My Gleanings

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Claude Chabrol's American director thumbnails -- Cahiers Dec63/Jan64

Robert Aldrich
from “Cahiers du Cinema” Dec63/Jan64 (page 113)
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“In an intense collective exertion of imagination, most commentators on his last film asked, “Whatever happened to Robert Aldrich?” They did not recognize him. Nevertheless, the taste for theatricality that divides a screenplay into acts, these shots flung on the screen as if with a trowel, the characteristic cruelty which calls a hammer, a hammer and an old skin, an old skin, this occasional hysteria, these screams, effects so great that they become brilliant, those ten inspired shots in the last sequence. That is him, there is nothing else to say. An adversary of producers who mutilate his films when his back is turned, he has searched for freedom on the old continent. Sad experience. The “Big Knives” have skulked after him, to Athens, to Berlin, and as far away as the ruins of Sodom. After this disastrous European tour, his anti-Americanism quieted down, here he is again. Still enormous, still generous, once again relaxed. This is a force of nature. He needs obstacles his own size. He is waiting to shoot what amuses him, the day of the kill-joy has terminated.
“Cahiers du Cinema” Dec63/Jan64 (page 113)
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John Brahm
from “Cahiers du Cinema” Dec63/Jan64 (page 115)
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His “great epoque” lasted three years -- 1945 to 1947. Then he is consumed by the TV’s Desilu Corporation. It is best for him to remain for us the faithful illustrator of Raymond Chandler (“The High Window” [“The Brasher Doubloon”] not released in France) and the auteur of the superb and frenzied “Hangover Square”, a film, first and last, a cacophony.
“Cahiers du Cinema” Dec63/Jan64 (page 115)
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Edward Dmytryk
from “Cahiers du Cinema” Dec63/Jan64 (page 125)
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His experiences in the jails of the State, his weakness, his traumas make it impossible to separate his life from his work. His taste for money and for retelling his sad story, yield for ten years only uninteresting films. We might, however, retain some minutes of “The Sniper”, the tempest in a teapot of “The Caine Mutiny”, but, maybe, most of all, “The End of the Affair”, the best cinematic distortion of the mediocre universe of Graham Green. With time the anguish moves into the background, the guilt complex disappears under the dollars. The dearer, the happy moments are, the rarer they are and Dmytryk becomes once more the mediocre filmmaker of “Crossfire”. Finally, he can stand himself.
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Phillip Dunne
from “Cahiers du Cinema” Dec63/Jan64 (page 127)
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He debuted with “Prince of Players” a commercial failure. From the next three films, one likes only some novelistic scenes and unusual details. Dunne finally knows commercial success - in the USA - with “Blue Denim”. From then on, this graying gentleman was considered by the absurdists at Fox as a specialist on teenagers. Let us hope, for Dunne’s sake, that his youth will pass before his death.
“Cahiers du Cinema” Dec63/Jan64 (page 127)
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Martin Ritt
from “Cahiers du Cinema” Dec63/Jan64 (page 160)
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He represents all that separates the viewpoint of Cahiers from that of the studio executives. None in Hollywood would think of doubting Ritt’s talent; here, no one envisages its existence, reality or possibility. From the efforts of “No Down Payment” to the failure of “Paris Blues” while passing by squalid Faulknerian masquerades, everything in this work is just pettiness, grayness and mediocrity. Who has it right? The executives or us? Us, of course.
“Cahiers du Cinema” Dec63/Jan64 (page 127)
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William Wyler
from “Cahiers du Cinema” Dec63/Jan64 (page 179)
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Cinema is evolving and is still young. Some qualities of the past reveal themselves, with use, as so much defect. Wyler sums all this up. For a long time, he was, let’s not forget, a great man for cinemanes. What was that all about?
First off, a dramatic apparatus well-oiled and conventional. The most naive plays of the era of the New Deal, radical-socialist best-sellers, the first evocations of the Southerners. all this conveyed in a style, aseptic, polished, honest and sometimes awkward (repetitions, an approximate linking of effects, a monotony of tempo, descriptive movement that is artificial and too slow) which astonishes only through the perfection of the machinery and lighting. As for acting, Wyler conceives of it exactly as Bernstein fire, meaning in a psychological tradition which would enchant Paul Bourget, for example. These types of works quickly become dated .
But there is something more serious. Our man surrendered. For the love of money. He, most of all, is looking to keep his reputation as a major director for the major companies. After the “Ben-Hur” of Andrew Marton and Yakima Canutt, he threw, pay heed, in the sweetened remake of one of his earliest successes “The Children’s Hour”. Our artist is now preparing “The Sound of Music”. One must be, most naive, most languid, most pedantic to hope in Wyler.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Sean said...

I found your blog today. A lot of great stuff to while away the time. Especially like the Cahiers stuff, especially the the thumbnail sketches of American directors. Nice!

30/8/06 19:47  
Blogger phyrephox said...

Also found your blog today, linked by Greencine Daily, and find its concept and its execution fantastic. Keep up this great, vital work!

30/8/06 22:52  
Blogger A said...

Heh, really interesting comments on some american directors.
And the change in attitude towards william Wyler. I believe Andre Bazin admired him ubtil his death (but maybe he would have changed his opinion after Ben-Hur)?
But didn't some of the young turcs admire The best years of our lives?
I'd like to know their reaction when Wyler took the Palme d'Or in 1957!

21/9/06 08:00  

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