Thought of the Day: Love and Jean Moreau

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Jules et Jim (1962) – dir. Francois Truffaut

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MADAME MOREAU.

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xXx

And, because everyone’s eyes deserve a feast AND, because love deserves to last for more than a moment:

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Lift to the Scaffold (1958) – dir. Louis Malle

HAS CINEMA EVER LOOKED (OR SOUNDED) BETTER THAN THIS?

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posted by Dixie Turner

Truffaut Revisited – Part 2: Jules et Jim (1962)

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Review by Rob Munday
Welcome to Paris. Early 20th century. Before the war.
Take a ride with me on this merry-go-round, Francois Truffaut seems to say, the opening sequences here a bravura display of editing and narration to create the city as circus. Here is a story of two men (Jules and Jim) and one woman (Catherine). Early on Jules et Jim pre-empts Godard’s Bande a Parte with it’s love triangle and in the playfulness on show in front and behind the camera.
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The use of stock footage to fill gaps fits into this tone. It’s part of a refreshingly flip attitude to period drama – a genre that often becomes more about frills than thrills. These three aren’t characters from history but simply three modern people in a world from the past.We follow these free spirits driven by Catherine’s lust for life but interrupted by the war. Separated by conflict, love pulls them together. That sounds sentimental and perhaps it’s where the problem lies as there is a disconnect here between the director and his material (a book by Henri-Pierre Roché).
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As it goes on the cracks start to show. You find yourself caring less and less – Jules is simply a sad sack, Catherine (although brilliantly played by Jeanne Moreau) becomes infuriatingly self-centred, and Jim is little more than a nose on legs – first with a moustache and then without.Perhaps Truffaut should have stopped shooting halfway through this story and picked it up at a later date when his world-weariness could match his characters post war selves. As it is Jules et Jim limps towards it’s conclusion as if weighed down by period dramas of the past.

Truffaut Revisited – Part 1: Shoot the Pianist (1960)

Tirez+1Review by Rob Munday

Shoot the Pianist

Francois Truffaut’s second and third films reflect the tastes of the French New Wave. So here we have a (very French) film noir based on American pulp fiction that was followed by a period epic that puts two fingers up to the bloated French cinema that preceded it.

What can a movie be? After a life spent worshipping at the altar of cinema Truffaut’s answer is clear: Everything.
Shoot the Pianist is a no holds barred assault on standard filmmaking. It is, by turns, thrilling, funny, pulpy, tender, tragic, simple, grand, irreverent and romantic. Sometimes these collide so suddenly your head spins – the possibilities are endless, and it all looks effortless.

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The pianist in question is Charlie Kohler (Charles Aznavour), a bar room piano player who keeps himself to himself. Meanwhile his past is running down the street, pursued by gangsters and about to crash into Charlie’s solitude and force him to confront the man he once was. For Charlie was Edouard Saroyan, a man who broke free from a family of criminals into the big-time as a classical pianist.

This feels like a film made on the fly. It’s as if Truffaut felt the success of 400 Blows could die any second so why not go out all guns blazing with this: a scampering tale where fingers must pick between tickling the ivories or the trigger of a gun. What really makes it great cinema is the heart that holds it together. Put simply, Truffaut cares. He cares above all for this talented, elusive, playful, scared little man who is hovering between two identities knowing he is doomed to make the wrong choice.

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All this in 82 spine-tingling minutes.
Sometimes that’s all you need to show what movies can be.

Belmondo (the French Ringo Starr)

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Reviewed by Rob Munday.
Classe Tous Risques (Consider All Risks) was one of many films caught in the riptide of the French New Wave. It was released in Paris in March 1960. A week later Breathless (also starring Jean-Paul Belmondo) opened in cinemas and swept all before it.
The BFI’s latest discovery, Classe Tous Risques is a startlingly direct portrait of Parisian gangsters. Our hero is Abel Davos (played by Lino Ventura an Italian born character actor with the heft and brooding presence of Stanley Baker).We follow Abel from Italy to France as he tries to break out of a life on the lam. And what does that mean but one last job, to score big and settle down, retreat to normality with his wife and kids. What’s unusual here is the ‘one last job’ story is flipped on its head. The crime comes early and the aftermath becomes a deconstruction of gangster life. The unhurried pacing gives away the literary origin of the script with the occasional narrator adding a pulp flavour. However the source novel was by death-row-inmate-turned-writer Jose Giovanni and his inside knowledge brings a blunt realism to the crimes. There is real incisiveness and clarity in Claude Sautet’s direction. He never resorts to gangster clichés and when the flashes of violence come they ring true with sharp staging and zero theatrics.
Directed by Claude Sautet, France/Italy 1960, 100mins)
Abel is a downbeat character, driven to carry on while always seeming resigned to his fate. In sharp contrast to him is the late appearance of the young Eric Stark (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a name that evokes Jim Stark (James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause). Like James Dean this Stark seems out on his own, a wounded man who’s taken to isolation. But there is also a relaxed charm to Belmondo’s performance. His love story with the well cast Sandra Milo is a minor part of the film but beautifully played. There’s real chemistry here and the sparks between these young lovers provide hope, showing what life can be and what Abel seems so far from. It is both unusual and touching the way this young hoodlum becomes Abel’s protector and Sautet implies that Eric may be the only honourable thief left in Paris.

Directed by Claude Sautet, France/Italy 1960, 100mins)

Fifty years on this tale of loyalty and regret still seems fresh. While the New Wave was crashing the world never realised that Sautet (along with Jacques Becker and Jean-Pierre Melville) was reinventing the gangster film. Not that Abel seems that bothered. He’s considered all risks and done it anyway. Time to light up a Gauloise and take a walk.

Classe Tous Risques opens on 13 September at the BFI Southbank and selected cinemas nationwide.

For more classic Belmondo check out these titles (available to rent or buy):

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Breathless (Godard – 1960)

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Le Doulos (Jean-Pierre Melville – 1962)