My Gleanings

Friday, August 18, 2006

Bertrand Tavernier -- American director thumbnails-- Cahiers dec63-jan64

The December 1963/ January 1964 issue of "Cahiers du Cinema" was dedicated to the state of American cinema. One article written by various Cahiers contributors included thumbnail critiques of active American directors. The following critiques are Bertrand Tavernier's contribution to that article. These are my translations.
Richard Bartlett
from "Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 page 114
“Completely ignored by the critics, this rather unselfconscious series-B filmmaker - although one not appreciated by distributors - specializes in with neither action nor fisticuffs. To make up for that, moral reflection and religious parable are concealed behind humor and gentle preciosity. He has crossed paths with Martin Ritt and his confreres on the road to Hollywood TV.”
"Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 page 114

Hubert Cornfield
from "Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 page 120”
“A director through his love of cinema, he has taken it at the bottom of the ladder, - minor detective films shot in 10 to 15 days, but varied with symbolism and European in spirit, primary here. Why should he wish to raise himself above his subject if the genre’s principle is precisely to make it seem that you can see no further than the tip of your nose. Now Cornfield knows narration as well as any one of the old Warners: The hold-up in the rain in “Plunder Road”, for example. but now when it is the Stanley Kramers who set the tone, it is not proven that that one is the tone for him.”
"Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 page 120”

Michael Curtiz
from "Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 page 122”
“Going with ease from one genre to another, from the western to the detective story, from social drama to pirate tale, Curtiz leaves no trace of his passage. A Warner’s legionnaire, he prototyped that famous style - as much scenarist as technical - that was the trademark of the company. a victim of the norms of production when the script was bad, he benefited when it was good. Less than an artisan, he is a worker specializing in the middle-ground: happy in the collage of the unsurpassed materials of the era ridiculed as “prestige”. Clever at systemitizing the findings of others, at enlisting Errol Flynn in unpretentious swashbucklers. Leaving the mother-ship, Warners, he unlearns his metier. “The Egyptian”.”
"Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 page 122”

Morton Da Costa
from "Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 page 122”
“Trademark of a Broadway director, from his first screen-test, its qualities and faults assert themselves. (As is found in the unreleased in France “The Music Man”, another filmed play). A decided taste for shouting heros, human cataclysms, scenic paroxysms, and decorative exuberance which is answered by an undeniable penchant for vulgarity and aggressive sentimentality. In the best of cases, a cyclone sweeping across the screen, in the others...”
"Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 page 122”

Gordon Douglas
from "Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 page 126”
“He has filled at Warners, the spot left open by Curtiz. More talented for westerns or science fiction than for swashbucklers (passing modestly by his penchant for hawkish, anti-Red panegyrics. Places his camera on the level of a man, unhappily, neither a tall man or a great man. Everything is filmed from a low-angle.”

Roy Enright
from "Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 (page 129)”
Pre-WWII “succes d’estime”, he was Randolph Scott’s ‘man’ before Budd Boeticcher. A director of Westerns precisely when no one favored the genre. He owes his obscurity to this singularity: a serious style in series scenarios, an offhand and Nicholas Ray-like use of color (“The Man of Texas”), considerable use of space, and a taste for violence that presages the contentiousness of the “modern” western. Fingers crushed pulverized by rocks, spurs digging into cheeks, agony lasting a full round of bullets. Making us want to see more.
"Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 page 126”

Henry King
from "Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 (page 138)”
Before succumbing to Daryl Zanuck, Cinemascope and Deluxe color, he crossed with an Olympian calm through the crises, the storms and the fashions of Hollywood. Covered with honors, and recompensed, and periodically anointed ‘director of directors’, King lived goldenly, but his commercial success should not conceal his merits from us. The most ‘Warners’ of Fox directors, he often gave proof of ambition (from the ‘Griffithean’ ‘Tol’able David’ to the remarkable ‘Twelve O’clock High), always, of honesty (‘The Gunfighter’), of sturdiness (’The Black Swan’). Academic and solid on his bad days, solid and classic on his good days, he depends on his subject. He knows how to reverse the proposition. Has just given up whittling the likes of Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald to return (is it a revival?) to tales of adventure.”
"Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 (page 138)”

Note: Henry King was at that time preparing “The Undefeated”. The project would be filmed in 1969 by Andrew McLaglen.

Joseph H. Lewis
from "Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 (page 142)”
A too brilliant technician, who, one might say, suffers ‘Great Director Complex’. He holds the subject to be not worthy of him (that is always the case). There is a debauchery of tracking shots and camera tricks, but without objective or rails. More at ease, in the final account, helming low-budget Westerns, 15 days of shooting, nothing like calligraphy to calm you, which obliges him to be concerned in what he is constrained to tell.”
"Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 (page 142)”
Lewis Milestone
from "Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 (page 150)”
Not hilarious. As bothersome to view as to analyze. He deserves the most sinister director Oscar, if this word did not also imply ‘left’ which Milestone has not been for a long time. Forced to preach against war with childish arguments in interminable discourses, he sensed the falseness of his position, and turned coat. This was enough to change a little the sense of his films, already so esthetically comfortable, to prefer ‘glory’ to ‘fear’, the hills of Korea to walks in the sun. But, if the ethics changed, the mannerisms remained, especially the never changing tracking shot, a figure of style which Milestone raises to the high level of an institution.
As always, in seeking out the less ambitious or less celebrated productions, one finds the most interesting works. Not the comedies or agricultural films, but “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” or “The General Died at Dawn”. But all this is not enough to have him die on Okinawa. We need a birth notice. And where to look? To the west?
"Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 (page 150)”
Note: The French title for “Pork Chop Hill” is “La Gloire et la Peur” which literally translates as ‘the glory and the fear’
The French title for “All Quiet on the Western Front” is “A l'Ouest Rien de Nouveau” which literally translates as “to the west, nothing new”
The French title for “Halls of Montezuma” is “Okinawa.”

George Montgomery
from "Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 (page 151)”
“Of all American actors, he seems the least foreordained to become a director. But, without doubt, tired of being directed by mediocrities (Ray Nazzaro, Paul Landres) in tenth-rate westerns, he decided to establish himself behind the camera and produce, write (and act in) his own stories, and take advantage of the occasion to regild the fortunes of Filipino cinema. The results, for the moment, are conclusive and both his films, through their non-chalant tone and the originality of their digressions recapture, straightaway, the great American cinema of adventure which flourished a few years ago. Can anyone imagine, at this time, a more beautiful compliment?”
"Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 (page 151)”

Robert Parrish
from "Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 (page 154)”
“His films disconcert from the first look. One finds, only to a small degree, the Hollywood qualities; rapid rhythm, directorial ideas, effective narration, or the influence of American genres (westerns, thrillers). An out-of-date cinema, disenchanted, in search of a Romanesque and linear style, where reflection counts more than action, and intelligence or sensitivity more than dramatic impact. Whence this lyricism, this taste for (good) literature, these moral pre-occupations? Parrish’s heroes are rootless and everywhere lost. They are on the nostalgic pursuit of an inner peace and the lucidity that only the love of a woman can bring to them. The sadness of “The Wonderful Country”, “The Purple Plain” or “In the French Style” evokes that of Henry David Thoreau. Simple films, elementary feelings. It is necessary in Parrish’s work to search some other ambition besides story-telling.”
"Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 (page 154)”
Note: Some twenty years later, in 1983, Bertrand Tavernier and Robert Parrish would co-direct, and co-star in, the documentary “Mississippi Blues”

Joseph Pevney
from “Cahiers du Cinema” Dec63-Jan64 (page 156)
“Once upon a time, Hollywood’s barometer; through the yearly number of his films, one judged the state of American cinema. Universal’s veritable Stakhanov, he adapted himself conscientiously to that company’s five-year-plan. Mixing carefully the house blend, two-thirds sentiment, a little action “peel”, a dash of melodrama, pretty colors, and George Nader, Jeff Chandler, Julie Adams, he added nothing of his own invention, changed not a comma of the script, making a functional and unvaried “mise-en-scene”. But that respects ends by giving his films an unexplainable charm and, sometimes, an appearance of rigor. after two attempts at independence, Pevney has become one of the numerous directors unfinished.”
“Cahiers du Cinema” Dec63-Jan64 (page 156)

Charles Walters
from “Cahiers du Cinema” Dec63-Jan64 (page 175)
“Of the four musketeers of musicla comedy, he is the Aramis. Elegaic and stylized, he promenades with his heroes on all the roads of the map of tenderness, singing, dancing and weaving a tender trap. More than anyone, he knows how to make Lili cry, the pretty farmer’s daughter laugh, and the bell of New York to jump into the air.
But as we all know, the map is not the territory. It happens then that he strays into unfriendly regions where Doris Day and the matriarchal joke run rampant. Overtaken by events, he does nothing to save the situation. There is his weakness. But, tomorrow, he can leave once more, best foot forward; the best way for a choreographer.”
“Cahiers du Cinema” Dec63-Jan64 (page 175)
Note: The French title for “Summer Stock” is “Le Jolie Fermiere”

Paul Wendkos
from “Cahiers du Cinema” Dec63-Jan64 (page 177)
“For the moment, a man of disappointed ambitions. From avant-garde to “Gidget” while passing through three or four “intellectual” detective stories and two brisk military strips. Like a cold shower which leaves us at the state of assumptions (casting contributes there). This is, it seems, a follower of the the “one shot, one idea” method, good or bad thanks to which we never get far but this way justifies the truant attention.”
from “Cahiers du Cinema” Dec63-Jan64 (page 177)



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