A City or a Labyrinth?

Whether by accident or design, French filmmaker Jacques Rivette is probably the least known member of the influential Nouvelle Vague movement of the late fifties though, like Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer, and Claude Chabrol, he too was a former writer and film critic for Cashiers du Cinema. He even started production on his first feature length film, Paris Belongs to Us (French title: Paris Nous Appartient), in 1957, before Chabrol, Truffaut and Godard began work on what would become their universally acclaimed debuts of, respectively, Le Beau Serge (1958), The 400 Blows (1959) and Breathless (1960). Yet, despite the artistic and liberating impact the latter three films had on world cinema, Paris Belongs to Us might be the most ambitious, challenging and intellectually provocative film of the whole movement. It is also the darkest, waltzing toward an imagined or possibly real oblivion. The Homeland Security System would give it a code orange classification.       

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Adrift in a L.A. Haze

Anouk Aimée in Jacques Demy's Model Shop (1969)

Anouk Aimée in Jacques Demy’s Model Shop (1969)

Los Angeles has served as the backdrop for countless Hollywood movies but in Jacques Demy’s Model Shop (1969), the French director’s first and only American film (if you don’t count the 1984 made-for-TV movie Louisiana), the city becomes the real protagonist. With its sprawling urban landscape, oil derricks, desolate beaches and constant traffic, it  provides a vivid canvas for a contemporary love story about romantic longing, missed connections and unrealized dreams. Film writer Clare Stewart referred to the film in the film journal Senses of Cinema as “a road movie that doesn’t go anywhere” but that’s not a putdown. It’s an apt description of what Demy was trying to create here – a drifting, dreamy mood piece.   Continue reading

Any Port in a Storm

sailor from Gibraltar (fra) posterAlong with his film adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s Laughter in the Dark (1969), Tony Richardson’s The Sailor from Gibraltar (1967) is probably the most obscure and rarely seen film from the director’s middle period, a time when he was floundering and unable to match the earlier critical and commercial success of his 1963 Tom Jones adaptation. There are many reasons for that, of course, and Richardson would probably admit it was one of his biggest disasters, if not the biggest. It also wasn’t intended for the average moviegoer and was much more attuned to art house cinema patrons with its enigmatic story based on the novel Le marin de Gibraltar by Marguerite Duras, whose screenplay for Hiroshima, Mon Amour received an Oscar® nomination in 1961 (even though the film was released in 1959). To date, The Sailor from Gibraltar is still missing in action with no legal DVD or Blu-Ray release available. Continue reading