, which have promised to boycott a film festival controlled by Suh Byungsoo. But the mayor’s crude response has been to dismiss all this protest with a mere wave of the hand. He has not offered one single cogent counter-argument, but instead seems determined to push BIFF to its death.

Suh Byungsoo
I have never met Mayor Suh Byungsoo – I hope I never do, since I don’t like bullies, especially stupid bullies – but I know his type. In the last two months it has become clear that Mayor Suh’s actions against BIFF are driven solely by his hatred of BIFF director Lee Yongkwan. This hatred was sparked solely by Lee’s refusal to withdraw one film from the BIFF programme of some 300 films in 2014. So the mayor’s persecution of BIFF and Lee Yongkwan is not ‘politics’. It’s more like a child’s playground tantrum.  It is at best stupidity, at worst derangement. Mayor Suh must be a huge embarrassment to the Saenuri Party, to his own staff in Busan Metropolitan Council and to the tax-paying voters of Busan.

Some 2,400 years ago Plato and Aristotle laid out the principles of good government and what we should expect from our politicians. I don’t know what education Mayor Suh Byungsoo ever had (was there any at all?), but he clearly missed the classes on political philosophy.  He is a politician with no depth or subtlety. He doesn’t understand debate and doesn’t believe in discussion. He has no respect for anyone whose views are different from his own. He tries to bulldoze his policies and opinions through all opposition, with no concern about any collateral damage. In short, he’s like a suicide bomber, a kamikaze pilot or an Islamist jihadi, determined to take down as many innocent people as possible as he plunges to his own meaningless political death. He has only one policy: crash and burn.

As I write, it seems depressingly likely that there will be no Busan International Film Festival in 2016. In his “Greetings from the Mayor” on the Busan Metropolitan City website, Suh Byungsoo promises to strive for such goals as enhancing the prosperity of the city and its people – and to strengthen the city’s culture. It would be interesting, would it not, to hear how he thinks that destroying BIFF will honour those promises. In fact, killing BIFF will not only deprive the Korean film industry and its friends abroad of an important forum; it will also deprive Busan city’s economy of billions of Korean won. 

If Mayor Suh Byungsoo gets his pig-headed way, there will be no winners – least of all Suh Byungsoo himself, whose political life will soon be over and whose reputation will lie in ruins. The festival will be dead, hoping to revive under a more rational and sensible mayor in the future. The hotels, restaurants and shops of Busan will lose a huge amount of income. The people of Korea will lose a major element in their modern culture. As I said, no winners.

I have written harshly of Mayor Suh Byungsoo in this short note. My teacher was Suh Byungsoo himself.  His rudeness in dismissing both Korean and foreign protests against his persecution of BIFF – without answering his critics or in any way defending his idiotic actions – showed nothing but contempt for his constituency.  He deserves nothing better than contempt and ridicule in return. He has spent his whole life – sixty-odd years – climbing the greasy pole of politics, and now he’s sliding right back to the bottom, landing on his fat, stupid ass.

Tony Rayns is an award-winning film-maker, writer, film critic and festival programmer with a long held interest in the cinemas of East Asia. He has been a program consultant to the Busan International Film Festival since its inception. Click on this link for his earlier "'open letter"  to the people of Busan

Wednesday 30 March 2016

Vale Patty Duke -Noel Bjorndahl's tribute

Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke in Arthur Penn's The Miracle Worker, (USA, 1962)
RIP Patty Duke. She will always be for me, first and foremost, the blind and deaf Helen Keller in Arthur Penn's magnificent film version, The Miracle Worker, made in 1962. Anne Bancroft was equally superb as Annie Sullivan, who worked with manic intensity to make contact with her in spite of the near impossibility of the task. The film had an emotional wallop in spite of the clinical and austere approach to the material taken by director Penn. I was too young (and broke) to be lucky enough to ever see them play, to great acclaim, these roles on the Broadway stage but the film version conveyed the intensity of the relationship without missing a beat. Both Duke and Bancroft scored the Oscars that were odds-on at the Awards ceremony. Duke was the youngest actress ever to have received the award at that stage. A film career eluded her but she moved into TV and scored enormous popularity from the fans of her comedy series The Patty Duke Show.. From 1985 to 1988 she became President of the Screen Actors Guild.

Tuesday 29 March 2016

The Current Cinema (and some classics) - Shaun Heenan's week in cinema

I know it’s a well-regarded film, but I really hated Fantastic Planet (aka La Planète Sauvage, René Laloux, France/Czechoslovakia, 1973). This animated sci-fi film uses an unusual hand-drawn stop-motion technique to create psychedelic imagery. I was reminded of the work of Terry Gilliam in the animated sequences of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. In the film, humans, now called Oms, are treated as disposable pets by the giant blue skinned Traags. Every three ‘cycles’, the Oms are culled, in order to keep the population down. One Om gains access to knowledge through a headset his owner uses for school, and then escapes and joins an uprising.

That’s the general thrust of the plot, but the film is more interested in showing us long philosophical conversations between the Traags, using a lot of nonsense words. I found these scenes literally sleep-inducing. The film is at its best when we’re able to just sit back and enjoy the visual creativity. Many oddly designed creatures make brief appearances. There’s a creepiness to the Traags which is aided by the animation style; they stare through wide, unmoving red eyes as they mistreat the Oms without considering their sentience. The designs on the Oms themselves are flat and dull. I don’t understand how a film so creative can wind up so utterly dreary, especially at a runtime of only 72 minutes, but I was bored out of my mind by the glacial conversations and the impersonal nature of the plot.

I should mention the pathetic presentation of the Australian DVD I watched. On this disc from Force Video, the film is shown in a 4:3 box, but is then further letter-boxed and pillar-boxed inside of that. On top of that, the film includes both burned-in English subtitles and unchangeable English audio (despite the fact that the film was originally released in French), each of which use wildly different translations.

Macbeth (Justin Kurzel, UK/France/USA, 2015) is the newest version of a story told many, many times on screen, though it’s actually the first version I’ve seen. Kurzel’s version is all blood and flames, dirt and sweat. The final battle takes place against a backdrop of fire and smoke, and the resulting orange glow makes the scene look very impressive indeed. Michael Fassbender is great in the title role as a once-proud and noble man turned into a pathetic madman through the guilt brought to him by his treachery.

It always takes me about half an hour for my ear to adjust to Shakespeare films, especially those performed with Scottish accents, dialogue shouted across battlefields. After that, it just seems to click, and I understand every word. When looking at new versions of repeatedly-adapted classics, the main question I ask is whether I could imagine this new film being somebody’s favourite version of the story. In the case of Carlo Carlei’s recent version of Romeo and Juliet (2013), I decided the answer was no. I could very easily imagine this being somebody’s favourite version of Macbeth. It’s a visual treat, and a great film in its own right.

I’m a little reluctant to even discuss Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Zack Snyder, USA, 2016), since it’s already been so widely dismissed, but I like it more than most, so I become its de facto defender. To that end: it’s fine, the way all of these things are fine. It’s a sequel to Snyder’s Man of Steel (2013), which I rather liked. This is a particularly grim and violent representation of these superheroes. Superman faces controversy over the civilian casualties caused by the fight at the end of the previous film, and Batman not only brands his bat symbol into the flesh of captured foes, he also sometimes just shoots his enemies dead. One of Batman’s core principles has always been that he doesn’t kill people, but this time, I guess he does. Oh well.

The film does indeed pit Batman and Superman against each other in an exciting fight scene, but its main goal is to bring them together, and to briefly introduce some of the other people who will become the Justice League. There’s one scene where Batman watches short clips on his computer which may as well be trailers for the upcoming The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg movies. Gal Gadot shows up briefly here as Wonder Woman, and she’s one of the best things in the movie.
So here comes another endless franchise. Snyder has already been named as the director of both parts of Justice League, which is The Avengers, but with DC characters. The DC movies continue to be more violent and (much) less comedic than the Marvel films, and why shouldn’t they? If we absolutely must have 40 superhero movies over the next few years, it is something of a relief to me that we will at least get 20 of one flavour and 20 of another, instead of 40 near-identical movies. I didn’t end up defending it all that well, did I?

Kung Fu Panda 3 (Jennifer Yuh Nelson & Alessandro Carloni, USA/China, 2016) continues the adventures of overweight panda Po (Jack Black), who has become a somewhat unlikely master of martial arts. It is the least interesting of the surprisingly enjoyable animated trilogy, though perhaps only through overfamiliarity and repetition. This time around Po meets up with his real father, and must learn magic to defeat an ancient evil. I have already run out of things to say about this movie. The baby pandas are cute, I guess, and my young nephew was enthralled. If you’re taking a kid to the cinema this week, be aware that this is much more suitable than Batman.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (Kirk Jones, USA, 2016) comes 14 years after the 2002 original, and serves essentially the same purpose as rewatching that film on DVD. All of the characters are back together on screen, and they offer exactly the same characteristics as they did last time, and no new ones. In the time since the first film, Toula (Nia Vardalos) and Ian (John Corbett) have raised a daughter (Elena Kampouris), who is now 17 and beginning to think about leaving home for college. Toula’s family are still ever-present and frequently overbearing. The new wedding is that of Toula’s mother and father, who have discovered their wedding certificate was never signed, so they are not technically married. There are flimsier premises than this in film history, but not many.

The lack of originality and ambition could be forgiven if this was a genuinely funny film. A laugh or two can make me forgive a lot. British radio film critic Mark Kermode has a ‘six laugh test’ for comedies. If he laughs six times, the film is an acceptable comedy, and if not, it isn’t. I’m a little more generous than Mr. Kermode, requiring just a single laugh to avoid writing off a film’s comedic qualities entirely. This film failed my test, as have many alleged comedies before it. The film is well-meaning and kind, and offers roles to actors who may not find them elsewhere, but if it can’t make me laugh once, what’s the point?

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (William Greaves, USA, 1968) has a spectacular title and takes an intriguing format. It is, as far as I can discern, an experimental documentary, filmed under the pretense of creating a different film. We see actors repeating a single scene over and over, arguing with each other about their relationship. It looks like something John Cassavetes might have made. Meanwhile, a second and third camera crew film this scene, and the crew filming this scene, and the director’s deliberately vague instructions. Sometimes all three strands of footage are seen simultaneously, side by side.

The crew intuit that the director might simply be messing with them, and we see them talking about this possibility while they plan to shoot another scene without his input. Is any of this footage actually real, or are the crew simply another layer of actors, acting out their feigned confusion? I honestly can’t tell. I think that’s the point. The single scene does become repetitive as we see it over and over, slightly differently each time, but the film doesn’t overstay its welcome at a brisk 75 minutes. I’m not in love with the movie itself, but I love that it exists, and I’ve never seen anything like it.

Sunday 27 March 2016

The Current Cinema - PAWNO - Paul Ireland & Damian Hill's low budget comedy drama about life in Footscray

(Spoiler Alert. Plot points given away )
John Brumpton as Les in Pawno
“F---ing c-----s” says Les (John Brumpton) as he gets out of his aging Mercedes in one of the down at heel sections of Footscray’s CBD, having driven there from somewhere some distance away.  His wrath is directed at his car radio which brings news of a Government decision to cut small business taxes. Go figure that. Go figure Les anyway. He runs a business where people graffiti  Shylock  on his security screen though such a reference may well be beyond most sons of  the ‘Scray’ and thus not have much impact on the reading populace.  Yet Les reads The Australian a broadsheet quality publication issued from the Murdoch empire.. The paper takes the ‘news’ out of newspaper, being mostly concerned with a parallel universe based somewhere round the idea of the poor knowing what’s good for them by supporting the political parties endorsed by Rupert Murdoch. Those parties want the poor to pay higher taxes, to be charged   more for their public health care and more for their tertiary education. Murdoch and his acolytes favour increasing indirect taxes which adversely affect the poor, reducing taxes on the rich and on companies. Many companies, like News Corp, do not pay much tax anyway. The Australian as well believes the national government should devote ever increasing amounts and ever-repressive measures to defending us against non-existent threats to our national security. Go figure why a  Mercedes driving Footscray shopkeeper reads that and presumably votes accordingly. But the fact is that at one point Les is not merely reading the Australian, he holds it up so there’s no mistaking what the film-makers want to tell us.

Les is however, a little smarter than he might initially seem and by the end of Pawno (directed and produced by Paul Ireland, produced, starring and written by Damian Hill) there has been a moment when Les has gone over and done something unexpected which changes our perspective somewhat. In fact, this is the trope that works its way through the entire ensemble of the film, a dozen or more characters, sometimes connecting in some network narrative but each of them comes up with a surprise (minor ones include the tattooed hood with the expensive watch who turns out to be a family man just before he’s whisked off by a mob of gangsters who want to collect a debt.) So the trick is keeping the audience guessing as to where all these characters are heading and whether there might indeed be happy endings for at least some.

If you are talking about Footscray this is always going to be problematic. It’s at the end of a lot of lines and you have to be smart to stay ahead of things. I can claim the place as the land of my foremothers if not my forefathers.  Getting out of the place was however a maternal aim even if it only brought her to Brunswick which didn’t even have an AFL team, rivalries being shared .

My own time there, many decades ago, was spent over a summer delivering beer for a Yarraville grog merchant who used to supply the Footscray Club. I used to take in 12 cases or so a week and put them in individual lockers for some of the members to have on hand. This arrangement had been made because the club had been refused a licence to sell beer. The refusal arose because the club had been caught too often selling beer when it didn’t have a licence to do so. I hope you got that.

Still, my parents lived there for awhile and it did produce such sporting and entertainment notables as Ted Whitten and the incomparable Antony I Ginnane (pronounced Ginnayne, not Jinnarnay as the late and dear old Albert Johnson used to call him, no doubt to the Gucc’s amusement). Terry Counihan and Don Watson taught at the local polytechnic and Rod Carter, the tilt-headed Swans footballer studied there for awhile. Julia Gillard represented it for her parliamentary life but I wouldn’t bet on her having made many visits since. Famous people from Footscray are otherwise a bit thin on the ground

Anyway a few minutes after the start of Pawno we have got Les, the proprietor of a pawn shop, fairly well pegged.  His shop assistant Danny, a mooning boy/man with another secret life harbours an unrequited desire for the cute girl in the nearby bookshop (Maeve Dermody). The bookshop itself seems to have two shop assistants (the other of whom  secretly rips pages out of the books) but no manager. Go figure that one too.  There is a Vietnamese cafe/takeaway, and I  don’t dare ruin that connection, and two street layabouts, one, Pauly, an Aboriginal (Mark Coles-Smith), beautifully muscled  and claiming to be in training. His mate Carlo (Malcolm Kennard) is smart and devious, witness his preference for better quality food and how he gets his lunch from the Vietnamese cafe.

Malcolm Kennard & Mark Coles-Smith in Pawno
In a Facebook post someone compared this pair with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Add this to the Shylock reference and there’s much Shakespeare in play. Actually for those with long memories the pair remind you a lot more of the original Mutton and Bayonet from the Pram Factory version of Jack Hibberd’s Dimboola.  (By the time the film version was done by John Duigan in 1979, Chad Morgan was cast as Mutton, replacing Jack Charles, a character about whom the play suggested just had 'a touch of the tar brush'.

There are lots of playfully smart things about Pawno. It has a big heart for a start and in a way the mooning over being someone else, somewhere else, that characterises Danny, the bloke at the centre of it all, is an emblem of the movie itself. It seems to have the most modest ambitions but hidden away is a desire to be something more. To get there maybe what the team  needed was a real/ surreal edge, harder stuff, something to really pull you up short, though not the sort of pseudo-shock tacked onto the end of the recent Looking For Grace (Sue Brooks, Australia, 2015). Maybe Rosencrantz and Guildenstern could have had some dialogue in blank verse a la Steven Berkoff or even the iambic pentameter. That would have been the real shock to the system that the film promises but doesn’t quite pull off. 

An explanation about Tony Rayns recent post

At Tony's request I've taken the post down for certain technical reasons. It should be back soon.

Thursday 24 March 2016

Busan International Film Festival – The Korean film industry takes a stand

Screen Daily has a report on developments regarding the independence of the Busan International Film Festival. You can find it here. For a key piece of background to this matter you should read Tony Rayns open letter to the people of Busan.

Here are the key paras from the Screen Daily Report:
The Film industry Committee of nine major film organisations has issued a set of demands to ensure the festival’s independence.
Key members of South Korea’s film community have announced today that they will boycott the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) if Busan City does not stop interfering with the festival.
Today (March 21), the Korean Film Group’s Emergency Committee for Defending BIFF’s Independence, a gathering of nine major film organisations including the Korean Film Producers’ Association, the Directors’ Guild of Korea and the Federation of Korea Movie Workers’ Union, held a press conference in Seoul to make the following demands to ensure the festival’s autonomy and independence:
  • Busan City mayor Suh Byung-soo should step down as BIFF organizing committee chairman and agree to revise the festival’s articles of association.
  • The city government must stop unjust interference in BIFF and withdraw the legal application for injunction against the 68 new committee advisors.
  • Suh should make a public apology for his actions and promise it will never happen again.

Wednesday 23 March 2016

The French Film Festival (2) - Barrie Pattison charts a downhill course

The Second of two pieces.  
The French Film Festival remains a big ticket scene here - forty eight movies. On the plus side the booklet and celebrity comment trailer were nice this year but visiting film makers were sadly missed. You can query some choices and they don’t seem to learn.  Despite the fact that his drear Les amants réguliers (France, 2005) held the Academy house record for walk-outs they went ahead and programmed Philippe Garrel’s new L'ombre des femmes / In the Shadow of Women (France, 2015). I’m someone who lived through the sixties. They weren’t good enough to want to revisit them in these dim evocations when the festival had no space for example for Clément Cogitore’s admired Ni le ciel ni la terre (France, 2015).

For a while there it looked as if I’d already seen everything that was worth the trouble in the first week of the event. However Frogfilmfest came good when I got two exceptional movies on the same day.

Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan (France, 2015) has raised controversy on its home turf with the contrast between its depiction of grubby hostile France and sunny welcoming Britain. It’s one of a handful of films which tackle the refugee experience with conviction, whether you put it in with outsider views like Dirty Pretty Things (Stephen Frears, UK, 2002) or Emanuele Crialese’s great Terraferma (Italy, 2011) or participant cinema like La Pirogue (Moussa Toure, Senegal, 2012) and the Hong Kong film where they train the leads with street maps of Hanoi to pass themselves off as Vietnamese refugees.

Here we kick off in a camp where Kalieaswari Srinivasan searches among the
refugees for the nine year old girl they need to complete the family listed on a dead  man’s passport they plan on using. The translator coaches leading man Jesuthasan Antonythasan on the back story he has to invent to be plausible for the interviewing authorities and the newly blended family are accepted as immigrants to France. There Antonythasan becomes janitor in a decrepit housing project, witnessing the violent behaviour of  gangs that he dismisses as less dangerous than the ones they knew in Sri Lanka - an observation that motivates the savage climax - the girl in the seat next to me was near hysterical watching that.

Paralleling the real life experience of its leading man, the film uses non pros and a
few familiar faces like Vincent Rottiers with unobtrusive film craft.  It appears to
have a straight forward narrative but also runs on a complex, conflicting perception of their reality by the characters - bogus father, mother, daughter, gang leader wearing a home detention bracelet and Tamil Tiger general. It may be considered Audiard’s best work to date.

You could not get a more different film to Samuel Bentechrit’s Asphalte / Macadam Stories.  Bentechrit has been off the radar since his passably eccentric black and white J'ai toujours rêvé d'être un gangster (France, 2007). His two subsequent movies have gotten little attention but now he’s back gangbusters.

We kick off with another dilapidated housing  project, with a couple of skin heads
lounging at the entrance, and get into a meeting with the Body Corp, where Gustave Kerven (Aaltra (Benoit Delepine & Gustave Kervem, Belgium, 2004, Dans la cour (Pierre Salavadori, France, 2014)) gets a laugh by just sitting there. He’s the only one who doesn’t want to pay for a new elevator because he’s on the second floor. He’s excused with the proviso that he can’t use the lift. Impressed by the chairman’s exercise machine he gets one which puts him in hospital, to be sent back in a wheel chair.

Meanwhile the director’s son, as an abandoned teen, finds ex star Isabelle Huppert moving in next door and the space station insets lead to an escape pod landing astronaut Michael Pitt on the roof in front of the bemused skin heads. He shelters with Arab mother Tassadit Mandi who pretty much steals the picture (she’s also glimpsed briefly in Dheepan) turning him out in her imprisoned son’s Marseilles soccer shirt and feeding him couscous, without them having a common language. Kerven’s enforced nocturnal life style brings him into contact with night nurse Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi rounding out the small on top of their game cast.

This one is pretty much unique though it’s been compared inadequately to Woody
Allen and Jim Jarmusch. It’s enormously enjoyable and likable, which makes a

Notice that three by four, the old Academy frame, is creeping back - Imax films,
Carlos Reygadas and Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, USA, 2014). They use it here for the body of the movie, the image only going into wide screen for Huppert’s video audition, where her performance is modified under Bentchiret the younger’s direction - a considerable set piece in itself.

Well that was the good news - pretty well all the good news.

Belle & Sebastian : the Adventure Continues was better than it needed to be for  a sequel to a popular kids entertainment spun of the book by Cecile Aubrey, who was once H.G. Clouzot’s Manon.

In the picturesque alpine settings of the first film (the Nazis have gone home) Gramps Tcheky Karyo is raising orphaned Felix Bossuet when the plane bringing aunt Margaux Châtelier crashes into the burning forest. The pair seek out grumpy WW2 survivor pilot Thierry Neuvic who doesn’t like dogs, eyeing giant white Pyrenean Mountain hound Belle.

Their adventures include the plane crashing, Belle fighting an agro bear which could have strolled in from The Revenant and Neuvic using dynamite to blast a path through the fire, the way he learned from WW2 Americans.

Impressively filmed scenes of Alpine life, great air to air material (it looks authentic) and the depiction of the forest fire would all be notable in a production aimed at any age. The cast are all more than equal to the task. We can chalk this up to strong production values and the injection of  Cristian Duguay jobbing director of the surprisingly accomplished Wesley Snipes Art of War. Pity the kid film conventions bend plausibility. Someone should have given that brat a good thumping every time he put someone’s life at risk.

L'attesa /The Wait (Piero Messina, Italy, 2015) soon gets to the half close up of Sicilian mother Juliette Binoche with the sound of hammering - crepe being nailed over the mirrors where the family have gathered for a funeral. Binoche’s son’s French speaking fiancée Lou de Laâge is driven in and the film gets to be about the two women (“Sono suo madre”). Language switches from Italian to French as Juliette delivers the film’s central lie. They stress the contrast of the pair - Lou swimming in her scanties which Juliette refuses. “I’m used to seeing some parts of my body only in the dark.”

Two strong lead performances, great images and a remote link to Pirandello but does it have to be so boring?

Director Piero Messina was an assistant on Il Grande Bellezza (Paolo Sorrentino, Italy, 2013) Italy, and he wants us to know it, with significance writ large - for openers the somber lit Christ on the crosswhich foreshadows the Madonna we see being trucked in for the Sicilian religious festival, with the penitents in KKK hoods. However he film is really a clearer demo of the lingering influence of Antonioni with static still photo like insets - the pink inflatable mattress blows about the courtyard of the so nice beige wall villa, the distractingly appealing meal run up from home made carob flour pasta, two glasses on their side roll on the table, a helicopter scoops water out of the lake, the distant hair pin bends with no traffic on them.  It’s even got a missing lover - I mean - Jeez.

Claude Lelouch is the great survivor of French film and, despite aberrations like his dippings into mysticism, he’s provided an enormous amount of quality entertainment. Hopes were high for Un + une (France, 2015)  in which the shape of  his Un homme et une femme (France, 1966) can be vaguely seen.

It kicks off with ‘Scope shots of pilgrims bathing at Benares and shifts into the failed Indian Dance audition and a non sequential coverage of a Silver Store robbery and chase intercut, the two becoming the subject of a B&W Juliet & Romeo production by Oscar winner art film director Vohra who hires in French movie musician Jean Dujardin to score it. Elsa Zylberstein shows up sitting next to Jean at French Ambassador Christoph Lambert’s dinner and we get to the concept of her spirituality against his pragmatism, with Elsa off to enable her to have a child after being hugged by famed woman healer Mata Amritanandamayi Devi.

Jean is diagnosed with the life threatening tumor and follows to the healer, catching up with Elsa a rail station and traveling by train, bus and small boats through all the scenics. The leads are ultra charming but  all the will they or won’t they strains patience.

Coda has Jean encounter Elsa on the so nice house boat. It stops at the start like Toute une vie (Claude Lelouch, France, 1974).

Un + Une arrives full of set pieces like Dujardin asked by Zylberstein how he’d put music to their real life encounter and his suggestions being used as the scene runs or action broken up with unexpected flashbacks - Jean finding his birth dad, aged “raté” one time body builder hunk Venantino Venantini begging in a restaurant, Alice Pol seeing the leads in bed and firing a few rounds into them, Lambert meeting possessionless Elsa as he drives out of the closed French embassy.

Technically exceptional - great 'scope images, Francis Lai score, the monochrome film in a film getting video vignetted into subsequent action. It’s kind of like thumbing through a glossy woman’s magazine for two hours.

Julie Delpy was such an endearing presence that it would be nice to find her films as director were equally appealing - or at least better than the new Lolo. It starts out as a glossy rom com with long divorced sophisticated Paris designer Julie on holiday in Biarritz, where she gets to meet local Danny Boon when he dumps the giant tuna caught for the barbecue that night in her lap. They make out, with her seeing him as a hoon fling only to find herself jumping on him at any opportunity and the pair setting up together when he moves to Benugravelle in Paris with an impeded view of the Eiffel Tower. So far soso with the talking dirty with friend Karen Viard the best element.

However the film takes a right turn with the introduction of  Julie’s nineteen year old
son Vincent Lacoste, who turns out to be a “vrai psycho” sabotaging mum’s relations with men since he was in kindergarten. I didn’t like this format all that much inTanguy a few years back. George Coraface shows up briefly as Viard’s Greek squeeze. The talented cast deserve better material. Best element is location filming with material shot in the Pompidou Centre, Place de la Republique, Paddington Station etc.

I’ve got a few more films to go but it’s too much of a gamble to go on ploughing
fifteen bucks a time into undocumented material. It’s possible that I missed the best - or the worst - of the near fifty titles on offer but what I did catch confirms the notion that French film remains the most approachable national cinema, the one stacked with the most personable players and film makers willing to mount popular product around them and when they come up with Le Tout nouveau testament (Jaco van Domrael, Belgium/France/Luxembourg, 2015) they are holding their own with anything else being made now.

Monday 21 March 2016

The Duvivier Dossier (49) - Lydia - Ben Cho and Max Berghouse review Korda's remake of Un Carnet de Bal

Two Views of Lydia
Director: Julien Duvivier, script based on a story (previously filmed as Un Carnet de Bal , France, 1937) by the director and Leslie Bush-Fekete, Ben Hecht & Samuel Hoffenstein  and André De Toth. Photography: Lee Garmes
Starring: Merle Oberon (Lydia MacMillan), Edna May Oliver (Sarah MacMillan), Alan Marshal (Capt Richard Mason), Joseph Cotten (Dr Michael Fitzpatrick), Hans Yaray (Frank André) and George Reeves (Bob Willard). Alexander Korda (Producer), Alexander Korda Films (Production Company) and Miklós Rózsa (Filmscore). USA, 1941, 104 minutes.

Merle Oberon
Ben Cho writes. Despite the rather frustrating ordeal of witnessing nice-guy Joseph Cotten endure over 100 minutes of effectively being cuckolded by Merle Oberon’s titular character as she reminisces over the one(s) that got away, Duvivier’s remake of his own 1937 film Un carnet de bal does contain a wealth of stylistic pleasures to compensate for the unfolding horror show of unrequited love, missed opportunities and desperate longing.

What begins as a simple trip down memory lane for the elderly Lydia as she reunites with a long-lost suitor Michael (Cotten) soon becomes steeped in tragedy and regret as her memories of youth splinter off into dagger-like shards. She recalls a bourgeois upbringing and her charity work but most importantly the men who entered her life and became almost instantly enraptured by her beauty and charm. It’s not too difficult to understand why from an aesthetic position: Oberon looks stunning throughout (even in what was classed as ‘risque’ for the late 19th century but today looks like a hideous fusion of cream-puff and curtain) and Lee Garmes’s superb cinematography captures shadow and light against her in the most flattering of ways.

Oberon has to anchor the film from world-weary spinster to coquettish teen and back again, and her performance is marvelous stuff, deftly negotiating the emergence of a woman unafraid to break with societal tradition but retain strong emotional vulnerability.  
 There was the college-jock who Lydia almost got hitched to (in today’s terms their hotel liaison might be considered part of the campus ‘rape culture’); the brilliant European pianist without sight who carries with him a (completely inaccurate) vision of her as he writes tribute pieces in her honour; and, most crucially for the episodic narrative, the mysterious heartbreaker-heartthrob who sweeps her off to a coastal fishing shack where they enjoy the kind of spellbinding love amongst the wind, wet and fish smell only classical Hollywood filmmaking can sell. Meanwhile Michael cuts a forlorn figure as he weaves in and out of the flashbacks, competing against these other men and his one chance at sealing the deal with marriage is cut short with an untimely death of a family member.

Duvivier deploys a wealth of stylistic flourishes from strategically deployed slow-mo (perfectly accentuating the romantic haze of a grand ballroom entrance) to the captivating camera fluidity and Lydia is simply a gorgeous picture to watch for nearly two hours. Also worth noting is how the film presents how sound is conceptualized for the blind as visually-impaired children listen to piano songs that represent a storm at sea or a clown fooling around. These exchanges involving the blind and their reliance on music to realize the unrealizable is about the most moving moment in the picture and it’s difficult not to be swept up in the emotion and sentimentality. It might also be indicative of one of the underlying concerns encircling Lydia: the futile attempt to make sense of that which is unobtainable. Like the blind child who will never ‘see’ red, Lydia and Michael are in search of a love that will never materialize and perhaps both have no concept of what they even seek to satiate their concept of ‘love’.

While Lydia builds to a whirlwind of high emotions and melodrama throughout the flashbacks, this only seems to amplify the very cold and pessimistic fog that hangs over the ending (and much of the present-day timeline), a reminder of how the pleasure and pain of the past is an unreachable shore. Like all of us, memories have a habit of being distorted and exaggerated and the juxtaposition of say, the beautiful, innocent Lydia standing on a wharf as her lover sails away forever against the frail and elegiac Lydia shedding a tear over what could have been is where the film gains most emotional charge.

The flashbacks are histrionic and at times ridiculous but then so are the anecdotes you’d hear from a grandparent about the ‘old days’. The falseness of memory and perception is at stake here and how our clarity is lost, thanks to infatuation, in the kind of rough seas Lydia’s lover sails away into: the blind pianist clutches on to the image of a spectacular blonde when Lydia is a brunette; Lydia clutches on to the image of a lover who thought she was his everything when in reality she was just another notch on the board; and Michael, poor desperate Michael, clutches onto the idea of a woman whose heart will be overcome by time and resilience, which is never to be. There are certainly no winners in Lydia’s downbeat world but as a later-period example of Duvivier’s formal dazzle the film is sublime.

Max Berghouse writes: This film is not well regarded by critics. Granted that I have an extraordinary regard for this director's work and therefore may be tempted to "gild the lily", I was expecting something relatively run-of-the-mill and was genuinely surprised at its quality. It has a full "Hollywood treatment" production, shot entirely within the confines of two studios and is really a very sumptuous and engaging production. Clearly it enjoyed a much higher budget than the director' s European productions, certainly before his arrival in America, and probably afterwards when he returned to Europe. The director makes full use of the budget.

The plot is a reworking of the director' s prior European film Un Carnet de Bal (France, 1937) but without its overwhelmingly melancholy feel. The brilliant scriptwriter Ben Hecht and others cannot overcome his enjoyment at a script which while serious, is filled with irony and comedy. This is especially the case with Edna May Oliver, a brilliant comic actress with "the face of a horse". The heroine – for this is a "woman's picture" - Lydia MacMillan, a young woman who lives with her wealthy grandmother, Sarah MacMillan,  has, as a spinster, devoted her life to the service of the deaf, recalls the four men who 40 years previously have engaged her affections. At the instigation of Michael Fitzpatrick, they all, bar Richard Mason, gather to reminisce.

Dramatically this is all very well handled although I think the plot slows down about half way through, and does not fully recover. Part of this is possibly due to the fact that Lydia' s "one true love", Richard Mason comes across as unworthy of her affections. In short it's very hard to believe that the heroine would engage as she did. To the contrary, two at least of the other beaux seem totally deserving of her regard and the fact that all of them have remained bachelors might be something difficult to accept.

Merle Oberon, wife of the producer, although a great beauty, is not much of an actress. During her peak years it was put out that she was born in Australia, in Tasmania. In fact she was a half caste Indian who washed up in England illegally. It might be with my prior knowledge of this that I felt I could hear, at least to some extent, in some part of her voice, aspects of that Welsh singsong intonation characteristic of Indians speaking English. The film, made in an age of universal warfare, when women were generally concerned with there being enough men around to marry, were possibly not impressed with the woman who discarded so many engaging males!

Lydia is a very dominant and dominating personality. Readers might remember that a similar sort of character –Scarlet O'Hara was critically condemned at the first release of the film "Gone with the Wind". Modern attitudes are more tolerant.

All the male leads are more than adequate in their roles although, characteristic of the period, their ageing process from young men is both synthetic and unsympathetic. Joseph Cotton as Michael is as ever, totally professional.

At the very end of the film, Richard returns but he does not recognise Lydia who can see perhaps vaguely that her life, in pining for him, has been in vain. That ending is very similar to the ending in "The Leopard" (Di Lampedusa) although shorn of the absolute sense of loss and tragedy. It seems entirely consistent with the director' s general views about life: pessimism. Ultimately everyone lacks fulfilment.

There is an exceptionally fine, if rather full, film score by Miklós Rózsa – the film was very much an Hungarian expatriate affair, which becomes excessively 1940' s high romantic in idiom and thus out of place in the setting of the film, but very interesting in itself.

Sunday 20 March 2016

AFTRS Appointments - A Message from Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications and for the Arts

From a media release passed on today

AFTRS Council re-appointments

21 March 2016

The Australian Government has re-appointed Professor Julianne Schultz AM
FAHA as Chair of the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS)
Council for a period of one year, and Professor Robyn Ewing AM as a
member of the Council for two years.

Professor Schultz and Professor Ewing have contributed extensive expertise
to the work of the Council during their first terms overseeing significant
achievements by the AFTRS including the redesign of the AFTRS Award
courses and the expansion of the AFTRS Open program.

Professor Schultz brings considerable governance experience to the role of
Chair. She is the founding editor of the Griffith Review and has served on the
boards of the ABC, the Grattan Institute and the Copyright Agency, and was
formerly Chair of the Queensland Design Council.

Professor Ewing is a valuable member of the Council with a background
specialising in education and learning. She is Professor of Teacher Education
and the Arts, University of Sydney and was previously Associate Dean,
Academic Programs and Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning.

AFTRS provides advanced education and training to develop the skills and
knowledge of talented individuals to meet the evolving needs of Australia’s
screen and broadcast industries.

A Cinephile Diary - Shaun Heenan's viewing week

Our Brand is Crisis (David Gordon Green, USA, 2015) shares a title and a basic premise with Rachel Boynton’s 2005 political documentary (unseen by me), but entirely fictionalises the characters and events to tell a different story. Sandra Bullock plays Jane Bodine, a semi-retired American political strategist hired to run the public relations campaign for Bolivian presidential candidate Pedro Castillo (Joaquim de Almeida). Castillo’s heavy-handedness during his previous term in office has made him unpopular with the people. Bodine’s chief tactic is to convince the Bolivian people their nation is in a crisis, and that such a man is exactly what they need to work their way out of it.
The political machinations here are the highlight, as we see dirty tricks employed from all of the major candidates. Fake flyers are distributed and misattributed, speeches are directly sabotaged and so on. Bullock’s character is less convincing, often played in a broadly comic fashion which doesn’t fit the material at all. This film is a near-miss from a director with some strong work in his past. I suspect I’d like the documentary more. For a better film on the subject of political PR, take a look at No (Pablo Larrain, Chile/France/USA, 2012).

Truth (James Vanderbilt, USA, 2015) is another film which was very nearly very good. Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford offer a pair of great performances as American journalists Mary Mapes and Dan Rather. Their decades-long relationship is made completely believable by these two veterans of the screen. Mapes was the producer and Rather the presenter of a 2004 60 Minutes story which reported that then-president George W. Bush had been severely negligent in his duties during his time at the Texas Air National Guard, and that his position there was offered as a political favour to his father. Mapes and her team aired testimony to this effect from several sources, but the broadcast included as evidence some documents which may have been forged. The documents, of course, became the focus of the public’s reaction. The film focuses on this report, from the initial excitement of the discovery through to the consequences of the scandal.

The story is fascinating, but the presentation is overwhelmingly mainstream, to the film’s great detriment. Character motivations are oversimplified in a way which makes them feel like nonsense, most notably the tangential involvement of Mapes’ father. There are a few too many slow-motion montages of news being gathered, set to uplifting music, and one particularly unimpressive speech about the importance of journalism delivered by Topher Grace, who is not working on the same level as Redford and Blanchett. The idea that journalists are held to a higher standard than the US President is an interesting one, and the film begins to explore it, but is not quite up to the task.

Happy Together (Wong Kar-Wai, Hong Kong, 1997) tells the story of two men from Hong Kong living in an abusive romantic relationship. Lai Yiu-fai (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) is the milder of the two, soft-spoken and loyal, despite the sometimes violent nature of his partner. Ho Po-wing (Leslie Cheung) sleeps with other men, and is wild and unpredictable, occasionally going as far as beating his lover. There’s a crushing moment where Lai admits in a voice-over that he loves Ho best when he is asleep, when he can just be with him, without having to deal with his mood swings.

The film is, above all, about loneliness. The title offers bitter irony, as we see these men dependent on one another, for fear of being apart. At first it seems arbitrary that the film takes place during an extended trip to Argentina, but the film points out this is on the opposite side of the world to Hong Kong. They’re as far as they can be from home. This is my favourite of the Wong Kar-Wai films I’ve seen, lacking the intense dullness of The Grandmaster (2013) and connecting visuals with emotion more successfully than In the Mood for Love (2000). The film’s visual style is deliberately grainy, but it still contains a beautiful colour scheme, all oranges and greens. I’m looking forward to seeing more from him.

Friday 18 March 2016

AFTRS - A Senator asks some questions

Senator Catryna Bilyk, Labor Tasmania
As a part of the recent hearings of the Senate Estimates Committees examining Federal Government administration and expenditure, Senator Catryna Bilyk (Labor, Tasmania) submitted a series of Questions on Notice for response by the Minister for Communications. The Questions are on the public record on the Senate’s website. The answers may take some time to appear but, for the record, these are the matters raised. (It should be noted that as of today, 19 March, 2016, the Federal Government has still not made any appointment to the vacant position of Chair of the School Council last occupied by Professor Julianne Schultz in 2015. According to the legislation which governs the AFTRS administration, the Council is composed of nine people. At present only five people have appointments to it, including two staff members, the CEO Neil Peplow and the staff-elected representative. The Film Alert 101 blog has previously taken some interest in issues related to AFTRS and the training it offers. In particular there has been concern that the school is now no longer dedicated to producing graduates who go on to direct feature films, the quality sector of production upon which a nation’s film-making reputation resides. If you want to read a key earlier post that provides background to some of the issues raised by Senator Bilyk you can click here.) Now read on....

AFTRS - Re-Appointment of Professor Julianne Schultz
1. Has any previous Chair of the School Council accepted a second term for less than a three year appointment
2. What were the reasons why the current Chair was not offered a three year term in a manner similar to her predecessors over the 45 years of AFTRS existence
3. Is it proposed to make appointments to the other current vacancies on the School Council for similar twelve month terms

Future of AFTRS as a stand alone Federally funded institution
1. Has the Federal Government made a decision regarding the recommendation of the National Commission of Audit (2014): “The Australian Film, Television and Radio School could be transferred to a university or vocational education institution with an option for the Arts Council to fund scholarships. This is consistent with the principle that the Commonwealth should withdraw from activities that are outside its areas of core responsibility and could be more efficiently and effectively undertaken by the private sector or another jurisdiction.”
2. Has the Minister, his advisory staff or any Federal Government officials engaged in any discussions with the NSW State Government regarding the possible transfer of AFTRS or any of its activities to the NSW tertiary education sector
3. Has any member of AFTRS Council or staff engaged in any discussions with the NSW State Government regarding the possible transfer of AFTRS to the NSW tertiary education sector
4. Has the Minister or the Ministry received any request or proposal from the AFTRS Council with a view to initiating or responding to proposed discussions regarding its future as a Federal Government institution
5. Has the Minister or Ministry requested any proposal or submission from AFTRS Council or management regarding proposed activities over the next three to five years or longer.

AFTRS relations with the film industry
1. The AFTRS’s record in graduating students who become feature film directors has declined substantially over the past 13 years. What is the reason for this?
2. AFTRS has not graduated an Indigenous student who has directed a feature film since 2001. In what ways has the School changed its approach to supporting indigenous students through to graduation.
3. The AFTRS now graduates up to 250 students a year. Please supply statistics on the
number who found (a) permanent full time employment, (b) regular part-time employment, (c) some casual employment and (d) no employment in the film and associated industries over the last five years.
4. If these figures are not available how does AFTRS judge that it is providing services and personnel needed to sustain the film and associated industries?

Legal/employment issues -AFTRS
1. In the years from 2008 to 2015 how many former staff have taken legal action or lodged claims for compensation against AFTRS following their departure from the institution?
2. Was ‘unfair dismissal’ the common legal term associated with each of such claims?
3. How many cases were settled privately?
4. How many cases were the subject of court proceedings?
5. In how many cases was a settlement made which involved a payment by AFTRS to the individuals involved?
6. List all such payouts individually, and what was the total sum of any such payouts? What legal fees were incurred in relation to each case?

7. How much money was spent on recruiting replacements for people who left AFTRS in such circumstances? 

The Duvivier Dossier (48) - Barrie Pattison reviews the director's post-WW2 career (part 2)

L'homme à l'imperméable/ The Man in the Raincoat 1957

The bleakness of the post war Duviviers provided an unexpected pay off here putting Fernandel, with whom the director had an excellent established rapport, into a Hadley Chase murder story.

Clarinettist Fernandel is urged to take advantage of his wife’s absence by visiting vice girl Judith Magre, who inconveniently comes out of her shower with a knife in her back, our hero being the man in the raincoat seen leaving the scene of the crime. Blackmail, more bodies, (lots more bodies) more noir. The comedian, getting laughs out of reacting to the sinister settings and events, produced one of his best efforts, a sharp contrast with the bland films he was turning out at that stage.

Sinister production is expertly delivered by technicians including cinematography by the great Roger Hubert punching under his weight here. Visiting John (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Blake Edwards, USA, 1961) McGiver has a role in this French speaking production.

As well as sub-titled, this one circulated in an expertly MGM-dubbed-in-Paris copy which still blunted the impact.

Pot-Bouille/Lovers of Paris  1957

This all star “saucy French picture” was an event in the fifties. It’s nicely played by the accomplished cast in elaborately ugly Barsaq decors and a few exteriors - a horse autobus passing, carriages pulling up to the apartment house in the rain for the wedding.

Newcomer Gerard Phillipe is introduced to the freshly constructed apartment building by it's architect. Anouk is raising a child in one flat and has little function in the scheme of things (sheltering Dany Carrel when she looks like being caught in Phillipe's area)  beyond providing more star power. Darrieux's Au Bonheur des Dames fabric shop benefits from Gerard’s sales ability till he tries it on with her and, fired, switches to the opposing  family business which is running a major sale.

Here the Duvivier bitter, fifties comedy is at its most evident. Heads of families have artist’s model and show girl mistresses who are also having affairs with the younger men of Phillipe's set. When Gerard’s liaison with the now married Carrel is revealed, it looks like he'll have to fight a duel with Duby, which the social mechanism goes into gear to avoid - for its effect on the business.

The film's consistent nastiness excludes sympathy for young marrieds Carrel and Duby. The morning chorus of maids who abuse doorman Rignault and discuss the guilty couple in their hearing, is the final vicious comment on shared living spaces. Unfortunately they come on like fugitives from a De Funes movie. The maids gossiping in Fassbinder’s Pioneers in Ingolstadt plays better.

The great cast are effectively deployed. Flat, studio-based, sharp-focused filming with uniform illumination is professional but uninteresting.

The Zola tone is faint, as is the allusion to the beginning of the Twentieth Century. The earlier Au Bonheur des dames by Andre Cayatte (France, 1943) and Duvivier’s own silent show case ideas have only a shadowy connection to this plot. The troubled founding of Department stores they offer is missing here.

Marie-Octobre 1959
Sid Lumet doing 12 Angry Men (USA, 1957) in a single room was a challenge that Julien Duvivier was up for. Here the post-war Maquis unit re-union, called by Darrieux, code name Marie-Octobre, proves not to be the expected social event but an inquiry to find out who betrayed them to the Germans during the occupation.

Keeping attention without the usual crutch of changing time and settings is a bravado exercise and everyone concerned shines. It is one of Darrieux’ best serious performances. Telling close-ups and nervous background glances propel the suspense.

The monochrome film making know how is more impressive than the plot - was there any resistance unit that didn’t have a conflicted turn coat in its midst? That’s a small price for the tension Duvivier’s lot generate.

La femme et le pantin/ A Woman Like Satan/ The Female 1959
They were throwing Bardot  at all the established French directors and none of their high serious attempts could match the strip-teasey appeal of Vadim. This was Duvivier’s turn and he failed the BB test more decisively than the others - though Godard ran him close.

Cast and Eastmancolor & Scope production values are substantial but the director doesn’t make any connection to the old Pierre Louys pot boiler that also passed through the hands of  Jacques de Baroncelli, Joseph Von Sternberg & Luis Bunuel at different times.

English language re-voicing is predictably disastrous as our sex kitten tramples suitors in sunny Spain. Probably the director's worst film.

Boulevard 1960
This third Duvivier run through of the Poil de Carotte plot, while not exceptional, was more likable than the run of the director’s late work.

Here at the start of his career, Jean-Pierre Léaud is another son craving his father’s affection. His vehicle is the then “adult” stew of Pigalle gays, pimps, poverty and nudity professionally hoked-up.

Every so often a touch rings true - the stripper rushing to the mirror to re-assure herself, romance blooming when the girl won’t let Pierre feel her up the way her friend did and boxer Pierre Mondy again defeated by a foul. The father-son reconciliation is pretty well foolproof, even in post East of Eden (Elia Kazan, USA, 1955) days.

There are elements in which we recognize the director, with a lurching camera in a
drunken brawl and the stylized gym decor. They work better than the matching of the studio roof set and the real city.

Le diable et les 10 commandements/ The Devil and the Ten Commandments 1962
The Carnet de bal format is lasting remarkable well into the sixties, where films à  sketch were commonplace. Here it’s given a few nouvelle vague trimmings - no fades and jump cuts that don’t serve the voyeur bounced in strip club scene well. The presentation of the film’s glamorous women also relates to the Vadim era.

Framing story with Michel Simon as a foul mouthed caretaker in Mother Superior Claude Nollier’s nunnery is funnier that Mai Harris’ sub-titles rendered it. The ever appealing Françoise Arnoul gold digs a diamond necklace in yet another run through of the Grass is Greener /Coup de berger plot. Predictably Fernandel’s is one of the best episodes - playing an agreeable God who is tolerant of the African fetish sculpture (“It’s all me”) - with the miracle from the Feast of St. Jorgen plot re-cycled. Alain Delon, then peaking, goes to see birth-mother actress Danielle Darrieux with the une femme sans importance tag line, as one of the characteristic twist endings. Compare the arrest at the end of Brialy’s story.

There’s some more that may have been nipped out of the copy I saw or may have just been unmemorable. This is smooth Grands Boulevards entertainment more interested in pulling crowds than setting new standards.

Chair de Poule 1963 (tba)

Diaboliquement vôtre /Diabolically Yours 1967
Duvivier’s last film was a slick Euro-thriller headed up by beautiful people of the day – Alain Delon and Senta Berger - and handsomely mounted in bright Eastmancolor by top technical talent Paul Cayatte, Henri Decae, Francois Roubaix, Léon Barsacq.

There’s an amnesia plot which rhymes with all manner of things The Third Day, Somewhere in the Night, My Name is Julia Ross, Les Diaboliques,  back to Sherlock Holmes and “The Copper Beaches.”

After his road accident, Delon is not sure that he is the person every one keeps on telling him he is. Most memorable moment is kinky Asian servant Kim fastidiously ironing Berger’s scanties.