Wednesday 19 September 2018

The Road to Pordenone - Barrie Pattison stops over in Paris to check out old haunts

Back in Paris you can see the movie enthusiast thing losing traction. They have closed "Le Clef". They renamed "Le Desperado" (below) and the same policy persists there. I find myself at midnight with three people watching Dario Argento's worst movie (Opera, Italy, 1987). The feeling of having come home persists.

For the city never stops providing agreeable surprises. I'm sitting in a terrace cafe as a couple in Spiderman suits pass. Late night the Rue Monge fills with a hundred roller skaters. The walls of the houses have been decorated with cartoon characters, I find my way home referencing a six foot digitised Daffy Duck.

Edmond T Greville
The Cinémathèque is going full blast. I meet friends from other locations who come to see the vintage French films they have resurrected (Edmond T Greville's POUR UNE NUIT D'AMOUR from 1946, is a particularly welcome surprise, covering the same ground as DOUCE and DIABLE AU CORPS and giving Sylvie a particularly strong outing) and we agree that this is a world beating location. Anyone who turned up here every night for three years would have as strong a grip on what has been done with film as I have after a life time. They manage to muster fifty people a session for the most unlikely material.

I can't help feeling that it's an abuse of process to focus this activity on Leo McCarey. When I met him sixty years back McCarey struck me as a right wing windbag given to making statements like "My old father on his death bed told me never to bore the people." MY SON JOHN (1952) rates with the worst films of all time. We are talking Tony Ginnane bad there. Even his THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937) is so inferior to the comparable films of George Stevens and Frank Capra. 

Max Davidson
It was a great surprise to find McCarey had done the great silent two reel comedies of Max Davidson and Charlie Chase which are included here, with an hour long Charlie Chase from the transition to sound having the cast speak French plausibly. That one was directed by Edgar Kennedy.

However old habits die hard. I can't bring myself to miss rare 35mm. copies of the early McCarey sound films. It is striking to find how much less rewarding this is than doing the comparable films of George Abbott or, as I did recently, Sam Wood. The Paramount comedies like LET'S GO NATIVE (1930) are uniform in the studio style and intermittently entertaining but the surprise is McCarey's Fox films like WILD COMPANY (1930) which is totally serious and an indictment of parents who let their children fall in with a bad lot.
The judge goes heavy on H.B. Warner, paroling errant son Frank Albertson into his custody for five years, when the kid didn't actually do anything. No sympathy with flaming youth here. 

These are shot largely in sustained 1.2 two shot with no music. The sound editing is remarkably crude with unwanted cue lines-off discernable on the track at the edits.


Really the range of new material would be a better way to spend my time. The Moroccan film SOFIA (Meryem Benm’Barek, 2018) where they explain that sex between people who are not married is a five year jailable offence. The central character is your classic innocent unprotected finding herself pregnant and friendless despite the efforts of her more sophisticated colleague. This gets to be pretty harrowingThe character who becomes involving is the husband they find her - a single tear running down his face as he faces a life of trucking crates of green apples and  a domineering ingenue. He spits on her.

Films like this or the Iranian/Danish THE CHARMER (Milad Alami, 2017) which shares some of the same preoccupations are more probing than almost all of that which makes it way to Australia.
Le Desperado Cinema, Paris
(formerly Le Clef)

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