terça-feira, 28 de dezembro de 2010

sábado, 18 de dezembro de 2010


I don't give a fuck about the merry-go-round decorated by Walt Disney, the lunch on the grass with imitation plastic clothes, the chewing-gum green of a ball of wool. I don't give a fuck about any of the lapses in taste piled up by Astruc, Claude Renoir and Mayo. Or about Roman Vlad's saxophone either. Which actually isn't bad. But anyhow, the real beauty of Une vie lies elsewhere.

In Pascale Petit's yellow dress shimmering amid the Velazquez grey dunes of Normandy. That's wrong! Not Velasquez grey? Not even Delacroix grey, howl the connoisseurs.

To no purpose. Already Christian Marquand is leaning over the break-water, holding out his hand to Maria Schell. The 'connoisseurs' are thrown by a film that moves so quickly like the fastest racing cars are those that brake best: Une vie is like them. One thought one knew Astruc, and constructed theories without noticing that the sequence was over and had already taken off in another aesthetic or moral direction. One talked of Velasquez without noticing that Pascale Petit's dress was Baudelaire yellow, and Maria Schell's eyes Ramuz blue. Why Ramuz? Because behind Maupassant's puppets, behind Jeanne and Julien, it is the face of Aline or Jean-Luc persecuted that Astruc is filming. There is nothing surprising about this. His admiration for the author of Les signes parmi nous has long been known. But why a moment ago the author of L'albatros? Because the first shot of Une vie stamps the whole film with Baudelarian effigy. Because Maria Schell runs headlong towards the sea and Pascale's dress is like an echo illustrating the most celebrated verses of the man who said to Manet, 'You are supreme in the decadence of your art.' One might mention Thomas Hardy, as well as Faulkner and the Charlotte Rittenmayer of The Wild Palms, here transposed into the character played by Marquand; but Astruc himself has already talked of them so much - too much - that the admirers of Le rideau are now looking for difficulties and being surprised to find none. All of which proves what? That people talked of painting without noticing that Une vie was a novelist's film; and of taste without noticing that it is a barbarian's film.

My defense of the film against those who admire it for the wrong reasons is now done. Against the rest, the task is easier, for Une vie is almost the opposite of an Astruc film in the sense that he has been labelled with a prefabricated aesthetic form from which he is now escaping.

It is of no consequence that the version now showing in cinemas does not correspond to the one envisaged in the scenario. It is of no consequence that the montage has systematically cut off each scene in mid flow. One may admire Une vie as it stands. And as it stands Une vie is the opposite of an inspired film. The madness behind the realism, said Astruc in an interview. But this has been misunderstood. Julien's madness lies in having married Jeanne, and Jeanne's in having married Julien. Full stop and finish. He was not trying to film La folie du docteur Tube, but to show that for a man of wood and a woman of soul to marry is madness. As a matter of fact, Une vie disconcerts Astruc's keenest partisans, just as Le plaisir disconcerted those who thought they knew Maupassant. Where they expected Astruc the lyricist, they found Astruc the architect.

Une vie is a superbly constructed film. So, to illustrate my point, I shall borrow images from classical geometry. A film may be compared to a geometrical locus; that is, a figure constituted by all points which satisfy a particular equation of relation to a fixed element. This ensemble of points is, if you like, the mise en scène, and this particular equation common to each moment of the mise en scène will, therefore, be the scenario, or if you prefer, the dramatic situation. There remains the fixed element, or possible mobile one, which is none other than the theme. But the following thing happens. With most directors, the geometrical locus of the theme they are supposed to be dealing with extends no further than the situation where it is filmed. What I mean is that although the action of their films may take place over a vast area, most directors do not think their mise en scène beyond the area of the set. Astruc, on the other hand, gives the impression of having thought his film over the whole perimeter required by the action - no more, no less. In Une vie, we are only shown three or four landscapes in Normandy. Yet the film gives an uncanny feeling of having been planned on the actual scale of Normandy, just as Tabu was for the Pacific, or Que Viva Mexico! for Mexico. The references may be exaggerated. But they are there. The fact is too remarkable not to be pointed out, and it is all the more remarkable in that Astruc and Laudenbach have deliberately made difficulties for themselves by only showing, as I have just noed, three or four aspects of the Norman woodlands. The difficulty is not in showing the forest, but in showing a room where one knows that the forest is a few paces away; an even greater difficulty is, not in showing the sea, but a room where one knows the sea is a few hundred yards away. Most films are constructed over a few square feet of décor visible in a viewfinder. Une vie is conceived, written and directed over twenty thousand kilometers.

Over this immense invisible space, Astruc has established his dramatic and visual co-ordinates. Between the abscissa and the ordinate no curve appears which might correspond to a secret movement of the film. The only curve is either abscissa or ordinate, and therefore corresponds the two kinds of movement, one horizontal, the other vertical. The whole mise en scène of Une vie is based on this elementary principle. Horizontal, Maria Schell and Pascale Petit running towards the beach. Vertical, Marquand bending to take his partner's hand on the harbour jetty. Horizontal, the bridal couple leaving after the wedding banquet. Vertical, the knife stroke which rips open the bodice. Horizontal again, the movement of Jeanne and Julien sprawling in the wheatfield. Vertical again, the movement of Marquand's hand seizing Antonella Lualdi's wrists. For Astruc, the mise en scène of Une vie has simply meant emphasizig one of these two movements, horizontal and vertical, in each scene or each shot having its own dramatic unity, and emphasizing it abruptly, so that everything before or after it which does not form part of this abrupt motion is left in shadow.

In Les mauvaises rencontres Astruc was still using this sort of effects, this premeditated violence, in the manner of Bardem: as a shot changed, a door opened, a glass shattered, a face turned. In Une vie, on the other hand, he uses it within a shot, pushing the example of Brooks - or, more especially, Nicholas Ray - so far that the effect becomes almost the cause. The beauty is not so much Marquand dragging Maria Schell out of the chateau as in the abruptness with which he does it. This abruptness of gesture which gives a fresh impulse to the suspense every few minutes, this discontinuity latent in its continuity, might be called the tell-tale heart of Une vie, to show the kinship of the so-called 'cold' film with Edgar Poe, the true master of mystery and the most abstract writer of all.

Une vie is a wonderfully simple film, exactly like Bitter Victory. And simplification does not mean stylization. Astruc is very different here from Visconti, with whom it would be silly to compare him. Certainly Maria Schell was more effectively used in White Nights; but in Une vie she is used more accurately and profoundly. In his time, Maupassant was doubtless a modern writer. Paradoxically, therefore, the best way of capturing the true nineteenth-century atmosphere was to give the whole thing a frankly 1958 atmosphere. In this Astruc and Laudenbach have succeeded magnificently. As proof, I need only cite the admirable line spoken by the admirable Christian Marquand to the woman who has offered him her dowry and her chateau: 'Because of you, I have ruined my life.' Another example: whereas Jean-Claude Pascal carrying Anouk Aimée seemed old-fashioned (in Les mauvaises rencontres), here the same gesture with Marquand and Maria Schell seems modern.

Once one has raved about Pascale Petit (with whom Astruc has worked as much of a miracle as Renoir with Françoise Arnoul in French Cancan), who runs through the forest as gracefully as Orvet and hides under the bedclothes better than Vadim's girls, one has not said it all. The threshold of the unknown: this might be a better title for Une vie than for a science-fiction film. For Une vie forces the cinema to turn its gaze elsewhere.


Cahiers du Cinéma nº 89, novembro 1958, pp. 50-53

quinta-feira, 16 de dezembro de 2010

O Mac-Mahon apresenta...

Almas em Chamas (Henry King, 1949)
Anáguas a Bordo (Blake Edwards, 1959)
Anatomia de um Crime (Otto Preminger, 1959)
Armadilha a Sangue Frio (Joseph Losey, 1960)
Assassinato S.A. (Burt Balaban & Stuart Rosenberg, 1960)
O Assassino Público nº 1 (Don Siegel, 1957)
Audazes e Malditos (John Ford, 1960)
Beijos que Não se Esquecem (Walter Lang, 1959)
Bem no Meu Coração (Stanley Donen, 1954)
Boneca de Carne (Elia Kazan, 1956)
Brotinho Indócil (Vincente Minnelli, 1958)
Casa, Comida e Carinho (Charles Walters, 1950)
Um Certo Capitão Lockhart (Anthony Mann, 1955)
Colinas da Ira (Robert Aldrich, 1959)
Os Corruptos (Fritz Lang, 1953)
De Folga para Amar (Blake Edwards, 1958)
A Descarada (Raoul Walsh, 1956)
O Diabo Feito Mulher (Fritz Lang, 1952)
Dizem que é Amor (Blake Edwards, 1960)
Dizem que é Pecado (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1951)
Duelo de Paixões (Henry King, 1955)
Duelo de Titãs (John Sturges, 1959)
Elas Querem é Casar (Charles Walters, 1959)
Encontro com a Morte (Joseph Losey, 1959)
A Encruzilhada dos Destinos (George Cukor, 1956)
Entre Deus e o Pecado (Richard Brooks, 1960)
Esse Homem é Meu (Raoul Walsh, 1956)
Esther e o Rei (Raoul Walsh, 1960)
Um Estranho no Paraíso (Vincente Minnelli, 1955)
Famintas de Amor (Robert Wise, 1957)
A Fera do Forte Bravo (John Sturges, 1953)
Frontier Rangers (Jacques Tourneur, 1959)
A Fúria do Desejo (King Vidor, 1952)
Fúria no Alasca (Henry Hathaway, 1960)
Gata em Teto de Zinco Quente (Richard Brooks, 1958)
O Gaúcho (Jacques Tourneur, 1952)
Hércules na Conquista da Atlântida (Vittorio Cottafavi, 1961)
Homem sem Rumo (King Vidor, 1955)
Honra a um Homem Mau (Robert Wise, 1956)
Irmão Contra Irmão (Robert Parrish & John Sturges, 1958)
Jejum de Amor (Richard Quine, 1955)
Julie (Andrew L. Stone, 1956)
O Maior Espetáculo da Terra (Cecil B. DeMille, 1952)
Meus Dois Carinhos (George Sidney, 1957)
Os Mil Olhos do Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang, 1960)
O Moço da Filadélfia (Vincent Sherman, 1959)
O Monstro de Londres (Joseph Losey, 1954)
Mortos que Caminham (Samuel Fuller, 1962)
O Mundo é das Mulheres (Jean Negulesco, 1954)
Nas Garras da Ambição (Raoul Walsh, 1955)
Nasce uma Estrela (George Cukor, 1954)
A Nave da Revolta (Edward Dmytryk, 1954)
No Labirinto do Vício (John Frankenheimer, 1957)
O Nono Mandamento (Richard Quine, 1960)
Nunca aos Domingos (Jules Dassin, 1960)
Onde Começa o Inferno (Howard Hawks, 1959)
Paixões Desenfreadas (Mark Robson, 1960)
Palavras ao Vento (Douglas Sirk, 1956)
A Passagem da Noite (James Neilson & Anthony Mann, 1957)
Um Pecado em Cada Alma (Rudolph Maté, 1955)
Pelo Sangue de Nossos Irmãos (Jacques Tourneur, 1956)
O Preço de um Homem (Anthony Mann, 1953)
Prisioneiros da Mongólia (Robert Wise, 1953)
Procura-se uma Estrela (Stanley Donen, 1953)
Punido pelo Próprio Sangue (John Sturges, 1956)
A Quadrilha Maldita (André De Toth, 1959)
Qual Será o Nosso Amanhã? (Raoul Walsh, 1955)
Quanto Mais Quente Melhor (Billy Wilder, 1959)
Raposas do Espaço (Dick Powell, 1958)
Rapsódia (Charles Vidor, 1954)
Recrutas e Enxutas (Raoul Walsh, 1959)
Região do Ódio (Anthony Mann, 1954)
O Rei dos Facínoras (Budd Boetticher, 1960)
O Rio das Almas Perdidas (Otto Preminger, 1954)
Um Rosto na Multidão (Elia Kazan, 1957)
Se Meu Apartamento Falasse (Billy Wilder, 1960)
Sete Homens e um Destino (John Sturges, 1960)
O Sétimo Pecado (Ronald Neame & Vincente Minnelli, 1957)
Sindicato de Vigaristas (Charles F. Haas, 1959)
Suplício de uma Alma (Fritz Lang, 1956)
O Terceiro Homem (Carol Reed, 1949)
Terra dos Faraós (Howard Hawks, 1955)
Terra Maravilhosa (Robert Parrish, 1959)
O Tesouro do Barba Rubra (Fritz Lang, 1955)
Testemunha de Acusação (Billy Wilder, 1957)
O Tigre de Bengala/O Sepulcro Indiano (Fritz Lang, 1959)
Travessuras de Casados (Edmund Goulding, 1952)
A Última Caçada (Richard Brooks, 1956)
O Vale das Paixões (Henry King, 1959)
A Verdade Dói (John Guillermin, 1958)
A Vergonha de Ser Profana (John Farrow, 1957)
Uma Viúva em Trinidad (Vincent Sherman, 1952)
Viva Las Vegas (Roy Rowland, 1956)

domingo, 12 de dezembro de 2010

Isaac Hayes que deveria ter sido o primeiro presidente negro dos EUA.

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