♦ Woman On The Run
“Woman on the Run may be set several notches above the usual cops-and-corpses contributions from the Coast,” New York Times critic Bosley Crowther almost grudgingly concluded when this long-lost noir was first released in late November 1950, “but it does make crime enjoyable.”
That it does. Adapted by director Norman Foster and Alan Campbell, with dialogue punch-up from Ross Hunter (yes, the guy who went on to produce Airport, among many others) from a short story by Sylvia Tate, the action takes place in San Francisco, with a small number of scenes shot on Los Angeles locations.
After witnessing a shooting whilst walking his dog (and narrowly misses being shot himself because he sees the killer), Frank Johnson (Ross Elliott) goes on the run. The police attempt to enlist his wife Eleanor (Ann Sheridan) to track him down and persuade her husband to testify against the killer, who turns out to be a gangster, but their marriage is on the rocks and she wants nothing to do with any of it.
But when charismatic newshound Danny Leggett (Dennis O’Keefe) offers her cash for an exclusive on the story, the pair are off on a search of San Francisco sites and dives to find Frank. The twist—and it’s a good one—takes place at an amusement park (actually the Santa Monica Pier) and doesn’t disappoint.
Since its restoration, Woman on the Run has garnered praise for the luminous black-and-white cinematography of mid-century San Francisco from Hal Mohr (who had already shot Captain Blood and would go on to do The Wild One and Baby Face Nelson, among others) and Foster’s no-nonsense yet expressive direction.
Yet what continues to come up in review after review of the film is the novel—for its time—challenges of marital stressors, and the ways in which such a stressful crisis can affect these private relations. Tate’s original story would undoubtedly be a major contributing influence of this dynamic (as is Sheridan’s tough, flinty performance), but credit the filmmakers for preserving a noir plotline that is unusual, to say the least.
Tangentially, Foster had earlier stepped in as director on Journey into Fear when producer/co-screenwriter Orson Welles ran over schedule on The Magnificent Ambersonsand who was impressed enough with Foster’s script for the earlier It’s All True to give him the assignment.
Notes on the restoration
The only extant American 35mm print of Woman on the Run was destroyed in a 2008 fire on the Universal lot. This beautiful restoration was accomplished by the distributor Flicker Alley and the great Film Noir Foundation, in conjunction with the UCLA Film & Television Archive with special thanks to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Charitable Grant Trust and the British Film Institute—which had subsequently discovered the 35mm dupe negative and master soundtrack on which this digital restoration was based.
Woman on the Run has previously been reviewed by Rod Bishop and David Hare on the Film Alert 101 blog. You can find Rod’s notes if you click here and David’s if you click here. You can also find a review of the film by Farran Smith Niehme, along with notes on another another major noir of the time, Too Late for Tears (Byron Haskin, USA, 1950), in this online post in Film Comment
For a very comprehensive note on the career of director Norman Foster there is an excellent piece online at _Bright Lights Film Journal
(Notes by Eddie Cockrell)
♦ Momia (The Night of Counting the Years)
Shadi Abdel Salam
Salam made only one feature film, The Night of Counting the Years (Egypt, 1969). When he died in 1986 at the age of 56, his career included documentaries and only one other fiction work, the 20-minute short The Eloquent Peasant, from one of Ancient Egypt’s most famous works of literature.
Five years ago, in a Dubai Film Festival publication 475 critics, writers, novelists and academics chose The Night of Counting the Years as the greatest Arab film ever made.
Released in 1969, it’s been a hard film to see. After festival screenings, it all but disappeared with only poor 16mm prints in circulation.
Salam’s film is based on real events. During Ancient Egypt’s 21st Dynasty, priests in Thebes tried to stop tomb robbers by moving more than 50 Royal mummies from the Valley of the Kings and burying them in a single tomb at Deir el-Bahri. Nearly 3,000 years later, in 1881, treasures from this tomb began appearing on the world’s antiquities market. Local Horabat villagers had discovered the tomb and were systematically pillaging its archaeological booty.
The film opens with the renowned archaeologist Gaston Maspero (Gaby Karraz) reading from a papyrus of The Book of the Dead before sending young archaeologist Wannis (Ahmed Marei) on a mission to find the plundered Deir el-Bahri cache and escort the Royal mummies down the Nile to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. At Deir el-Bahri, Kamal enters a shadowy world where bloodlines and economic survival greatly outweigh any moral duty to preserve the priceless national treasures.
Martin Scorsese, who established the World Cinema Foundation, has said of The Night of Counting the Years: “[It] has an extremely unusual tone – stately, poetic, with a powerful grasp of time and the sadness it carries. The carefully measured pace, the almost ceremonial movement of the camera, the desolate settings, the classical Arabic spoken on the soundtrack, the unsettling score by the great Italian composer Mario Nascimbene – they all work in perfect harmony and contribute to the feeling of fateful inevitability.”
Visually ravishing, yet austere and poetic, The Night of Counting the Years shows influences from the later work of one of Salam’s mentors, Roberto Rossellini. Working on décor and costumes for Rossellini’s Italian documentary TV series Mankind’s Fight For Survival, Salam so impressed the Italian director that Rossellini helped the Egyptian finance The Night of Counting the Years and promoted the film on completion at its Venice Film Festival premiere.
Salam spent the final 10 years of his life trying to mount another feature – the life of Egypt’s most fascinating Pharaoh, a man who was labeled a heretic and a criminal by many of his peers and much later, by some Egyptologists, as a visionary, the world’s first monotheist and the world’s first revolutionary.
On the basis of his only feature film The Night of Counting the Years, now recognized as the greatest film ever from the Arab world, Salam’s long cherished second feature Akhenaton, The Tragedy of the Great House is surely one of cinema’s monumental missed opportunities.
Notes on the Restoration
In 2009, The World Cinema Foundation and Bologna’s Cinema Ritrovato finally accessed the original materials and restored the film. For reasons that remain obscure, no Blu-ray or DVD copies have been made from this restoration. Original 35mm camera and sound negatives preserved at the Egyptian Film Centre in Cairo were used to produce a new 35mm inter-negative for digital restoration.
Director/Writer: Shadi Abdel Salam, Produced by General Egyptian Cinema Organisation, Merchant Ivory Productions, Prod: Roberto Rossellini, Ph: Abdel Aziz Fahmy, Prod Des: Salah Marei, Ed: Kamal Abou-El-Ella, Music: Mario Nascimbene.
Ahmed Marei (Wannis), Ahmad Hegazi (brother), Zouzou Hamdy El-Hakim (mother), Nadia Lutfi (Zeena)
Egypt, 1969, 102 minutes, Classical Arabic, English subtitles.
Notes by Rod Bishop
♦ Sans Lendemain
Sans Lendemain is an almost unknown French classic made by master director Max Ophuls in 1939. The film has recently been restored by French company Gaumont and has since been screened at Bologna’s Cinema Ritrovato and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in its annual program of new restorations. MoMA’s website notes are as follows:
Each fall at MoMA, Gaumont presents a title from its archives in France. This year, Gaumont President Nicolas Seydoux and CEO Sidonie Dumas introduce Max Ophuls’s rarely seen Sans lendemain (1940), the last film he made in Europe before the eruption of World War II and, indeed, the last film he would make until The Exile, in Hollywood, in 1947.
For Jean Cocteau, who directed her in L’Aigle à deux têtes, Edwige Feuillère incarnated “the queen of snow, blood, voluptousness and death.” In Sans lendemain’s classic melodrama, Feullère is a “fallen woman”—once respectable but now forced to dance nude in a Montmartre bar to support her young son. She rents an expensive furnished apartment to convince a long-ago lover (Georges Rigaud) that her life has been a happy one.
More perhaps than any prewar Ophuls film, Sans lendemain anticipates his 1955 masterpiece Lola Montès; both films feature a heroine who exposes her body while concealing her soul, trapped in a glamourous environment that is revealed as little more than a cage.
♦ Soleil Ô
When Med Hondo was born in Mauritania in May 1936, it was part of French West Africa. His father was Mauritian, his mother Senegalese. By 18, he was training as a chef in Morocco, before emigrating to France in 1959, first to Marseilles and then to Paris. His experiences trying to make a living in a range of menial jobs, including cook, farm labourer, dockworker and deliveryman infuse his first film Soleil Ô.
He also began finding small roles in film and television, obviously observing very closely the film-making process. When he was still a teenager, he began making Soleil Ô on a miniscule budget, part financed by taking dubbing work on American movies. The process took four years, but the result was accepted into Critics Week in Cannes, 1970.
“In an unnamed French colony in West Africa, black men line up before a white priest for baptism and renaming – the first step in a process that simultaneously deracinates and subjugates them. In France, colonial blacks, encouraged by propaganda, arrive to seek a better life. What they find is unemployment or a handful of ‘dirty’ jobs, unacceptable living conditions, naked racism and bureaucratic indifference. Searching for a new form, Med Hondo has eschewed all conventional narrative. From the stylized and surreal opening sequence to the episodic adventures of a particular man, the director presents a series of imaginative set pieces, linked by voice-over narrative, that investigate and dramatize a complex of interrelated themes. A scathing attack on colonialism, the film is also a shocking exposé of racism and a brutal and ironic indictment of Western capitalist values. “(Harvard Film Archives notes.)
The structure of the film is simple. Production values are low – most of the filming is in the streets, or (presumably) the homes or workplaces of the cast and crew. Filming was in black and white 16mm and involved the members of a theatre group with whom Hondo became involved.
Its political statement is clear and unambiguous. A young man from Mauritius expects to find his education will be a passport to a better life in Paris. The reality is otherwise – manual labour instead of intellectual, being passed over for lesser capable whites, attitude of colonialism and patronisation in everyday life. If its politics are unsubtle, it’s because there is really no subtlety in the situation. When a situation is so unbalanced the picture that’s drawn will not be balanced, it cannot be balanced honestly.
Possibly equally angry films were made at the time. But Hondo shows from the start his powers as a real filmmaker. He thinks in images, not polemics as shown by a comment where he described an image he was not able to achieve:
The original idea was to show tourist spots packed with blacks only. All of a sudden you see Sacré Coeur and you would see only blacks. It would have had a powerful cinematographic impact. But the idea remained on paper and it wasn’t translated into images.[i]
The situations, encounters, rejections that Hondo uses to construct his film are raw, are brutal notwithstanding the quiet way in which they are presented to us. He is not interested in sugar-coating the story to appease the white bourgeoisie. But it is not a film of external anger or violence – perhaps that is the American way.
His actors are all people who lived these experiences and know how futile it can be to explode. But their anger, frustration and humiliation is palpable in Hondo’s images, in the performances, in the cinéma vérité style, in the rawness of the film.
Notes on the Restoration.
The restoration of Soleil Ô was made possible through the use of a 16mm reversal print, and 16mm and 35mm dupe negatives deposited by Med Hondo at Ciné-Archives, the audiovisual archive of the French Communist Party, in Paris. A vintage 35mm print preserved at the Harvard Film Archive was used as a reference. Colour grading was supervised by cinematographer François Catonné. [ii]
Restored by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in collaboration with Med Hondo. Restoration funded by the George Lucas Family Foundation and The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project.
[i] Med Hondo, quoted in Catalogue for Il Cinema Ritrovato XXXI edizione, 2017
Notes by Peter Hourigan
♦ THE COLOUR OF POMEGRANATES
SAYAT NOVA/NRAN GUYNE
Armenia, 1969 77 mins.
Director/Screenplay: Sergei Parajanov
Armenian intertitles: Hrant Matevosyan. Director of Photography: Suren Shakhbazian. Editor: Maria Ponomarenko. Art Directors: Stepan Andranikian, Mikhail Arakelian. Costumes: Elena Akhvlediani, Iosif Karalov, Jasmine Sarabian. Music: Tigran Mansurian. Sound: Yuri Sayadyan. Architecture Consultant: Victor Jorbenadze. Production Manager: Alexander Melik-Sarkisian.
Cast: Sofiko Chiaureli (the poet as a youth; the poet’s beloved; the nun in white lace; the angel of the resurrection; the pantomime), Melkon Alekian (the poet as a child), Vilen Galustian (the poet as a monk), Georgi Gegachkori (the poet in old age), Hovhannes Minsasian (the king), Spartak Bagashvili (the poet’s father), Medea Japaridze (the poet’s mother), Grigori Margarian (the poet’s teacher).
Sergei Parajanov was born to Armenian parents in Tbilisi (Georgia), 1924. An adolescent passion for music shifted to an interest in cinema, so he entered the Moscow film school VGIK in 1945, graduating (after a period in jail) in 1952. He began directing features for the Dovzhenko Studio in Kyiv (Ukraine) in 1955 and achieved an artistic and popular breakthrough with his fifth feature Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors in 1964. His next feature Kyiv Frescoes was aborted in pre-production, but he was able to complete The Colour of Pomegranates for the studio in Yerevan (Armenia) in 1969. After two more periods of imprisonment, he made two features and one short for the Georgian studio in Tbilisi before his death of lung cancer in 1990.
The Colour of Pomegranates
If The Colour of Pomegranates were a building, it would be a world heritage site. Parajanov’s masterpiece stands as a monument of ‘poetic cinema’, an edifice composed of tableaux in the vein of Persian and Armenian miniatures. Its images are finely balanced between the sacred and the profane, between exquisite spirituality and gleeful vulgarity. The tableaux present episodes, recalled or imagined, from the life of the 18th-century Armenian poet-troubadour Sayat Nova but (as the opening caption insists) the film not a conventional bio-pic. It does follow a trajectory from childhood to old age and death, taking in the youthful discovery of sexual difference and the adolescent pangs of a thwarted sexual passion. But focusing on the poet’s solitary ascendancy in the hierarchy of the Apostolic Gregorian church allows Parajanov to meditate on asceticism and to explore all the denials and repressions which life as a cleric entails. The film is also a paean to Armenia’s history and culture (its original geographical boundaries are mapped in pomegranate juice in the preface); like Parajanov himself, Sayat Nova (birth-name Arutin) was an ethnic Armenian born in Tbilisi, Georgia.
The film’s ultra-stylised mise en scène and performances have roots in a Soviet poetic tradition (early Dovzhenko, late Eisenstein), but they baffled both Armenian and Russian bureaucrats in 1969; and a few historical references ran foul of Soviet censorship policies. Parajanov’s original Sayat Nova was cut to 77 minutes by the Armenfilm Studio and briefly released in Armenia in October 1969 under the new title The Colour of Pomegranates (Nran Guyne in Armenian). It was blocked from wider release in Soviet territories until the Russian director Sergei Yutkevich intervened to help Parajanov. Yutkevich shortened the film by a few more minutes and added numbered chapter intertitles, hoping to make the film seem more conventionally biographical. A poorly duped print of the Yutkevich version was smuggled out of the USSR (supposedly via Iran) and screened in various western countries in the late 1970s in support of an international campaign to get Parajanov released from prison; after the collapse of the Soviet Union, copies of the Yutkevich version were sold for distribution and home-video in several countries. Until a print of the 77-minute Armenian version was rediscovered (and restored at L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, with support from Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation World Cinema Project), the film was known to the world only in the Yutkevich version. The restored Armenian version will be released on blu-ray in the UK and USA in 2018.
Restored in 2014 by Cineteca di Bologna/L’Immagine Ritrovata and The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project, in association with the National Cinema Centre of Armenia and Gosfilmofond of Russia. Restoration funding provided by the Material World Charitable Foundation and The Film Foundation.
Parajanov Filmography (feature films only)
Andriesh (1955), The First Lad (1958), Ukrainian Rhapsody (1961), Flower on the Stone (1962), Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors (1964), Kyiv Frescoes (1965, rehearsal footage only), The Colour of Pomegranates (1969), Legend of the Suram Fortress (1984), Ashik Kerib (1988).
Notes by Tony Rayns
♦ Yackety Yak (1973)
Director, Screenplay, Producer, Editor: Dave Jones
Director of Photography: Gordon Glenn
Sound Recordist: Peter Beilby
Assistant Director: Rod Bishop
Production Assistance: Andrew Pecze, Ian Armet
Additional Sound Recording: Lloyd Carrick
Experimental Film and Television Fund
16mm Black and White 86 minutes
John Cleary…………………………..Assistant Building Manager
Professor Jerzy Toeplitz………..Man in the Street
Doug White…………………………. Socrates
In the early 1970s, Dave Jones (aka D.B. Jones) was lecturing in the Media Centre at La Trobe University in Melbourne. A thoughtful, polite, reserved man and a Canadian specialist in documentary filmmaking, he suddenly surprised all his colleagues and students by directing one of the most outrageous and idiosyncratic feature films ever to emerge from Australia.
A dark, black and very funny comedy, Yackety Yack consistently challenges the political correctness of its times. Jones plays a mad-as-a-cut-snake film director who enlists the support of his students and fellow academics, challenging them to make a meaningful, politically engaged, collective film (“This can still be a collective film as long as you do what I say”).
Shot over seven days and mostly set in a film and television studio at La Trobe University, Jones deliberately photographed in 16mm on the grainiest film stock available (Kodak 4X), sacrificing technical quality for his manic script-and-actor driven narrative. There really is nothing like it – a unique mash-up of brutal Monty Pythonesque parody, intellectual barbarity, film buffery and political satire.
The issues, people and topics covered include: Chaos theory, Norman Mailer, entropy, existentialism, gender and feminism, Exploitation Cinema, the Vietnam War, “meaningful” suicide, Jean-Luc Godard, political correctness, Academic Boards, academic tenure, film critics and, of course, collective filmmaking.
Jones returned to Canada before the final release prints were struck. He resumed his career as a thoughtful, polite and reserved specialist in documentary filmmaking. Only in Australia did he release his alter ego Maurice, a lethal creation, a physical and intellectual bully and one of the most outrageously funny dictatorial film directors to grace the screen. An underground masterpiece.
Notes on the Restoration
High Definition scan from release print held by the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. Restoration funded by the Library at University of Technology, Sydney, instigated by Margot Nash.
Notes by Rod Bishop
♦ The Eloquent Peasant (1969)
Shadi Abdel Salam
Salam directed only two fiction films, the peerless The Night of Counting the Years (1969) and this 20-minute adaptation of The Eloquent Peasant, one of Ancient Egypt’s most celebrated works of literature.
Pieced together from several differing versions, The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant was written in classical Middle Egyptian and composed around 2200 BC. A combined folk story, morality play and poem, it tells of the peasant Khunanup and his donkey who stumble into lands owned by the nobleman Rensi. Khunanup’s possessions are stolen but he is accused of theft. He pleads his case to the Pharaoh, who is impressed by the peasant’s speech. Although realizing Khunanup has been wronged, Pharaoh withholds judgement so he can listen, over and over again, to the peasant’s remarkable eloquence.
Each plea by Khunanup to Pharaoh becomes another variation on the concept of Maat. Variously translated as status quo, truth, justice, order and righteousness, Maat transcends mere human existence and is part of Ancient Egyptian cosmological thought.
Khunanup is played by Ahmed Marei, the young Egyptologist from The Night of Counting the Years.
Notes on the Restoration
The World Cinema Foundation and Bologna’s Cinema Ritrovato used the original 35mm camera and sound negatives preserved at the Egyptian Film Centre in Cairo to produce a new 35mm inter-negative for digital restoration.
Notes by Rod Bishop
♦ The Nude In The Window
Peter Tammer is a veteran Melbourne-based film-maker with over twenty films on his filmography. He is an intellectual gadfly and has an acute appreciation of the history of the Australian cinema that has swirled around him from the sixties to the present. He has made films on near to no budgets for all that time. The new digital technology would have been a liberation for him back in the day when he made films on 16mm like Mallacoota Stampede (1981, which ‘discovered’ the gorgeous Deborah Conway) and his indisputable masterpiece Journey to the End of Night (1982). Both of those films won prizes at the Melbourne Film Festival and Journey to the End of Night won the Jury Prize at the 1982 AFI Awards.
Paul Cox made the leap from low budget dramas and documentaries into a sort of big time. It involved modest government funding for ambitious personal dramas that chronicled otherwise overlooked lives, byways. Cox was supported by a dedicated group of producers, actors, technicians, distributors and sales agents who combined to get his films front and centre with the world’s leading tastemakers – key festival directors, critics, distributors and exhibitors.
Paul and Peter were friends for life and they came together for a day in 2012.
Peter was accompanied by Kriszta Doczy. They filmed Paul and his partner Rosie for about 3 hours using Kriszta’s digital camcorder. Kriszta took stills and they shared the interview questions, with filming and recording by Peter. The interview was recorded on two 60 minute DV tapes and from them emerged the completed 60 minute film. Editing did not start until 2014 while Peter pondered how to deal with the material, and whether he should include other filmmaker friends from that period.
Peter edited the film with Nigel Buesst between February – October 2014. About one day per week every few weeks. While Peter is responsible for the concept for the film, the structure and the form, Nigel did make many valuable contributions, including providing some of his own stills from the Ryan/Bolte hanging days.
The edit was completed in October 2014 with additional help from Alix Jackson
During the film Peter, Kriszta and Paul talked about Cox’s childhood, his relocation to Australia as a refugee, his photographic business (the film title refers to a scandal Cox created at his Punt Road Melbourne studio) and his earliest films.
With the help of extracts from Paul’s early films the end result is a fascinating documentary in which two long-time friends mull over their lives. The only public screening thus far was at the Warbuton Film Festival which took place after the film was rejected by the Melbourne International Film Festival. Now here it is in Sydney – a tribute from one Melbourne film-maker to another who has now passed on, a deeply personal documentary involving two film-makers who have both contributed landmark moments to Australian film.
- Filmed and Directed by Peter Tammer
- Interviews by Tammer and Kriszta Doczy
- Edited by Tammer and Nigel Buesst
- Australia, 2014, 61 minutes, HD file.
And He Shall Rise Again (1964), On the Ball (1964), Beethoven and All that Jazz (1964), Pisces Dying (1966), Our Luke (1970), Journey to a Broken Heart (1970), Flux (1970), A Woman of our Time (1972), The Curse of Laradjongran (1972, Co-production With Monique Schwarz), Struttin’ the Mutton (1975), Here’s To You, Mr. Robinson (1976, co-production with Garry Patterson), Mallacoota Stampede (1981), Journey to the End of Night (1982),Tryptich (My Belle, 1983, Hey Marcel… ,1984, Queen of the Night (1985), Fear of the Dark (1985), Hi Jim (1990), Flausfilm (2009), The Nude in the Window (2014), Chauvet Cave (2014), Lascaux Cave (2014), Munch: The Sick Child (2014), Janet Cumbrae Stewart (2014), Our World Trip (1950/51) (In post-production)
♦ The Crime of M. Lange
The relationship between film-making and politics in France reached one of its peaks in the mid-1930s. From 1934 to around 1937 the French Communist Party joined forces with the rival Socialists and initially formed a coalition dubbed the Popular Front. Later the Radical Socialists also joined. An organization called Ciné-Liberté was formed to make films and produce a magazine. Jean Renoir was a member of the group and edited a highly polemical newspaper published under Ciné-Liberté’s name in 1936-1937. Richard Abel in his “French Film Theory and Criticism: A History/anthology, 1907-1939, Volume 2” mentions that “Jean Renoir was everywhere. Renoir contributed articles and interviews, for instance to L’Humanité… and to L’Avant-Garde (a weekly published by the French Communist Youth Federation); and from 1937 to 1938, along with Jean Cocteau, he even wrote a chatty weekly column for Ce Soir…”
The above is some background to the filming of M. Lange, one of Renoir’s greatest and most-loved films, made in 1936 against a background of full throttle government reform of workers’ rights and the development of co-operative workplaces.
Lange (René Lefèvre) is the star worker at a small printing plant situated on one side of a tenement courtyard. The business is run by the scheming Batala (Jules Berry). Batala importunes the women in the work place and cheats the workers. Eventually the business debts are such, notwithstanding the success that Lange brings via his tales of the cowboy Arizona Jim, that Batala absconds. The workers stay united and form a co-op to publish Lange’s work and in a matter of time the business is thriving and the courtyard turns into a place of bonhomie and communal joy. It is personified by the transformation of Charles, the concierge’s son who is laid up after an accident on his bicycle, whose window is blocked to the sun by an advertising hoarding. The removal of the hoarding takes on symbolic purpose in the transformation of the workers lives and is celebrated by a remarkable shot which shows the whole courtyard and the quotidian life bustling through it in one deep focus shot-sequence.
But then Batala returns…
Told as one long flashback from the moment Lange arrives at the border with Belgium with his girlfriend Valentine, the film represented a remarkable point in Renoir’s career. He brought in the writer Jacques Prévert, best known as the screenwriter of Marcel Carné’s doom-laden pieces of poetic realism, to create in François Truffaut’s words: Of all Renoir’s films Monsieur Lange is the most spontaneous, the richest in miracle of camerawork, the most full of pure beauty and truth. In short it is a film touched by divine grace.
Notes on the Restoration
Those who attended the first screenings of The Crime of M. Lange in Australia back in the early sixties, when it was part of a Melbourne University Film Society season of Renoir classics, recalled only too well the quality of the 16mm copy on display. It wasn’t any better when it was shown on SBS sometime in the 90s.
The young man who introduced the screening of Jean Renoir’s Le Crime de M. Lange (France, 1936) at Bologna’s Il cinema ritrovato in 2017, on behalf of the now rights holder StudioCanal, said it had been the hardest restoration the company had ever done. The 4K restoration is a remarkable demonstration of the art of film restoration.
Jean Renoir Feature Filmography
Une Vie Sans Joie (1925), La Fille de l’Eau (1925), Nana (1926), Charleston (1927), Marquitta (1927), La Petite Marchande des Allumettes/The Little Match Girl (1928), Le Tournoi (1928), Tire au Flanc (1928), Le Bled (129), Le Petit Chaperon Rouge (1930), La P’tite Lili (1930), Die Jagd Nach Dem Gluck/A la Chasse a la Fortune/Running out of Luck (1930), On Purge Bébé (1931), La Chienne (1931), La Nuit du Carrefour (1932), Boudu Sauvé des Eaux (1932), Chotard et Cie (1932), Madame Bovary (1934), Toni (1935), Le Crime de M. Lange (1936), La Vie Est à Nous (1936), Partie de Campagne (1936), Les Bas-Fonds (1936), La Grande Illusion (1937), La Marseillaise (1938), La Bête Humaine (1938), La Règle du Jeu (1939), La Tosca (1940), Swamp Water (1941), This Land is Mine (1943), The Southerner (1945), Diary of a Chambermaid (1946), The Woman on the Beach (1947), The River (1951), The Golden Coach (1953), French CanCan (1954), Elena and the Men (1956), The Testament of Dr Cordelier (1959), Lunch on the Grass (1959), Le Caporal Epinglé/The Vanishing Corporal (1962), The Little Theatre of Jean Renoir (1969)
DCP supplied by StudioCanal Australia (Greg Denning, Andrew Rolfe, Rosie Braye big thanks).
Notes by Geoff Gardner
♦ In This Life’s Body
Corinne and Arthur Cantrill are Australia’s leading experimentalist filmmakers. They have been making films together since 1960 and began their experimental work in 1969. Together they have made over 150 films and prepared 13 film/performance works. Their films have been shown at the Centre Pompidou and The Louvre in Paris, the New York Museum of Modern Art, as well as other art museums and film festivals around the world.
A woman’s life told through hundreds of photographs, recollection and introspection.
IN THIS LIFE’S BODY is an autobiography of Corinne Cantrill from 1928 to 1984, written and narrated by the filmmaker. It is the story of a passionate life and is a meditation on life and death, on film, art and love.
It is based on hundreds of photographs of Corinne, her family and friends, and some movie film. Many genres of photography are represented in the film: snapshots, studio portraits, school photos, candid camera shots and street photos, studies by aspiring amateurs, press photos and work by other professional photographers, stills from films and mirror self-portraits.
Corinne Cantrill writes of IN THIS LIFE’S BODY: “I wanted to trace the story of my life through all the photographs I could find. I borrowed my childhood photos from my parents, and these were a revelation — they told me so much about myself and my childhood. I had not expected mere photographs to be so ‘telling’. They were a trigger to memory, many forgotten experiences re-surfaced.
“I was a child of mixed race and culture, who grew up in Sydney in the mean, bigoted years of the 1930s, in a household of conflict — violence between my parents, and a conflict of ideologies: Communism and Theosophy.
“The telling of the story in two and a half hours has been so difficult — the decisions of selection. I have tried to give the main ‘facts’ of my life, and the rest is a ‘sampling’ of stories and incidents to give the texture of my life experience — accounts of my family life, friendships and relationships, social and political events, my career, and my feelings about my life experiences as they happened. Each phase of my life is summarised in a variety of recapitulative methods.
“I try to understand who I am, in this life’s body.”
In the Oxford Companion to Australian Film Ina Bertrand called In This Life’s Body “an autobiographical masterpiece”
Notes on the Restoration:
Funded by the Library of the University of Technology, Sydney.
Digitisation by Stephen Jones SJA Productions. Digitisation supervision by Margot Nash.
Concept, script and narration by Corinne Cantrill
Rostrum camera and sound recording by Arthur Cantrill, Edited by Arthur and Corinne Cantrill. B&W. Australia, 1984, 148 minutes
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
In an extraordinarily prolific life Fassbinder made his first film at the age of 24. He died at the age of 37 having completed over forty films, two television series, three short films, four video productions, and twenty-four plays, often acting as well as directing. In a Year of 13 Moons, made late in his career in 1978, is one of his most personal films.
Fassbinder’s 1978 film, In a Year of 13 Moons opens with a long shot, photographed at the Magic hour of dusk, of a parkland gay beat by the Main river in Frankfurt. The shot is penetrated by the tottering, incoherent figure of Elvira, dressed as a man, who makes contact with one of three hustlers, to whom she hands cash for sex. He begins to caress her genitals while the screen now lights up with another totemic signal of so many 70s arthouse movies, a “sage commentary” text about the seasons of the moon and the alleged lunar effects over periods of 13 moons upon folk with a depressive bent who may commit suicide.
The text reads as much a piece of baloney as the title text page of fake “Buddhist wisdom” by so-called “Bushiido” which Jean-Pierre Melville also slides into the opening sequence of his existential gangster masterpiece, Le Samourai from 1967. We are now in a rarefied conceit of reality as artifice.
Fassbinder has now added a third iconic element to the opening sequence with the music track, the fourth movement Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth. The piece at this point in cultural history was already a cultural hymn for the decade of the Tragic Queen Movie, initiated as it was by Visconti in his lumbering Death in Venice from 1971. Where Visconti’s film sinks under the weight of production design, costume and music and leans on its cultural attachments to signify greatness, Fassbinder’s film makes explosively derisive and satiric counterpoint with the music, as he and Peer Raben so often did with classical material, and the movie powers into an unmatched level of bleakness.
The trio of hustlers turns on Elvira and beats her up after discovering she has no cock beneath her silk frilly panties. Thus Fassbinder propels the movie into sequences of tableaux as Elvira takes a Feu Follet style path down the road to suicide, with a voyage through her past and the people who “made” her identity. To set the tone early, a seven minute two shot sequence leads us through the slaughterhouse where Elvira, used to work as former working class man, Erwin, and is again blasted with Mahler. But the music and dialogue are now pierced by the screams of the cattle, and the conversation of Elvira and his companion at this point, the amazing Ingrid Caven, a compassionate neighborhood hooker, and real life former Mrs Fassbinder. The mixture of screaming on the live track and Mahler on the Foley looks forward to the mind bending slaughterhouse scene for the Epilogue of the 1980 TV series, Berlin Alexanderplatz. Fassbinder’s layering of formal elements to propose as much contradiction and antipathy as possible is by now total.
So does the titanic Rainer Werner Fassbinder knit formal elements of his texts and his movies into great films focussing on despair, greed, and the human condition. His staging and blocking of actors has been unique in cinema since he began making movies from the late 60s. His early days as actor and writer in the Munich arts communes gave him the expressive possibilities for layered meaning, irony and razor sharp insight, especially from masters of formal deconstruction like Brecht.
It’s been said that Fassbinder revered the Alienation effect so beloved of Brechtians but I would suggest he actually reinvents it, so unrecognizably has he created a unique personal style in the cinema for staging and directing actors.
One angle of this movie I want to mention briefly is, as one of his “centrally” queer films, not only is the queer (here transsexual) character not the subject in herself, it’s her identity. Elvira begins the movie in a state of literal derangement that has started before the movie began. Her boyfriend who leaves her at the beginning says “your head is full of marmalade.” In having the sex change operation in Morocco to please a former Jewish property developer boyfriend who also rejected her, she began a process of building an identity, and a mode of even walking and speaking that is still unformed. Volker Spengler’s performance in this film is simply extraordinary. Every element of performance itself has been turned inside out, and the usual tools of makeup, costume, even screen diva camp signifiers, are played with. Elvira’s body movements are angular, contorted as though she’s not really learnt how to walk. In fact she does not know how to live any more.
Fassbinder considered this his personal favourite, along with Beware of a Holy Whore from 1971. If you can make the journey with him you may well agree.
Notes on the Restoration
In a Year of 13 Moons was restored by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation. The DCP is supplied by StudioCanal Australia.
IN A YEAR OF 13 MOONS/IN EINEM JAHR MIT 13 MONDEN
Director/Screenwriter: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Director of Photography/Art Direction: Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Editors: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Juliane Lorenz. Music: Peter Raben. Production Designer: Franz Vacek. Makeup: Jo Braun. Production Manager: Isolde Barth. Sound: Wolfgang Mund, Karl Scheydt. Camera Department: Werner Lüring, Wolfgang Mund, Karl Scheydt.
Cast: Volker Spengler (Erwin/Elvira Weishaupt), Ingrid Caven (Die rote Zora), Gottfried John (Anton Saitz), Elisabeth Trissenaar (Irene Weishaupt), Eva Mattes (Marie-Ann Weishaupt), Günther Kaufmann (J. Smolik, Chauffeur), Lilo Pempeit (Schwester Gudrun), Isolde Barth (Sybille).
West Germany, 1978, 124 mins, DCP (from orig 35mm), German with English subtitles, MA15+
Notes by David Hare