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User-generated entertainment: “Steekspel” [2012 Netherlands]

Having had his break after Zwartboek, Paul Verhoeven eases back into film-making mode with “Steekspel” [Eng. Title: Tricked], by using it as a ‘creative-battery-recharging’ project. It’s a moderate success because, despite its meagre fifty minutes, the pint-sized featurette manages to package a coherent narrative with several twists and turns.

Ricky Koole and Peter Blok in Steekspel (Tricked).It is Remco’s (Peter Blok) fiftieth birthday and his dutiful wife Ineke (Ricky Koole) has meticulously organised a party at their home. However, an unexpected visitor comes calling – his former mistress Nadja (Sallie Harmsen), with a very visible baby bump, which raise eyebrows all around and sets tongues wagging in hushed tones. After all, his affair was known to everyone, including his grown-up children and Ineke herself. It sets the tone for a series of soap-operatic events that’ll follow.

Ricky Koole and Peter Blok in Steekspel (Tricked)Remco had been a serial philanderer all through his marriage, which Ineke had only been too aware of. She tacitly tolerated his numerous affairs because they never last for a long period, and he invariably also returns home every night. However, she couldn’t tolerate Remco being the father of Nadja’s child, and has threatened to leave him if it turned out to be the case.

Peter Blok in SteekspelThat is however what Nadja will claim to Remco in private – that he is the father, and his business associates will use this pretext to blackmail him into selling the company in which he and Ineke have a stake. To complicate matters, he’s also having an ongoing affair with his daughter Lieke’s (Carolien Spoor) best friend Merel (Gaite Jensen), whom his son Tobias (Robert de Hoog) also fancies…

Ricky Koole and Peter Blok in Steekspel (Tricked).Kim van Kooten penned the first few pages of this topsy-turvy script before it was put up online, for crowd-sourcing input from public for the remainder of the film. Nearly 700 scripts were received, and van Kooten and Verhoeven sifted through a shortlist to pick and choose elements that gelled with the initial pages for completing the film. As a result, three other writers also appear in the film’s credits. The unusual project has apparently been one arduous exercise, and is highlighted in an accompanying documentary titled “Paul’s Experience”, where Verhoeven talks about the creative process and how it was a unique cinematic project – a glorified ‘Making-of’ if you will, which is presented alongside the film.

Gaite Jansen in Steekspel (Tricked).If employing too many ‘cooks’ could’ve easily ended up as mishmash in the wrong hands, Verhoeven uses it to his advantage by accommodating the additional twists and turns in the plot whilst retaining their connection. Besides, shooting each scene in succession, with the actors and even he not knowing what happens next, make them all the more credible, and encourages audience engagement. While the overall tone of the film is that of a typical ‘mainstream’ TV sitcom, it nevertheless entertains as much as it intrigues the viewer. We see Verhoeven make a film after a hiatus, and that at least is reason enough to watch it – Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL] | Amazon.de Blu-ray Link

 

The Nudity: Gaite Jansen
By Paul Verhoeven’s own standards, the nudity in this film is relatively mild, consisting of two scenes that feature a cute and topless Gaite Jansen – her character is the object of interest for father-son duo Remco and Tobias. In the first scene Merel flashes her breasts for Tobias’s camera, telling him that he could now jack-off without having to photoshop her face to someone else’s. The second is when Remco and Merel jump into bed while discussing the reappearance of Nadja. But I wonder – among all of them who submitted script for the film, didn’t anyone even consider for a moment that Tobias might perhaps be interested in something more than Jansen’s modest little titties, alluring as they may be! Blimey, did I just complain there?! :-)

Scenes of a nude Gaite Jansen in Paul Verhoeven's Steekspel aka Tricked

Scenes of Gaite Jansen in Paul Verhoeven’s film, “Steekspel” aka “Tricked”.

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Jodorowsky’s self-therapy: “La danza de la realidad” [2013 Chile, France]

After nearly a quarter of a century, Alejandro Jodorowsky, the Swiss Army Knife among provocative artists, conjures up a deeply personal film by adapting portions from his recently published autobiography. “La danza de la Realidad” [Eng. Title: The Dance of Reality] is also a family affair, with his wife and sons also chipping in for the project. His son Brontis, who many will remember as El Topo’s little son, plays Jodorwsky’s father Jaime, and his character is pretty much the main focus of discussion in the film.

Brontis Joforowsky and Jeremias Herskovits in The Dance of RealityAn autobiography with a difference, the film isn’t strictly a literal interpretation of events from childhood, but does contain factual details within a larger Jodorowskian canvas. It shows the early years of Alejandro (Jeremias Herskovits) growing up as a shy, white Jewish boy in the Chilean coastal town of Tocopilla. Giving insights into how he perceived the world around him back then and particularly his relationship with his parents, the now older Jodorowsky, as himself, enters scenes intermittently to comment on proceedings and mentor his younger self through his growing-up pains.

Brontis Jodorowsky in El danza de la realidadThe film, while making several knowing references to his earlier work, is presented as a fairy tale – like a nostalgic look-back, Amarcord-style. But that’s where comparisons with Fellini end; because this one is a different kettle of fish altogether – almost every scene is a visual attack on your senses – it’s a wild fantasia, ranging from the lyrical to the exquisitely profane. As anyone who’d seen his earlier works should know, Jodorowsky doesn’t pull back anything if he’s out to make a point. He will use any means at his disposal to load it with layers of mystic metaphors and other hippie-delights. You see police throwing protesting limbless miners to the back of a truck, circus clowns bullying a child, a hunchback woman die for love, a buxom mother show her son how to go unnoticed by others in public – in the nude, and a loving wife healing her husband by urinating on his plague-infested body.

Jeremias Herskovits in La danza de la realidadHere’s just one example of the many metaphor-laden scenes we get to see – after a stone that little Alejandro throws in anger at the sea unexpectedly results in thousands of fish getting stranded and perishing on shore, seagulls appear from nowhere to feast upon the sudden glut, and Jodorowsky muses, “I felt confused: should I suffer the anguish of the sardines, or should I delight in the joy of the seagulls…”. Jodorowsky’s mother Sara (Chilean soprano Pamela Flores) sings in the film instead of talking – while the reason was because it was his mother’s long-held wish to become an opera singer, and he was merely trying to fulfil her ambition symbolically, it is even more moving if you interpret it as the mother’s voice in itself sounding as music to young Alejandro’s ears.

A therapy:
Brontis Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores, and Jeremias Herskovits in The Dance of RealityThe film has a personal mission too. Jodorowsky, heavily involved in his psychomagic, in effect workshops his film project into an elaborate therapy session, with family, to come to terms with a difficult past. He’d mentioned (separately) that he was traumatised in childhood by an overbearing father who expected him to be as manly as he was, one who he opines was also a hypocrite in facing up to his own ideology. Through the film, Jodorowsky not only highlights his father’s flaws, but also enables him to redeem himself and regain his humanity towards the end, which of course, didn’t happen in reality. Children in town back then made fun of him because he was white, and circumcised. He was often harassed by people because he was a (relatively) rich Jewish boy, and effeminate looking with his long blond hair, which was nurtured by his mother to remind her of her own father. It’s because of these reasons that the film was also shot in the very place he lived – in a Tocopilla that’s barely changed over the years. But since his childhood home was destroyed by fire, he built one again to resemble the original home for this film. He also repainted all the run-down homes in the vicinity to recreate his childhood landscape, in order to put to rest his demons. The film set, and everything that went with it, was gifted back to the town after the shoot.

Brontis Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores, and Jeremias Herskovits in La danza de la realidadThe film isn’t a straightforward work of fiction or even a strictly fictionalised biography – the thoughts in the film aren’t that of Jodorowsky as a child growing up in the 1930′s, but that of an octogenarian looking back at it using present intellect. And since everything is seen from a vastly different viewpoint, there is no point in poring over its historical accuracy, let alone delving into the narrative. Regardless, it is engaging and life-affirming in its own unique way. The performance from actors playing the mother-father duo and the son, particularly Brontis Jodorowsky, is brave and ‘real’ to say the least. Jodorowsky’s other son Adan handles the soundtrack and music with panache. The film was also the result of a reunion of sorts between Jodorowsky and his co-producer Michel Seydoux – they’d stayed apart after a doomed 70′s project (Dune, the one that never got made but nevertheless inspired sci-fi cinema the world over). However, it is an altogether personal film and should not be compared like-for-like to Jodorowsky’s earlier works, and certainly, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon.com Blue-ray & DVD Purchase Link

 

The Nudity: Pamela Flores and Brontis Jodorowsky
Brontis Jodorowsky throws himself into his character headlong, and opera singer Pamela Flores – much respected and loved in her home country, doesn’t hold back either, which also reflects in the eye-raising frankness of their respective nude scenes. Wholesome Flores barely flinches while singing in the nude, and Brontis is as at ease with his naked self as he was, as a child in El Topo. There are at least four scenes featuring frontal nudity, male and female.

Pamela Flores and Brontis Jodorowsky nude in La danza de la realidad aka The Dance of Reality

Pamela Flores and Brontis Jodorowsky in the autobiographical “La danza de la realidad”
aka “The Dance of Reality” (2013).

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Disrupting harmony: “O Lobo atrás da Porta” [2013 Brazil]

Director Fernando Coimbra’s promising feature-film début “O Lobo atrás da Porta” [Eng. Title: Wolf at the Door] starts as a suspense-thriller but pretty quickly veers off into a drama. Set against the backdrop of down-town Rio de Janeiro, the suspense associated with the kidnapping of a child is relatively short-lived, the film thereafter delves into the motive behind the kidnapper’s actions.

O Lobo atrás da Porta - 2013, BrazilSylvia (Fabiula Nascimento) arrives to pick her child from the nursery as usual, but the surprised staff member reminds her that it was she who called earlier to allow her friend Sheila to collect the kid, since she was unwell and wont be able to make it.

Milhem Cortaz and Antonio Saboia in O Lobo atrás da PortaWhen the police interview staff members, it becomes clear that whoever impersonated Sylvia’s friend was well known to the child, because she instinctively ran towards her for a hug. But Sylvia doesn’t even have a friend named Sheila, and husband Bernardo (Milhem Cortaz) is brought in for questioning. As soon as he learns of his daughter’s kidnapping, he blames it on Rosa (Leandra Leal), the woman he’d been having an affair with over the past year.

Leandra Leal in O Lobo atrás da PortaAs the detective questions Rosa, she initially denies any involvement in the kidnapping and comes up with a different version of events on that day. When grilled further, she admits that it was she who kidnapped the child, and opens her back story and her affair with Bernardo. It touches on how they met, and how she was misled into believing that he was not married. She also mentions his physical abuse for befriending Sylvia, how she had an abortion forced upon her, and Bernardo’s general unpleasantness…

Leandra Leal in O Lobo atrás da PortaThe drama is a pretty good first effort by Coimbra – one can see stylistic influences from the likes of Bruno Dumont and Carlos Reygadas from his long, almost static camera takes, and frequent use of close-ups. It is just as well that he had the right actors to help, particularly Leandra Leal who handles the sharp contradictions within her film-character with aplomb – at one moment she’s the vulnerable, suffering, and innocent girl, and in the next she’s a doggedly determined woman with a strong appetite for sex. The camera work is good, but I couldn’t help feeling that the grungy-industrial soundtrack might have been overdone a bit. My main problem with the film however, is its unmistakeable moral overtones. The ‘wolf’ in the title refers to disruption in a family’s harmony – as in this case, by the extramarital affair – the clear message being that infidelity is wrong, and abortion is cruel. Having said that, Coimbra does exceptionally well in holding the viewer’s curiosity for the most part of proceedings, and also manages to insert an unexpected twist in the plot towards the end – a promising début that’s Recommended Viewing..!

 

The Nudity: Leandra Leal
There are two instances of brief nudity from Leandra Leal playing Rosa, the second of which is a bit longer. There is also a brief backside flash from Fabiula Nascimento who plays Sylvia, while getting out of bed.

Leandra Leal nude in O Lobo atrás da Porta

Leandra Leal from the Brazilian film, “O Lobo atrás da Porta” (2013).

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A complicated woman: Early Brigitte Bardot

Brigitte Bardot has just turned 80 today (28th September), and as a birthday tribute to one of the iconic film personalities of the twentieth century, I want to briefly highlight some of her early filmography that’s relevant to this blog, in order of preference. Three of the four featured here are not only remarkable films in their own right, but they also showcase her versatility as an actress and her persona as the quintessential sex symbol. They offer a window into what it must feel like to be a Brigitte Bardot – forever being selectively judged by the world with regard to her character, morals, and beauty. They give a fascinating insight into Bardot the person herself. Another thing common with the three films, and a hidden agenda behind the choice, is Brigitte Bardot dancing the cha-cha-cha..!

1. “La vérité[1960, France, Italy]

When we talk of Henri-Georges Clouzot as director, we’re talking about ‘classic’ French cinema, of the pre Nouvelle Vague era. His absorbing courtroom drama “La Vérité” [Eng. Title: The Truth] literally places Brigitte Bardot on the dock and questions her morality and candid sensuality.

Brigitte Bardot in La VéritéAccused of murdering her former lover, Dominique’s (Brigitte Bardot) past is laid bare in an open court and mercilessly examined by a prosecuting lawyer. In claiming that Gilbert’s (Sami Frey) murder had everything to do with his recent engagement to her sister Annie (Marie-José Nat), the lawyer attempts to paint Dominique as an evil-minded, selfish woman with loose morals and few scruples.

Brigitte Bardot in La VéritéFree-spirited Dominique, after several procrastinations and a suicide-attempt, is allowed by parents to move to Paris and live with his music student-sister. Education doesn’t interest her, but the city and its youth culture does, and so Dominique wastes little time in getting acquainted with young men congregating in a latin café. She moves out of her sister’s apartment and lives alongside her new friends, sometimes having sex with them.

Brigitte Bardot in La VéritéDominique expresses her sexual freedom through various casual encounters, and while initially shocked by her frankness and appetite for sex, Gilbert, Annie’s friend from college, will find her fascinating, and he’ll soon also become obsessed with her. He must have her, and to this end he pursues her despite knowing that she finds him boring at times. He will declare his love for her even after being told that she was with another guy only moments earlier. His perseverance will pay off, and Dominique too will begin to fall in love with him.

Brigitte Bardot in La VéritéHaving ‘scored’ finally, Gilbert tries to take control of her life – teach her culture, good taste in music, and so on, but Dominique, despite some futile attempts, will find it hard to reconcile her love for him with her own needs, and often ends up being unfaithful to him. They inevitably break-up, and Dominique, suddenly left homeless and jobless after her flatmate leaves to the US, takes up prostitution to survive. She’s still in love with Gilbert, but he’d by now settled for a career in music, and the virginal Annie…

Brigitte Bardot in La VéritéThe drama makes a passionate plea for a woman’s right to live the way she wants to and not be judged, and also questions men’s desire to control them. Dominique had unwittingly become a victim of her own strengths – her beauty and sensuality, by being hounded by men seeking her as a trophy to behold and a free spirit to subdue, while all she ever wanted was the freedom to be her own self, and be loved. But the world refuses to see it that way – according to them, she’s a loose woman who must be taught lessons on how to behave in a ‘respectable’ society. Brigitte Bardot’s finest on-screen performance is made all the more poignant due to the uncanny resemblance of her celebrity-image to that of her character. Directed impeccably by Clouzot, the film blends neo-realism with a dash of glamour. The film is naturally Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL]

 

The Nudity: Brigitte Bardot and Barbara Sommers
Three scenes feature brief nudity from a calendar-perfect Brigitte Bardot, one of these is a fine example of a beautiful nude derrière dancing the cha-cha-cha. In a memorable scene which would’ve given young men sleepless nights at the time, she performs the same while lying in bed with nothing but a white sheet covering her naked body. It begs the question – why are such (dancing nude) scenes so rare to see nowadays..?

Brigitte Bardot nude in La vérité aka The Truth

Brigitte Bardot as seen in Clouzot’s “La vérité” (The Truth), 1960, France.

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2. “En cas de malheur” [1958, France, Italy]

Claude Autant-Lara is yet another legendary name in classic French cinema. He presided over both the formative and innovative years of his country’s film industry, and has always been a versatile and highly gifted director. His stirring romantic melodrama “En cas de malheur” [Eng. Title: In Case of Adversity (UK), Love Is My Profession (USA)] is again crime-of-passion-themed, and stars a fabulously beautiful Brigitte Bardot alongside superstar Jean Gabin, a combination that in no small way also helped making the film’s controversial subject more palatable.

Jean Gabin and Brigitte Bardot in En cas de malheurThe film begins with a bungled robbery at a jeweller’s by prostitutes Yvette (Brigitte Bardot) and Noémie (Annick Allières) – the jeweller’s wife is seriously injured during their getaway. Yvette approaches renowned lawyer André (Jean Gabin) and begs him to defend her, and because she couldn’t afford the fee for his services, offers in return her own, in exchange.

Jean Gabin and Brigitte Bardot in En cas de malheur

A married and hitherto faithful André helps her out of pity and even gets her acquitted, but is smitten by her beauty nevertheless. Yvette will become his willing mistress, with full-knowledge of his tolerant and remarkably perceptive wife, He will even buy an apartment to house her in, and allows her to live as she pleased with no questions asked, provided she spares some time for him in return. He doesn’t expect her to be faithful, but demands that she henceforth stop prostituting herself, sell drugs, or get drunk.

Brigitte Bardot and Franco Interlenghi in En cas de malheurTheir arrangement works for a while, until Yvette’s boyfriend Mazzetti (Franco Interlenghi) enters her life again. There is after all only so much that an ever-busy and middle-aged André can offer her in terms of excitement, and Yvette and Mazzetti quickly catch up with the times they were apart. But Mazzetti, prone to bouts of violent temper, will want to have Yvette all to himself, and would go to extraordinary lengths to pull her away from André’s influence. Yvette, whilst trying to escape his tyrannical ways, will nevertheless be drawn back to him, with devastating consequences…

Well written, and exceptionally performed by all the main actors, particularly Jean Gabin, the film oozes class and wit – it is not as well known as Bardot’s other films, but it is a hidden gem waiting to be rediscovered. You won’t be disappointed and the film is definitely Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL]

 

The Nudity: Brigitte Bardot
Two brief scenes feature nudity from Brigitte Bardot – even by her own yardstick of beauty, this film significantly raises the bar – she is ‘the’ quintessential femme fatale, and ‘the’ celestial creature. What I meant to say is – she couldn’t possibly have been more stunning than she’s in this film. The lighting, the angles, and the composition lends her a charisma that would’ve forced you to forgive her even if she were to commit the gravest of crimes. Forget about nudity – watching her clothed is sensational enough..!

Brigitte Bardot nude in En cas de malheur

Brigitte Bardot in all her glory in “En cas de malheur” aka “In Case of Adversity” [France, 19580.

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3. “Et Dieu… créa la femme” [1956, France, Italy]

Brigitte Bardot was his wife and also the first-billed star in Roger Vadim’s torrid romance drama “Et Dieu… créa la femme” [Eng. Title: ...And God Created Woman]. The Eastmancolor spectacular would’ve been far less sympathetic to Brigiite Bardot’s character, had it not been for her convincing and persuasive performance.

Curt Jürgens and Brigitte Bardot in Et Dieu... créa la femmeJuliete (Brigitte Bardot), an eighteen year old orphan living with her foster parents in a fishing village (pre-tourism St. Tropez), is self-absorbed and already sexually active, much to her mother’s disapproval. Middle-aged businessman Eric (Curd Jürgens) is just one of the many men who covet her. But she’d set her eyes elsewhere, on the hunky  Antoine. However, Antoine only wants to bed her and doesn’t quite consider her as girlfriend-material. He leaves her stranded at the bus stop after promising to take her away with him.

Jean-Louis Trintignant and Brigitte Bardot in Et Dieu... créa la femme aka ...And God Created WomanJuliete now has just one choice – she could either go back to her orphanage after her foster parents complained to authorities about her bringing their house into disrepute, or she could avoid it by finding herself a man to marry. Antoine’s younger brother Michel (Jean-Louis Trintignant), who had always fancied her, steps in with an offer of marriage, and despite the priest’s explicit advice against it, they tie the knot.

Brigitte Bardot and Christian Marquand in Et Dieu... créa la femme aka And God Created WOmanMichel allows her to remain the free spirit that she was because he accepts and loves her the way she is, and Juliete too responds by loving him in return. But when Antoine returns back to the village to manage their newly merged shipyard, things become complicated, and Juliete begins to lust after him once again. Despite her being his sister-in-law, Antoine wastes no opportunity in having his way with her, and to make matters worse, also tells his mother and brother what he did to her.

Brigitte Bardot in Et Dieu... créa la femme aka And God Created WomanThe film became controversial because Vadim had used Juliete’s promiscuity to directly challenge the culture of philandering and misogyny among men. Juliete’s desire to live the way she wants is also a bold feminist statement for its time – years before the sexual revolution took off. At least in the raw physical manner of its presentation, it is a ground-breaking film – and it is to Ms. Bardot’s credit that her not-so-endearing screen character is elevated to a crusader demanding equal sexual space to that of men. She may be the epitome of sensuality – her appetite for sex only matched by her indulgence and selfishness, but she also has a positive side; her kindness towards animals, and her genuine regret of loosing judgement for a fleeting moment of sexual pleasure. The drama reaches a crescendo with a Bardot dancing cha-cha-cha in seemingly gay abandon for a rehearsing Cuban jazz band as an exasperated Michel helplessly watches; the long scene’s worth the ticket value in itself. But the film unfortunately does also compromise some of its integrity towards the end, either with an eye on the box office, or for placating the censors. A sign of its times – I guess, but it is still, Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon Blu-ray Link

 

The Nudity: Brigitte Bardot
The film features two brief flashes of nudity from Brigitte Bardot – and for the first time in colour. There’s also one scene featuring concealed nudity when her character emerges from the sea, soaked to the bone and determined to ‘have’ Antoine.

Brigitte Bardot nude in Et Dieu... créa la femme

Brigitte Bardot from Roger Vadim’s “Et Dieu… créa la femme” aka “…And God Created Woman” (1956).

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4. Manina, la fille sans voiles [1952, France]

Brigitte Bardot in Manina, la fille sans voilesWilly Rozier’s listless romance “Manina, la fille sans voiles” [Eng. Title: The Lighthouse-Keeper's Daughter (UK), The Girl in the Bikini (USA)] is the most underwhelming film of the four listed here. The only reason for it featuring in my list is because it is also the first instance of film nudity from Brigitte Bardot, in what was also among her very first films.

 

Brigitte Bardot in Manina, la fille sans voiles aka The Lighthouse Keeper's DaughterManina (Brigitte Bardot), who lives in a lighthouse with her parents in a desolate Corsican island, is befriended by diving enthusiast and Parisian college student Gérard (Howard Vernon). He discovers an ancient artefact in the seabed which he’ll later learn to have probably belonged in part to a legendary sunken treasure. He goes back after five years and tries to locate the rest of the bounty with the help of a cigarette smuggler, and falls for a now all grown up and mostly bikini-clad Manina. He finds the treasure and loses it to the smuggler, but all ends well because he’d at the least had an adventure and got himself a pretty girl.

Brigitte Bardot in Manina, la fille sans voiles aka The Lighthouse Keeper's DaughterIt is a poorly directed film with some surprisingly mediocre acting, choppy editing, and a monotonous mandolin incessantly twanging away in the background (and some crunching noises that shouldn’t have been there in the first place). But Bardot, all of eighteen, is at her adorable innocent best here – her face is yet that of a child, and there wouldn’t have been any hint of sensuality were it not for her fully grown breasts. It’s safe to assume that the only reason the film ever made it to DVD was Brigitte Bardot. She displays her budding talents with whatever little scope she’s offered, and that includes her sweet singing voice getting an airing. I’ve left the subtitles on in this sample clip, but I can bet that most of you won’t be following it too closely…

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Amazon DVD Link [PAL]

 

The Nudity: Brigitte Bardot
My DVD is an NTSC edition, and as far as I’m aware, there is only brief partial nudity in the film when a sunbathing Manina is disturbed by the bad guy. It must’ve yet caused a sensation because nudity in any form was quite uncommon those days.

Brigitte Bardot nude in Manina, la fille sans voiles aka The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter

A young Brigitte Bardot in “Manina, la fille sans voiles” aka “The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter” (1952, FR).

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A review: “Jours tranquilles à Clichy” [1990 France, Italy, Germany]

Too often in the history of cinema have we seen a legendary director bring an inspired piece of literature to film and completely miss, not only its central theme, but also the pulse. The culprit on this occasion of ‘artistic license’ is none other than Claude Chabrol himself, and the work that suffered the misfortune was Henry Miller’s autobiographical “Quiet Days in Clichy”.

Abdrew McCarthy and Nigel Havers in Jours tranquilles à ClichyGranted, Chabrol’s “Jours tranquilles à Clichy” didn’t set out to merely replicate the novella for screen, it was also meant to be a vehicle for some of his own material. It wasn’t the case that the original and Chabrol’s own ideas couldn’t sit well together – he could have done justice to both, but it fails due to a number of reasons.

Stéphanie Cotta in Jours tranquilles à ClichyThe ‘quiet days’ that Miller recalls is mainly about the poverty he and his flatmate Carl endured as struggling writers amidst the decadence of nineteen thirties’ Paris. But what we’re presented instead is a stream of ostentatious indulgence. Frequently finding themselves amidst the burlesque opulence of a high-class bordello, Carl and Joe (Miller) hardly remind us of guys who might any time be kicked out by their landlord.

Nigel Havers and Stéphanie Cotta in Jours tranquilles à ClichyChabrol, while sticking to the period against which the novel was set, refuses to include the protagonist’s ‘survival-mode’ economic backdrop, due to which the novel is taken out of context. Miller was well into his forties during the period against which the novel is set, but here he’s represented as a wide-eyed youth in the form of Andrew McCarthy. And Nigel Havers would never make a Carl even if the sun were to rise from the west, impeccable accent notwithstanding. At least, they got the fifteen year old Colette (Stéphanie Cotta) right in the casting department. But Chabrol would’ve rather given the film a different title altogether, if only to allow us to talk about his film instead of the dubious nature of his adaptation.

Barbara De Rossi and Andrew McCarthy in "Jours tranquilles à Clichy"But let me add a few words about the film, if only to do justice to one of Chabrol’s most uncharacteristic films in his long and illustrious filmography. The additional material he brings to this film is more of a tribute to Luchino Visconti (Death in Venice) and possibly Bob Fosse (All That Jazz). Miller, during what’s presumably his final hours, pines for the perfect beauty of an adolescent girl (played by a just-about adult Giuditta Del Vecchio). Her illusionary presence is there only to preside over his death, alongside the vultures and free loaders waiting outside. I don’t remember coming across symbolisms of this kind in any of Chabrol’s films – this is more of Jean-Claude Brisseau’s territory.

Anna Galiena and Nigel Havers in "Jours tranquilles à Clichy"As for the film’s technical merits, there’s something really awkward about the set design – there’s too much of an attempt at aping a Visconti, and very little recreating Paris and Clichy of thirties. But I have to admit that I adored the twin bath featured in the bordello, an original antique perhaps. As with most mainland European films with original English dialogues, there is a distinct cultural disconnect with its intended anglophone audience, that unintentionally lend a surreal air to proceedings. For the type of film, its editing is decidedly choppy, and I’m pretty sure that my DVD is the integral version (116 mts, PAL runtime) rather than some butchered 90′s print.

All said and done, while it might be futile to compare different cinematic adaptations of literary works, one is nevertheless tempted to draw comparisons between the two existing adaptations of Miller’s Quiet Days in Clichy, and if I were to choose one, it will have to be the rather incomplete, poorly constructed, but beautifully crafted, and ultimately more accurately rendered Danish version.

Amazon.fr DVD Link [PAL] | Amazon.fr Blu-ray Link

 

The Nudity: Eva Grimaldi, Barbara De Rossi, Stéphanie Cotta, Anna Galiena, Margit Evelyn Newton, Maria Cristina Mastrangeli, Federica Farnese, Mónica Zanchi, Giuditta Del Vecchio, and others
As you might have guessed – with the long list of names, the film features plenty of nudity. You might also notice that many names are Italian. They speak in English, and for someone who has a particular fondness for ladies speaking English with an Italian accent, it ticks several of my boxes. Apart from the nubile Giuditta Del Vecchio, the highlight will have to be the crazy Anna Galiena scene which, while not nearly as explicit as the Louise White rendering of the same character, is among the few successful attempts at comedy by Chabrol. There’s hardly any male nudity – Nigel Havers is shirtless in one scene, and there’s a brief side-on view of McCarthy during a sex scene. That’s Chabrol for you..!

Eva Grimaldi, Barbara De Rossi, Stéphanie Cotta, Isolde Barth, Anna Galiena, Margit Evelyn Newton, Maria Cristina Mastrangeli, Federica Farnese, Mónica Zanchi, Giuditta Del Vecchio nude in Jours tranquilles à Clichy

Eva Grimaldi, Barbara De Rossi, Anna Galiena, Giuditta Del Vecchio, and others in
Claude Chabrol’s “Jours tranquilles à Clichy” (Quiet Days in Clichy).

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