16 June 2021

Claude Jutra's Kamouraska (1973)

This is a marathon (almost three-hour) film based on Québécoise writer Anne Hébert's eponymous novel which in turn is based on a true story. Following from the now disgraced Jutra's successful Mon oncle Antoine, it's not too difficult to discover the reason why this was a box office failure: it's not too easy to follow because it's chopped up, most if not all scenes springing from the main character's mind in an often stream of consciousness style. The fact that it's a historical film set in the 1830s didn't help it any either.

Élisabeth d'Aulnières (Geneviève Bujold) marries the seigneur of Kamouraska Antoine Tassy (Philippe Léotard), and on the face of it it would appear that she's very fortunate in marrying a handsome young man who owns a vast area of land. However, her deflowering is brutal and Élizabeth comes very quickly to realise that she's married a violent drunkard and a frequenter of brothels. She longs to escape, and her family is on her side.

And then along comes her doctor Georges Nelson (Richard Jordan) and they fall in love. The monster must be killed. The servant Aurélie is more or less bribed into doing the deed by giving him a poisoned drink, but it doesn't work. Tassy disappears for some time, Élisabeth is pregant by Georges, and Georges performs the bloody murder. He is disgusted that Élisabeth has had sex with Tassy to make it look as though it's his baby, but anyway now that the impossible love has now become possible, paradoxically it's also now impossible: George flees to the States and to keep up appearances Élisabeth is reluctantly obliged to marry Jérôme (Marcel Cuvelier), which is where the story started: after twenty years of marriage Jérôme is dying and Élizabeth is reflecting on her life.

Georges Perec's Les Lieux d'une fugue (1978)

For three years the young Georges Perec was living with his aunt Esther Bienenfeld and her husband David at a flat at 18 Rue de l'Assomption in the 16e arrondissement. In 1965 he wrote a fifteen-page autobiographical account (Lieux d'une fugue (Runaway Places)) of the day he ran away from the flat at the age of eleven. He turned it into a forty-two minute film in 1978.

The film isn't in chronological order, has no dialogue only voiceover, and contains many images dwelling on tiny details, such as dogshit on benches, a cracked coffee bowl, the goose feather on the letter 'F' on the offices of Le Figaro (as on the 'F' on the newpaper itself), etc. There are shots of metro stations, Carré Marigny stamp market, the Champs-Élysées, Franklin-Roosevelt, rubbish bins and much more.

The point where a man finds the boy trying to sleep on a bench, starts asking him questions and then takes him to the nearest police station comes about halfway through and is ony continued at the end, where we see images of a room in the police station and learn that his uncle has been phoned and will come and pick him up in his car.

At no time is there any attempt to reconstruct Perec's flight as a child himself, only memories of places visited, no one interprets him as a boy, and only a few brief images of Perec himself involved in the film are seen: there is only the voiceover, and as Perec's older cousin Lili used to play the piano at Rue de l'Asssomption, as a memory of this, Schumann's Kreisleriana becomes increasingly predominant as soundtrack.

15 June 2021

Alain Resnais's Stavisky (1974)

Here we have a film set in the 1930s which is based on the last years of Serge Alexandre Stavisky (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a man of great wealth and power married to the ever-faithful Arlette (Anny Duperey), although he very much has a wondering eye and believes he can influence anyone he pleases because of his position. The film is way too complicated to go into, although Stavisky is a huge fraudster and also a very mentally sick man.

Trotsky was certainly not mentally ill, although the analogy of him with Stavisky is particularly fitting, but not everyone seems to have understood that one.

Complicated as it may be, this is a very long way from the experimental complications of Resnais's earlier Hiroshima mon amour (1959) and : L'Année dernière à Marienbad (1961). A suberb film.

14 June 2021

Alexandre Astruc's Le Rideau cramoisi | The Crimson Curtain (1953)

Astruc's Le Rideau cramoisi is a forty-four minute medium length film based on Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly's short story from his book Les Diaboliques (1874). There is no dialogue at all, but the story is told by Yves Furet as if he were the Vicomte de Brassard, the man who told him this story of when he was a young officer (played by Jean-Claude Pascal).

As a lieutenant of twenty he once stayed with a couple, played here by Jim Gérald and Marguerite Garcya, whose company he found very boring but only sees them for dinner and souper. And then one day something happens which will have a great effect on him for the rest of his life: the beautiful eighteen-year-old Albertine (Anouk Aimée), the couple's daughter, suddenly appears at the dinner table. Before long she is surreptitiously putting her hand on the officer's, and keeping her foot on his throughout the meal. The young man becomes obsessed, passes Albertine a note, but from then on Albertine for some unknown reason sits not next to the officer but between her parents.

And then the inexplicable happens when Albertine comes to the officer's room and they have passionate sex: she has been very brave to do so as she has to pass through her sleeping parents' room in order to get there. Nevertheless, the young woman regularly turns up for passionate nights every other night: the officer is pretty sure that they don't love each other, and apart from the sex the woman is impassive, so why spoil a good thing?

But on the final night she arrives earlier than usual, more passionate than ever, but then just dies on the bed. The officer makes sure she is in fact dead, thinks of doing away with the body in several ways, even doing away with himself: but what a pointless waste at the age of twenty! In the end he just leaves the house, never to return and never to hear anything of the matter again.

Young Moorhen, Glossop, Derbyshire


The only survivor of the first brood.

Just Philippot's Acide | Acid (2018)

A seventeen-minute short. At first we see an abandoned teddy bear by the roadside, then the lower sections of cars as they bump into each other. As it rains, the teddy bear begins to dissolve a little, as the camera moves out we see a man with a much bloodied face, and rotting cars in a traffic jam. It's now dry and a motorbike seems to be on fire: it carries the mother (Maud Wyler), the father (Sofian Khammes) and their son (Antonin Chaussoy). The father stops the motorbike in a field and the three alight and run towards a house which a number of other people are running towards, although they see that the owners of the house, in a frenzy, are shooting the people down.

The rain is obviously deadly acid, and as the family run the man picks up a corrugated sheet for his wife and son to shelter from while trying to escape. The man begins to bleed heavily as it starts to pour down, and he doesn't make it to the cave where his wife and child are sheltering. Here mother and son take off some of their poisoned clothing, they look at the rain dripping inside the cave and suspect that that too is acid. The mother appears to be dying and the boy walks out into the sunshine, into the devastation, the screen goes black and he says a few times: 'Il y a quelqu'un?" ('Is anyone there?'). This film, made three years after Ses souffles, is far more like the horror genre that his first feature La Nuée will be, although the presence of mother and child is also there as in Ses souffres.

Just Philippot's Ses souffles | Breathe (2015)

Just Philippot is very much in the news now due to the release of his delayed horror film La Nuée (Swarm). Stretching things, I suppose this twenty-four minute short could be called called a horror film of sorts, although it's really in the vein of a Ken Loach drama about social deprivation.

We first see a birthday party in a house, where Lizon (Candela Cottis) and her mother Karine (Marie Kauffmann) are at Lizon's young friend Marie's, and Lizon gets so excited about birthday wishes that she tries to blow the candles out on the cake, although she's restrained by her schoolfriends. Lizon's birthday too is coming soon, and she wants to have a birthday party. Unfortunately her living conditions make this impossible as she lives in a car with her ferociously independent single mother. Karine works in a supermarket but would prefer to work as a housekeeper or garde d'enfant.

Lizon wants to plan a birthday party with her 'schoolmates' in the car, although perhaps inevitably they criticise her clothes and the smell. So Lizon has a 'party' in the car with just her mother present, although she refuses to blow the candles out as it's not a real party, Karine gets exasperated and walks away and the next thing the car is ablaze. Karine manages to rescue Lizon but the sight of the car in flames is the lasting image in the film that we have. Obviously a promising beginning to film direction.

The title Ses souffles is lost in English as it can obviously apply to breath but there's a pun on s'éssouffle, not only being out of breathe but out of a number of things, such as hope.

13 June 2021

Marcel Carné's Les Assassins de l'ordre | The Lawbreakers (1971)

This is one of Marcel Carné's last films, and is a gem. And not just because Jacques Brel (as Le Juge d'instruction) and dear Boby Lapointe (as Louis Casso) are in it. An innocent man is murdered here by the cops in the cop station, there are witnesses (one being a minor cop himself), two others in the next door cell who hear the terrible sounds of torture, and as it turns out there was also a prostitute who heard not an interrogation but a murder.

Bernard the judge goes through all the procedures to get the three murderous cops convicted, but he's working against a system which is rigged against justice, which cheats in every way it can, intimidates witnesses into silence and lying, and distorts the truth as much as possible: in fact, as Orwell said, lies are truth and vice versa. If this film doesn't turn you against the corruption of the status quo there's no hope for you.

12 June 2021

Marianne Denicourt and Judith Perrignon Mauvais génie (2005)


I'd say that all writing – even biography – is to a large extent autobiographical: we're writing our personal findings, even if they're about someone else, and we select according to own own tastes and opinions, deleting others we don't like or which conflict with our own. If we mention the 'real' name of that someone else, then we expect people to recognise that the person talked about is that same person, although of course we're only giving a biased representation of that person, even if we quote liberally. It's at that point that 'reality' and fiction collide, but what if the artist, the person making the work, calls particular individuals by different names? Is this a collision of 'reality' with fiction, or just fiction tout court?

The noted film director Arnaud Desplechin – perhaps the best of his generation to judge by his professional and amateur reviews – made three films in which Marianne Denicourt was a major actor: the medium-length La Vie des morts (1991), La Sentinelle (1992) and Comment je me suis disputé...(ma vie sexuelle). Denicourt was Desplechin's partner for some years, although how many isn't clear. Certainly by the time of Desplechin's Esther Kahn (2000) she doesn't appear in the casting.

Then in 2004 Desplechin makes the film Rois et reine and there's a huge problem: Denicourt complains that Desplechin has in effect invaded her life and exposed intimate details about it. Rois et reine was released in December 2004, and the co-written book Mauvais génie was published in January 2005.

In April 2006 Desplechin won a court case against Denicourt, in which it was decreed that art isn't life, film doesn't consist of slices of real life. The Nora in Rois et reine isn't Denicourt, and Denicourt wasn't entitled to the 200,000 euros damages she claimed. Interesting.

Denicourt and Perrignon's novel – in which she calls the film director Arnold Duplancher – is therefore booted out of court, irrelevant. Desplechin may have been a little indelicate at times, but... In the book, Juliette Binoche had refused a major part in the film, considering it a 'réglement de comptes' (or settling of debts), seems to have seen Nora as Marianne, but the court has ruled that art is art. 

Marianne Denicourt includes a number of letters – either true or false or a mixture of both – between various people, including those of 'Arnaud Duplancher' to herself and a final one of hers to him, 'Duplancher's' letter to her ex-partner Daniel Auteil, etc. 'Duplancher' comes out of the, er, novel, as egotistical, addicted to prescription tranquillisers, hated by everyone apart from himself, a genius perhaps but wildly flawed in personality. This is fascinating reading. One of my favourite comments, and I translate:

'Sometimes, in the privacy of his flat, he leans down to his navel, where since he was little he likes to clean out the fluff left there by his pullovers.' (The works of Arnaud Desplechin are among the many films and books which have been accused of 'nombrilisme', or navel-gazing.)

Luc Besson's Léon | Léon: The Professional (1994)

This is Besson's first English-language film. I saw this when it first came out, and felt a little uneasy (as this time round) about the relationship between a middle-aged man and a twelve-year-old girl. They seem initially to be opposites: he is a hardened hit-man working for the mafia, whereas she is an innocent whose whole family has been wiped out by bent cops. But it's more complicated than that: Léon (Jean Reno) is in fact very knowledgeable about weapons, but is illiterate and his boss Tony (Danny Aiello) 'looks after' the naive Léon's money; Matilda (Nathalie Portman) doesn't seem much concerned about the death of her parents, but she wants to avenge the death of her four-year-old brother. (Her parents were killed by DEA agents: they'd been paying the parents to hide cocaine found on dealers, but the parents had been keeping some cocaine for themselves and adulterating the rest.)

Very briefly Léon considers killing Mathilda in her sleep, but soon warms to her: she's much more worldly-wise than her years and they come to an arrangement: she lives with Léon, does the shopping, tidies the flat and teaches him to read whereas Léon teaches her how to use a gun and a rifle.

It becomes uncomfortable for Léon when Mathilda falls in love with him because the love he feels for her is purely of an odd kind of paternal nature, and he tells Tony that his own money all goes to a girl called Mathilda if he dies.

Die he does, although he has a weird symbolic re-birth when Mathilda plants his beloved pot plant in the gardens of her new school. This film was more popular with general audiences, partly because American critics thought Besson had known little of what Americans, and particularly New Yorkers, are really like: they thought his ideas just came from American films.

Liliane de Kermadec's Aloïse (1975)

Liliane de Kermadec's first film was Le Temps d'Emma (1964), a biopic of the German-born, French nationalised 'naive' painter Emma Stern (1878-1970). This film too is a biopic of a artist: Aloïse Corbaz (1886-1964), the now famous Swiss Art brut painter, and Kermadec co-wrote the screenplay with André Téchiné.

The film charts the life of a once budding opera singer who spent some years in Germany as a governess, teaching the children French, until the First World War came and she was forced to leave. She was a vociferous campaigner against the war and after 1918 spent the rest of her life as a psychiatric patient, where she painted a large number of works and is recognised as an important creator of Art brut.

My only objection to this wonderfully austere, painful film is the very odd change of the 'young' Aloïse as Isabelle Huppert to the older Delphine Seyrig: couldn't Huppert have been artificially made older, or didn't the director want to risk using a still relatively unknown female actor?

Luc Besson's Subway (1985)

The French Wikipédia calls this a 'film policier', which is by no means untrue although I'd call it more of an action comedy. Certainly it fits into the category of 'le cinéma du look' described by Raphaël Bassan in La Revue du Cinéma (1989), where style triumphs over substance: right at the beginning we have an impossible car chase, with Fred (Christophe Lambert), having stolen papers at a party attended by businessman-cum-gangster Raymond Kerman (Constantin Alexandrov) and his wife Héléna Kerman (Isabelle Adjani), is forced to escape into the bowels of the métro, where he meets another world.

Here we have Le Roller (Jean-Hugues Anglade), who escapes from his thefts in the métro on roller skates and whose stuntman for apparently impossible feats is world champion Thierry Penot; Jean Reno is the indefatigable player of drumsticks; Gros Bill, the muscle man (Christian Gomba) works on his huge body with huge weights and a few times frees Fred from his handcuffs with his sheer strength; and then there's Richard Bohringer, the métro flower seller, etc: all these people live in parts of the métro commuters never see, they are part of a (usually petty) criminal underworld, a fraternal punk society.

Le commissaire Gesberg (Michel Galabru) makes his entrance walking down the métro steps with a skewed ballet troupe of cops following him. He has a major role in this weird world, chasing the underground folk with his men such as Inspecteur Batman (Jean-Pierre Bacri) and Inspecteur Robin (Jean-Claude Lecas): and here of course we have the crux of the matter: cinema as cross-reference. The beginning, for instance, is a nod to The French Connection and the end, with the dying Fred looking at Héléna, an obvious nod to Godard. Definitely, Besson's films look good.

9 June 2021

Mural, Waitrose, Poynton, Cheshire


This Philippa Threlfall mural was completed in 2010 and stands on Park Lane on the wall of Waitrose. The scenes are representations of the early twentieth century in the area, essentially depicting the mining and agricultural traditions.

Brookfield Hydro Cinema, Poynton, Cheshire

'Aldi Stores Ltd
Public Art Commis'sion
"Replaying The Brookfield Hydro"

To mark the completion and opening of their Poynton store,
Aldi have commissioned this artwork to commemorate the
Brookfield Hydro Cinema which formerly stood on this site.

Built in 1938, the building was designed with an art deco frontage.
As  well as housing a 920 seat cinema, it also served as a social centre
with a first floor café and a dance hall. The local amateur dramatic society,
The Poynton Players used the venue to host several of their productions
until they built their own theatre in 1949. The first film shown was
"Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" starring Shirley Temple.
During the war years after a short closure, the cinema continued
to operate and charity balls were held to raise funds for war charities.
In 1947 the building was sold to
The Poynton and Worth Co-operative Society but continued as a
cinema until 1957. In 1967 the building was sold to the adjoining
Brookfield Garage Motors and then served as a car showroom and garage.
The café floor became a reataurant and dance floor. Subsequently it
became a fitness club and latterly a nightclub before finally closing its
doors in 2004. After this time the building fell into disrepair.

This sculpture is fabricated from weathering and stainless steel
with a viteous glass mosaic inlay, as a reference to the art deco style of
the original frontage. the panel depicts the Brookfield Hydro Cinema in
its hay day [sic] with a shaft of projected light in polished stainless
steel to symbolise the silver screen. Highlighted in the beam are
Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo, film icons of the era.

Joanne Risley on behalf of Aldi Stores Ltd
Febrauary 2016

Edith Nesbit in Strines, Greater Manchester

One section of the History Room in Strines is dedicated to Edith Nesbit's book The Railway Children (1905) and mentions places in the area associated with the book, such as the station, the viaduct, tunnel, canal, etc. Nesbit was very familiar with Strines because she was friends with the Woodcock family of Aspenshaw Hall in Thornsett, where she went on several occasions. A number of her books mention the small town 'Old Mills', reminiscent of New Mills next to Strines.

8 June 2021

The History Room, Strines, Greater Manchester


Hardly anything remains of the original Strine Print Works, although this building at the side of the River Goyt is a very rare example. Named The History Room, it is a mini-museum dedicated to the original factory and various people intent on leaving their mark on Strines: a labour of love, and testimony to devotion to local history.

The History Room.

The original (restored) clock for clocking in.

Illustration of a honeysuckle for a copy of The Strines Journal.

Front pages from issues of the monthly Strrines Journal.

Printers' blocks.

7 June 2021

The Dovecote, Strines, Greater Manchester


The Chinese dovecote in the middle of the mill pond is Grade II listed and dates from about 1830: it was certainly there in 1852 as it is on the cover of the Strines Journal. It appears that it was erected more for ornamental reasons than practical ones: the earlier days of dovecotes providing food had long gone. It has been repaired a number of times but the essential structure is the same as the first constuction. It has six sides and seventy-two nesting boxes. The weathervane, as well as the points of the compass, has a sailing ship.

6 June 2021

The Strines Clock, Strines, Greater Manchester

In the clock itself at Strines are details of its history. I hardly think I'd be breaking any copyright by revealing the information: it's available for all to see, local history societies clearly want to make this information available, and I reproduce this exactly as it is written:

'Thomas Bruce was for many years foreman mechanic as Strines Print Works. It is likely that he had a clock-making background, an ideal training for the innovation required in the rapidly developing calico printing industry.

It certainly seems that "Old Bruce" was resourceful, building a domestic waterwheel and manufacturing his own gas for his home "Whitecroft Cottage" (now next to the Recreation Ground). He made his turret clock (signed Thomas Bruce 1809), which was sited on the original works buildings next to Strines Hall. The coming and goings of Strines people were ordered by the striking of its bell in the days when clocks and watches were rare household acquisitions.

The eight-day movement striking hourly is mounted on a wrought iron frame - a design popular in the north and midlands in the late C18th. Bruce also made another clock for Disley Church that was replaced in the early C20th.

The Strines clock was eventually moved to the 3rd Works circa 1930 and placed over the main entrance. This was probably a nostalgic gesture to the history of the company. When the site was demolished the community was able to retrieve it with a view to reinstating it at the original Prints works entrance. With the help of a Heritage Lottery Grant we were able to give it a new lease of life and hopefully increase the appreciation of the role this community played in the nation's social and economic history.'

There is also a plaque:

'In grateful recognition of
 the tireless work of Melvyn Smith
in preserving our local heritage,
 from the community of Strines
 2nd July 2016'.

5 June 2021

Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)


Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is one of those very well-known films that I'd failed to see, and although I'm finally pleased that I have seen it I fail to understand what the fuss was all about: this is a low budget movie that was banned in a number of countires but which grossed huge profits, although it's just not scary today! The masks of the guy with the chain saw are so unbelieveable, but maybe that's all part of the fun.

4 June 2021

Joel Wainwright, Disley, Cheshire

Disley churchyard, the gravestone of Joel Wainwright (1831-1916). Remembered here are his first wife Ellen and their daughter Annie, who are buried in Chadderton. Also buried here is his second wife Betsy and daughter Grace Mary. Annie and Grace Mary died at three years and eighteen months respectively. When Joel and Betsy died they were living at Finchwood, Ludworth. As far as I know this is the first photo of his grave to be published on the internet.

From 1849 to 1905 Wainwright worked at Strines printworks, a calico printing business, where he was accountant and then manager. But he is most noted for his dedication to a monthly paper, the handwritten The Strines Journal, on which he worked with John M. Gregory between 1852 and 1856.

The Strines Journal contained details on many subjects: literary, historical, geographical, scientific, etc. It is a unique record of life as seen in and beyond a Derbyshire village at a certain point in history. Original articles, poems, etc, were requested for inclusion. The journal included a number of illustrations, and from 1853 the photos of Joseph Sidebotham, a partner in the business, were included in the journal. The forty-seven issues were bound into five volumes and remained in the family until 2013, when local historian Rosemary Taylor discovered their whereabouts. They are now in Rylands Library.

Joel Wainwright's other publications include Reminiscences of a life-time in Marple and the neighbourhood, Rural poetry : lecture delivered in S. Anne's Schools, Haughton, November 4th, 1892 and Memories of Marple (1899).

3 June 2021

A New Brood of Moorhen Chicks, Glossop, Derbyshire

 New life, with nascent wings, maybe there's still hope for the future.

Sadly, these chicks have little future, and many have been the victims of water rats.

The Bowstones, Lyme Handley, Cheshire

'The Bowstones

Two shafts of late Saxon crosses

which were probably landmarks or

boundary stones as well as objects

of devotion, The crossheads with

interlace in the courtyard of Lyme

Hall are likely to be from

the Bowstones'

This is an easy drive from Disley, although when you get on the tarmacked road towards the Bowstones it's really narrow and not really suitable for two vehicles going in opposite directions. But it's still much better than looking for Robin Hood's picking rods, which from Charlesworth is part of the way along a very narrow winding road, and then you have to walk about twenty minutes to find them. Here it's very different: the Bowstones are next to the road, taking photos is no problem – as long as you avoid the rusty barbed wire – and the only people we met on the road were hikers. In fact this is hiking territory if you like that, but we don't. It's a question of taste. This feature, as with the picking rods, is also known as 'Robin Hood's Bowstones', but coming from Nottingham I've had enough of the legends. These are very interesting stones. Is all, although the rusty wire does it no justice. 

31 May 2021

Robin Hood's Picking Rods, Chisworth, Derbyshire

Robin Hood's picking rods are on a remote footpath near Chisworth. They rest on a stone base, and were probably the lower parts of Saxon crosses dating from the tenth century or before. The name may come from the fact that they were thought to have been used for stringing longbows. They mark the boundary between Derbyshire and Cheshire, or Greater Manchester today. The modern name is probably relatively recent.

30 May 2021

Lionel Baier's La Vanité (1996)

I've been watching a lot of films of late, so I shall usually be brief in giving a description of them. This is a kind of black comedy. David Miller (Patrick Lapp) is a sick and elderly widow who wants to end his life, and this is Switzerland. Esperantza (Carmen Maura, and yeah, the name's pathetic) is his helper, who does everything in her power to prevent him doing it: her late husband was born on the same day.

And then there's Tréplev (Ivan Georgiev) in the neighbouring hotel room, a male Russian prostitute with wobbly French. He also has a wife and kids, and he's willing to be a witness to the death but then David is so (purely academically) interested in Tréplev, his life, his charges (€300, but would he accept 250?) that things get really complicated. Why should David die?

Éric Rohmer's Conte d'été (1996)

I've been watching a lot of films of late, so I shall now usually be brief in giving a description of them. Conte d'été is Rohmer's third part of his Contes des quatre saisons, set mainly in July in Dinard, Saint-Lunaire and Saint-Malo, and featuring Melvil Poupard as Gaspard, Amanda Langlet as Margot, Gwenaëlle Simon as Solène and Aurélie Nolin as Léna.

Gaspard, a maths student with a passion for music, has come from Nantes expecting to meet Léna, although she takes a while to arrive. Meanwhile he meets Margot, an ethnology student from Saint-Brieuc working in a pancake house, and who goes for long coastal walks with him, just as friends, in fact as his confidante. Then Margot invites him to a club, where he attracts the attention of Solène, although they don't have a conversation. During one of his walks with Margot she mentions Solène's obvious attraction to him, although he seems too preoccupied by Léna.

He then by chance meets Solène on the seafront, they go to Saint Malo, meet Solène's relatives, Gaspard plays a song he's written (for Léna), but he doesn't have sex with Solène as she doesn't do it the first time she meets a guy. But she's keen to go to Ouessant with him, although Léna (a self-centred, self-serving bitch) comes to Saint-Lunaire and stands Gaspard up. Does the guy have three girls or none? Well, recording awaits him and he has to go off to La Rochelle and leave a teary Margot behind. Ouessant is just a utopia.

'Je pars pour de longs mois en laissant Margot

(Hissez haut! Santiano!)

D'y penser, j'avais le cœur gros

(En doublant les feux de Saint Malo)'

28 May 2021

Patricia Plattner's Les Petites Couleurs (2005)

Generally considered as Patricia Plattner's best film, this is one of several she made of women recovering their dignity and their independence. And it's a little gem. Battered by her husband Francis (Christian Grégori), hairdresser Christelle (Anouk Grinberg) escapes with her brand new, technologically advanced hairdressing machine, driving until she chances upon the Hôtel Galaxy, a place which has a very masculine atmosphere and live acts in the evening, but is run by the firm, no-nonsense-taking Mona (Bernadette Lafont).

Christelle is very fragile, cowed into submission over many years by her terrifying husband, and when she confesses to Mona that she has no money because Francis controls the banking, Mona melts. Christelle now has a job at the hotel, so she can stay there as long as she likes. Furthermore, she discovers an old, disused VW van on the hotel premises, which Mona has forgotten about and Christelle renovates, allowing her to re-begin her business as a neighbourhood, travelling hairdresser.

But she doesn't do this without the help of the gentle trucker Lucien (Philippe Bas), who becomes obsessed with Christelle, although Christelle takes a long time to respond to Lucien's attentions, at first treating the relationship on a brother-sister level: but then, she has a long history of abuse to recover from, and hormones aren't the first thing on her mind: she slowly has to become a new woman, not an appendage to a male.

Bernadette Lafont never appeared in one of Jacques Demy's films, although the ficticious television programme that Mona and Christelle love to watch, 'Le Ranch de l'amour', is an obvious wink to such all-singing Demy films as Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and Une chambre en ville. A joy to watch.

Patricia Plattner's Bazar (2009)

This may not be Patricia Plattner's most successful film, although it's highly entertaining, and an interesting study of ageist and classist behaviour. Plattner was a friend of Bernadette Lafont, who was quite a Nouvelle Vague figure in her time, starring in Truffaut's short Les Mistons (1957) and Eustache's epic masterpiece La Madam et la putain (1973). She died four years after the making of this film. And this was in fact Plattner's final film: she died in 2016 aged sixty-three.

Lafont plays Gabrielle, an antiquarian who is evicted from her shop and falls into the arms of the handsome working-class Fred (Pio Marmaï), who at twenty-five is forty years younger than Gabrielle. Of course it can't last, but the righteous indignation of her peers is evidently not shared by the viewer: it's a treat to see Gabrielle living her brief dream. One of the most amusing scenes for me is when Fred interrupts a conversation between Gabrielle and her daughter Elvire (Lou Doillon): he's naked apart from an open shirt, his penis dangling unselfconsciously.

27 May 2021

Laurent Cantet's Vers le sud | Heading South (2005)

This is Haiti in the late seventies, and the story line here is taken from three short stories by Haitian-born Dany Laferrière, who managed to escape unscathed to Québec a long time ago. This is unusual in that it deals with sex tourism of the not normally covered kind: middle-aged women going on holiday to be fucked by young blacks. Or should that be, as two of them here are deluded, made love to?

Ellen (Charlotte Rampling) is an improbable university teacher of French in Boston; Brenda (Karen Young) is bored in Georgia most of the time; and Sue (Louise Portal) is a manager of a household goods warehouse in Montréal. The story mainly concerns Ellen and Brenda, who, they think, are in love with the randy eighteen-year-old Legba (Ménothy César) and shower presents and money on him in return for sex and affection: Brenda is particulary smitten as she seduced Legba when he was fifteen and she had her first orgasm at forty-four. They think Haiti is paradise.

Speaking from personal experience of the country, paradise is one of the last words I'd use of this weird but admittedly fascinating country, as Ellen and Brenda will discover. This was the era of Jean-Claude ('Bébé Doc') and his infamous Tontons Macoutes, his thugs who terrify the Haitians, and who will soon dispense with Legba. Paradise lost.