#183 The 400 Blows/Les quatre cents coups

Watched: July 4 2018

Director: François Truffaut

Starring: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy, Patrick Auffay

Year: 1959

Runtime: 1h 39min

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Antoine Doinel (Léaud) is a pretty average kid. He lives with his self-centred mother (Maurier) and nice enough, but very strict, stepfather (Rémy) in a small apartment in Paris. He doesn’t do too well in school and occasionally gets in trouble, although his best friend René (Auffay) seems to be the instigator at least some of the time.

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“I’m thinking we should hire some hookers and then kill some puppies?” “Yeah, I was thinking more like skip school and go to the fair..?”

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After he’s caught skipping school and lying about his mother’s death to cover for it, Antoine runs away from home. It only lasts for a day or so though, but when his teacher later accuses him of plagiarising Balzac, Antoine runs away again. This time for a while, and with more serious consequences.

 

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“Copied” sounds so harsh. I prefer “inspired by.”

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Antoine is misunderstood and/or ignored throughout the film. None of the adults in his life take the time to listen to him, and his actions are very often misinterpreted and harshly punished, such as his homage to Balzac and his return of the stolen typewriter (which, granted, he did steal earlier).

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Considering the irony of being caught returning stolen goods…

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We loved The 400 Blows. While it’s a fairly tragic tale of a talented but misunderstood young boy who gets into all sorts of (quite serious) trouble, it’s not all bleak. We loved the P.E. sequence with the rapidly diminishing student body, the centrifugal carousel, the shrine to Balzac and the kids watching the puppet show.

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Not to mention the extremely disruptive students

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Without spoiling it, the ending is also (possibly) optimistic, with Antoine standing at several thresholds and between two chapters of his life. There are four more films made about the same character played by the same (wonderful) actor, and we’re tempted to make a night of it and watch them all. In about ten years when we’re done with everything on the list

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In case you were wondering, we do bring this amount of energy and enthusiasm to every single film screening. Every. Single. One.

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What we learned: Life is hard for kids. Also, parents have responsibilities beyond feeding their children.

Next time: Special Bonus Post! Oboy oboy oboy!!!

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#163 Mon Oncle

Watched: January 8 2018

Director: Jacques Tati

Starring: Jacques Tati, Adrienne Servantie, Jean-Pierre Zola, Alain Bécourt

Year: 1958

Runtime: 1h 57min

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Our second encounter with Monsieur Hulot (Tati) was perhaps even more enjoyable than our first. Mon Oncle introduces us to his extended family: his sister, his brother-in-law, and his adorable nephew. Oh, and their dog, of course. Cannot forget the dog.

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So smart in his little waistcoat! Squeee!

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Hulot’s brother-in-law Charles Arpel (Zola) and sister Mme. Arpel (Servantie – who doesn’t even have a name in this) live in their ultra-modern and technologically advanced house Villa Arpel, where everything goes wrong on a regular basis. In addition to their fancy house, they have son Gerard (Bécourt) and the aforementioned dog, both of whom like to play with strays.

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“I’ll tell mother you followed me home. I’m sure she’ll let me keep you!”

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While the Arpel’s try to keep up appearances to their neighbours, colleagues and anyone who should happen to pass by, Gerard is disenfranchised by it all and loves spending time with his unassuming uncle. However, Charles thinks Hulot is a bad influence, and that he should get a proper job, a proper house, and a proper life. Like he has.

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“A proper house with a proper wife in a proper plastic house-cleaning dress and with a proper fish fountain in the front garden. Is that too much to ask?”

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However, when he tries to introduce Hulot to this life, everything goes very wrong. As expected by those of us who watched him on holiday earlier on.

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When even getting a glass of water requires an engineering degree, you know you’ve gone overboard with the tech

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There’s so much in this movie we loved! The opening credits, Mme. Arpel’s plastic house dress, the traffic moving in time with the music, the dogs, the hats (oh, the hats!), the slapstick, the hark back to the silent movie era (especially Modern Times), the trotting secretary, and the garden party populated by the worst kinds of people in the world.

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Did we mention the hats?

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It’s silly and wonderful, and thoroughly entertaining. Have fun!

What we learned: We need to up our hat game!

Next time: The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

#162 Elevator to the Gallows/Ascenseur pour l’échafaud

Watched: January 20 2018

Director: Louis Malle

Starring: Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, Yori Bertin, Georges Poujouly, Jean Wall

Year: 1958

Runtime: 1h 31min

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Foreign Legion veteran Julien Tavernier (Ronet) and his lover Florence Carala (Moreau) have a diabolical plan: they will kill Florence’s husband, who just so happens to be Julien’s boss, and make it look like a suicide. The plan is good (you know, in an evil way) and goes smoothly until Julien forgets to get rid of a key piece of evidence.

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Strangely enough, considering his 74-a-day habit, it was not a DNA-riddled cigarette, but an innocent rope

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When Julien tries to retrieve the rope hanging from the murdered man’s window, his timing couldn’t be worse and he ends up stuck in the elevator for the night when the power is turned off.

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“Dammit! I shouldn’t have had that extra croissant for lunch. Now I won’t be able to squeeze out until I’ve worked it off.”

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Florist Véronique (Bertin), who works across the street, and her crook boyfriend Louis (Poujouly) take this opportunity to steal Julien’s car and go on their own spree, which also ends in murder. One in which Julien becomes the main suspect as Louis stole his identity as well as his sweet ride.

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“Fret not, my dear. It’s just a bad day. Who hasn’t had one of those days where they’ve stolen several cars and killed German tourists? It’ll all blow over soon.”

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Meanwhile, Florence wanders the streets of Paris searching for her now MIA lover she thinks she saw driving off in his car with another woman. Her internal dialogue is not happy about this.

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She’s in the ultimate sexy French depression

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We loved everything about this movie. It is visually stunning and fantastically scored with music by Miles Davis. Despite the fact that Julien committed his very own murder, we kept hoping that pretentious douchebag Louis would be arrested to clear Julien of killing the extremely happy German tourist, and the suspense kept us on the edges of our seats.

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That, and Jeanne Moreau’s various depressed faces

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All the characters are horrible people, and yet we were enthralled by the story and very invested in the ending. Definitely a must-watch!

What we learned: Divorce was invented for a reason, people. Use it!

Next time: Mon Oncle (1958)

#132 Rififi/Du rififi chez les hommes

Watched: September 3 2017

Director: Jules Dassin

Starring: Jean Servais, Carl Möhner, Robert Manuel, Janine Darcey, Jules Dassin, Marie Sabouret, Marcel Lupovici, Magali Noël

Year: 1955

Runtime: 1h 58min

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Tony le Stéphanois (Servais) is a retired crook with health problems who just spent five years in prison after taking the fall for friend Jo (Möhner). The two meet mutual friend Mario (Manuel) for coffee and crime planning, although Tony is getting too old for this shit.

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Guess which one has expressed some doubt about the scheme

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Tony respectfully declines, but when he learns ex-girlfriend Mado (Sabouret) is back in town and smooching it up with gangster Grutter (Lupovici) he signs up, after giving her a savage beating.

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The first look at Tony’s dark side. And trust us – it’s dark!

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The trio bring in Italian safe cracker César (Dassin) and start planning the perfect heist – the nighttime robbery of a jewellery shop. The crime itself goes off (almost) without a hitch, until César can’t help himself but steal an extra piece of jewellery for his lover Viviane (Noël).

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After all that planning and suspense, a guy thinking with his dick screws it up. Men just aren’t cut out for this kind of work.

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Grutter figures out who’s behind the incredible heist and comes after them. As he threatens Jo’s family, Tony utilizes his dark side for good and goes after the ruthless gangster.

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Pictured: not a guy you want to mess with

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Rififi is basically the ultimate heist movie; it is stylish and cool with a great cast of characters and an extremely exciting robbery. We absolutely loved the song and dance routine with the silhouettes, as well as the planning phase. However, the long silent scene during the robbery, which is probably the longest silent part of a film that’s not a pre-talkie we’ve ever seen, was by far our favourite. So suspenseful!

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There’s just so much style in this film!

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Also, we were giddily happy to see that the decorative lampshade finally served a purpose. It’s like all the Noirs we’ve watched so far have been leading up to this moment. What a payoff.

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To the right: multi-purpose decorative lamp. Finally!

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What we learned: How much work actually goes into a perfect crime. Also, don’t stray from the plan and get greedy. Or think with your dick.

Next time: The Big Combo (1955)

#128 Diabolique/Les diaboliques

Watched: August 7 2017

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Starring: Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse

Year: 1955

Runtime: 1h 57min

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Christina Delassalle (Clouzot) and Nicole Horner (Signoret) are colleagues at a boarding school for boys somewhere in France, but that’s not all they have in common. They are also involved with the same man – Christina’s tyrannical bastard of a husband Michel (Meurisse).

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“It’s always more fun to share with everyone”

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Michel does not only mistreat his poorly (but wealthy) wife – he is also abusive to his mistress and the children in the school. Fed up with him, Nicole concocts a murderous plan to rid the two women of their shared lover. Christina is hesitant at first, but after her husband humiliates her and rapes her, she has finally been pushed too far.

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Not what most men have in mind when they picture being bathed by two women

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They go through with their plan, but the already mentally and physically fragile wife is quickly deteriorating from the stress and the guilt. Then, the body disappears, freaky stuff starts happening and things turn creepy.

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Artist’s representation of us watching this film

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Diabolique is very, very creepy and suspenseful. Michel is extremely unlikable and we’ve never wanted two people to get away with murder more than in this case. This film kept us guessing to the end (although we had a theory which turned out to be spot on) and there are a lot of exciting twists and turns in the plot.

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The look of a woman mentally preparing for murder

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We won’t say much more as we do not want to spoil this gem for anyone, but if you haven’t seen it, it should go to the top of your to-watch list. So good.

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What we learned: If you’re going to murder someone, make sure you know how to play it cool.

Next time: It’s Always Fair Weather (1955)

#119 The Wages of Fear/Le salaire de la peur

Watched: July 8 2017

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot

Starring: Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Folco Lulli, Peter van Eyck, Véra Clouzot

Year: 1953

Runtime: 2h 27min

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In a small village somewhere in South America, men of various nationalities are looking for work and a ticket out of extreme poverty and to more civilized places. After a horrible accident at a nearby oil field, the American owned “Southern Oil Company” needs to transport huge quantities of nitroglycerin to the field, but have no inclination to spend time and money putting security measures in place.

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“We made a sign. What more could we possibly do?”

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Not prepared to sacrifice proper American lives on this suicide mission, the company recruits drivers among the unemployed village vagabonds – desperate men ready to do anything for the $2000 offered as payment.

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“Just, you know, don’t shake the cargo. Or make loud noises. Or crash. Or have a nervous breakdown. Yeah, you’ll be fine.”

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The lucky(?) selected drivers (after some light corruption and implied violence) are Mario (Montand) and Señor Jo (Vanel) in one truck, and Luigi (Lulli) and Bimba (van Eyck) in the other. They are informed of what they are transporting as well as warned by another potential driver that even if they survive the impossible task, they will be mentally scarred for life. However, desperate people are willing to do desperate things, and the chosen men go on their way.

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What could possibly go wrong on these well-maintained roads?

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The ensuing road trip is one of the tensest we’ve ever seen. Every tiny obstacle, of which there are many, is potentially fatal, and the relationships between the characters grow very strained. It is a good film that can get us to care about characters who are intrinsically unlikable, and Clouzot manages that difficult task.

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Despite their (many) flaws and their treatment of each other and others in their lives (such as Mario’s girl Linda [Clouzot]), we really don’t want them to suffer a fiery death

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This is another film which we did not expect to enjoy as much as we did. It is excruciating to watch the four men attempt to get their deadly cargo to their destination, and the tension manages to stay high all the way to the final scene. Despite a slightly slow start, the 147 minutes fly by and leaves you a nervous wreck. We’d really love to see this on the big screen one day, so if the local film club ever does a screening, we’re first in line.

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Not what we had in mind when we saw there would be men covered in oil. The only slight disappointment in this film.

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What we learned: Oil companies are ruthless and evil. Also, money is not worth risking everything for.

Next time: Godzilla (1954)

#115 M. Hulot’s Holiday/Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot

Watched: June 10 2017

Director: Jacques Tati

Starring: Jacques Tati, Nathalie Pascaud, Micheline Rolla, Valentine Camax

Year: 1953

Runtime: 1h 23min

Mr Hulot's Holiday

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It’s vacation time in France, and everyone (in the upper middle classes) is getting on a train to sunny beaches. Headed the same way is a run down disaster of a car, threatening the peace of the holiday makers. An ill wind blows into the hotel – Monsieur Hulot (Tati), an OCD weirdo who’s very kind to animals, approaches.

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“Bonjour, mon ami. C’est moi! Croissant, pantalon, poo poo la la!”

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Hulot, despite being a polite and well meaning character, has a tendency to exacerbate any problematic situation he gets himself into, of which there are many. Mainly because he causes them in the first place, such as unwittingly crashing a funeral, although often technology also plays a part.

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The cars in this are practically lethal

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M. Hulot’s Holiday is basically a silent slapstick comedy, 30 years after they were in vogue. It has lots of silly gags and characters and is just a jolly good time. Hulot himself could have been really annoying, but he’s oddly endearing (something we personally feel Rowan Atkinson failed to achieve with his similar character Mr Bean decades later, although we understand that may be a controversial statement).

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“Just out for a stroll. Don’t mind me.”

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This film is so, so silly and fun, with lots of nods to earlier silent comedy geniuses and the tradition of mime and physical theatre. In addition, there’s a series of eccentric supporting character, such as the British tennis referee and poor Arthur. All together, they make a hilarious experience for any comedy fan. Check it out!

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We’ll just leave you with this image, completely out of context

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What we learned: The best intentions can still lead to disaster. Also, you don’t need a lot of dialogue to make people laugh.

Next time: The Band Wagon (1953)

#92 Jour de Fête

Watched: March 21 2017

Director: Jacques Tati

Starring: Jacques Tati and other French people

Year: 1949

Runtime: 1h 10min

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This film is hilarious! Seriously.

It’s the day of the annual party in a small French village and everyone is getting ready, as explained to the viewer by an adorable old lady’s running commentary on their efforts. In the middle of the preparations is François (Tati himself), the local postman and part time village idiot.

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For reference, this is his most intelligent expression throughout the film

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The poor man is trying to complete his round, but is sidetracked by the other villagers who recruit him to set up a pole (not a euphemism), get drunk with them and watch a propaganda film about the high-tech American postal service. The latter inspires him to step up his own game, with hilarious consequences.

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He is constantly being taken for rides, both literally and figuratively

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Jour de Fête is a silly, silly film with loads of throwbacks to old silent movies in the physical humour and slapstick found throughout. There’s also verbal humour though, so it does not stay too much in the silent movie era. Among our favourite scenes were the meeting of the potential lovers with the Western soundtrack playing, the old lady narrator in the beginning, and of course François’ amazing chicken catch. If you have no idea what we’re talking about – watch the film.

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For those of you wanting something deeper than a silly, French comedy, there are also political undertones as the protagonist confuses the U.S. M.P.

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We recommend this one to everyone who likes a bit of silly in their lives, although we did feel sorry for François when the other villagers made fun of him all the time. Still, that’s the price you pay for being the village idiot (which is an important position, make no mistakes). We’re looking forward to more Tati in the future.

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Hopefully, the upcoming films will also include the old lady and her goat. Fingers crossed!

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What we learned: Allons-y!

Next time: Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

#75 La Belle et La Bête/Beauty and the Beast

Watched: January 8 2017

Director: Jean Cocteau

Starring: Josette Day, Jean Marais

Year: 1946

Runtime: 1h 36min

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Belle (Day), the beautiful young daughter of a merchant, is being Cinderella’d by her rooty tooty snooty sisters after their family’s fortune was lost at sea. As her father gets word of one of his ships having reached port safely, he travels to the city to regain some of his fortune, only to find it has all been seized in payment of his debts. Returning home through a scary forest in a storm, he seeks shelter in a castle which seems abandoned yet has a marvelous feast set out for him.

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There’s nothing at all sinister or creepy about the place

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He spends the night in the castle and, when leaving the next morning, picks a rose for his daughter as that was her only request for a present. Big mistake. A frightful Beast (Marais) sets upon him and tells him he must die for this offence. The merchant manages to make a deal to go home home to see his family if he promises to return promptly or send a family member in his place. Belle, being the good daughter, offers to go to the castle instead of her ailing father.

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The pretty dresses and jewellry sort of make up for the creepy living statues and ornaments of her new home.

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Instead of finding a primitive beast ready to devour her, Belle meets a gentlemanly one who proclaims her mistress of the castle and himself her humble servant. She stays with him for months, and though every night she refuses his marriage proposal, they develop a friendship and companionship which is quite mutual, despite him looking like he’s always on the verge of reciting Shakespearean soliloquies. Case in point:

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We’d like to think his tendency to lurk behind her is more a kindness so that she won’t have to look at him, rather than something sinister. Despite the neverending marriage proposals.

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After a while, Belle finds out that her father is grievously ill and asks to go home to see him. The Beast agrees on the condition that she returns one week later, and gives her a magic mirror to see him, his glove which will return her to the castle whenever she’d like and, for some reason, the key to his fortune.

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“I’m sure there’s no way anyone would abuse that power”

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Of course, Belle’s cunty sisters, her idiot brother and his friend Gaston, uh, we mean, Avenant (also played by Marais), persuade her to stay on a bit longer, steal her key and decide to go kill the Beast and steal his fortune. However, Belle sees the Beast half dead from grief in her magic mirror and uses the magic glove to return to him at the same time her brother and Avenant arrive to dispose of him. There are declarations of love, the Beast transforms to his true princely form and all live happily ever after. Except for the intruders, one of whom is himself transformed (to take the Beast’s place as guardian of the castle? Of the afterlife? Of purgatory? Who knows?), but that’s their own fault.

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“Them bitches had it coming, trying to interfere with our strange and possibly Stockholm syndrome-induced romance!”

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Cocteau’s version is a very faithful adaptation of the traditional French fairy tale despite him, naturally, having taken some artistic licenses. Visually, this film is wonderful with amazing details, especially in the enchanted castle which is like Barbie’s Gothic Dream House – creepy but luxurious. The disembodied arms which act like servants and the half-living statues that adorn the halls and rooms are fantastic (in all senses of the word) and add an extra layer of surrealism and magic to the film. The costumes are extravagant, if not necessarily always flattering, and the beast is superbly made up.

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The food even looks appealing in black and white, which is impressive in itself

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If your only cinematic experience of Beauty and the Beast is the 1991 Disney version, we really recommend this one as well, as it is a very different perspective on the same story.

What we learned: women must learn to look beyond physical appearance, but the same is not necessary for men. Also, don’t trust your relatives – them bitches be greedy!

Next time: Notorious (1946)

#13 L’Age D’Or

Watched: August 12 2016

Director: Luis Buñuel & Salvador Dalí

Starring: Gaston Modot, Lya Lys

Year: 1930

Runtime: 1h

L'Age_d'Or

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Pro tip: want to make a Buñuel/Dalí film even more surreal? Try watching it in the original French with very limited French skills and some help from Google Translate with the intertitles. You’ll never have a movie experience quite like it! What we could decipher ourselves without help from Google was that scorpions are arachnids and that they are (not?) very sociable and can attack. Something then happened a few hours later. There was also a dialogue which definitely included the words “Quick!”, “yes” and “no.” Thank you, French lessons in school!

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The cause of death for these religious types is still unclear. Scorpions may or may not have been involved.

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From what we could understand, this is a sort of love story between a couple who cannot copulate. A very horny (and literally dirty) guy sees sexy things everywhere and likes to kick everything. His lady love is equally frustrated and at one point finds a cow in her bed. They finally meet up at a party where he slaps her mother, they suck each other’s fingers, and she fellates the toes of a statue.

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Toe licking is so hot right now!

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When she then starts making out with her father(possibly?) the man gets angry and starts throwing things out of a window, including a burning tree, a bishop and a giraffe.

A Marquis is mentioned at one point, and towards the end we are told of a castle where four criminals have been locked up for 120 days with eight teenaged girls, so there are some clear allusions to the Marquis de Sade (fun reading for the whole family, by the way!).

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Turns out Jesus has found a new career organising orgies for depraved criminals

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We must be honest and say that we were a bit apprehensive about watching this film after the horrible eye incident in Un Chien Andalou, but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Obviously, we probably missed a lot of the plot due to language problems, but nonetheless we had a great time watching it. And the chien finally makes an appearance. Yay!

Next time: City Lights (1931)