Saint-Tropez Blues (1961)

Saint-Tropez Blues poster

I love the south of France and I’ll take it however I get it. Before it was Eurotrashed it was a charming rackety place filled with fishing villages boasting their share of boho types. Aspiring painter Jean-Paul (Jacques Higelin) persuades his friend Anne-Marie (Marie Laforet) to bunk off from college in Paris to spend a debauched week in St-Trop. They fetch up around the kind of folk for whom sleeping with one another is une politesse.  Laforet makes for a charmingly goofy heroine, trying to protect her virginity and proving equal to the demands of her worldly companions. Her cover is blown with her parents when her midnight nude bathing is photographed in a national magazine. Written (with an assist from Jean-Paul Rappeneau) and directed by Marcel Moussy in a loose, beautifully colourful style that’ll have you itching for une grande vacance. Look sharp for Claude Chabrol whose wife Stephane Audran plays a very cool woman of the world. Happy Bastille Day.

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Beat Girl (1959)

Beat Girl poster

One of those legendary Brit cult films that seem like such a curate’s egg at this distance. Divorced architect David Farrar brings a French poodle (Noelle Adam) home to his sulky beatnik teenage daughter Jennifer (Gillian Hills) and she discovers Maman was a stripper and a whore. She spends her time with other privileged kids like Peter McEnery and Shirley Anne Field and they groove to Adam Faith’s music at the Offbeat Cafe before taking off in a chicken run just for kicks. The strip club near the Offbeat run by Christopher Lee is the key to Maman’s past and Jennifer gets a taste for it after finding out from him that her colleague Greta (Delphi Lawrence) shared more than just a background in dance class in Paris. This is part-melodrama, part-shocker, with one extraordinarily lewd strip scene featuring the talents of ‘Pascaline’. Adam Faith’s musical partnership with John Barry finally bore fruit for him after this and he scored some chart hits (his speech impediment is what’s striking here); while this was Barry’s first film score and the first British soundtrack album ever released. Lawrence doesn’t feature in the credits despite being central to the plot;  Oliver Reed – whose uncle Carol got him the role – is in the ensemble as ‘Plaid Shirt’;  if you look fast you’ll spot Carol White in the Offbeat. The story and screenplay were by Dail Ambler, while direction was by Anglo-French Jew Edmond Greville, whose career came to a halt under the Nazi Occupation. Gillian Hills had already been in Vadim’s Dangerous Liaisons 1960, which, as far as snowy Alpine adultery dramas go, is top of the list. She later became famous as a ‘ye ye’ singer in France and she’ll always have a place in my heart for playing Alison in the TV version of The Owl Service as well as starring as Elizabeth in Demons of the Mind, written by my late friend, Christopher Wicking. She had several other acting roles but later turned to illustration and married the manager of AC/DC. Tres cool, daddy-o!

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Inside Llewyn Davis poster.jpg

A charmless folk singer in Greenwich Village can’t get a break. His married girlfriend is knocked up  by him – maybe. Even his musical partner has topped himself. He tries to strike a deal and is accompanied on his quest by a benefactor’s cat – maybe. He gets caught in a heroin OD nightmare – not his own. He has no overcoat and his sister has thrown out his union card that he needs to go back working on a boat. This antithesis of the hero’s journey could be read as a Coen Bros riposte to the Blake Snyder screenwriting manual that was in vogue for a while, Save the Cat. And it’s a rough film a clef about a real life denizen of that scene. In the meantime, while the cat (or cats) was wonderful, my own ginger companion, Gilbert, was having none of it. He prefers wolf documentaries.