My Gleanings

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Daniel Gélin on Jean-Luc Godard

Daniel Gélin,an important star of French cinema in the 1950s, is best known in the USA for playing the role of the Frenchman who, in dying, whispered testimony to James Stewart which triggers the intrigues of Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much. In his memoirs, A Batons Rompus ("of this and that"), Gélin writes about his sometimes rocky relationship with the directors of the New Wave. While he did work with Pierre Kast and Claude Chabrol, he never worked with François Truffaut or Jean-Luc Godard. And although he demonstrates some difference with them, he makes it clear that he regrets that he never got that chance. He tells this story about Godard. (page 299, my translation).

I, also, would have loved to work with [Jean-Luc] Godard. Of all of them, he is the one who exasperates me the most because of his conventionality and non-conformism. But, at the same time, he attracts me because I would like to know how he makes and breaks a film.
One day, a technician who had worked with him recounted to me this anecdote which took place in Switzerland on the banks of a lake. On the first day of filming, work had to be started, but no one knew how or with what to begin. talk was going on and no one wanted to begin. Not one of them wanted to "take the plunge" as they say in the business. At long last, Godard said, "No one wants to take the plunge. Oh, well, me I'll have to do it". And, fully dressed, he jumped into the lake. For no other reason than this anecdote, I wanted to work with him. I would loved to have matched wits with a guy capable of doing thus.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A History Lesson for Sacha Guitry

from Sacha Guitry: the last boulevardier by James Harding (volume 2, page 239)

"Who, in your opinion, is the greatest historian?" Sacha [Guitry] once asked a man who was a very distinguished historian himself. "The archives", came the answer.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Claude Mauriac Ten Best films 1954-1962

Claude Mauriac was the son of François Mauraic, the Nobel Prize in Literature laureate. Claude was himself a novelist and a journalist who wrote film criticism for Le Figaro. While he did not publish any articles for Cahiers du cinema, He did participate in published Cahiers round-table discussion and often sit on Cahiers "Conseil des dix". He also turned in these ten best films lists from 1954 through 1962

(no preferential order)
Gate of Hell (Teinosuke Kinugasa)
The Overcoat (Alberto Lattauda)
Robinson Crusoe (Luis Bunuel)
El Torero (René Wheeler)
From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinneman)
Romeo and Juliet (Renato Castellani)
The Wild One (Laszlo Benedek)
Monsieur Ripois (René Clément)
La Provenciale (Mario Soldati)

1.....The Barefoot Contessa (Joseph L Mankiewicz)
2.....Lola Montès (Max Ophuls)
3.....Lourdes and its Miracles (Georges Rouquier)
9.....Les Diaboliques(Henri-Georges Clouzot)
10....La Strada(Federico Fellini)
Claude Mauriac requests us to indicate that his trip to America prevented him from seeing "Voyage in Italy" and some other films which he might have considered for his list.

1.....Rebel without a Cause(Nicholas Ray)
2.....Elena and her Men (Jean Renoir)
3.....A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson)
4.....La Traversée de Paris (Claude Autant-Lara)
5.....Picnic (Joshua Logan)
6.....Smiles of a Summer Night (Ingmar Bergman)
7.....Senso (Luchino Visconti)
8.....Mr Arkadin (Orson Welles)
9.....Le Mystère Picasso (Henri-Georges Clouzot)
10...Gervaise (René Clément)

1.....Nights of Cabiria(Federico Fellini)
2.....The Bachelor Party (Delbert Mann)
3.....The House of the Angel (Leopoldo Torre Nilsson)
4.....The Brave One (Irving Rapper)
5.....The Criminal Life of Archibaldo Cruz(Luis Bunuel) selection
7.....The Wrong Man (Alfred Hitchcock)
8.....Sait-on jamais... (Roger Vadim)
9.....Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick)
10...12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet)

1.....Touch of Evil (Orson Welles)
2.....Il Grido (Michelangelo Antonioni)
3.....White Nights (Luchino Visconti)
4.....No Down Payment (Martin Ritt)
5.....Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick)
6.....Mon Oncle (Jacques Tati)
7.....Les Amants (Louis Malle)
8.....En cas du malheur (Claude Autant-Lara)
9.....The Cranes Are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov)
10...Kanal (Andrjez Wajda)

1.....Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman)
2.....Ivan the Terrible (Sergei Eisenstein)
3.....Pickpocket (Robert Bresson)
4.....Hiroshima mon amour (Alain Resnais)
5.....Tales of Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi)
6.....The 400 Blows (François Truffaut)
7.....Ashes and Diamonds (Andrjez Wajda)
8.....Destiny of a Man (Sergei Bondarchuk)
9.....Moi un noir (Jean Rouch)
10...Goha (Jacques Baratier)

(no order)
Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard)
L'Amerique insolite (François Reichenbach)
L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni)
Les Bonnes Femmes (Claude Chabrol)
La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini)
Sansho the Bailiff (Kenji Mizoguchi)
The Testament of Orpheus (Jean Cocteau)
Shoot the Piano Player (François Truffaut)
Une fille pour l'été (Edouard Molinaro)
Zazie on the Metro (Louis Malle)

(no order)
Chronique d'été (Edgar Morin/Jean Rouch)
Le Ciel et la boue (Pierre-Dominique Gaisseau)
The Criminal (Joseph Losey)
Lola (Jacques Demy)
La Notte (Michelangelo Antonioni)
The Savage Eye (Ben Maddow/Sidney Meyers)
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz)
Shadows (John Cassavetes)
Une aussi longue absence (Henri Colpi)
A Woman is a Woman (Jean-Kuc Godard)

1.....Viridiana(Luis Bunuel)
2.....Un Coeur gros comme ça (François Reichenbach)
3.....Vivre sa vie (Jean-Luc Godard)
4.....Jules and Jim (François Truffaut)
5.....L'Eclisse (Michelangelo Antonioni)
6.....West Side Story (Robert Wise/Jerome Robbins)
7.....The Flaming Years (Julia Solntseva)
8.....Ride the High Country (Sam Peckinpaugh)
9.....Regards sur la folie (Mario Ruspoli)
10...Primary(Robert Drew)

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Jacques Doniol-Valcroze 10 Best Films Cahiers du Cinema 1954-1968

Jacques Doniol-Valcroze was a co-founder of Cahiers du Cinema in 1951 and a co-editor fromits beginning until about 1960. He contributed a list the first year that Cahiers ran its ten best films feature (1954) and he was still there in 1968 the last year of that first cycle of Cahiers "ten best films" lists. Only, Jacques Rivette was along for the whole ride also

1.....El (Luis Bunuel)
2.....Romeo and Juliet (Renato Castellani)
3.....The Overcoat (Alberto Lattuada)
4.....Touchez pas au grisbi (Jacques Becker)
5.....Monsieur Ripois (René Clément)
6.....I Vitelloni (Federico Fellini)
7.....El Torero (René Wheeler)
8.....The Children of Hiroshima (Kaneto Shindô)
9.....Roman Holiday (William Wyler)
9b...Robinson Crusoe (Luis Bunuel)
10...The Return of Vasili Bortnikov (Vsevolod Pudovkin)
10b..The Red and the Black (Claude Autant-Lara)

1.....Ordet (Carl Theodore Dreyer)
2.....Voyage in Italy (Roberto Rossellini)
3.....Lola Montès (Max Ophuls)
4.....Les Mauvaises Rencontres (Alexander Astruc)
5.....The Big Knife (Robert Aldrich)
6.....Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock)
7.....The Barefoot Contessa (Joseph L Mankiewicz)
8.....Rififi (Jules Dassin)
9.....French Cancan (Jean Renoir)
10...Comicos (Juan Antonio Bardem)

1.....Senso (Luchino Visconti)
2.....A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson)
3.....Night and Fog (Alain Resnais)
4.....Mr. Arkadin (Orson Welles)
5.....Smiles of a Summer Night (Ingmar Bergman)
6.....Picnic (Joshua Logan)
7.....Gervaise (René Clément)
8.....Mother (Mark Donskoy)
9.....Elena and her Men (Jean Renoir)
10...Baby Doll (Elia Kazan)

1.....A King in New York (Charles Chaplin)
2.....A Face in the Crowd (Elia Kazan)
3.....The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (Luis Bunuel)
4.....Sawdust and Tinsel (Ingmar Bergman)
5.....Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (Frank Tashlin)
6.....Funny Face (Stanley Donen)
7.....Sait-on jamais... (Roger Vadim)
8.....Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini)
9.....Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick)
10...12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet)

1.....Il Grido (Michelangelo Antonioni)
.......Touch of Evil (Orson Welles)
.......White Nights (Luchino Visconti)
4.....The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman)
.......Mon Oncle (Jacques Tati)
.......Une Vie (Alexander Astruc)
7......Bonjour Tristesse (Otto Preminger)
.......The Cranes are Flying (Mikhail Kalatozov)
.......Kiss Them for Me (Stanley Donen)
.......Les Amants (Louis Malle)

1.....Pickpocket (Robert Bresson)
2.....Hiroshima mon amour (Alain Resnais)
3.....Ivan the Terrible (Sergei Eisenstein)
4.....Tales of Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi)
5.....Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock).
6.....Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman)
7.....The 400 Blows (François Truffaut)
8......Head against the Wall (George Franju)
9......Moi un noir (Jean Rouch)
10....Lost Children (Milos Makovec)

1.....L'Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni)
2.....Sansho the Bailiff (Kenji Mizoguchi)
3.....Nazarin (Luis Bunuel)
.......Poem of the Sea (Alexander Dovchenko/Julia Solntseva)
.......Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock)
6.....The Testament of Orpheus (Jean Cocteau)
.......Zazie on the Metro (Louis Malle)
8.....Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard)
.......L'Amerique insolite (François Reichenbach)
.......Shoot the Piano Player (François Truffaut

1.....Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais)
2.....Taira Clan Saga (Kenji Mizoguchi)
3.....Lola (Jacques Demy)
4.....Lady with the Dog (Iosif Khefits)
5.....Fires on the Plain (Kon Ichikawa)
6.....Rocco and his Brothers (Luchino Visconti)
7.....La Notte (Michelangelo Antonioni)
8.....The Concrete Jungle (Joseph Losey)
9.....A Woman is a Woman (Jean-Luc Godard)
10...Paris nous appartient (Jacques Rivette)

1.....Viridiana (Luis Bunuel)
2.....The Wild River (Elia Kazan)
3.....Boccaccio '70 (Luchino Visconti sketch)
4.....Hatari (Howard Hawks)
5.....Jules and Jim (François Truffaut)
.......Vivre sa vie (Jean-Luc Godard)
7.....Through a Glass Darkly (Ingmar Bergman)
8.....The Hustler (Robert Rossen)
9.....L'Eclisse (Michelangelo Antonioni)
10...The Manchurain Candidate (John Frankenheimer)

(no order)
The Exterminating Angel (Luis Bunuel)
Les Carabiniers (Jean-Luc Godard)
The Leopard (Luchino Visconti)
8 1/2 (Federico Fellini)
L'Immortelle (Alain Robbe-Grillet)
Hands over the City (Francesco Rosi)
Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard)
Muriel (Alain Resnais)
The Trial of Joan of Arc (Robert Bresson)
Salvatore Giuliano (Francesco Rosi)

1.....Gertrud (Carl Theodore Dreyer)
2.....The Silence (Ingmar Bergman)
3.....America, America (Elia Kazan)
.......Dr Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick)
4..... Band of Outsiders (Jean-Luc Godard)
.......The Soft Skin (François Truffaut)
7.....The Red Desert (Michelangelo Antonioni)
.......La Jetée (Chris Marker)
9.....The Servant (Joseph Losey)
.......I Fidanzati (Ermanno Olmi)

1.....Pierrot le fou (Jean-Luc Godard)
2.....Vaghe stelle dell'Orsa (Luchino Visconti)
3.....Metel (Vladimir Basov)
4.....Alphaville (Jean-Luc Godard)
5.....Kiss Me Stupid (Billy Wilder)
6.....Le Bonheur (Agnès Varda)
7.....Shock Corridor (Samuel Fuller)
8.....The Collector (William Wyler)
9.....The 317th Section (Pierre Schoendoerffer)
10....El Verdugo (Luis Garcia Berlanga)

1.....La Guerre est finie (Alain Resnais)
2.....Au Hasard Balthasar (Robert Bresson)
.......Fahrenheit 451 (François Truffaut)
.......Masculin Feminin (Jean-Luc Godard)
.......La Prise de pouvoir par Louis XIV (Roberto Rossellini)
6.....Falstaff (Orson Welles)
7.....The Loves of a Blonde (Milos Forman)
.......Non Reconciled (Jean-Marie Straub)
.......The Hopeless Ones (Miklos Jancso)
.......Walkover(Jerzy Skolimowski)

1.....La Chasse au lion a l’arc (Jean Rouch)
.......Mouchette (Robert Bresson)
.......Persona (Ingmar Bergman)
4.....Blow-Up (Michelangelo Antonioni)
.......Pour les fusils perdus (Pierre Delanjeac)
.......Week End (Jean-Luc Godard)
7.....Black God, White Devil (Glauber Rocha)
.......Belle du jour (Luis Bunuel)
9.....Playtime (Jacques Tati)

1.....Oedipus Rex (Pier Paolo Pasolini)
2.....The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Danièle Huillet/Jean-Marie Straub).
.......Il ne faut pas mourir pour ça (Jean-Pierre Lefebvre)
.......The Edge (Robert Kramer)
5.....China is Near (Marco Bellocchio)
.......Before the Revolution (Bernardo Bertolucci)
.......Drôle de jeu (Pierre Kast/Jean-Daniel Pollet)
8.....Stolen Kisses (François Truffaut)
.......Je t'aime, je t'aime (Alain Resnais)
.......Le Socrate (Robert Lapoujade)

Best American Films of the Talking Era (Dec63/Jan64 issue)
(alphabetical by director)

Louisiana Story (Robert Flaherty)
The Big Sky (Howard Hawks)
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock)
Beat the Devil (John Huston)
A Face in the Crowd (Elia Kazan)
It's Always Fair Weather (Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly)
The Man from Laramie (Anthony Mann)
Ruby Gentry (King Vidor)
Citizen Kane (Orson Welles)
Touch of Evil (Orson Welles)

Best French Films since the Liberation (Jan65 issue)
(alphabetical by title in French)

Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard)
Les Dernières vacances (Roger Leenhardt)
Hiroshima mon amour (Alain Resnais)
L'Immortelle (Alain Robbe-Grillet)
Lola Montès (Max Ophuls)
The Soft Skin (François Truffaut)
The Trial of Joan of Arc (Robert Bresson)
The Testament of Orpheus (Jean Cocteau)
A Married Woman (Jean-Luc Godard)
Mr Hulot's Holiday (Jacques Tati)

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Patrice Leconte 10 Best Films 1968

Future director Patrice Leconte short stint as a regular contributor to Cahiers du Cinema in 1968 and 1969 allowed him to pick only one of the yearly 10 best films list for that revue. And he only lists only these eight films. But here it is anyways.

Alphabetical in French

Stolen Kisses (François Truffaut)
The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Danièle Huillet/Jean-Marie Straub)
Spirits of the Dead (Federico Fellini sketch)

Il ne faut pas mourir pour ça (Jean-Pierre Lefebvre)
The Bride Wore Black (François Truffaut)
Rosemary's Baby (Roman Polanski)
Terre em Transe (Glauber Rocha)
Un Soir un train (André Delvaux)

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

François Vinneuil at Cahiers

François Vinneuil was the pseudonym which the novelist Lucien Rebatet used to write film criticism. Vinneuil was one of the most important film critics of the 1930s. After the Liberation in 1945, he was sentenced to death as a collaborationist. That sentence was quickly commuted to life and he was released from prison after serving eight years. Much is sometimes made of his relationship with Cahiers du Cinema in the 1950s. That relationship, though, when examined includes a great irony. From the inception of the conseil des dix feature in late 1955 until the middle of 1957, Cahiers would often place notes between the conseil des dix tableau informing readers that critics and other people associated with film beyond than that months "ten" counseled certain films. There are four occasions when Vinneuil's name appears below the conseil tableau.

In April 56, a note informed readers that Roberto Rossellini's L'Amore had "conquered the hearts"of 15 critics including Vinneuil.

In June 56, Vinneuil was one among 10 who "counsel" seeing The Man with the Golden Arm.

In Dec 56 17 critics including François Vinneuil (the imprisoned ex-collaborationist) "recommend you not miss" Robert Bresson's A Man Escaped the story of a real-life Resistance fighter who broke out of Montluc prison while he was under sentence of death.

And finally (and a little ironically also), in Jun 57, Vinneuil is one of 5 "ardent defenders" of The Wrong Man.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Claude Chabrol American director thumbnails -- Dec 1955

I have previously posted a translation of the thumbnail critiques which Claude Chabrol contributed to the Dec63/Jan64 special American Cinema issue of Cahiers du Cinema. Eight years before, in December 1955, Cahiers had also published a special American Cinema issue. For that issue,Chabrol wrote thumbnail critiques of 25 directors, only three of whom he covered in the later special. Here are those three for anyone who might want to compare.

Robert Aldrich
(page 47)

The revelation of the year. His entrance into cinema owes less to "replacement" than to an imperious "get yourself from where I am putting myself" of a ball in a game of darts. One generation throws the other out vigorously, entering with a good deal of insolence, a little bit of bluff, a lot of talent and a great sincerity. After Apache and The Big Knife, one can no longer see in Zinneman or Kazan the brains of Hollywood. In Aldrich's universe, one breathes in the atomic air: of Jean Cocteau - Aldrich has a most lively sense of the realism which surges on the bounce when one no longer expects it to - and of Orson Welles - the loud and peremptory aesthetic every shot unforeseeable, defying the rules, every scene frustrating the classic adaptation. If Aldrich's characters are stylized, the framework where - for better or for worse - they breathe is contrived. Aldrich's plots cast into question the entire world and this world can die out: Kiss Me Deadly or The Big Knife or be reborn Apache, Vera Cruz. Aldrich can still bear the old world on his shoulders, put the new one in his pocket and forget it - World for Ransom. For this hefty Robert, direction is an Olympic game, his career makes one imagine a long-distance stock car race and roller derby combined. He is the most alive of all directors alive, the one in whose work you recognize the love of cinema and the pleasure of making it.

John Brahm (page 48)

On his good days, a drinker of intoxicating beer. Let's forget the bad and remember Hangover Square an absolutely maniacal film which strides alongside the ridiculous to arrive most quickly before the gates of paroxysm. Brahm inflicts on us, alas, still too many like The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima and then, one fine day, out of the blue. . .

Edward Dmytryk (page 50)

A director without well-defined political opinions. A kind of a unity appears in his work, nevertheless: that of a heavy and sometimes striking style in the German mode. He does not seem to enormously interest himself in the quality of the subjects which he treats and his work lapses into anonymity. His talent is real, however - the title sequence in the rain of The End of the Affair. But all things pass along as though he were not capable of using them.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Jean-Luc Godard previews South Pacific

A regular feature in Cahiers du Cinema in the 50s and 60s was "Photo of the Month". In the November 1957 issue of Cahiers on page 43, Jean-Luc Godard wrote this short piece commenting on a photo of Joshua Logan and Mitzi Gaynor on the set of the soon to be relelased film South Pacific (March 1958 in the USA). (my translation)

"Joshua Logan and Mitzi Gaynor rehearse a song in French from South Pacific

dites-moi/pourquoi/la vie est belle

dites-moi/pourquoi/la vie est drole

dites-moi/pourquoi/chère mad'moiselle

est-ce parce que/vous m'aimez

Such is the opening of South Pacific from the Rodgers and Hammerstein operetta where Joshua Logan has redone these couplets in his own words. Apart from that, Todd-AO, six million dollars, the Hawaiian Islands, Mitzi Gaynor, Rossano Brazzi, John Kerr and under the paternal eye of Buddy Adler, introducing France Suyen (sic). Doubt is not permitted, esthetically speaking, the next film of Joshua Logan will be colossal"


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Letter from a young Louis Malle to Cahiers -- 1956

In the May 1956 issue of Cahiers du Cinema, this letter from Louis Malle was printed. About two weeks after that issue of Cahiers hit the newsstands, Robert Bresson began filming on A Man Escaped with Louis Malle working as one of his assistants.

"I attach to this letter payment for my subscription to Cahiers. Your magazine has become quite excellent recently and your special "American Cinema" issue beyond its critical qualities is marvelously documented.
As a young director, I would like to say to you that I immensely appreciate the battle which you lead for a certain cinema d'auteur, the only one worthy from my point of view as much as from yours. I am sometimes in complete disagreement with one of you, I often reprove certain annoying tics, but your magazine is never stupid or vulgar while French cinema is bogged down in stupidity and vulgarity with 5 or 6 names ready.
Your attitude is bearing fruit since François Truffaut now is as a scarecrow in the profession and the keepers of French Quality are beginning to question themselves in fear. I beg you to continue flaying the mediocrities, re-establishing values, destroying the traditional myths in order to institute others, however arguable they might be, to battle for a powerful and worthy cinema. And I assure you gentlemen of my sincere esteem."

(page 57 -- my translation)

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Joël Magny contrasting Qualité Française and the New Wave

This from an essay by Joël Magny La chute des valeurs ou la fin des années trente (p71) as it appears in D'un cinéma l'autre : notes sur le cinéma français des années cinquante / sous la direction de Jean-Loup Passek. It is my translation.
Magny compares French films of the 1950s prior to the burgeoning of the New Wave to Roland Barthes notion of "ornamental cookery". In an article in Journal of Social History (Spring, 1999), Jessamyn Neuhaus defined this idea as
"a cookery which is based on coatings and alibis, and is forever trying to extenuate and even to disguise the primary nature of foodstuffs, the brutality of meat or the abruptness of sea-food."

"We see to what point this text can be applied to the cinematic tradition of quality. The image is effectively ornamental, made for the eye (sensation), not for the mind (knowledge through that sensation). A simple example: the famous scene in Yves Allégret's Les Orgueilleux (1953) where Michèle Morgan, alone in her room, suffers in the stifling heat. On her nightstand, a small fan. This object is directed such that it would not be capable of providing her any breeze, minimal though it might be, insufficient though it might be, which, nevertheless, is its primary function. But this positioning is justified as it permits the spectator to see the movement of the blades, which would not be possible were it directed at the heroine.
More generally, the comparison with the first films of the New Wave is significant. Belmondo's notorious request in Breathless ("Can I piss in the sink?") could be imagined in a Clouzot film (but not Marcel Carné, Christian-Jaque or René Clair). What gives it force in Godard's work (at least in its time) is that it is spoken in a room where Coutard's
photography scrupulously respects photographic realism: the light, even when reinforced by some artificial technical means, comes from the same sources as bathrooms and bedrooms. In a film of quality, it would have been filmed in a contrast expressionistic reinforcing the sordidness, multiplying the sources of unreal lighting, giving to this audacity an abstract and purely cinematic context. such a request could shock in life, but not in a studio where wildlife evolves whose dissolute morals knows well."