Bande a Part (1964)

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Aka Band of OutsidersA Who-Dunit, Who’s Got-It, Where-Is-It-Now Wild One From That “Breathless” director Jean-Luc Godard!  Smalltime crooks and cinéphile slackers Franz (Sami Frey) and Arthur (Claude Brasseur) spend their days mimicking the antiheroes of Hollywood noirs and Westerns while pursuing the lovely Odile (Anna Karina) whom they meet at English class. The misfit trio upends convention at every turn, through choreographed dances in cafés or frolicsome romps through the Louvre trying to set a record for fastest circumnavigation. Eventually, their romantic view of outlaws pushes them to plan their own heist, but their inexperience may send them out in a blaze of glory – just like their B-movie heroes … Isn’t it strange how people never form a whole?Ostensibly an adaptation of a novel called Fool’s Gold by Dorothy Hitchens, that’s just a skeleton on which the mischievous Jean-Luc Godard drapes his love and admiration of Hollywood genres (and Karina) over a series of apparently improvised riffs in this lightly constructed charmer. A few clues for latecomers: Several weeks ago… A pile of money… An English class… A house by the river… A romantic young girl... It’s a splendidly rackety affair, with several standout scenes providing the postmodern matrix for much of pop culture (and a name for Quentin Tarantino’s production company). It’s Godard at his most playful, joyous and audience-pleasing, exploring what it’s like to not want to grow up and how it’s always possible to have fun with like-minded people. Then, you go a little too far and someone goes and spoils it all for everyone. Maybe. Sheer pleasure. Godard said of the dance scene: “Alice in Wonderland as re-choreographed by Kafka”. A minute of silence can last a long time… a whole eternity


Never Say Never Again (1983)

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They don’t make ’em like they used to. An aging James Bond (Sean Connery) makes a mistake during a routine training mission which leads M (Edward Fox) to believe that the legendary MI6 spy is past his prime. M indefinitely suspends Bond from active duty. He’s sent off to a fat farm where he witnesses SPECTRE member Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera) administering a sadistic beating to a fellow patient whose eye she then scans. She and her terrorist colleagues including pilot Jack Petachi (Gavan O’Herlihy) successfully steal two nuclear warheads from the U.S. military for criminal mastermind Blofeld (Max Von Sydow). M must reinstate Bond, as he is the only agent who can beat SPECTRE at their own game. He follows Petachi’s sister Domino (Kim Basinger) with her lover and SPECTRE agent Maximillian Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer) to the Bahamas and then befriends her at a spa in Nice by posing as a masseur. At a charity event in a casino Bond beats Largo at a video game where the competitors receive electric shocks of increasing intensity. Bond informs Domino Largo’s had her brother killed … There’s an incredible motorbike chase when Blush captures Bond and a really good stunt involving horses in a wild escape from the tower at the top of a temple in North Africa but this isn’t handled as well as you’d like and some of the shooting looks a little rackety:  inexperienced producer Jack Schwartzman had underestimated production costs and wound up having to dig into his own funds. (He was married to actress Talia Shire who has a credit on the film – their son is actor Jason;  his other son John is the film’s cinematographer).  With Rowan Atkinson adding comic relief as the local Foreign Office rep,  Von Sydow as the cat-stroking mad genius and Brandauer giving his best tongue in cheek as the neurotic foe, this is not in the vein of the original Bonds. It’s a remake of Thunderball which was the subject of litigation from producer Kevin McClory who co-wrote the original story with Ivar Bryce and Ian Fleming who then based his novel on the resulting screenplay co-written with Jack Whittingham before any of the films were ever made. (This is covered in Robert Sellers’ book The Battle for Bond). It thereby sideswiped the ‘official’ Broccoli machine by bringing the original Bond back – in the form of a much older Connery in a re-run of his fourth Bond outing which had been massively profitable. Pamela Salem is Moneypenny and is given very little to do;  while Bernie Casey turns up as Felix Leiter. With nice quips about age and fitness (as you’d expect from witty screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr. but there were uncredited additions by comic partnership Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais), good scene-setting, glorious women and terrific underwater photography by the legendary marine DoP Ricou Browning, this is the very essence of a self-deprecating late entry – particularly in the wake of Roger Moore’s forays and he wasn’t even done yet: Octopussy came out after this. Fun but not particularly memorable, even if we’re all in on the joke.

Vivre sa vie: film en douze tableaux (1962)

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Autant que je sache, le mariage entre Jean-Luc Godard et Anna Karina fut foutu pendant le tournage – et bien, ce film-ci, dedie aux B-movies, soit en meme temps une espece du cinema verite (fonde dans une these, Ou en est la prostitution, de Marcel Sacotte), un hommage a Karina par un mari obsede, et aussi un film assez experimentale, bien que le camera (un Mitchell) fut beaucoup plus lourd que normale pour un film de la nouvelle vague (cinematographie par Raoul Coutard). Karina est impressionante et emouvante dans ce conte tragique, une femme qui depart son mariage et famille pour une carriere comme actrice mais elle se trouve obligee a se prostituer, venduee  d’un souteneur a un autre, et finalement tuee. Une histoire d’un amour fou et mortel, entre un realisateur et sa muse.

Summer of ’42 (1971)


Oh, the humanity. I saw this at an impressionable age and it has stayed with me in a way that few films do. It also introduced me to the music of Michel Legrand. When I went away to college at 17 I stepped into a piano bar one evening and once I was sitting down the house musician played this theme, The Summer Knows:  instantly I felt more at ease in my own skin. It calls up all sorts of feelings of recognition, yearning, regret, hope, fear. What is it about this film? The music, certainly. The story of a boy’s sentimental education with a young Army wife who then becomes a war widow. The setting on Nantucket. The summer breezes blowing the grasses on the dunes. The waves, the waves, constantly forming the backdrop to experience. Now Voyager in the movie theatre. Jennifer O’Neill’s incredible beauty. Gary Grimes’ awkwardness as Hermie. Jerry Houser’s typical boy, Oscy. And of course the bespectacled Oliver Conant as Benjie, whose sex manual gives the boys the keys to the kingdom, as they see the world of girls. TV writer Herman Raucher narrates his own story:  because this is what happened to him aged 14. He was persuaded to novelize his screenplay and it was a bestseller before the film’s release, going through many print runs. He got ten per cent of the film’s gross because Warners weren’t sure it would make money:  it never quit and he would never agree to a remake. Robert Mulligan directed. It is a remarkably resonant and touching work and it’s what Shelley Duvall is watching on TV in The Shining. There’s a sequel that I’ve never seen. This will do. It’s perfect.