Dream Time or Real Time?

Odile (Bulle Ogier) is quite enthralled with the ingenious exploits of master criminal Fantomas on the screen but her companion Jacques (Roger Van Hool) is clearly annoyed by the whole thing in APPOINTMENT IN BRAY (1971), a French film by Belgium director Andre Delvaux.

Have you ever woken up from a dream that was almost ordinary in the way it unfolded yet it left you with a feeling that it had taken place in some ethereal twilight zone? That is the best way that I can describe the experience of watching Appointment in Bray aka Rendez-vous a Bray (1971), Andre Delvaux’s artful adaptation of the Julien Gracq short story, Le Roi Cophetua. On the surface, the film has the structure of a tradition character study but is actually much closer in tone and atmosphere to a cinematic haiku, one that offers meditative reflections on memory, friendship and the debilitating effects of war. 

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Robert Bresson’s Parisian Reverie

The French film poster for FOUR NIGHTS OF A DREAMER (1971), directed by Robert Bresson.

One wouldn’t normally associate Robert Bresson with such rapturously romantic, Paris-based films as Ninotchka, An American in Paris, Funny Face, Gigi, and Love in the Afternoon yet Four Nights of a Dream (Quartre Nuits d’un Reveur, 1971) is probably the closest the French director has ever come to making a film about love, longing and desire. You could even say it is almost a musical since strolling street musicians occasionally break into song at unexpected moments in the narrative.

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A Paranormal Puberty

Yasmine Dahm plays Sophie, a young girl who sets off a chain of poltergeist activity in Au Rendez-Vous de la Mort Joyeuse (1973, aka Expulsion of the Devil).

Although Luis Bunuel never made a straight up horror film in the traditional sense, many of his movies contained elements of the horrific and the fantastical such as the “mother meat” nightmare sequence in Los Olvidados (1950), the severed, crawling hand in The Exterminating Angel (1962) or the Devil in his many disguises in the 45 minute allegory, Simon of the Desert (1965). However, Juan Luis Bunuel, the director’s son, launched his feature film career with an audacious and unsettling journey into the paranormal – Au Rendez-Vous de la Mort Joyeuse (1973, aka Expulsion of the Devil) which must have made his father proud as it was brimming with the sort of anarchic disregard for the conventional and corruption of the innocent that distinguishes the master’s best films. It’s also creepy as hell.      Continue reading

Working Without a Safety Net

Alexandra Stewart & Warren Beatty defy gravity in Arthur Penn’s existential noir, Mickey One (1965).

Every actor or director probably has at least one movie in their filmography unlike anything else they’ve ever done before or since and for Warren Beatty and Arthur Penn that film would be Mickey One (1965). Allegedly inspired by the French New Wave films of the early sixties, Penn’s film is an enigmatic and existential tale of a nightclub stand-up comic who goes on the lam from the mob because of a huge financial debt he can’t repay.  Continue reading