My Gleanings

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Bernanos Letter

A little more than a month ago I began to write a post bit as I wrote I realized that I had more material than could be put in one post. Eventually, I wound up with enough material for ten posts and I decided to spin the whole issue off into a stand-alone blog.

The blog deals with the issue of François Truffaut's borrowing of the rejected screenplay of Diary of a Country Priest from Pierre Bost in order to write his article A Certain Tendency of French Cinema.
Bertrand Tavernier has charged that Truffaut borrowed this screenplay from Bost underhandedly in order to write that article. What Tavernier does not seem to realize is that there already was a controversy and I examine the issue in terms of that controversy.

The URL for that blog should be interested is :

The blog is titled

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Julien Duvivier and François Truffaut

In the spring of 1956, François Truffaut was contacted by Julien Duvivier who proposed that they collaborate on a film. They met in May at Cannes and discussed doing a project together called Grand Amour. As it happened, Duvivier was busy at that time making the film L’Homme à l’Impermeable. In August of that year, Duvivier wrote this letter to Truffaut: “Last night I had a strange dream. You and I were at Le Havre. We were about to embark for America on a huge ocean liner whose name I saw very clearly: "L’Atlantique"….I was inviting you on a trip!!! But when it was time to board, I noticed that I hadn’t booked your passage….You flew into a mad rage, and told me a few plain truths. So I went to see the chief purser, who remembered that I had crossed in 1948 and gave me a cabin. Then all of a sudden we were at sea and I was called to the telephone….I’ll never know who was calling me because at that point I woke up….I would like to have you as a collaborator, if you still desire as well. Let me know what you have been up to recently and what your plans are. Please see me as a friend who thinks highly of you and likes you.”
(Translated by Catherine Temerson and from “Truffaut” by Antoine de Baecque and Serge Toubiana)
This “friend who thought highly of” him was a member of the jury at Cannes in 1959 that awarded Francois Truffaut the award for best direction for Les Quatre Cents Coups (The Four Hundred Blows). In fact, he was the senior director sitting on that jury.
Other film directors on the jury at Cannes in 1958:
Antoni Bohdziewicz (Poland)Michael Cacoyannis (Greece)Sergei Vasilyev (USSR)
Gene Kelly (USA) obviously best known as a dancer but also some directing.
Marcel Achard, the President of that jury, would mostly be known as a playwright and then as a screenwriter but he had directed the film versions of two of his plays and also co-directed two other films.In 1956, Truffaut had famously trashed the film Le Pays, d'où Je Vien which Achard had co-written. ( see Marcel Carné’s memoirs, Ma vie à belle dents for more info there)
The vintage newsreel from the 1959 Cannes festival included with the special features on the Criterion DVD of Les Quatre Cents Coups (The Four Hundred Blows) reveals a sequence at its finish - Jean-Pierre Leaud and Jean Cocteau in the theater for the Cannes showing of the film, cut to Albert Rémy, cut to a slightly overlit shot shot of a prosperous looking middle-aged man over which the narrator tells the audience that even the jury was impressed. That last shot was of Julien Duvivier.

from The Films in My Life by François Truffaut ; translated by Leonard Mayhew. New York : Simon and Schuster, Touchstone Edition 1985, c1978
“When I met Julien Duvivier a little while before his death, and after I had shot my first film, I tried to get him to admit - he was always complaining - that he had had a fine career, varied and full, and that all things considered he had achieved great success and ought to be contented. ‘Sure, I would feel happy ...if there hadn’t been any reviews.’” (page12)

“When I was in Los Angeles in 1974, a great Hollywood actress told me that she would give anything to have the music of “Carnet de Bal” on a cassette. I wish I could have told Duvivier this, while he was still alive.” (page13)

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Jacques Donoil-Valcroze on Paddy Chayevsky

from Cahiers du Cinema June 1959 page 46, Jacques Donoil-Valcroze in a review form the 1959 Cannes Film Festival of the film The Middle of the Night.

Nothing that Paddy Chayevsky does leaves me indifferent, but why the devil doesn't he direct his own stories? On this occasion, it is manifest that Delbert Mann is not at the level of the material.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pierre Braunberger 10 best films Cahiers du Cinema 1954-1967

Pierre Braunberger (IMDb, The Independents of the first century) was once described by Jean-Luc Godard as the "most cinephile of all producers. From the mid 1950s into the later part of the 1960s. Braunberger often participated in Cahiers du Cinema's monthly conseil des dix (council of ten) and contributed just about every year a 10 best films of the year list.
1.....Monsieur Ripoux (René Clément)
.....Touchez pas au grisbi (Jacques Becker)
.....Pane, Amore e Fantasia (Luigi Comencini)
.....From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinneman)
.....Roman Holiday (William Wyler)
.....Okaasan (Mikio Naruse
.....The Wild One (Laszlo Benedek)
.....La Lupa (Alberto Lattuada)
.....Le Blé en herbe (Claude Autant-Lara)
...How to Marry a Millionaire (Jean Negulesco)
11...Robinson Crusoe (Luis Bunuel)
...I Vitelloni (Federico Fellini)
.....Ordet (Carl Theodore Dreyer)
2.....The Big Knife (Robert Aldrich)
3.....La Strada (Federico Fellini)
4.....Lola Montes (Max Ophuls)
5.....Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock)
6.....French Cancan (Jean Renoir)
7.....Les Mauvaises Rencontres (Alexander Astruc)
8.....Rififi (Jules Dassin)
9.....The White Sheik (Federico Fellini)
...Die Letzte Brücke (Helmut Käutner)
.....A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson)
2.....Senso (Luchino Visconti)
.......Attack (Robert Aldrich)
.......Night and Fog (Alain Resnais)
5.....Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray)
6.....Smiles of a Summer Night (Ingmar Bergman)
7.....The Red Balloon (Albert Lamorisse)
8.....Bus Stop (Joshua Logan)
9.....La Traversée de Paris (Claude Autant-Lara)
10...Gervaise (René Clément)
.....Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini)
2.....The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean)
.......The Girl Can't Help It (Frank Tashlin)
4.....12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet)
5.....A King in New York (Charles Chaplin)
6.....Sunset of a Clown (Ingmar Bergman)
7.....A Face in the Crowd (Elia Kazan)
8.....Torero (Carlos Velo)
9.....The 41st (Gregory Chukhrai)
10...Assassins et Voleurs (Sacha Guitry)
.....Il Grido (Michelangelo Antonioni)
2.....Touch of Evil (Orson Welles)
3.....Mon Oncle (Jacques Tati)
4.....Les Amants (Louis Malle)
5.....Dreams (Ingmar Bergman)
.....The Goddess (John Cromwell)
.......Une Vie (Alexander Astruc)
8.....This Angry Age (René Clément)
9.....En cas de malheur (Claude Autant-Lara)
10...Bonjour Tristesse (Otto Preminger)
.....Hiroshima mon Amour (Alain Resnais)
.......The 400 Blows (François Truffaut)
.......Ivan the Terrible (Sergei Eisenstein)
.......Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman)
5.....Big Deal on Madonna Street (Mario Monicelli)
6.....Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock)
7.....Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi)
8.....Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe (Jean Renoir)
9.....Les Cousins (Claude Chabrol)
10...Moi un noir (Jean Rouch)
.....Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard)
2.....Le Trou (Jacques Becker)
3.....Les Bonnes Femmes (Claude Chabrol)
4.....L'Aventura (Michelangelo Antonioni)
5.....Sansho the Bailiff (Kenji Mizoguchi)
6.....Deep in my Heart (Stanley Donen)
7.....The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (Budd Boetticher)
8.....Poem of the Sea (Alexander Dovchenko/Yuliya Solntseva)
9.....Zazie in the Metro (Louis Malle)
10...Shoot the Piano Player (François Truffaut)
.....Last Year In Marienbad (Alain Resnais)
2.....A Woman is a Woman (Jean-Luc Godard)
3.....La Notte (Michelangelo Antonioni)
4.....Lola (Jacques Demy)
5.....Les Godelureaux (Claude Chabrol)
6.....Dov'è la libertà...? (Roberto Rossellini)
.....Mother Joan of the Angels (Jerzy Kawalerowicz)
.....Bellissima (Luchino Visconti)
9.....The Lady with the Dog (Iosif Kheifits)
10...Leon Morin, pretre (Jean-Pierre Melville)
.....Jules and Jim (François Truffaut)
2.....Vivre sa vie (Jean-Luc Godard)
3.....The Trial (Orson Welles)
4....."Antoine et Collette" from Love at Twenty (François Truffaut)
5.....Le Caporal épinglé (Jean Renoir)
6.....Electra (Michael Cacoyannis)
7.....Ride the High Country (Sam Peckinpaugh)
8.....Le Signe du lion (Eric Rohmer)
9.....The Hustler (Robert Rossen)
10...L'Eclisse (Michelangelo Antonioni)
(alphabetical in French )
The Exterminating Angel (Luis Bunuel)
Le Doulos (Jean-Pierre Melville)
Le Feu Follet (Louis Malle)
Eight and a Half (Federico Fellini)
Hands over the City (Francesco Rosi)
Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard)
The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock)
The Trial of Joan of Arc (Robert Bresson)
14-18 (Jean Aurel)
Tom Jones (Tony Richardson)
.....The Soft Skin (François Truffaut)
.....The Terrorist (Gianfranco De Bosio)
3.....A Married Woman (Jean-Luc Godard)
4.....Johnny Cool (William Asher)
5.....Band of Outsiders (Jean-Luc Godard)
6.....The Servant (Joseph Losey)
7.....The Patsy (Jerry Lewis)
8.....The Red Desert (Michelangelo Antonioni)
9.....Lucky Jo (Michel Deville)
...From Russia with Love (Terence Young)
1965 (no list)
(alphabetical in French )
Le Deuxième Souffle (Jean-Pierre Melville)
Fahrenheit 451 (François Truffaut)
La Guerre est finie (Alain Resnais)
L'Homme au Crâne Rasé (André Delvaux)
A Man and a Woman (Claude Lelouch)
Masculin Feminin (Jean-Luc Godard)
Fists in his Pocket (Marco Belocchio)
La Prise de Pouvoir par Louis XIV (Roberto Rossellini)
Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? (William Klein)
Walkover (Jerzy Skolimowski)
.....Vivre pour vivre (Cluade Lelouch)
2.....Week End (Jean-Luc Godard)
3.....Closely Watched Trains (Jiri Menzel)
4.....Daisies (Vera Chytilova)
5.....Shakespeare Wallah (James Ivory)
6.....Intimate Lighting (Ivan Passer)
7.....La Collectioneuse (Eric Rohmer)
8.....La Chinoise (Jean-Luc Godard)
9.....La Religeuse (Jacques Rivette)
10...La Chasse au lion a l'arc (Jean Rouch)


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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Jean-Pierre Melville fingers Henri Decoin

An interesting anecdote from Jean-Pierre Melville showing he had something of le doulos in him which is translated from Le Cinéma selon Jean-Pierre Melville a collection of interviews by Rui Noguiera conducted shortly before died and thus about a decade after his break with Jean-Luc Godard.

Rui Nogueira: “...I ask this question becuase Henri Decoin, shortly before his death, told me that his best film was Tendre et violente Élizabeth which he had had to film with countless financial problems. He believed that thanks to this inconvenience, which had obliged him to resort to invention and imagination, he had obtained a style similar to that of the New Wave.”

Jean-Pierre Melville: “Decoin was not telling you the truth. This is awkward; He was a great comrade and he is dead, but.... I had a longtime chief editor, Claude Durand, who, at that time, was working on that film with Decoin. One day, towards six in the afternoon, she saw him rush like a madman into the editing room crying out, ‘ Remove all my pencil marks, remove them all, all. I want no fades, no continuity shots, nothing... I have just seen Breathless.

translated from page 94 of Le cinéma selon Melville : entretiens / avec Rui Nogueira

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Claude Autant-Lara on the beginnings of Cinemascope

In March of 1967 Cahiers du Cinema published an interview with the director Claude Autant-Lara which was conducted by Jean Narboni and Michel Delahaye. One story that Autant-Lara told them concerned the fate of Henri Chretien's Hypergonar process which had employed for the first time in the late 1920s when Autant-Lara filmed Construire un feu (To Build a Fire) from the Jack London short story. The process was eventually bought from Chretien by 20th Century-Fox and rechristened Cinemascope.

"It was a kind of a documentary based on a story by Jack London and it was the first film shot with Professor Chretien's Hypergonar. The film has been completely destroyed, nothing remains of it. Here is how things began: I disagreed tatally with Abel Gance's views on how to extend the screen. At that time, he was in the process of perfecting his triple screen, thanks to three superposed Debrie cameras. I thought that there certainly had to be another way and it was then that I learned of Professor Chretien's Hypergonar which meanwhile had not been invented by him. Chretien, a very modest scholar, told me that he had simply continued from the work of a German physicist of the 1880s named Lubke - and he showed me, very simply. his source: drawings which he took off from (which already defined the principle of anamorphism) and which he had only corrected and improved. This interested me immensely and, with my meager resources, I undertook shooting a film using the process.
I had great difficulty finishing the film - it took me a year and a half - and following this, no exhibitor wanted to listen to any talk of making a special screen to project it. Luckily, I discovered the Studio Parnasse, not yet closed, which did not have a screen and still projected onto the wall. So, Mr Nachbaur, the father, welcomed my film, we only had to free up a little more wall at the bottom and install the vertical Hypergonar and horiaontal Hypergonar and project. . .
All this went on for about two months. Then, the president of the exhibitor's organization sent a certified letter to Mr Nachbaur (the first of numerous certified letters my fillms earned) serving him notice that, by exhibiting a film using a process quite different from those of his brethren, Studio Parnasse was practicing an unfair competition. Thus, under penalty fo being expelled from the exhibitor's organization, he was ordered to end this film's life.
Mr Nachbaur, very annoyed, asked me to come over. He said to me, "The film works well, but what do you want old friend...I can't disassociate myself from all the other exhibitors." I could do
little other than to leave with me unhappy film under my arm.
It's life was over just like that.
The film did all the same interest quite a few people. And something about it had reached the ears of Americans and Laudy Lawrence asked me to come. It was then that they realized that I spoke English fluently and because of this film I was hired. So, I left and at Professor Chretien's request, I brought several Hypergonar lenses to show to Metro-Goldwyn (who had hired me) this revolutionary process. I said to myself, "At least, they will understand." When I arrived in Culver City, I pointed myself straight at the front office and asked to be seen. I met with albert lewin, a Metro executive, who since then has made a few films - and to whom I explained that I was bringing him a truly new and very interesting process. He passed it on casually to his technical department. That department studied the question for about six months. I waited. Then, one day, the answer came: the process "is of no interest and has no future". This occurred in 1931. It was the same process which fox bought for 50 million [francs] in 1963 [obviously a mistake was made somewhere along the way for the year should be 1953] giving it the name Cinemascope."
Autant-Lara, who had left the negative and prints for the film in storage in Paris while he was employed in Hollywood, then went on to tell how the film was lost because he was sent notices by the storage company of non-payment but he had in Southern California submitted to the practice of frequently changing his address and so those notices never reached him.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Jacques Rozier 10 best films Cahiers du Cinema

Three ten best films list from a man who did not know the meaning of the word "ten".

The Hustler (Robert Rossen)
L'Eclisse (Michelangelo Antonioni)
Les Honneurs de la guerre (Jean Dewever)
Jules and Jim (François Truffaut)
The Ladies Man (Jerry Lewis)
Advise and Consent (Otto Preminger)
Too late Blues (John Cassavetes)
Viridiana (Luis Bunuel)
Vivre sa vie (Jean-Luc Godard)
West Side Story (Robert Wise/Jerome Robbins)

1.....The Disorderly Orderly (Frank Tashlin)
.......Help! (Richard Lester)
3.....Le Bonheur (Agnes Varda)
.......Il Momento della Verita (Francesco Rosi)
.......Paris vu par... (various)
.......Pierrot le fou (Jean-Luc Godard)
.......The Sandpiper (Vincente Minelli)

Best French Film since the Liberation (Jan 1965)
(memories somewhat mixed)

Zero de conduite
Les Enfants de Voyage-surprise
Le Carosse du casque d'or
A bout de mepris
La Belle et le plein soleil
Farrebique, mon amour
Manon d'Arc
Zazie dans le bataille du rail
Le Dejeuner sur l'herbe de la partie de campagne
Touchez pas aux dames du Bois de Boulogne

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Godard saves Positif.

In his book A History of the French New Wave Cinema, Richard Neupert notes that in the year and a half between April 1958 and November 1959 Positif was in such dire financial straits that it was only able to publish two issues. But by 1960, the magazine was back on an even keel and by 1962, it was even prospering as much as it could hope to prosper.
So what happened here? Can we speculate? Well, let's try this --in roughly that time period both The Four Hundred Blows and Breathless as well as other fims labeled New Wave were released and interest in film as art exploded to the benefit magazines such as Positif. thus, one might say that Breathless granted Positif its second wind. Maybe, in Positif's reception room, today, a bust of a certain M. Jean-Luc Godard should be placed in gratitude.

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