My Gleanings

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

André Techiné Ten Best Films 1964-1967

1.......Gertrud (Carl Theodore Dreyer)
.........Band of Outsiders (Jean-Luc Godard)
.........Man’s Favorite Sport? (Howard Hawks)
.........A Distant Trumpet (Raoul Walsh)
.........My Fair Lady (George Cukor)
6.......The Servant (Joseph Losey)
.........A Married Woman (Jean-Luc Godard)
.........The Silence (Ingmar Bergman)
9.......America, America (Elia Kazan)
10.....The Damned (Joseph Losey)

1........Pierrot le Fou (Jean-Luc Godard0
2........Paris vu par... (Jean Rouch sketch)
3........The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Pier Paolo Pasolini)
..........Winter Light (Ingmar Bergman)
..........Lilith (Robert Rossen)
6........The Disorderly Orderly(Frank Tashlin)
..........Vaghe Stelle Dell‘Orsa… (Luchino Visconti)
..........The Family Jewels (Jerry Lewis)
9........Alphaville (Jean-Luc Godard)
10......L’Amour a la Chaine (Claude de Givray)

1........Au Hasard, Balthazar (Robert Bresson)
2........Walkover(Jerzy Skolimowski)
3........The Man Who Had His Hair Cut Short (Andre Delvaux)
..........Masculin/Feminin (Jean-Luc Godard)
..........Not Reconciled (Jean-Marie Straub)
..........Marie Soleil ([blue]Andre Bourseiller[/blue])
..........La Père Noël a les yeux bleus (Jean Eustache)
8........Chimes at Midnight (Orson Welles)
..........La Guerre est Finie (Alain Resnais)
..........Torn Curtain (Alfred Hitchcock)

1........Persona (Ingmar Bergman)
2........Daisies (Vera Chytilova)
3........Playtime (Jacques Tati)
..........Made in USA (Jean-Luc Godard)
..........Belle du Jour (Luis Bunuel)
..........La Chasse Au Lion a L’Arc (Jean Rouch)
7........Mediteranée (Jean-Daniel Pollet/Volker Schlondorff)
..........La Religeuse (Jacques Rivette)
..........The Young Girls of Rochefort (Jacques Demy)
..........This Property Is Condemned (Sydney Pollack)

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André Bazin Ten Best Films

(no preferred order)
Gate of Hell (Teinosuke Kinugasa)
El (Luis Bunuel)
Robinson Crusoe (Luis Bunuel)
Chateaux en Espagne[El Torero] (René Wheeler)
Touchez pas au Grisbi (Jacques Becker)
From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinneman)
Romeo and Juliet (Renato Castellani)
The Living Desert (James Algar)
The Wild One (Laszlo Benedek)
Monsieur Ripois (René Clement)

1.......Ordet (Carl Dreyer)
2.......La Strada (Federico Fellini)
3.......Voyage in Italy (Roberto Rossellini)
4.......The Big Knife (Robert Aldrich)
5.......French Cancan (Jean Renoir)
6.......Lola Montes (Max Ophuls)
7.......The Gold of Naples (Vittorio De Sica)
8.......Du Rififi chez les Hommes (Jules Dassin)
9.......The Man from Laramie (Anthony Mann)
10.....Les Mauvaises Rencontres (Alexander Astruc)

1.......A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson)
2.......Il Bidone (Federico Fellini)
3.......Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray)
4.......Elena and her Men (Jean Renoir)
5.......Bus Stop (Joshua Logan)
6.......Senso (Lucchino Visconti)
7.......Smiles of a Summer Night (Ingmar Bergman)
8.,,,,,,L'Amore (Roberto Rossellini)
9.,,,,,,Gervaise (Rene Clement)
10.....The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock)

1......The Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini)
2.......Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (Frank Tashlin)
3.......Porte des Lilas (Rene Clair)
4.......Torero (Carlos Velo)
5.......12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet)
6.......Sait-on Jamais (Roger Vadim)
7.......Street of Shame (Kenzo Mizoguchi)
8.......Aparijito (Satyajit Ray)
9.......The Criminal Life of Archibald Cruz (Luis Bunuel)
10.....Seven Men from Now (Budd Boetticher)

André Bazin died on November 11, 1958. One can begin to conjecture what his list for 1958 might have looked like from his ranking of films as reported in Cahiers' “conseil des dix” in those months that he did participate.

Bonjour Tristesse (Otto Preminger) --- 3 stars
Kanal (Andrej Wajda) --- 3 stars

Mon Oncle (Jacques Tati) --- 4 stars
This Angry Age (Rene Clement) --- 3 stars

Touch of Evil (Orson Welles) --- 4 stars
The Cranes are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov) --- 4 stars

The Left-Handed Gun (Arthur Penn) --- 3 stars
Une Vie (Alexander Astruc) --- 3 stars
The Goddess (John Cromwell) --- 3 stars
En Cas du Malheur (Claude Autant-Lara) --- 3 stars

Rene Wheeler was for anyone who saw Bertrand Tavernier’s Laissez-Passer the character selling shoelaces who about an hour into film Jean Aurenche meets on a Paris sidewalk whom Aurenche brings to Continental studios to co-write the Fernandel film he has been assigned.
El Torero is one of only three films that directed. An earlier film of his Premières armes was credited according to the one user comment on the IMDb by François Truffaut with influencing him. Wheeler also collaborated on the screenplay for Rififi chez les Hommes which was highly regarded by the staff at Cahiers du Cinema. Wheeler also worked on some films that were disliked by those critics such as Les Salauds vont en enfer and "Méfiez-vous fillettes. Wheeler would once more in the mid-60s figure in some yearly Cahiers ten best lists. He co-scripted
Le Journal d'une femme en blanc with Jean Aurenche for director Claude Autant-Lara. Jean-Luc Godard rated that film third for the year 1965 and Jacques Rivette also listed the film.

Bazin is often written of for his love of animals.

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is what happens when you hang around with Jean-Luc Godard too much. Street of Shame is what happens when you hang around with Jacques Rivette too much.

Bonnie and Clyde, Arthur Penn’s most famous film, was first offered to François Truffaut, then to Godard and then to Truffaut again before Penn agreed to direct it.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Was there ever a cinema de papa Part 2

I began my previous post on the subject of the term “cinema de papa” by asking you to google <<“Francois Truffaut” “cinema de papa”>> and request English language only. This time the query is google <<“Francois Truffaut” “cinema de papa” site:fr>>. That query will retrieve sites that emanate from France.
I just conducted that search and had forty-two sites retrieved for my that after eliminating duplicates, Google reduced to thirty.
Of those thirty:
In five, the terms “Francois Truffaut” and “Cinema de Papa” appear in links only. Six sites used the term “cinema de papa” as a synonym for “tradition of quality” but do it in a generally way, never claiming that Truffaut himself used the term. Only one,from the newsmagazine Marianne, attempts to put the term in Truffaut’s mouth. The writer then goes on to demonstrate that he has not a clue what he is discussing by imply that Truffaut critiques of the films “Casque d'Or”, Lola Montes and La Traversee de Paris were “assassines et méprisantes” ("murderous and contemptful"). An idea which will not stand simple research. The other eighteen hits – and indeed the first twelve hits – deal with a film released in 1969 which was titled “Le Cinema de Papa”. And as the saying goes thereby hangs a tale.
Around 1968, Eric Rohmer went to François Truffaut looking for help in financing his film Ma Nuit Chez Maud. Truffaut put together a group of investors, including himself to back the project. He also asked an actor who had recently turned to directing and who had won an Academy Award for Best Short Subject in 1966 to come on as his assistant in getting the film produced. That young actor-director was named Claude Berri. Truffaut and Berri quickly became very close. Before Truffaut died, his last two visitors were Robert Lachenay and claude Berri. In his memoirs Autoportrait, Berri reveals quite quickly that in his personal chambre verte, Truffaut holds one of the places of honor. The Rohmer film was a great success and Truffaut began to put together ad-hoc production groups to make films that otherwise might not get financing. Berri continued as his assistant. In 1970, Berri wrote and directed the aforementioned film Le Cinema de Papa which is so often (60 %) linked to Truffaut in fr (French) web-sites. That film was produced by a one-time only producing partnership called Papas Cinema. So was Truffaut a partner in the company Papas Cinema? Well since it is evident that on a morale level Truffaut was one hundred per-cent behind Berri and since Truffaut was just coming off helping to finance films for Eric Rohmer and for Berri's brother-in-law, Maurice Pialat. one would have to suppose that, if Truffaut did not pitch in with financial support, then Berri was able to put the financing together without Truffaut's help. In 1971, Truffaut wrote a review of the film for Pariscope which he reprinted in his collection The Films in My Life.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Was there ever a "cinema de papa"? Part 1

If you were to go right now to a search engine and type in the query -- "cinema de papa" "François Truffaut" -- asking for results in the English language only and you will return with any number of hits which inform you that François Truffaut "derided", "disparaged", "rallied against", "attacked", "fulminated against' something which he "defined", "termed", called", labeled" the cinema de papa. I can say this; I have had my hands on every issue of Cahiers du Cinema from the time when Truffaut and the other "young turks" held sway at that review and I never read any article in which that term was used by Truffaut or Jean-Luc Godard or Jacques Rivette or Claude Chabrol or Eric Rohmer or Jean Domarchi or Louis Marcorelles or Michel Delahaye or Jean Douchet or Luc Moullet or Charles Bitsch or Fereydoun Hoveyda or any one of the other young critics who wrote for Cahiers between 1953 and 1965 when Jacques Rivette ceded the editorship to Jean-Louis Comolli. The lone instance I have come up with of the use of this term is by Jean Narboni in the introduction to an interview of Claude Autant-Lara in the March 1967 issue of Cahiers. Narboni's actually uses the term <cinema de "papa"> and not <<"cinema de papa">>.

One would imagine that everything which Truffaut wrote from April 1953 when his first review was published by Cahiers and 1958 when he began the filming of The Four Hundred Blows and he forsook film criticism could be recapitulated as, "Never trust a director over thirty". But, if it is the truth there was no generalized use of the term by these critics, it would also seem to be to summarize their grievances as an assault on a "cinema de papa" is to demonstrate a misapprehension of the issues which they were grieving. In A Certain Tendency of French Cinema, Truffaut writes,

“But why“, I am still going to be told, “ why can you not bring a similar admiration to all the filmmakers who work making the core of this tradition of quality which you mock so freely? Why not admire Yves Allegret as much as Jacques Becker, Jean Delannoy as much as Robert Bresson, or Claude Autant-Lara as much as Jean Renoir? ”

If the cinema of Allegret, Delannoy, Autant-Lara and the others (Pagliero, Carlo-Rim, Aurenche and Bost, Sigurd etc.) is the "cinema de papa", how does one characterize the cinema of Bresson, Becker, Renoir and the others ( Jean Cocteau, Abel Gance, Max Ophuls, Jacques Tati and Roger Leenhardt, Sacha Guitry and, later on, Marcel Pagnol) whom Truffaut exalts? As the "cinema de the big,bad wolf"?

So now you may want to ask me, "Well, where did this "cinema de papa" start?" Well, I can only speculate here, but my answer to where is Oberhausen, Germany in February 1962 at the annual short film festival. What happened ? A group of young German film directors issued the Oberhausen Manifesto (English translation) declaring -- well, the legend is that it states "Papas kino ist tot" ("Papa's cinema is dead"). But what it does say is "Der alte film ist tot" ("The old film is dead"). However, the legend continues that they plastered Oberhausen with posters that read "Papas kino ist tot" ("Daddy's cinema is dead"). That element of the legend I must believe carries some truth with it since a quarter century after these events, one of the participants in them, Edgar Reitz, made a mini series for German television and he portrays young film plastering walls with posters which read "Papas kino ist tot".
And what did those "young turks" at Cahiers du Cinema have to say about this movement. One of them, Andre S Labarthe attended the Oberhausen Festival that February. In the short piece which he published in Cahiers that spring, he mentions nothing about the manifesto, nothing about any "alte film" or "papas kino" going "tot". His closest trajectory to any of this a favorable mention of a film by Herbert Vesely, one of the manifesto's signatories, among four films which impressed him. For the remainder of the 60s, Cahiers payed only a modicum of attention to these directors with the only exception being a film by Ferdinand Khittl called Die Parallelstrasse (La Route Parallele) which Khittl had made in 1962 and which was shown in Cannes in 1964. Jacques Rivette placed on his 10 best films list for the year 1968(!). But there never seems to have been any mention of the Oberhausen Manifesto or "Papas Kino".
But, obviously somewhere in the mid-60s, this slogan of these young German directors somehow became cross-threaded onto the Cahiers group.
The argument is pursued here

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Claude Autant-Lara Jean-Luc Godard

The following comments made by Claude Autant-Lara were originally published in Cahiers du Cinema in March 1967 issue no 188 on page 35. The translation is mine.

"In the case of Godard, there certainly is there a kind of expression which, for some part, suits our times. He can not be considered inconsequential; as for me, primarily, I consider him interesting. And then, you can easily see what he is -- an impulsive. That is why I prefer him to the others, he is quite a little crazy. . .Me, I like crazymen, and this impulsive madman, one can see exactly what he wants. He wants to film and he does film."

Autant-Lara goes on to fault Godard for not having enough respect for the audience and to say that all experimentation has its limits and that he thinks that Godard has reach the limits of his experimentation.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Jean-Pierre Melville favorites

This appeared on page 60 of October 1961 issue of Cahiers du Cinema No 124. Personally, I think Melville should have made it easier for us by just telling us who he did not like.

J-P Melville's 63

The 63 (which are in reality 64) pre-war American filmmakers, preferred by Jean-Pierre Melville, are, (in alphabetical order)

Lloyd Bacon, Busby Berkeley, Richard Boleslavski, Frank Borzage, Clarence Brown, Harold S Bucquet, Frank Capra, Jack Conway, Merian C Cooper, John Cromwell, James Cruze, George Cukor, Michael Curtiz, William Dieterle, Allan Dwan, Ray Enright, George Fitzmaurice, Robert Flaherty, Victor Fleming, John Ford, Sidney Franklin, Tay Garnett, Edmond Goulding, Alfred Green, Edward Griffith, Henry Hathaway, Howard Hawks, Ben Hecht, Garson Kanin, william Keighley, Henry King, Henry Koster, Gregory La Cava, Fritz Lang, Sidney Lanfield, Mitchell Leisen, Robert Z Leonard, Mervyn Le Roy, Frank Lloyd, Ernest Lubitsch, Leo McCarey, Norman Z McLeod, Reuben Mamoulian, Archie Mayo, Cecil B De Mille, Lewis Milestone, Elliot Nugent, Henry C Potter, Roy Del Ruth, Gregory Ratoff, Mark Sandrich, Alfred Santell, Ernest Schoedsack, John M Stahl, Josef Von Sternberg, Goerge Stevens, Norman Taurog, Richard Thorpe, W S Van Dyke, King Vidor, William Wellman, James Whale, Sam Wood, William Wyler

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Billy Wilder and the Cahiers du Cinema "young turks"

This study purports to be little else than an examination of the relations on a critical of vis-a-vis the Cahiers du Cinema "young turks" and the American director Billy Wilder, while, also, attempting to set that reaction against the reaction of their contemporary Parisian critic brethren. It stretches form the November 1953 issue to the April 1965 issue. As chance would have it, both issues are milestones in the story of "young turk" critics at Cahiers. For the first two and a half years, articles by these young critics only appeared sporadically in that magazine, but in November this group would pretty much dominate the film review section with three of them, Jacques Rivette (Madame de), Claude Chabrol (Singing in the Rain) and François Truffaut ( Stalag 17 and Niagara -- using the pen-name Robert Lachenay). Two months later, Cahiers would publish Truffaut's Une Certaine Tendance de Cinema Francais. And, more importantly, the February 1954 issue saw the publication of the transcribed interview of Jacques Becker by Truffaut and Rivette. From that point on, the "young turks" were a force to be reckoned with. The April 1965 issue was the last in which Jacques Rivette is credited on the masthead as editor-in-chief. Beginning the next month, the younger turks -- Jean-Louis Comolli, Jean Narboni -- would be the major force at Cahiers.
For a explanation of their thinking behind the conseil des dix, see the introduction to my study of Jacques Rivette's tenure on the conseil.
The translations here are mine except for the two -- Stalag 17 and The Seven Year Itch -- whaich are from Leonard Mayhew's translation of François Truffaut's The Films in my Life.
Stalag 17 Nov 1953 No. 28
François Truffaut's review of this film from this issue was reprinted in The Films in my Life by François Truffaut; translated by Leonard Mayhew published in 1975. It appears here as translated there by Leonard Mayhew. The opening of this review is a little clearer when you realize that the title in France of this film translates as “seven years of reflection”

“The metaphor is exaggerated. It doesn’t take seven minutes to realize that The Seven Year Itch is beyond smut and licentiousness and that it takes us past the limits of evil to a kind of worn-down regret, good humor, and kindness.” Further on, Truffaut writes, “If we admire, rather than grow annoyed, it is because the film’s verve and inventiveness, its cavalier vigor and naughtiness demand complicity.”
Sabrina March 1955 No. 45
Jacques Donoil-Valcroze reviewed this film. He said, in part, "The dialogue is very elaborate, sometimes, poetic and a tad precious (the couplet, "Paris, with a little spring rain' has the allure of Giradoux), sometimes progressing through allusion in order to avoid sentimental banalities. . . always brilliant, theatrical and a little snobbishly Broadway. (It will one day be necessary to speak of all that Hollywood owes to Broadway.)"
from the Noel 1955 issue of Cahiers du Cinema no. 54
In this special Situation of American Cinema issue, Cahiers published a Dictionary of American Directors, a collection of thumbnail critiques of directors written by Jacques Donoil-Valcroze, Charles Bitsch, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Rivette and François Truffaut. This is a translation of Wilder's critique.
"Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde. Unfortunately, this is more often the guise to which he owes the essence of his reputation. Thus, he has given us a few film which are actually unviewable, Lost Weekend, Sunset Boulevard, The Big Carnival where the vulgarity, the hand-me-down feeling make them painful to view. but he is also the auteur of Sabrina and, most happily, Stalag 17, where the psychological acuity, the efficient simplicity of tone and the intelligence of purpose compel admiration. Yet with Brackett, at hand, The Seven Year Itch delivers us a Jeckyll a little salacious, but infinitely sympathetic in his canning of the Grand Guignol of mise-en-scene."
The Seven Year Itch March 1956 No. 57
The opening of this review is a little clearer when you realize that the title in France of this film translates as “seven years of reflection”.

“The metaphor is exaggerated. It doesn’t take seven minutes to realize that The Seven Year Itch is beyond smut and licentiousness and that it takes us past the limits of evil to a kind of worn-down regret, good humor, and kindness.” Further on, Truffaut writes, “If we admire, rather than grow annoyed, it is because the film’s verve and inventiveness, its cavalier vigor and naughtiness demand complicity.”
As translated by Leonard Mayhew in The Films in my Life / by François Truffaut ; translated by Leonard Mayhew
Sitting on the conseil des dix, Truffaut - the lone "young turk" on that conseil - gave the film 3 stars. the only other panelist to give the film 3 stars was André Bazin. The film received a total of ten stars from the other six critcs who rated it. Only Georges Sadoul bulleted the film.
The Spirit of St. Louis July 1957 No 73
This film was not reviewed in Cahiers. Its release in Paris was noted in the July 1957 issue with this comment, "This Bressonian adventure can be excused only as an avant-garde film. Commercial neccessity constrined Wilder to intergrate into his narrative very long, very labored flashbacks. Only two reels are viewable.
That months conseil des dix
For the "young turks'
Jacques Rivette abstained.
François Truffaut bulleted the film.
Eric Rohmer gave the film 1 star.

Among the other critics.
Four critics gave the film a total of 5 stars. The only panelist to give the film 2 stars was France-Soir's France Roche. André Bazin abstained.
Love in the Afternoon July 1957 No. 73
The film was reviewed by Serge Parmion and compared unfavorably to Roger Vadim's Sait-on Jamais.
the conseil des dix
for the young turks;
Jacques Rivette abstained.
François Truffaut bulleted the film.
Eric Rohmer gave the film 1 star.
exactly as they had in the same month for The Spirit of St. Louis
The other critics gave this film a total of 9 stars. Georges Sadoul and Henri Agel bulleted the film.
Witness for the Prosecution March 1958 No. 81
Fereydoun Hoveyda wrote a short review which appeared in the Autres Films section. He compared the film unfavorably to Fritz Lang's Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.
the conseil des dix
for the young turks;
Jacques Rivette and Eric Rohmer both gave the film 1 star.

This film received a total of 15 stars from all ten critics. Georges Sadoul was the only bullet.
Some Like It Hot Nov 1959 No. 101
Co-founder and co-editor of Cahiers Jacques Doniol-Valcroze reviewed this film for Cahiers. He wrote of how despite that about one hundred people had told him that the film was bad, he found the film, "exquisite, subtle, sharp, captivating, admirably produced and directed, . . . and not so hilarious." He went on to call it, "An ambiguous film, often bitter, sometimes a bit shocking, but always intelligent, subtle and, from time to time, moving."
the conseil des dix
for the young turks;
Jacques Rivette and Luc Moullet gave the film 3 stars. They were the only two of the ten to give the film 3 stars. Eric Rohmer gave the film 2 stars and Jean Douchet gave the film 1 star. Jean-Luc Godard bulleted the film. 9 stars in all from the five young turk critics.
The five remaining critics gave the film another 7 stars for a total of 16 stars. Among those five, Georges Sadoul was the lone bullet.
The Apartment Nov 1960 no. 113
Jean Douchet reveiewed the film for Cahiers, he wrote, in part, "The greatest reproach that I address to wilder is to not have answered the possibilities of the the subject. He grasped at a master-piece, he only succeeded in a a good film."
the conseil des dix
for the young turks;
Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer and Jean Douchet all gave the film 2 stars.
No one gave the film more than 2 stars. But neither did anyone bullet the film. The other seven critics chipped in another 9 stars for a total of 15 stars. Even Georges Sadoul gave teh film 1 star.
One, Two, Three May 1962 no 131
This film is the only other example besides The Spirit of St. Louis of a Wilder film from this period which was not given at least a short review in Cahiers. The May 1962 issue of the magazine simply noted its recent release in Paris with this comment. "In this painful story of the East-West rivalry, Wilder, in the end of the run, falls dead into that heaviness and vulgarity whose avoidance by working the edges makes a good part of the charm of his earlier work."
the conseil des dix
for the young turks; Jean Douchet gave the film 1 star while Jacques Rivette and Michel Delahaye both bulleted the film. André Labarthe abstained.
Michel Mardore who had recently started to write for Cahiers and would eventually contribute in excess of !70 articles gave the film 2 stars. He was the only panelists to give the film more than 1 star as the film received a total of 5 stars. Not surprisingly, Georges Sadoul bulleted the film.
Wilder was interviewed by Jean Domarch and Jean Douchet in the August 1962 issue of Cahiers du Cinema.
Irma La Douce
Nov 63 no. 149
Michel Mardore review read in part, "As all truly modern creators, Billy Wilder has been able to escape to a kind of "detachment", even involuntary. This is no "pie-in-the-face" comedy, but, on the contrary, but a pattern of tearing apart for each artist. Wilder's originality (and the process intrudes into Irma) consists in making the impossible decision for the artist. You never know who is detaching and who is being detached. The folly of a nondescript definition designates the discomfort of the spectator as a basic motive of the work.
the conseil des dix
for the young turks; Jacques Rivette and Jean Douchet both gave the film 3 stars. Eric Rohmer gave the film 2 stars.
The seven non-Cahiers critics added another three stars for a toal of eleven stars for this film. Georges Sadoul, Paris-Presse's Michel Aubriant and Arts' Jean-Louis Bory all bulleted the film.
Ten best list: Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and Luc Moullet all cited this film in the year-end lists for Cahiers.
The Dec63-Jan64 issue of Cahiers was another special issue dedicated to American cinema. for this issues dictionary of American directors, Jean-Luc Godard produced this thumbnail.
"After seven of itching, he decided to no longer bring tragedy to the joke. But much to the contrary to bring the comic to the serious. He took out an insurance policy on cinematographic survival and success invited itself in. Progressively, he threw into the nettles the grand subjects ‘Humane’. Billy became one of the new greats of Hollywood and, while replacing Wyler and Zinneman in the hearts of the exhibitors, he established himself as the worthy inheritor of Lubitsch in the hearts of cinephiles. For he had found once again the soul of the kid, waggishly ’berlinois’, since ruse serves henceforth as tenderness and irony serves as technical know-how. From then “Love in the Afternoon” and Marilyn and in spite one, two, three false steps, ’Irma La Douce’, thanks to the finesse and the acuity of its Panavision, the clarity of the play of Jack and Shirley, the colors of LaShelle, which I like, and Trauner. This sweet Irma I say initials wonderfully a double ascension, at the box-office and as art. The result: a collection of qualities which suffice in a droll manner to transform worldly man into a unaffected cineaste."
"Cahiers du Cinema" Dec63-Jan64 page 178
Godard's American Director thumbnails Cahiers du Cinema Dec63-Jan64 click here

Kiss Me Stupid Apr 1965 no. 163
The film was reviewed by Gérard Guégan. He wrote, in part, "Wilder's cinema rest on a principle equivalent to that of Marivaux's comedies. The page is a woman whom the countess conquers and the world trembles of change at its foundation." Guégan would cite the film as one of the ten best of the year in the January 1966 issue.
the conseil des dix ( appears in March's conseil)
for the young turks; Jean-Louis Comolli gave the film 4 stars, Jacques Rivette, Jean Douchet and Michel Delahaye gave the film 3 stars.
The six non-Cahiers critics chipped in another eight stars for a total of twenty-one stars, including two from Positif 's Robert Benayoun. Jean-Louis Bory and Nouvel-Observateur critic Michel Cournot bulleted this film.
Ten best list:
young turk citings: Charles Bitsch, Jean-Louis Comolli, Jean Douchet, Gérard Guégan and François Truffaut.
Older Cahiers contributor Pierre Kast as well as Positif's Michel Ciment and also Charles Gauteur, Roger Therond and Michel Petris also cited the film in the ten best lists published by Cahiers.
The film was rated 15 among critics and 24 among readers by Cahiers.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Anne Wiazemsky : le mystère Bresson

This is my translation of a review of Anne Wiazemsky's new book Jeune Fille, about her relationship with Robert Bresson during the filming of Au Hasard Balthasar, which appeared in Le Monde on January 11.

Link for the article from Jan 11 issue of Le Monde.

In May 1950, the film critic Jean Douchet went to observe Robert Bresson on the set of Diary of a Country Priest. He made this note, “ (Bresson) works on the actor (Claude Laydu) like a sculptor on clay.” In order to write Jeune Fille [Young Girl] the novel in which she recounts “her ” Bresson of the era of Au Hasard Balthasar, Anne Wiazemsky met Jany Holt and Renée Faure, two of the splendid performers in Les Anges du péché (1943). “He had a way of overpowering you that was very good. You no longer belonged to yourself”, the former remembered. Forty years after her first cinematic experience, like a passing hunch she considers the question which she must answer in her book, “Was he in love with me?”
Jeune Fille is a book deeply moving for its sensitivity, intelligence and simplicity. the intrtwined portraits of a young lady of seventeent years whom is discovered to be the grand-daughter of François Mauriac and the sixty-four year old filmmaker who has already directed Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne, Un Condamné à Mort s'est Echappé, Pickpocket and Le Procès de Jeanne d'Arc. A story of love and of passion, close even to the essence of cinema and creation.
“He’s is going to love you,” Florence (Florence Carrez alias Florence Delay, the actress in Jeanne d’Arc) told Anne, after a first meeting in Breeson’s apartment on île Saint-Louis, in Paris. This was in the spring of 1965. In her notebook, Anne copied this lines excerpted from one of grand-father’s novels, “Happiness is being surrounded by a thousand desires, hearing around yourself the branches crackling”. This was imprecise, new, unsettling like all that was going to follow.
Right off, the time of a reading of extracts of dialogue from Les Anges des Péché by Giradoux. Bresson brought to her the key to the work which awaited her in the role of Marie. “Try to only read the text. Without any ideas. . . Without thinking about it. . . “ Then, an extraordinary project of preparation and appropriation of the future actress began. To the limits of desire, not far, sometimes from true sadism. “It was enough to listen to him and to do what he asked of me without trying to understand, I had to give myself over to him, accept abandoning myself. For reasons that I will never comment on, which suit me perfectly. Even better, I experienced a a lot of pleasure obeying him. I would understand often, afterwards, that this was demanding, indeed appalling, exercise and that many had suffered from it. That was never my case.
However, during the shooting, when he, on a undisclosed request, had an actor strike her violently or even, on many occasions, he wanted to kiss her on the mouth, Anne came to feel, however fleetingly, feelings of repulsion towards this filmmaker so possessive and jealous. She even happened to take, in hiding from Bresson, a lover - her first - in order to escape his control. Ghislain Cloquet, the director of photography, of whom Anne sketches a touching portrait of an attentive and benevolent polar bear, said of Bresson, “He was immense as a filmmaker, But i would never confide my daughter to him, never!” Very quickly, this account addresses the basic questions of creation. “So, just like that, you want to make movies. . .” her grand-father said to her after having read this spectacular scenario, totally built on the story of a donkey and of a young woman. “Pride, cruelty, stupity, sensuality, humiliation and violence are present throughout. it is always the bad which carries the day! It is almost a godless world. you are not fearful to incarnate a young person as roughly handled by life?’ he asked her. This a serious responsibility that you go on, on this unknown road. There will be consequences and I am not aware which ones. . . Inevitably. . .Once the door to the cage opens, the bird flies away. . .But where?” Ten years before, in Le Figaro, 1952’s Nobel Prize winner for literature had written, regarding Diary of a Country Priest, “I see on the screen the face of a young man named Claude Laydu but whom the director Robert Bresson has kneaded and re-kneaded until has become someone else entirely while remaiming himself. Now here is the mystery: thanks to this process, thanks to this method, the sould really comes to the surface, it appears, we see it, we could touch it. . .” On thinks of Carl Dreyer who said, “What I am looking for in my films, what I wish to obtain is to penetrate to the deepest thoughts of my actors, through their most subtle expressions. For it is these expressions which lay bare the nature of the characters, their unconscios feelings, the secrets whixh repose in the depth of the souls.”
During the shooting, Anne Wiazemsky discovered the multiple facets of love. “I became aware of the haapiness of life can be, or more exactly, the happiness of feeling alive.” and then there was the chance of a lifetime, the arrival on the set of Jean-Luc Godard, who wanted to realize, for Cahiers du Cinema, an interview with Robert Bresson: “So, my dear Jean-Luc, you are on the eve of beginning a new film? (. . .) What’s it called? No, no, no, see if I can remember. . . Pierrot le Fou?” Later, Anne will learn that Godard came because he had fallen in love with a photo of her which appeared in Le Figaro and that the meeting with Bresson was only a pretext. “But that’s another story. . .” she writes, enigmatically.
Bresson, godard, another story indeed. In 1967, Anne will see Pierrot le Fou and Masculin Féminin and have the impression that these films are love letters meant for her. She will send a letter to Godard and will become his “Chinoise" . . . On finishing filming Au Hasard Balthasar, Bresson will, however, ask her, in exchange for the role of Guinivere in Lancelot du Lac to never film with anyone other than him.
“I have been happy with you”, Anne told him.
“Me, too. Living near you has given me a great deal. . . your youth has made me young. . . Often I was your age. . . You will understand later on . . . later”
And, thus it is later Anne Wiazemsky will write her best book. A pure wonder.

from Le Monde January 11, 2007

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Bertrand Tavernier on the critics in France

This is my translation of some remarks made by director Bertrand Tavernier on critics which appeared in l'Humanite on the 13 November 1999. The French original is available:
Les excès de la critique

What is targeted is not the critics but the excess of the critics, in brief the triangle, Les Inrocks, Le Monde and Liberation. We are getting tired of certain insults, of being more poorly considered than politicians, of being treated like complete jackasses, like dinosaurs, like collaborators, like vichyists, to public pannings before the film's release. As for myself, I was panned twice in the dailies for "It All Starts Today" on Thursday was released on Friday as though there was a public health emergency warning against the film. When, at Le Monde, Jean de Baroncelli did not care for a film which he judged merited a minimum of consideration, he wrote his review on Monday. A segment of our spectators still the critics while those of the major American films do not read them. When Armageddon gets panned, this does not lose it one spectator, it goes differently for the films by Claire Denis, Emmanuel Finkel or me. This makes us vulnerable.
From all of this is born a kind of frustration with some people who want to say watch out, fire off a warning shot, to tell the critics, start asking yourselves questions. Catchy headlines like “the Cretins to the Lions” when Resnais is at Venice or “a Chronicle of Bullshit Heralded” when Francesco Rosi is at Cannes are insufferable. Of what point is a negative review of “star Wars” if it sits beside six pages of feature writing. Having a critic dare to write that the idea of having to watch “Captain Conan” makes him want to change professions when I am still editing it is not tolerable. When Robert Benayoun was slashing and unjust with Godard, it was in the name of the films he was going to make when he became a filmmaker, not to apply for a job as the minister directing the Cannes Festival or to have a broadcast in preparation for radio or television. A war on critics is not being made, just on critics who, to defend one film, strike out at six others. In that époque, Eric Rohmer would say, “Let’s begin by talking about films that we like. The person who likes the film the most should cover it.” So reasoned Jean de Baroncelli, Jean-Louis Bory and Michel Perez. Everyone benefits when a strong critic defends strong films. I ask the critics to become passionate again. Directors are united to defend illegal immigrants, to combat against the AMI, to go to Seattle for the meetings of the World Trade Organiztion, Fantastic new films are being announced, I am proud to be one with these people. Patrice Leconte’s anger is born out of a text which accidentally came into public hands, but it still exists, from errors which show the critics to be rougher than the patrons of Gaumont or the UGC. That is why the Society of Writers, Directors and Producers is going to denounce people who ask to see films on cassette, the critics who it is impossible to get to come to projections or an enormous place dedicated to interviews, which makes the directors do the work of the critics.


Monday, January 08, 2007

A Certain Tendency of French Cinema

translators note: What follows is a translation of François Truffaut article "Une Certaine Tendance of Cinema Francaise" which was first published in Cahiers du Cinema in January 1954. One important and, usually, not discussed, point. This articles starting point is the final sentence of Andre Bazin's article "The Diary of a Country Priest and the stylistics of Robert Bresson" which was, “After ‘The Diary of a Country Priest‘, Aurenche and Bost are nothing more than the Viollet-Leduc of adaptation.” Even though, Bazin, who oversaw the writing of this article, did have some disagreements with this article, a knowledge of his article is necessary to understanding Truffaut's.
One small point, the term "Tradition of Quality" was coined by Jean-Pierre Barrot for the magazine L'Ecran Français in praise of these films about a year before Truffaut's article.

Note 12-14-2010: Translation edited to correct misspellings and clarify some poor original translations. Also, the end-notes were added.

Another reminder here, my inquiry into certain aspects of the controversy surrounding the writing of this article, "The Bernanos Letter" is available though this link.

A Certain Tendency of French Cinema

These notes have no object other than to define a certain tendency of French cinema, a tendency spoken of as psychological realism, and to sketch out some of its limitations.

Ten or Twelve films

While the French film industry produces about a hundred films every year, it is rightly understood that only ten or twelve merit retaining the attention of critics and film-lovers, and, thus, the attention of this magazine Cahiers du Cinema. These ten or twelve films make up what has been referred to notably as the Tradition of Quality. By their ambition, they compel the admiration of the foreign press, twice every year defending France’s colors at Cannes and at Venice, where, since 1946, they have quite regularly corralled medals, golden lions and grand prizes.
At the beginning of the sound period, French cinema was an honest marked-down copy of American cinema. Influenced by Scarface, we made the entertaining Pepe Le Moko. From that point, French screenwriting owes its most definite progress to Jacques Prevert, and Quai des Brumes (Port of Shadows) lives on as the masterpiece of the school spoken of as “poetic realism”.
The war and the post-war years have transformed our cinema. It has evolved through internal pressure and in the place of “poetic realism” - which can be said to have died out, closing behind itself The Gates of Night (The Portes de la Nuit) - “psychological realism” represented by Claude Autant-Lara, Jean Delannoy, René Clément, Yves Allgret and Marcel Pagliero, was substituted.

Films of Screenwriters

If we rightly remind ourselves that not long ago, Jean Delannoy directed Le Bossu and La Part de l'ombre, Claude Autant-Lara, Le Plombier amoureux and Lettres d'amour, and Yves Allegret, La Boîte aux rêves and Les Démons de l'aube, and that all of these films are properly known as strictly commercial ventures, we must admit that the success or failure of these filmmakers was a function of the screenplays that they chose. La Symphonie pastorale, Le Diable au corps, Jeux interdits, Manèges, Un homme marche dans la ville are basically films of screenwriters. Then, is the unquestionable evolution of French cinema due essentially to the transformation of scenarists and subjects, to the audacity taken vis-a-vis masterpieces, and finally to the trust given to the public to be sensitive with subjects generally characterized as difficult? That is why the only question here will be of scenarists, those who, precisely, are at root-source of psychological realism, the core of the Tradition of Quality: Jean Aurenche et Pierre Bost, Jacques Sigurd, Henri Jeanson (recent work), Robert Scipion, Roland Laudenbach, etc...

It Is Well Known Today

After having tried his hand at directing, shooting two forgotten short films, Jean Aurenche has specialized in adaptation. In 1936, he received credit, with Jean Anouilh, for writing the dialogue of Vous n'avez rien à déclarer and Les Dégourdis de la 11e. At the same time Pierre Bost was publishing in the NRF (Nouvelle Revue Francaise) some excellent novellas. Aurenche and Bost collaborated for the first time on Douce , writing the adaptation and the dialogue, which Claude Autant-Lara directed. No one today is unaware that Aurenche and Bost have transformed adaptation by shattering the idea that had been had of it, and that, for the earlier bias for the letter of the text, they have, one could say, substituted a respect for the spirit of the text, to the point that one of them has recently written this impudent aphorism: “An honest adaptation is a betrayal” (Carlo Rim, "Travelling et Sex-appeal").


The process called equivalence is the touchstone of adaptation as Bost and Aurenche practice it. This process assumes that there are in the novel being adapted scenes that are filmable and scenes that are not filmable and that instead of eliminating the latter (as was done not too long ago), scenes should be invented that the writer of the novel might have written for a film version. “To invent without betraying” is the order of the day that Aurenche and Bost like to cite, forgetting that one can also betray by omission. Aurenche and Bost’s system is so appealing in the enunciation of its principles that no one has ever thought to check its practice exhaustively.
This is just what I propose to do here.
The reputation of Aurenche and Bost rests wholely on two specific points;

1) Faithfulness to the spirit of the works that they are adapting.
2) The talent they bring into it.

This Much Spoken of Faithfulness

Since 1943, Aurenche and Bost have adapted and written the dialogue together for, Douce by Michel Davet. La Symphonie Pastorale by Andre Gide, Le Diable Au Corps by Raymond Radiguet, Un Recteur a L'Ile de Sein (film version Dieu a besoin des hommes) by Queffelec, Les Jeux Inconnus (Jeux interdits) by François Boyer, Le blé en herbe by Colette. Moreover, they have written an adaptation of Journal d'un curé de campagne which was never filmed, a screenplay dealing with Jeanne d'Arc only a part of which has recently been realized (by Jean Delannoy) and lastly the scenario and dialogue for L'auberge rouge (brought to the screen by Claude Autant-Lara).
Note the profound diversity of inspiration of the adapted works and authors. In order to achieve this tour de force of remaining consistently faithful to the spirit of Michel Davet, Andre Gide, Raymond Radiguet, Henri Queffelec, Francois Boyer, Colette, and Georges Bernanos, it is necessary to possess, I imagine, a mental agility, an uncommon multiplication of personality, as well as a singular eclecticism.
It must be remembered that Aurenche and Bost have been drawn into collaboration with the most diverse of directors; Jean Delannoy, for example, conceives of himself gladly as a mystic moralist. But the trifling lowness of Garcon Sauvage, the meanness of La Minute De Verite , the triviality of La Route Napoleon show very well the inconsistency of that calling. Claude Autant-Lara. on the other hand, is well-known for his non-conformism, his “advanced” ideas, and his ferocious anti-clericalism. Let us recognize in this filmmaker the merit of always remaining true to himself. Pierre Bost being the technician of the tandem, it is Jean Aurenche to whom it would seem one can be attributed the spiritual share of their common tasks . Educated by the Jesuits, Jean Aurenche has retained quite at once the nostalgia and the rebellion of that experience. If he flirted with surrealism, he seems to have sympathized with anarchists groups in the 1930s. Must I say more about how strong is personality is and also how that personality is incompatible with that of Gide, of Bernanos, of Queffelec and of Radiguet. But an examination of the works will, certainly, teach us more.
Father Amédée Ayffre knew very well how to analyze La Symphonie Pastorale and to delineate the relationship of the written work to the filmed work. “A reduction of faith to religious insight in Gide’s work, against now a reduction to rather limited insight. . . This decline of quality will be matched now, according to a law well known to aestheticians, by a increase in quantity. They will add two new characters: Piette and Casteran made responsible to represent certain feelings. Tragedy becomes drama, even melodrama ("Dieu au cinéma", p.131).
What troubles me about this much talked about process of equivalence is that I am not at all certain that a novel includes scenes that are not filmable, and yet less certain that the scenes ordained as not filmable be so for everyone. Praising Robert Bresson for his faithfulness to Georges Bernanos, Andre Bazin finished his excellent article, “The Style of Robert Bresson” with these words, “After The Diary of a Country Priest, Aurenche and Bost are nothing more than the Viollet-Leduc of adaptation.”
All those who know well and admire Bresson’s film remember the admirable scene in the confessionnal where Chantal’s face “began to appear little by little, by degrees” (Georges Bernanos). When several years prior to Bresson, Aurenche had written an adaptation of Diary of a Country Priest, an adaptation rejected by Georges Bernanos, Aurenche judged that scene to be not filmable and substituted the scene reproduced here:

Do you want me to hear you here?” (He points to the confessional.)
I never go to confession.
Yet, you must have gone to confess yesterday since you received communion this morning.
I did not receive communion.
He looks at her, very surprised.
Pardon me I gave you communion.
Chantal moves hurriedly towards the pew that she had occupied that morning.
Come and see.
The priest follows her. Chantal points to the missal she had left there.
Look in this book, Father. I probably no longer have the right to touch it.
The priest, most intrigued, opens the book and discovers there, between two pages, the host that Chantal had spit out. His face is dumbfounded and shattered.
I spit the host out. ”, Chantal says.
I see.”, the priest says with detachment.
You have never seen that, have you?”, Chantal says, hard and almost triumphant.
No, never”, the priest says, appearing calm.
And do you know what must be done?
The priest closes his eyes for a brief second, thinking it over or praying. He says, “This is very simple to repair, Miss. But it is horrible to commit.”
He heads towards the altar carrying the open book. Chantal follows him.
No, it is not horrible, what is horrible is to receive the host in a state of sin.“
So you are in a state of sin?
Less than others. but it is all the same to them.”
Do not judge.
I don’t judge, I condemn.” Chantal says, violently.
Be quiet before the body of Christ.”
He kneels before the altar, takes the host from the book and shallows it.

A discussion on faith in the middle of the novel pitted the priest against an obtuse atheist named Arsene. “When one dies, everything dies”. This discussion in the Aurenche-Bost adaptation takes place over the priest’s grave between Arsene and a different priest and ends that film. “When one dies, everything dies” would have been the last line of that film. The one that carried it. Maybe, the only one that the public remembered. Bernanos did not conclude with, “When one dies, everything dies” but “Whatever happens, all is grace”.
“To invent without betrayal”, you say. It seems to me to be a case of quite a little bit of invention for a great deal of betrayal. A detail or two still. Aurenche and Bost could not make Diary of a Country Priest because Bernanos was living. Robert Bresson has declared that, Bernanos being alive, he would have taken more liberty with the book. So, Aurenche and Bost are inconvenienced by Bernanos’ being alive, while Robert Bresson is inconvenienced by Bernanos’ being dead.

The Mask Torn Off

From a simple reading of this excerpt, this emerges:

1) A continual and deliberate problems of infidelity to the spirit as to the letter.
2) A very noticeable taste for profanity and blasphemy.

The infidelity to the spirit taints as well Le Diable Au Corps that story of love which became a film both anti-militarist and anti-bourgeois, La Symphonie Pastorale, Gide’s story of an amorous pastor becomes Béatrix Beck, Un Recteur de L’ile de Sein, (whose title they swapped for the suggestive Dieu a Besoin des Hommes) in which the islanders are shown to us like the memorable “cretins” of Bunuel’s Land Without Bread.
As for the taste for blasphemy, it shows itself constantly, in a manner more or less insidious, according to the subject, the director, indeed even the star.
I recall from memory the confessional scene in Douce, Martha’s burial in Le Diable Au Corps, the profaned hosts in their adaptation of Diary of a Country Priest ( a scene transferred to Dieu a besoin des hommes), the complete screenplay and Fernandel’s character in L’Auberge Rouge, all the scenario of Jeux Interdits, (the brawl in the cemetery).
All of this points out that Aurenche and Bost are writers of openly anti-clerical films, but as films featuring cassocks are the style, our authors have taken to bowing to this style. But - they think - that in order to not betray their convictions, the thesis of blasphemy and profanation, the dialogue of double-entendres, they prove, here and there. to friends that they know the art of “screwing the producer” while giving him satisfaction, and “screwing” the just as satisfied general public.
This process deserves the name “alibism”: it is excusable and its use is a necessity in an epoque when one is required to constantly feign stupidity in order to work intelligently. But, if it is the good war to “screw the producer”, is it not a bit outrageous to thus “re-write” Gide, Bernanos and Radiguet?
In truth, Aurenche and Bost work like all the screenwriters of the world, as Spaak or Natanson did before the war. In their mind, the whole story is comprise of the characters A B C D. At the heart of this equation, all is organized by function of criteria known to them alone. The sleeping around occurs according to a well-planned collective symmetry, some characters disappear as others are invented, little by little the script distances itself from the original becoming something that is rough yet glossy, Step by step, a new film makes its solemn entry into the Tradition of Quality.

Very Well, You Will Say To Me

You will say to me, “We’ll agree that Aurenche and Bost are not faithful, but, do you then deny their talent?” Talent, indeed, is not a function of fidelity, but I can imagine a worthy adaptation only if written by a man of cinema. Aurenche and Bost are basically men of literature and I criticize them here for holding film in contempt by underestimating it. They behave toward the scenario like someone who thinks that they are reforming a delinquent by finding him work. They always believe themselves to be “doing the maximum” by paring its subtlety, that science of nuance that makes short shrift of modern novels. Meanwhile, there is not the least traverse interpretation of our art in thinking we grace it by using literary jargon. (Don’t they speak of Sartre and Camus in the work of Pagliero, and of phenomenology in the work of Allegret?)
In truth, Aurenche and Bost water down the works that they adapt as the evidence shows, either in the direction of betrayal or in the direction of timidity.
Here is quick example: In Radiguet’s Le Diable Au Corps, Francois meets Martha on a platform in a train station. Martha jumps from a moving train; in the film, they meet in a school transformed into a hospital. What is the purpose of this equivalence? To permit the scenarists to bring in anti-militarist elements added to the work, in collaboration with Claude Autant-Lara. Now. it is evident that Radiguet’s idea was cinematic while the scene devised by Aurenche and Bost’s is purely literary. One could, you can believe it, multiply these examples into infinity.

One Day It Will Be Most Necessary

Secrets are kept for only a short time, recipes are revealed, new scientific knowledge becomes the subject of papers at the Academy of Science and, since, to believe Aurenche and Bost, adaptation is an exact science, one day it will be necessary that they apprise us in the name of what standard, in accordance with what system, with what internal, mysterious geometry of the work, do they cut, add to, multiply, divide and “repair” masterpieces? Having once expressed the idea that these equivalences are only timid tricks to skirt the problem, to resolve on the sound track problems that concern the frame, a good cleaning in order to no longer put on the screen anything except for the knowledgeable framing, complicated lighting, polished photography, now all the perennials of “the tradition of quality”, the time comes to examine the films Aurenche and Bost have adapted and written the dialogue for, and to seek the persistence of certain ideas which will explain, but not justify, the constant infidelity of these two screenwriters to the works that they take for “pretext” and “opportunity”.
Summed up in two lines, here is how screenplays treated by Aurenche and Bost reveal themselves.
La Symphonie pastorale: He is a pastor. He loves and he has no right to.
Le Diable au corps: They make love and they have no right to.
Dieu a besoin des hommes: He says Mass, gives blessings and the last Sacraments and he has no right to.
Jeux interdits: They bury and they have no right to.
Le Blé en herbe: They love each other and they have no right to.
You may well tell me that I also recount here the story of the novel, which I do not deny. But I would remind you that Gide has also written: "La Porte etroite", Radiguet : "Le Bal du Comte d'Orgel", and Colette : "La Vagabonde", and that not one of these novels has tempted Delannoy or Autant-Lara. Let me also point out screenplays, which I do not believe it would be useful to speak of here, that accord with my theory: Au delà des grilles, Le Château de verre, L'Auberge rouge ... Thus the skill of the promoters of the Tradition of Quality to chose only subjects which lend themselves to the misunderstandings on which the whole system rests. Under the cover of literature, and - of course, of quality - they give the public its customary dose of gloom, non-conformity and facile audaciousness.

The Influence of Bost and Aurenche is Huge

Writers who have compose film dialogue observe the same imperatives; Anouilh, between the dialogue for Dégourdis de la 11e and Un caprice de Caroline chérie, has introduced his universe into more ambitious films, a universe which is awash in a bitterness of disorder, with Nordic mists transposed to Brittany (Pattes blanches) as a background. Another writer, Jean Ferry, also conforms to the fashion and the dialogue for Manon could very well have been written by Aurenche and Bost. “He thinks I am a virgin, and in real life, he’s a professor of psychology.” No better to hope for from young screenwriters. Simply, they are taking over, being careful not to play around with any of the taboos. Jacques Sigurd, a newcomer to “scenario and dialogue”, teams up with Yves Allegret. Together, they have furnished French cinema with some of it blackest masterpieces. Dédée d'Anvers, Manèges, Une si jolie petite plage, Les Miracles n'ont lieu qu'une fois and La jeune folle. Jacques Sigurd has very quickly adapted himself to the formula. He must be endowed with an admirable disposition for syntheses as his screenplays oscillate between Aurenche and Bost, Prevert, and Clouzot, the whole being glibly modernized. Religion never plays its role, but blasphemy always makes its timid entrance thanks to some little angels or good sisters who cut across the screen when their presence is most unexpected. (Manèges, Une si jolie petite plage). Crudity, through which they aspire to “stir the guts of the bourgeios”, is found in lines like “He is old, he could croak” (Manèges) In Une si jolie petite plage Jane Marken envies the prosperity of Berck because of its tuberculosis patients: their families come to visit them and they bring their trade. (Think of the prayer of The Rector de l'Ile de Sein).
Roland Laudenbach, who would seem to be the most gifted of his brethren, has collaborated on the most typical films of this state of mind: La Minute de vérité, Le Bon Dieu sans confession, La Maison du silence. Robert Scipion is a gifted man of letters; he has written only one book, a privately printed book of pastiche; he daily frequents the cafes of Saint-Germain-des-Prés; he has the friendship of Marcel Pagliero who is called the Sartre of cinema probably because his films resemble articles in “Les Temps Modernes”. Here is some dialogue from Les Amants de Brasmort a populist film whose “heroes” are seamen, as the dockers are the heroes of Un homme marche dans la ville, “Woman are friends who are made to bed down.” “You do what procures for yourself, for that you will get up on anyone, you can say that again.” In one reel of film towards its end, in less than six minutes, the words “ slut, whore, bitch and bullshit” can be heard. Now, is this realism?

Thinking Back to Prevert

Considering the monotony and steadfast baseness of the scripts of today, one finds oneself thinking back to the scripts of Jacques Prevert. He believes in the devil, and thus, in God. And, if most of his characters were burdened by all the sins of creation through this lone whim, room still was left for a couple, a new Adam and Eve, on whom, as the film ends, the story is going to recommence for the better.

Psychological realism; not real, not psychological

Barely only seven or eight screenwriters are working regularly in French cinema. Each of these screenwriters has only one story to tell and each aspires to success at the “deux grands; it is no exaggeration to say that the one hundred or so French films shot each year recount the same story: the victim, in general, a cuckold. (This cuckold would be the only sympathetic character in the film, if he was not immensely ridiculous: Blier-Vilbert, etc.). The deceit of those close to him and the devote hatred borne between his family members, lead the “hero” to his ruin, the injustice of life and, for local color, the meanness of all others (the priests, caretakers, neighbors, passers-by, the rich and the poor, the soldiers etc)
Amuse yourself through long winter evenings trying to find the titles of the French films which do not conform within this framework and, while you are there, discover in which of these films this sentence or its equivalent does not figure as dialogue spoken by the film’s most contemptible couple. “There are always those who have money ( or ’luck’, or ’love’, or ’happiness’ ), oh! things are so unjust right to the end”. This school which aims for realism always destroys it right at the exact moment of reaching it, so anxious is it to contain its characters in a sealed-off world, barricaded there by formulas, word games, and maxims, which let them show off what they are, right in front of our eyes. The artist cannot always dominate his work. He is sometimes its God, other times its creature. One knows the modern play whose main character, in peak form when the curtain rises, finds himself fully amputated as the play ends, as a successive loss of each of his limbs having marked the changing of the acts. Curious world where the least failed of actors uses the word Kafkaesque to denote its domestic modifications. This kind of cinema comes straight out of literature, half Franz Kafka, half Emma Bovary! Films are no longer shot in France except if the authors believe that they are rewriting “Madame Bovary”. For the first time in French literature, authors adopt a far away relationship as regards to their subject, that subject becoming like an insect encircled under an entomologist’s microscope. But, if, at the beginning of his enterprise, Flaubert might have said, “I’ll drag them all through the mud -- with justification” (such as the authors of today would so gladly make for their epigraph), he had to declare after the fact, “Madame Bovary, that is me” and, I doubt that today’s authors could repeat this sentence in the own personal manner.

Staging, the Director, and the Texts

The subject of these notes is limited to an examination of film solely in point of view of screenplays and screenwriters. But I think I should state that directors are and should want to be responsible for the scenarios and the dialogue that they delineate. Films of screenwriters, I wrote earlier, and indeed Aurenche and Bost will not contradict me. When they hand in their screenplay, the film is finished; the director, in their eyes, is the fellow who puts frames around that screenplay. And, alas, that is the truth. I spoke of this mania for adding burial sequences everywhere. And yet, death is always sidestepped in these films. Let us remember the realistic death of Nana or of Emma Bovary in the Renoir films. In La Symphonie Pastorale, death is simply an exercise in make-up and cinematography. Compare a close-up of the dead Michele Morgan in that film with Dominique Blanchard in Le Secret de Mayerling and with Madeleine Sologne dans L'Eternel retour, it is the same visage. Everything happens after death.
Let us cite this declaration from Jean Delannoy that with perfidy we will dedicate to French screenwriters. “When it happens that talented authors, either in the chase for money or through weakness, surrender one day to film-writing, they do it with a deep sense of having abased themselves. They give in more to a strange effort towards mediocrity, anxious as they are of not compromising their talent, and some, in order to write for the cinema, must understand themselves from the bottom.” (La Symphonie pastorale or L'Amour du métier, in the journal Verger, November 1947). I must immediately challenge a sophism which you will not fail to confront me with as an argument. “This dialogue is spoken by scoundrels and to better expose their baseness we furnish them with this tough language. This is our way of being moralists.” To which, I reply that it is inaccurate that these words are mouthed by the most wretched characters.
Indeed, in “psychological realist” cinema, there are nothing but ignoble characters, so much do the authors claim a superiority over their characters that those who, by some chance, are not revolting are immensely grotesque. Finally, these abject characters who speak these abject words, I know a handful of men in France who are incapable of conceiving them, some filmmakers whose vision of the world is at least as worthy as that of Aurenche and Bost, or Jacques Sigurd and Henri Jeanson. I am speaking here of Jean Renoir, Robert Bresson, Jéan Cocteau, Jacques Becker, Abel Gance, Max Ophuls, Jacques Tati and Roger Leenhardt. This is a group of French filmmakers and we find - curious coincidence - that they are authors who often write their own dialogue and sometimes invent the stories that they put up on the screen.

I am Still Going to be Told

“But why“, I am still going to be told, “why can you not bring a similar appreciation to all the filmmakers who work at the center of this Tradition of Quality which you mock so freely? Why not admire Yves Allegret as much as Jacques Becker, Jean Delannoy as much as Robert Bresson, or Claude Autant-Lara as much as Jean Renoir?” Well, I do not believe in the peaceful co-existence of the Tradition of Quality and the cinema of auteurs. At base, Yves Allegret and Jean Delannoy are but caricatures of Henri-Georges Clouzot or Robert Bresson. It’s not the desire to cause a scandal that leads me to deprecate a cinema so praised elsewhere. I remained convinced that the unduly prolonged existence of “psychological realism” is the cause of the public’s incomprehension when confronted by works as new in concept as “Le Carrosse d'or“, “Casque d'or“, and, indeed “Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne” and “Orphée“.
Long live that gall, indeed. Still it needs to be revealed where it is truly. At the end of this year, 1953, were it necessary for me to make a catalogue of the audacities of French cinema, you would not find there the vomiting of “Les Orgueilleux”, nor the refusal of Claude Laydu to be blessed with holy water in “Le Bon Dieu sans confession”, nor the pederasty of the characters in “Le Salaire de la peur“, but rather Mr. Hulot’s pace, the maid’s soliloquies in “La Rue de l'Estrapade“, the staging of “Le Carrosse d'or“, the direction of the actors in “Madame de”, as well as Abel Gance’s experiments with multiple screen projection. You will have to understand that these are the audacities of men of cinema and not of scenarists, of metteurs-en-scene and not of mere scribblers. I will hold up as an example the significant failure that the most brilliant directors and scenarists of the Tradition of Quality encounter when they venture into comedy: Ferry-Clouzot: “Miquette et sa mère“, Sigurd-Boyer: “Tous les chemins mènent à Rome“, Scipion-Pagliero: “La Rose rouge“, Laudenbach-Delannoy: “La Route Napoléon“, Aurenche-Bost and Autant-Lara: “L'Auberge rouge” or if you want “Occupe-toi d'Amélie”. Anyone who has ever attempted to write a screenplay knows very well that comedy is the most difficult of genres, that which asks the most work, the most talent and also the most humility.

All Things Bourgeois

The dominant trait of psychological realism is an anti-bourgeois disposition. But what are Aurenche and Bost, Sigurd, Jeanson, Autant-Lara, and Allegret, if not bourgeois? And what are the fifty thousand new readers who never fail to attend each film based on a novel, if not bourgeois? What is the merit of an anti-bourgeois cinema made by the bourgeois for the bourgeois? How well we know that workers rarely appreciate this kind of cinema even when it aims to identify with them. They refused to recognize themselves as the stevedores of “Un homme marche dans la ville” or as the seamen of “Les Amants de bras-mort “ Maybe it is necessary to send the children out onto the landing in order to make love, but their parents scarcely like to hear themselves say it, especially on film, even “benevolently”. If the public likes to slum under the guise of literature, it also likes doing it under the guise of social issues. We perceive that perhaps the working class prefers simple little foreign films because these show people such as they ought to be and not such as Aurenche and Bost believe they are.

As One Palms Off a Good Address

It is always good to conclude, that pleases everyone. It is noteworthy that the “great” directors and the “great” scenarists all made little films a long time ago and that the talent that they brought there did not suffice to distinguish them from the others (those who did not bring talent). It is also noteworthy that they have also come to Quality at the same time, as one palms off a good address. And then a producer earns more - and even a director - earns more money making Le Ble en Herbe than The Passionate Plumber. “Courageous” films reveal themselves to be profitable. The proof: Ralph Habib abruptly renounces the semi-pornographic, directs Les Compagnes de la nuit and declares himself Cayatte.
Now what prevents Andre Tabet, Jacques Companeez, Jean Guitton, Pierre Very, Jean Laviron, Yves Ciampi, Gilles Grangier from, overnight, making intellectual cinema, from adapting the masterpieces (if any remain), and, of course, of adding burials all over the place? Thus, on that day, we will be in the "Tradition of Quality" up to our necks and French cinema, looking to surpass itself with “psychological realism”, with “harshness”, with “strictness”, with “double meaning” will no longer be anything other than a vast burial ground where one could exit the Billancourt studio to enter quite directly the cemetery which seems to have been placed along side it quite expressly in order to pass straightaway from producer to gravedigger. Only, by means of repeating to the public which it identifies with the “heroes’ of its films, it will in the end believe this and, on that day when it will understand that this great big cuckold of misadventure whom they are solicited to pity (a little) and to laugh at (a lot) is not, as they thought, their cousin or their neighbor across the hall, but themselves; and this abject family, their family, this scoffed religion, their religion; and thus, on that day, they risks showing themselves ungrateful towards a cinema which is applying itself to show life such as one sees it on a fourth floor on Saint-Germain-des-Pres. Certainly, I have to recognize it, of passion and even of prejudice overseeing the deliberately pessimistic scrutiny that I have undertaken of a certain tendency of French cinema. I am assured that this well-known school of psychological realism has to be, in order that Le Journal d'un curé de campagne, Le Carrosse d'or, Orphée, Casque d'or, and Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot can in their turn can be. But our authors who want to elevate the public have to understand that, maybe, they have deviated from from the primary roads to engage it for those, subtler, of psychology. They have pass into the sixth class so dear to Jouhandeau but a class can not be redoubled indefinitely.


1. La Symphonie pastorale. Characters added for the film: Piette, Jacques’ fianceé; Casteran, Piette’s father. Characters cut out, three children of the pastor. In the film. no mention is made of what became of Jacques after Gertrude’s death. In the book, Jacques takes holy orders.
“Operation La Symphonie pastorale” 1) André Gide himself writes an adaptation of his book; 2) This adaptation is deemed “unfilmable”; 3) In their turn, Jean Aurenche and Jean Delannoy write an adaptation; 4) Gide rejects this; 5) Pierre Bost joins the team placating everyone.

2. Le Diable au corps. During one of Andre Parinaud’s radio broadcasts, Claude Autant-Lara asserted substantially this, "What lead me to make a film based on “Le Diable au corps” was my view that it is an anti-war novel". On the same broadcast, François Poulenc, a friend of Raymond Radiguet, spoke of never recognizing the book while watching the film.

3. Jean Aurenche (who would have directed Journal d'un curé de campagne) replied to the prospective producer who was astonished to see the character of Dr. Delbende eliminated, “Maybe in ten years a screenwriter will be able to retain a character who dies half-way through the film, I don’t think myself capable of that.” Three years later, Robert Bresson retained Dr. Delbende and had him die half-way through the film.

4. Aurenche and Bost never have said that they are “faithful”. The critics did that.

5. Le Blé en herbe. Colette’s novel has been adapted since 1946. Claude Autant-Lara accused Roger Leenhardt of having plagiarized it with Les Dernières vacances. In arbitration, Maurice Garçon ruled against Claude Autant-Lara.
With Aurenche and Bost, the plot dreamt up by Colette was enhanced with a new character, that of “Dick” a lesbian who lived with the “White Lady” [main character of the novel and film]. this character was eliminated a few weeks before shooting commenced on the film by Mme. Ghislaine Auboin who “reviewed” the adaptation with Claude Autant-Lara.

6. Aurenche and Bost characters tend to speak in truisms. Some examples:
La Symphonie pastorale: “Oh, children such as that, it would be better if they were not born” -- “Not everyone has the luck to be born blind” -- “A disabled person is someone who pretends to be like everyone.”
Le Diable au corps (A soldier has lost a leg): “Maybe this is the last one wounded.” -- “That will make a beautiful leg for him.”
Jeux Interdits (Forbidden Games): Francis: “What does it mean ‘the cart before the horse’.” Berthe: “Like okay, it is what we are doing.(they are making love.)” Francis: “I am at a loss why that is said.”

7. Jean Aurenche was a member of the crew of Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne but he had to part company with Bresson due to an incompatibility of inspiration.

8. An extract of the dialogue by Aurenche and Bost for Jeanne d’Arc was published in La Revue du Cinema (no. 8, page 9)

9. In fact, psychological realism originates parallel to poetic realism with the tandem Spaak-Feyder. Someday, it will be quite necessary to commence an ultimate quarrel “Feyder” before that one falls into complete oblivion.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Eric Rohmer's 10 best films - Cahiers du Cinema 1954 -1964

Rohmer’s list for 1954 is attributed to him as “Maurice Scherer” which is his actual name.
1…….Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks)
2…….The Blue Gardenia (Fritz Lang)
3…….Touchez pas au Grisbi (Jacques Becker)
4…….River of no Return (Otto Preminger)
5…….Mogambo (John Ford)
6…….It Should Happen to You (George Cukor)
7…….Gate of Hell (Teinosuke Kinugasa)
8…….Ruby (King Vidor)
9…….Monika (Ingmar Bergman)
10…...Monsieur Ripois (René Clément)
1…….Voyage en Italie (Roberto Rossellini)
………Ordet (Carl Theodore Dreyer)
3…….Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock)
………To Catch a Thief (Alfred Hitchcock)
5…….The Barefoot Contessa (Joseph L Mankiewicz)
6…….The Big Knife (Robert Aldrich)
7…….Lola Montes (Max Ophuls)
8…….A Star Is Born (George Cukor)
9…….La Strada (Federico Fellini)
10…...French Cancan (Jean Renoir)
1......Mr. Arkadin (Orson Welles)
........Elena and her Men (Jean Renoir)
........A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson)
4......Man who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock)
........Fear (Roberto Rossellini)
6......The Saga of Anahatan (Joseph von Sternberg)
7......While the City Sleeps (Fritz Lang)
8......The Last Frontier (Anthony Mann)
9......Rebel without a Cause (Nicholas Ray)
10....Smiles of a Summer Night (Ingmar Bergman)
1......The Wrong Man (Alfred Hitchcock)
2......Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (Frank Tashlin)
3......Bigger Than Life (Nicholas Ray)
4......The Girl Can’t Help It (Frank Tashlin)
5......Bitter Victory (Nicholas Ray)
6......The Crucified Lovers (Kenji Mizoguchi)
7......Sunset of a Clown (Ingmar Bergman)
8......Designing Woman (Vincente Minelli)
9......Men in War (Anthony Mann)
10....Assassins et Voleurs (Sacha Guitry)
1......The Quiet American (Joseph L Mankiewicz)
2......Bonjour Tristesse (Otto Preminger)
3......Dreams (Ingmar Bergman)
4......The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman)
5......Secrets of Woman (Ingmar Bergman)
6......Summer Interlude (Ingmar Bergman)
7......Les Girls (George Cukor)
8......Touch of Evil (Orson Welles)
9......Mon Oncle (Jacques Tati)
10....Une Vie (Alexander Astruc)
1......Ivan the Terrible (Sergei Eisenstein)
2......Tales of Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi)
3......Le Dejeuner sur L’ Herbe (Jean Renoir)
4......Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks)
5......Pickpocket (Robert Bresson)
6......Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock)
7......Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman)
8......The Cousins (Claude Chabrol)
9......The Four Hundred Blows (François Truffaut)
10....Hiroshima, mon Amour (Alain Resnais)
1......Les Bonnes Femmes (Claude Chabrol)
2......Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard)
3......Psycho (Alfred Hithcock)
4......Sansho the Bailiff (Kenji Mizoguchi)
........Shoot the Piano Player (François Truffaut)
6......Moonfleet (Fritz Lang)
........Party Girl (Nicholas Ray)
........Poem of the Sea (Aleksandr Dovzhenko/Yuliya Solntseva)
9......Les Étoiles de Midi (Gerard Herzog/ Marcel Ichac)
........Le Trou (Jacques Becker)
1......The Human Pyramid (Jean Rouch)
2......The Testament of Dr. Cordelier (Jean Renoir)
3......The Horse That Cried (Mark Donskoy)
4......Two Rode Together (John Ford)
5......Exodus (Otto Preminger)
6......The Diabolical Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang)
7......Lola (Jacques Demy)
8......Les Godelureaux (Claude Chabrol)
9......A Woman is a Woman (Jean-Luc Godard)
10....Leon Morin, Pretre (Jean-Pierre Melville)
1......Le Caporal Èpinglé (Jean Renoir)
2......Hatari (Howard Hawks)
3......Vivre sa Vie (Jean-Luc Godard)
4......Boccaccio ‘70 (Lucchino Visconti)
........Education Sentimentale (Alexander Astruc)
6......Jules and Jum (François Truffaut)
7......Cleo from 5 to 7 (Agnes Varda)
8......Le Rendez-vous de Minuit (Roger Leenhardt)
9......Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Blake Edwards)
10....Love at Twenty (Andrej Wajda sketch)
1......The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock)
2......Trial of Joan of Arc (Robert Bresson)
3......Nine Days in One Year (Mikhail Romm)
........Le Petit Soldat (Jean-Luc Godard)
5......Adieu Philippine (Jacques Rozier)
........Donovan’s Reef (John Ford)
7......Banditi a Orgosolo (Vittorio De Seta)
........Salvatore Giuliano (Francesco Rosi)
Band of Outsiders (Jean-Luc Godard)
Gertrud (Carl Theodore Dreyer)
Man’s Favorite Sport? (Howard Hawks)
Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock)
World Without Sun (Jacques Costeau)
Pour la Suite du Monde (Michel Brault/Michel Carrière)
La Punition (Jean Rouch)
The Silence (Ingmar Bergman)
Thomas Gordiev (Mark Donskoy)
La Vie a l’Envers (Alain Jessua)
Best French Films since the Liberation (January 1965 issue)
1......Le Caporal Èpinglé (Jean Renoir)
(And, in order to not name the other films of Renoir, in alphabetical order)
Adieu Phillipines (Jacques Rozier)
Les Bonnes Femmes (Claude Chabrol)
Les Dernières Vacances (Roger Leenhardt)
Pickpocket (Robert Bresson)
Le Plaisir (Max Ophuls)
La Proie pour l’Ombre (Alexander Astruc)
La Pyramide Humaine (Jean Rouch)
La Vie à l’Envers (Alain Jessua)
Vivre sa Vie (Jean-Luc Godard)

Eric Rohmer did not select a Ten Best American Films of the Sound Era list for the special American Films issue of Dec 63/Jan 64 issue of Cahiers du Cinema.

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