Tag Archives: France

#116 – Love is the Death

(1990, Fr, 94 min) Dir Catherine Dominique. Cast Amanda Pan, Joseph DiMatt, Jean Fillet.

When a director steps away from the camera for years, maybe decades, it can’t help but induce longing in their fans. Will they ever come back? What kind of films will they make if they do? News of projects possibly incoming, possibly abandoned, float to the surface every once in a while and the appetite is whetted once again. Generally – not always but generally – when a long MIA director returns to the fray it’s a disappointment. Alas it is my sad duty to reveal that Catherine Dominique’s energence from obsurity is exactly that – a disappointment. I’m not going to even bother with a synopsis or even to deliniate the disappointments that litter the film merely to say that the decade she spent away from the camera living did much to dull her once unimpeachable instincts with the resulting film almost indistinguishable from the standard straight to video softcore product. At a recent retrospective Catherine herself was sanguine about this, her last film to date: “Maybe one day I will try I again, who knows? I remember halfway through this, you know, and I look across at everyone working away, so serious, and I think to myself – who gives a fuck? Not to offend to anybody but I thought, well, that I’d said all that I needed to say and that was that.”

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#115 – Falling Blossom

(1981, Fr, 101 min) Dir Catherine Dominique. Cast Allegra Biscotti, Serge de Foy, Jean Fillet.

The peak of the latter half of Dominique’s career and the last film she would make until 1990’s Love is the Death, Falling Blossom would also, if you removed all of the sex (which, sensitively handled and beautifully shot though it might be, is still pretty filthy), be a perfectly heartbreaking coming of age story. Allegra Biscotti, here in her first film role, confirms Dominique’s unerring eye for a beautiful lead actress as the titular Blossom, growing up in her family’s country house in the French countryside of the 1930’s. She becomes besotted with a local artist called Phillipe (de Foy, of Claude Claude fame) and through a campaign of borderline stalking manages to snare him, the two of them falling into passionate love over the course of this one hot, sweaty summer. Alas once summer is done Blossom must return to the city and Phillipe, staying behind, gives in to the ghosts of the old war he fought not so long ago while simultaneously fighting the premonitions of a new one looming on the horizon. Everything came together for Dominique here, perhaps now that the greater excesses of her work have been purged. Not that she would agree: “This is me,” she has said, “And so is that. There is no difference.”

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#101 – Fusil Rose, Le (Pink Musket, The)

(1976, Fr, 98 min) Dir Catherine Dominique. Cast Adrianna Belle, Jean Fillet, Hans.

Riding the crest of the wave started with Emmanuel, Catherine Dominique traded in art house experimentation for feminist sexploitation with Le Fusil Rose. “Emmanuel, we all hated,” she said in 2010 at a retrospective in Berlin, “I wanted to make a film where the woman make the choice, you understand? Like me, in life.” A discussion of Dominique’s life is better left for a review of Madame D, the documentary about her, but it’s hard to miss the parallels between this and it, even though Le Fusil Rose centres around a female highwayman character and not a twentieth-century film director. Like Dominique, the Pink Musket is in reality the sweet and mild daughter of a landowner. The both of them dressed up to go out at night and take what they wanted  from men – Dominique using the power of her body over them and the Pink Musket her weapon. Both also had the law on their tails but for Dominique it was for the provocations of her art and unlike the Pink Musket it never came in the form of Jean Fillet and his swimmer’s physique. At the end of the film he and the Pink Musket come face to face in a battle of physical strength that is far removed from the kind that you would expect at the end of a Clint Eastwood movie for example. Brazenly erotic and unashamedly political it’s great to see Dominique enjoying a resurgence of interest in recent years.

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#89 – Dans la Vallée Ouverte avec le Soleil (In the Open Valley, with the Sun)

(1968, Fr, 97 min) Dir Jean Anno. Cast Patrice Melaud, Sandy.

A very of its time wigged-out hippy film, shot in France’s arid Biscot valley with a soundtrack of droney jams provided by Parisian proto proggers, Le Mog. Hunky young Patrice Melaud is, like, totally stifled by his bourgeois existence in the suburbs where every apartment block is like a cage, man. Into his life comes the free, keen and mononymous Sandy who, with frequent nudity and skills with the flute, leads him out to the totally amazing commune where she lives. From then on its dreamy montage a go-go as the beautiful young couple frolic in the countryside with their lovely hippy chums. Of course it’s ’68 and beyond the screen are the May riots and Vietnam so the film has to end, like Bonnie and Clyde the year before and Easy Rider the year after, in blood and fire with the Man and his fascist storm trooper policemen raiding the commune and, like, totally killing everyone to bits while Le Mog wail doomily in the background. In case you hadn’t already guessed this is a very sixties film and your ability to enjoy it will depend very much on your tolerance for the wishy-washiest kind of hippy nonsense and while there are salvageable aspects to the likes of Zabriskie Point, Jean Anno is no Antonioni.

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#70 – Dans le mur (In the Walls)

(1990, Fr, 129 min) Dir Roland Sacher. Cast Daniel Auteuil, Jean Rochefort, Emmanuelle Béart.

French thriller about famed neuroscientist Paul Mauchard (Auteuil) who has the unfortunate habit in his downtime of killing women and secreting their corpses in the space between the walls of his country house, all while his wife (Beart) and two children live there unknowing. Aging detective Fandeur (Rochefort), meanwhile, is trying to track down the missing Valerie Cassin who we have seen lured to Mauchard’s house and killed in the film’s extended opening. The two storylines play out side by side, converging and separating in nail-biting fashion as Fandeur picks up clues and finds the trail to his missing person, all the while not knowing that he’s on the trail of a serial killer. The whole thing is glacially paced and shot at the expected remove by Sacher, the camera coolly watching over the players without giving away a thing. This all means that when the expertly handled tension breaks out in the film’s latter half it will be an impossible watch for viewers without nerves of steel. An American remake has been mooted since the original was released but here’s hoping that if that comes to pass it’s not the slick, shallow interpretation that fans of the original have been dreading.

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#66 – Homme du sous-terre, Les (Underground Men, The)

(1988, Fr, 100 min) Dir Jack Vitesse. Cast Denis Lavant, Richard Bohringer, Dominique Pinon.

Night. As the people leave the metro and the lights go off, the Underground Men (led by Lavant) can emerge from the shadows. The premise might sound like the beginning of a horror film but Vitesse is a man enamoured by the cinéma du look of the time and the Underground Men are street punks more like Christopher Lambert in Subway (an obvious influence) than Hugh Armstrong in Death Line. The film follows this half-dozen strong crew operating in silence, raiding stores, stealing cars and generally wreaking havoc. Soon enough le flics (led by Bohringer) are giving chase and the film goes underground for a prolonged subterranean chase on motorbike, skateboard and foot that takes up the film’s final forty minutes through service tunnels, train lines, the sewers and the catacombs into skyscrapers and monuments but always back down again, coming off like a Mad Max 2 beneath the streets instead of in the desert. While it doesn’t all add up (Why are they stealing the cars? How have they not been noticed before?) and the characters personalities are non-existent, it’s slick and stylish enough to hook the viewer into leaving these questions for later.

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms