Jacques Tati’s award-winning feature début – a dazzling blend of satire and slapstick is early evidence of his unique talent. Acclaimed by international critics as an innovative comic masterpiece, Jour de fête is an hilarious exposé of the modern obsession with speed and efficiency, set amidst the rural surroundings of a tiny French village. Tati plays an appealingly self-deluded buffoon a postman who, impressed by the bristling efficiency of the American postal system, makes a wholly misguided attempt to introduce modern methods in the depths of rural France. Continue reading
Une femme coquette (A Flirtatious Woman) (1955) is the first of four short fiction films made by Jean-Luc Godard preceding his work in feature-length film.
The short film is based on the story Le Signe (The Signal), by Guy de Maupassant. It is a nine-minute story of a woman who decides to copy the gesture she has seen a prostitute make to passing men. Then a young man responds.
In Maupassant’s original tale the scene takes place indoors, the woman having signaled from her window, but in Godard’s revision the characters meet by a bench on the Ile Rousseau in Geneva. Continue reading
In 1159, during an attempted coup, one of the court’s ladies in waiting disguises herself as the lord’s wife, and a loyal samurai conveys her from the city. This diversion allows the royal family to escape. After the coup fails, the samurai asks his lord to let him marry the woman as his reward. The lord grants the request and then discovers she is already married to one of the ruling family’s lieges. The samurai clings to his desire, importuning her to leave her husband, then challenging the husband to release her. Although the husband stays calm and she stays faithful, the samurai remains intemperate and stubborn, with tragic consequences. Continue reading
Justice Is Done (French: Justice est faite) is a 1950 French drama film directed by André Cayatte. It tackles the subject of euthanasia by depicting a court case in which a woman is tried for killing her terminally ill husband at his request.
The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and the Golden Bear for Best Crime or Adventure Film at the Berlin Film Festival. Continue reading
A young Canadian nurse (Betsy) comes to the West Indies to care for Jessica, the wife of a plantation manager (Paul Holland). Jessica seems to be suffering from a kind of mental paralysis as a result of fever. When she falls in love with Paul, Betsy determines to cure Jessica even if she needs to use a voodoo ceremony, to give Paul what she thinks he wants. Continue reading
Plot: Touch and Go stars Jack Hawkins as the head of a British family who decides to kick over
the traces and emigrate to Australia. No one in the family, least of all wife Margaret Johnston, is
enthused over this move, but they prepare themselves with dignity. As the technical and legal obstacles
preventing their move begin to mount, even Hawkins has second thoughts about hitching his star Down Under.
Since no one behaves very believably in the film, Touch and Go rises and falls on its individual comic
sequences, some of which are quite good. The title Touch and Go has been used so often that when the
film was released in the US, it was retitled The Light Touch. Continue reading
In the ’50s, Robert Aldrich was a favorite of the French Cahiers du Cinema critics. In the ’60s, though, Aldrich got sloppier as his budgets got bigger. Most of his later movies are at least a half hour too long, and formulaic action films like The Dirty Dozen and Too Late the Hero tarnished his once bright reputation. But movies like World for Ransom, Kiss Me Deadly, and Attack! still hold up as harsh portraits of violence, paranoia, and a new kind of universal dread that began with the A-bomb and ended with the JFK assassination. All of Aldrich’s early work is intriguing, but Autumn Leaves is his secret gem. It’s been passed over as camp because of its star, Joan Crawford, but Aldrich brings all his hard edges to this woman’s picture. The collision of his tough style with the soapy material makes for a film that never loses its queasy tension. Continue reading