Tag Archives: French cinema

Z

Thrilling French Algerian political film by Costa Gavras “Z” (1969) mirroring the real life incident in Greek politics of that time.

Yves Montand is Grigoris Lambrakis an upcoming Greek politician stirring up the masses and proving a threat to the present regime of which the army and police are hand in glove with some underground leaders who have thugs with them.

He is due to make a speech but is denied permission to use halls and has to settle for a 200 seater small hall just opposite his hotel. Even while his coterie is there, the army and police use mob to disturb and beat the followers of Dr. Grigoris.

When Dr. Grigoris comes out after making his speech he is run over by a tempo and a man clubbing him on his head. He later dies in the hospital due to that head injury. The army & police try their best to scuttle the investigations, but one magistrate (Jean Louis Trintignant) systematically destroy the army efforts and lands murder charge on all the top army & police brass.

The prologue is important as it shows what happens to the prosecution witnesses and the magistrate and the army people after the charges are laid out. The case never comes to trial.

The Algerian connection was only with reference to the location of the shooting otherwise the enter movie is in French. Gavras has tightly knit this autobiographical story of a political intrigue of the 1960s.

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Orpheus

Award winning French remake of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, “Orpheus” (1950) directed by Jean Cocteau and starring Jean Marais, Maria Casares, Maria Dea, Francois Perier among others.

Completely different take from the Black Orpheus which i saw recently about which i wrote here https://vramonline.in/2021/03/05/black-orpheus/ . Here Orpheus (Jean Marais) is an acclaimed poet and Princess Death (Maria Casares) loves him. She creates a diversion outside the Poets Cafe in Paris and carts a perplexed Orpheus to her castle. Here he witnesses how Cegeste whom Princess had got killed comes back to life in a zombie way, becoming a slave to Princess.

Hertebise (Francois Perier) is sent alongwith Orpheus back to his house. There he listens to some radio messages which make no sense. Hertebise is there to help Orpheus but he falls in love with Eurydice (Maria Dea) who is the wife of Orpheus and expecting a child soon. Then Eurydice is killed by Princess and Orpheus follows her to bring her back. She is sent back with a condition that Orpheus should never look at her face again. If he does, she will disappear.

Interesting theme and very good production values including some superb special effects which are way ahead of time for a 1950 movie. Jean Cocteau has done a good job with script and direction, music by Georges Auric is spectacular. Cinematography by Nicolas Hayer is brilliant to say the least, it captures the essence of the film beautifully. Of the cast all the four mentioned above has done good roles to supplement the script. This film got a Fipresci in 1950.

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Night and Fog

Deadly French short film “Night and Fog” (1956) on the horrors of the concentration camps of the world war II.

The documentary is in a narrative form and it has used many shocking actual videos and photographs besides showing contemporary images of the concentration camps, the gas chamber, the buildings, the structures etc. Footages from the trains ferrying the inmates to the camps, their living conditions, the bunks, the toilets. Some live images of Himmler is also there in the film where he is asking his people to focus on destruction.

The visuals and videos are disturbing to say the least. They show us the horrors of the war in its brutal form. There is a surgical room where experiments are carried out on inmates.

I also saw a 9 hour documentary Shoah also focusing on the survivors of the concentration camps and detailing their experience.

This haunting documentary is made by Alain Resnais, The scripwiter Jean Cayol is a survivor of the Mauthusen-Gusen concentration camp.

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Zero for Conduct

Acclaimed short film “Zero for Conduct” (1933) directed by Jean Vigo wherein four students take over a boarding school in rebellion.

There is not much by way of a story here, the almost faded black and white images shows us that four boys are rebellious in the class. Even a couple of the teachers are shown as eccentric, one is shown as stealing things from the kids, another is clowning like Charlie Chaplin and third is doing hand stand in the class.

The kids are fed beans almost every day and there is strict disciplinary action against these four kids like asking them to stand in one place, grounding them for a day etc. The four kids plan and take over the school on the France’s Commemoration Day. The film ends with police entering the school premises.

Apparently the film is made as a result of Jean Vigo’s own experiences in a boarding school and the characters in the film also mirror some of his friends.

Production values for a 1933 film is quite good, though the print is quite out dated.

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Subway

French movie “Subway” (1985) directed by Luc Besson and starring Isabelle Adjani, Christopher Lambert among others.

Fred (Christopher Lambert) stole something from the house of Helena (Isabelle Adjani) the wife of a rich industrialist, when she unwittingly invited him to a party after he opened the car door for her in a busy Paris street. What follows is the pursuit of those items, half of which were returned and half of which are still subject to ransom.

In the meanwhile Fred discovers a life in the subway with several people spending their entire lives amidst that filth and squalor. He has a life dream to form a music band, which he slowly starts forming with a rag tag band of musicians all plying their wares down under in the metro station.

Helena is also fed up of the rich bourgeois life being the wife of a rich industrialist and starts feeling some fondness for Fred.

Its a badly made movie, totally boring with nothing to interest the viewers apart from the beauty of Isabelle Adjani.

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Danton

A dense historical fiction movie “Danton” directed by Polish director, Andrzej Wajda in a French Polish joint production. It won the Bafta in 1983. The story takes place in 1794 during the Reign of Terror in France with Maximilien Robespierre pitted against Georges Danton. Robespierre is the fiercest advocate of the liberty of people but he has apparently turned to be a dictator. Danton is a popular figure of those times and the people are with him. Both sides have their own set of supporters. The story details that part when Danton and his friends are accused of plotting against the Republic and made to stand trial. The trial in those days were more farcical than today’s which says a lot. Basically Danton is accused of sedition in today’s times. But he says i conspired for peace and amnesty for the people. Some gems from the movie “The final safeguard against despotism is a free press”. The press guys are not allowed inside the court room and take notes. “A defendant’s right to be heard is not a privilege, it is simply justice”. This is uttered by one of his party members in a kind of Parliament of those days, called the Committee. “Politics has nothing to do with justice” which sadly we are witnessing in today’s times as well. “We send you Republic’s enemies, your duty is not to judge them but to eliminate them” this is uttered by Robespierre to the judge, shades of what we are seeing today as well. Wojciech Pszoniak as Robespierre has done a brilliant job and Gerard Depardieu as Danton with his usual theatrics. There is not many female interests in the movie. 

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Amour

Very deep and poignant French romantic movie (2012) directed by Michael Haneke about love and affection of two octogenarians towards each other. Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are both retired music teachers living alone in Paris. They attend a concert by one of their pupils and return home. The next day morning at breakfast Anne just freezes for a few minutes. Georges notices it and is alarmed and about to get help when she responds. Then medical check up follows and Anne becomes paralysed on one side. Georges takes care of Anne, while all the while Anne starts slowly deteriorating. He employs nurse to take care of her on three days a week, but rest of the time he is the one who feeds her, bathes her, combs her hair, reads out to her. Then Anne gets a second stroke and her speech becomes slurred. The progressive deterioration in Anne’s condition is beautifully shown and magnificently acted by Emmanuelle. Their daughter who stays in London with her husband comes in twice or thrice concerned that modern medicine has no cure for this illness. They themselves are struggling with their finances back home. The love and affection for Anne by Georges is brilliantly portrayed and superb acting by Jean-Louis Trintignant.

Reminded me of my late father who progressively deteriorated until he could do nothing by himself and had to helped for every small thing like a child. His speech also slurred towards the end.

Brilliant movie and rightly judged as best foreign picture at the Oscars of 2012.

Picture taken from internet and not with a view to violating copyright.

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