In a South American country, a US official, Michael Santore, is kidnapped by left-wing guerrillas. His captors accuse him of being a CIA agent, responsible for training the local police in techniques of torture and anti-sedition. As the guerrillas attempt to extract a confession from Santore, the authorities, headed by an extreme right-wing government, are closing in on them… Continue reading
Experimental and avant-garde offering from director René Clair that was produced by the French dance company Les Ballets Suis, and features the members mourning the loss of their star dancer, Borlin. Outrageously surreal and silly, it offers such sights as a funeral procession with the hearse being pulled by a camel and the dead occupant giving a final performance. Eric Satie (who is uncredited) composed the music and makes an appearance towards the end. Continue reading
A minimalist recitation by Barbara Ulrich of Book 2 chapter 6 of Montaigne’s Essays. Continue reading
A poet creates a drawing of a living mouth, which transfers to his hand when he tries to wipe it from the canvas. Later, when he touches a statue with his afflicted hand, the statue comes to life. As a punishment, the poet is condemned to walk the corridor of the Hotel of Dramatic Follies, where he spies on various tableaux directed by the statue.
It has often been said that Jean Cocteau was the first major poet and writer to treat the cinema with total seriousness. But actually it was the cinema that made him into a major artist. “The movie screen,” he said, “is the true mirror refecting the flesh and blood of my dreams.” And one of his most poetic, dreamlike films was La Belle et La Bête.
Watching it now, you can’t feel its audacity as you might have done at the time. Faithfully, but not totally innocently, based on the fairy tale by Madame LePrince de Beaumont, it is almost purely visual, even if a Freudian analysis is possible. And it is certainly completely different in atmosphere and style from anything that had gone before, at least in the commercial cinema.
The team who made it in 1946 – and it was a team – broke a good many rules at the urging of Cocteau. Georges Auric’s memorable music didn’t so much underline the visuals as frequently cut across them, reaching a synthesis at vital moments. Henri Alekan’s equally extraordinary cinematography, which the studio described unsympathetically as “white cheese”, is the opposite of conventionally fantastic. Continue reading
Orpheus (French: Orphée) is a 1949 French film directed by Jean Cocteau and starring Jean Marais. This film is the central part of Cocteau’s Orphic Trilogy, which consists of The Blood of a Poet (1930), Orpheus (1949) and Testament of Orpheus (1960). The trilogy has been released as a DVD boxed set by The Criterion Collection.
Set in contemporary Paris, the movie is a variation of the classic Greek myth of Orpheus. At the Café des Poètes a brawl is staged by acolytes of the Princess (Casares) and the young poet Cègeste (Edouard Dermithe), the rival of Orpheus the poet, is killed. Cègeste is taken to the car of the princess by her associates, and Orpheus is asked to accompany them as a witness. They drive to a chateau (the landscape through the car windows are presented in negative) acompanied by abstract poetry on the radio. This takes the form of seemingly meaningless messages which are like those broadcast to the French Resistance from London during the Occupation. Continue reading
DURAS AND CINEMA
Assembling archives, documents, getting ghosts to talk, is always dangerous: there is a risk of losing the living. But Dominique Auvray, who was known to the great lady in more than one way (besides being her script girl and editor, she also directed a beautiful film portrait of M.D.), knows what to do when it comes to arranging and adding today’s actors’ voices, and inviting them all (past, present, lasting insistences) to twirl, along with us, in the dance. Continue reading