Daily Projections, 6-4-2019: Miquette et sa mère (1950)

Title: Miquette et sa mère
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Country of Origin: France
Year: 1950
Screening format: Blu-ray
Setting: home
First viewing? yes

A film Clouzot apparently had little interest in making and greeted with equal disinterest by critics and audiences alike, though still very funny if you ask me. Two timid lovebirds (Miquette and Urbain) kept apart by a scheming uncle-Marquis who has designs of his own on Miquette as she strives to make it as an actress in order to make jealous the lover she believes has jilted her. The humor is broadly farcical, blend of irony and slapstick, not unlike Preston Sturges, though considerably more French and likely to have scandalized American audiences of the time (e.g. a particular ancestor is well regarded for having had the Sun King). The very best scenes are played between Danièle Delorme (Miquette) and Bourvil (Urbain). The latter a gifted physical comedian who plays the bumbling idiot well and the former with a gift for portraying the coquettish ingenue. Something in the way Delorme glides through the film, even in the comedic moments, the way she dodges an aspiring lover’s advances while never seeming to notice them, is almost balletic. There is an air about her performance which recalls…someone, though I can’t say for sure who. Perhaps Sidney Fox in Once In A Lifetime. Miquette et sa mère gets a bad rap for some reason, though you won’t hear it from me.

Advertisements

Daily Projections, 12-29-2018: Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)

Title: Au Hasard Balthazar
Director: Robert Bresson
Country of Origin: France
Year: 1966
Screening format: Blu-ray
Setting: Home
First viewing? Yes

Another Bresson. A lot to unpack here. It’s tempting to look for a one-to-one correlation (“[Christ] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” – and who embodies the very nature of a servant better than Balthazar, a donkey battered, beaten, and dragged around with no will of his own). But watching Au Hasard Balthazar, my thoughts continue to fall on Old Testament figures, namely Job and Hosea. After all, not all Biblical symbolism is Christological. And Balthazar is far from the only such figure. Gérard, perhaps a bit of Beelzebub in him, though I tend to look at him as Vice or Sin in general who has the run of the town and to whom the Prodigal Marie always comes when called, even if she puts up a brief, feeble fight at first. Marie, all of mankind, in possession of her own free will who twice rejects an offer of marriage from the only real Christ figure I see in Balthazar (the landowner’s son, Jacques—the landowner is God, by the way), first citing her inability to truly love him then her own checkered past as reasons not to choose him. Au Hasard Balthazar is not so much allegory, perhaps, as it is parable. But it is all masterpiece. And who (but perhaps Bresson) knew a donkey’s face could be so beautiful?

Daily Projections, 12-20-2018: Pickpocket (1959)

Title: Pickpocket
Director: Robert Bresson
Country of Origin: France
Year: 1959
Screening format: Blu-ray
Setting: Home
First viewing? Yes

My first Bresson. Bresson, whose reputation for grace and economy precede him. Maybe Pickpocket is a strange place to start with Bresson. It’s admittedly hard to get a handle on what is going on here at first. Michel is a pickpocket, perhaps a kleptomaniac, stealing for the thrill of it. As he teams with accomplices, his exploits become more daring and yet, while Michel claims to be afraid of getting caught, it seems as if he almost invites his own downfall. After all, a thief who never locks his door when he leaves home even though there are stolen goods all over the place. Is he really that brazen? Or is there a part of him that wants to stop stealing but knows he could never chose a crime free life on his own but would have to be led to it by a power greater than he is? The pickpocketing scenes themselves are downright riveting. Tightly choreographed and elegant, they form a digital (as in fingers, not computers) ballet. Surely it is no accident, then, that the entire score of the film is comprised of works by Jean Baptiste Lully, a composer who revolutionized ballet and French dance music as a whole in the second half of the 17th century.