Added to your love list
0 Love It

The 100 best French films: 80-61

80-61

India Song (1975)

Director: Marguerite Duras

Duras' main protagonist is Anne-Marie Stretter (Seyrig), a bored consular wife in '30s India, and the film details the languorous desperation that drives her to suicide. But the formal approach to this subject is like nothing before in film history: the 'drama' is entirely aural (a play of off-screen voices blending with Carlos d'Alessio's utterly compulsive score), and the elegant visuals counterpoint it by creating an atmosphere of sumptuous enervation. Many will find it fascinating, not least because its sense of stifled anguish emerges without the least hint of aggression in the style.

Read more

La Collectionneuse (1967)

Director: Eric Rohmer

The third of Rohmer's six moral tales, and the first of his films to achieve wide recognition. The collector of the title is a delectable nymphet, footloose in St Tropez, who makes a principle of sleeping with a different man every night until two friends, declining to become specimens, decide to take her moral well-being in hand. In the 18th century game which Rohmer transposes to a contemporary setting, this pair can be seen as intellect trying to dominate instinct, but only succeeding in rousing unwanted passions. Wryly and delightfully witty.

Read more

The Night Caller (1975)

Director: Henri Verneuil

Belmondo plays super-cop on the tops of Paris buildings and undergound trains, piling stunt on daredevil stunt and risking his neck for a particularly silly story. Like The Eiger Sanction, there's some mileage in seeing a star so blatantly performing his own stunts, crashing through plate-glass windows of high rise buildings while suspended from a helicopter, etc. But desperately little of the film's energy goes into a plot that combines a settling of an old score with a hunt for a one-eyed killer who strangles loose women.

Read more

The City of Lost Children (1995)

Director: Marc Caro et Jean-Pierre Jeunet

A child smiles delightedly in his toy-filled room as Santa emerges from the chimney-piece, but joy turns to terror as the bearded visitor is followed by more of the same; cut to a man screaming in a laboratory where, unable to dream himself, he has stolen the nightmare of a kidnapped orphan. The opening of another of Jeunet and Caro's forays into the fantastique is the perfect introduction to what's essentially a hugely inventive blend of dream, fairytale and myth, and to a strange, sinister sea-girt world that functions according to its own crazy logic. After his infant brother is abducted by a gang of semi-robotic Cyclops, kindly strong-man One (Perlman) sets off on a search that will unite him with feisty 9-year-old orphan Miette (Vittet) and lead him to the sea-rig laboratory inhabited by the evil Krank (Emilfork), his six cloned brothers (Pinon), their diminutive 'mother', and Uncle Irvin, a sardonic brain floating in a fish tank. Extraordinary.

Read more

Clean Slate (1981)

Director: Bertrand Tavernier

Purists may object to Tavernier's treatment of Jim Thompson's excellent if sordid and sadistic thriller, Pop.1280, but this eccentric, darkly comic look at a series of bizarre murders is stylishly well-crafted, and thoroughly entertaining. Transferring the action from the American Deep South to French West Africa in the late '30s, Tavernier elicits a characteristically colourful performance from Noiret as the manic but outwardly easy going slob of a cop who initiates a private vendetta against the town's more obnoxious citizens by resorting to murder. Strange insights into the effects of racism and the complicity of its victims, embellished with black wit and an elegant visual sense.

Read more

Le Doulos (1962)

Director: Jean-Pierre Melville

Darker than Bob le Flambeur, Melville's second foray into the Parisian underworld borrows its epigraph from Céline: 'One must choose: die... or lie?' Appropriately, in a film devoted to the principle of duplicity, Melville teases the spectator by reproducing the police station from Mamoulian's City Streets, while his Paris features American lampposts, call-boxes, subway entrances. At the heart of this ambiguous world is Silien (Belmondo), by repute a professional informer, who juggles twin friendships with a police inspector (Crohem) and a burglar (Reggiani). Just out of jail, afraid he can't cut it in the underworld any more, involved in an act of revenge that leaves him with a nasty taste in his mouth, Reggiani finds Crohem lurking in ambush when he undertakes his next job. The images point unequivocally to Belmondo as the informer, until Melville skims through them again to reveal a different story; but either way, the doubt conjures disaster. Terrific performances, and equally terrific camerawork from Nicolas Hayer - more gris than noir - conjure a rivetingly treacherous, twilit world.

Read more

L'Age d'or (1930)

Director: Luis Bunuel

'Our sexual desire has to be seen as the product of centuries of repressive and emasculating Catholicism... it is always coloured by the sweet secret sense of sin,' mused Buñuel in his autobiography My Last Breath. One might describe L'Age d'Or as 63 minutes of coitus interruptus, a scabrous essay on Eros and civilisation, wherein a couple is constantly prised apart from furious love-making by the police, high society and, above all, the Church. Financed by the Vicomte de Noailles, a dream patron who loyally pronounced the film exquisite and delicious, even as right-wing extremists were pelting it with ink and stink bombs, this is a jagged memento of that Golden Age before directors forgot the art of filming erotica (the celebrated toe-sucking is sexier by far than almost anything since), the revolutionary avant-garde lost its sense of humour, and surrealism itself fell prey to advertising-agency chic.

Read more

Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1979)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Godard's return to celluloid after a decade of experiment in video is in one sense forced: the sources of finance for his projects were drying up, and he himself admits that the film was made as a passport back into the business. But in another, this is his most personal work in years, less important for its return to narrative (the story of two women and a man joined in almost arbitrary ways) than for its chilled sense of autobiography - Dutronc plays an egotistical, washed-out video film-maker called 'Godard'. In that light, the resurrection of earlier themes (especially prostitution) is no return at all, but a confessional fantasy about a generation of men now in middle age, alienated from their sexuality, dissatisfied with their 'commerce', and unwilling to cope with a new sexual/political order. It would be hard to imagine a more courageous project; harder still to find one executed with the kind of stylistic wit and haunting elegance that have made Godard leader of the pack for over twenty years.

Read more
Show more
60-51

Comments

0 comments