Le quai des brumes (1938)

Le quai des brumes
Directed by Marcel Carné
Written by Jacques Prévert based on the novel by Pierre Dumarchais
(number 265)

Here’s another film where I couldn’t tell what it was going to be based on the name. As it happens it’s a pre-World war two noir about an ex soldier, or rather, a deserter, who goes to a port city. He adopts a dog and falls in love with what I have to assume from her beret, perfect make up and fancy rain slicker trenchcoat is the Wrong Sort of Girl.

My copy of the film came with a disclaimer: “When war was declared in September 1939, the film was banned because it was judged ‘immoral, depressing and distressing for the young people.”

Studio Canal’s been around a long time if they made this too.

Jean: I get upset and you think I’ve been drinking. I haven’t. I just haven’t eaten for two days, there’s a sign on my stomach which says ‘cold storage’.

In general this is a melodrama. The story beats and character choices are hard to believe in, but it’s super entertaining all the same. It’s a beautifully shot piece and everyone is so damn handsome and pretty and softly lit. I was involved in the story line and although I generally predicted the twists it was still compelling.

Does it make me love the people? Absolutely, particularly Jean and Nelly.

Bechdel test: The only woman is Nelly so no. Also she’s supposed to be only seventeen which makes all the stuff which happens regarding her love life pretty creepy. The actress looks to be in her thirties to me but that could be me misreading the style and the make up as being for an older woman. Anyway, she’s the prize everyone’s in love with and wants to win. Not exactly a deep character.

Best line:

Quart Vittel: What could be simpler than a tree?
Le peintre: A tree. But when I paint one, it sets everyone on edge. It’s because there’s someone or something hidden behind that tree. I can’t help painting what’s hidden behind things. To me a swimmer is already a drowned man.

(I also like that Jean brings it back later)

State of Mind: Enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Nice tight script and good callbacks to earlier things which are mentioned. Jean is like a thirties Kenneth Branagh and Nelly is a shockingly young character but the actress is wonderful, very compelling. I was just a bit worried about the dog being left on the ship but even that storyline was nicely resolved for me at the end so I was happy.

Watched movie count

La maman et la putain (1973)

The Mother and the Whore
Written and directed by Jean Eustache
(number 300)

(the last of the bottom 200 from the list!)

So. Three + hour black and white seventies film from France about a guy with a wife and a girlfriend. And it’s talky. And Alexandre is freaking awful and annoying, pushing and pushing at Gilberte for the first half hour. He reminded me of so many impressed with their own intelligence guys I met at university. Like just because you can spout philosophy doesn’t mean every woman should sleep with you. This approach also feels very much like he’s the poster boy for the nasty culture of coercion that gets idolised as romance in the world but particularly in France. The problem is I don’t think this is meant to be off putting, I feel very much like this is Eustache’s mouthpiece for how awesome he is.

He literally explains the women’s lib movement to Veronika, who thinks it’s sad because if she loves a man she would want to bring him breakfast? Urgh, the seventies.

In some ways the movie is sort of brilliant, because you as the audience are forced to listen to Alexandre and his interminable monologues about his feelings or his beliefs. About how sad he is for no apparent reason. You become one of the people who has to sit there and nod along, just like the girls in the movie.

Is it a relief when a couple of hours into the movie other people start monologuing about random stuff? Not really. At least its not all the one guy but by this point the film had lost my interest. It’s a very long film and there really isn’t much of a storyline.

Does it make me love the people? I’m more inclined to love Veronika and Marie onmly because I feel for them having to listen to Alexandre all the time. I cannot stand him. He actually has the gall to say, while out with Veronika that he feels bored. All he has been doing is talking. Talk, talk talk talk talk while she meekly listens, and then he says he’s bored. FFS. Finallly he asks her some questions, and she has a lovely voice and I like it a lot. When they finally get to the point where Veronika, Marie and Alexandre are all in bed together he’s sulky and annoyed. Like… if you can’t handle this level of emotion you need to fucking sort your shit out.

Bechdel test: Yes, Veronika and Marie talk, first just to say hi to each other, mostly about Alexandre but also about Marie’s looks. Also it’s a French film so of course we see women naked from the waist up.

Best line:

Veronika: I’m often in love. I get involved with people quickly, and forget quickly. People don’t matter.

State of Mind: Shipping Maria and Veronika ditching Alexandre and going to have a lovely life together. Glad it’s over, annoyed with men. Poor Marie. Yeah, I pretty much hated this movie and certainly will not be watching it again. I skipped ahead a few times, bored, and how is it 3 and a half hours I just. Ehhhhhhh. Why have Veronika denounce her own behaviour like that?? There is no love unless it’s for reproduction? Uuuurgh. Was Eustache a menanist? and What the fuck is that final scene??? bleeeeehhhh.

Watched movie count

Le ballon rouge (1956)

Le ballon rouge aka The Red Balloon
Written and directed by Albert Lamorisse
(number 301)

I watched this one on youtube 🙂 At only 34 minutes long it’s not too much of a strain to watch, especially when you compare with something like Napoleon..

Now I’m not sure if I’ve seen this before or not. It sort of seems like one of the films they’d ship us into town from school to watch on a big screen. I definitely remember a mostly wordless one about a boy and an eagle, and I’m sure they made us watch The Silent One as well. It does seem vaguely familiar, but then it will have been referenced in other movies and media like…

Also I remember a picture book at the library I used to work at which was stills from the movie and the story over it. So, if I have watched it before I don’t remember it particularly but the whole thing is vaguely familiar.

The other thing it makes me think of is…

I’d love to know how the balloon was operated. I imagine it’s invisible strings, but it’s so seamlessly done and beautiful. You can tell what it’s thinking when it moves about and who it chooses to go with or not.

I love the moment with the little girl with the blue balloon. Another film still I’d love to have a big version of, framed on my wall.

I’m unsure about why we need the gang of mean boys who pursue the balloon. Is it an allegory? I’ve seen online someone thinks it’s about Christ and the trails he faced and I can see that. They seem to want to destroy it just because they can. Is this realistic child behaviour? Maybe? I don’t know. The whole thing is horrible, very much smacks of the bullying stories which make me uncomfortable.

Does it make me love the people? I love the balloon. But yes, always on Pascal’s side in this and hoping he gets away and protects the balloon the way he wants to. Interesting that the filmmaker used his own son for the lead character, and his daughter for the girl with the blue balloon.

Bechdel test: noooo

Best line: … I don’t feel this is applicable.

The scene where all the balloons in Paris come to Pascal’s aid. It’s just stunning. So many bright shiny colours against the grey and beige architecture and against the pale blue sky. Gorgeous.

State of Mind: where are the balloons taking him at the end? That’s…. it looks like they’re taking him up into the stratosphere where they will pop and he will fall. Or he’ll suffocate maybe. I’ve seen this episode of Gotham and it was unpleasant. Been overthinking this ending maybe. The film overall is charming and arty and it’s the kind of thing everyone has heard of and should probably see. It’s charming. A lovely look at Paris in the fifties and generally pretty gentle up until the evil boy gang. Except that the ending is a little unsettling to me.

Watched movie count

Le Doulos (1962)

Le Doulos
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Written by Jean-Pierre Melville based on the novel by Pierre Lesou
(number 473)

I like French films, pretentious boring French films, I like French films two tickets s’il vous plait

The second of the DVDs I hired from Aro St Video shop. This one is a French Noir from the early sixties. It’s steeped in the tropes of the genre: men in trenchcoats and hats, slow atmospheric music, double talk and stoolies.

Plus… veiled homoerotic comments, although that may be me viewing it weirdly and an issue with the subtitles. It’s hard to say.

This really made me think of the book I bought at Book Soup last year – The Cutie, which was about a mob man investigating a murder. This movie is about a just-released-con being strong armed by the police to give them information. The other lead is Silien who is already a police informer and trying to get the right information to feed the police while protecting the people he actually cares about. Everyone in it is so damn cool. Cool and collected.

It’s a very convoluted film, switching between the two leads Maurice and Silien without warning – which was made more difficult to follow because they looked and dressed very similarly. There was casual brutishness and gorgeous massive cars and fantastic sets, but I found it difficult to really immerse myself in. I suspect that there are better Noir films out there.

Does it make me love the people? No, I don’t think so. It wasn’t so much a study of humanity as a series of very tough men doing tough things and talking hard and double crossing each other. Then a ton of shootings.

Bechdel test: We have two named women – Therese and Anita but they are never spoken talking to anyone but men. It’s not really a surprise to be honest.

Best line: I can’t quote directly but me and Blair both enjoyed Silien insisting that a fence finger his jewels at gunpoint. The fence was all, ‘it’s fine, I can see them from here… they’re worth a lot’ and Silien insisting ‘handle them!’

Oh the entendres …

State of Mind: Everyone was very shooty. I feel it did exactly what it set out to do but I am underwhelmed.

Watched movie count