Tag Archives: Paris

#87 – Chat Magique, Le (Magic Cat, The)

(1974, Fr, 62 min) Dir Alexander Illienko. Cast Gaspard Tif, Martine Blanc, Oscar Blanc.

The last film, produced for television, from the tragically ‘lost’ Ukrainian director prior to his death in Paris in 1977, based on what has to be the greatest success of his career – the children’s book Le Chat Magique which he himself wrote and illustrated. As per the book the film takes place in L’Hôtel Vert Bouteille (based on Illienko’s residence in his later years, L’Hôtel Vert Billard) where the young Gaspard lives. Hearing noises from the laundry chute one night Gaspard goes to investigate and finds Miu, a purple magic cat that lives in the hotel unbeknownst to it’s owners. They become friends and the mischievous Miu comes to stay with Gaspard in his room but keeping hidden a magic purple cat that spins through the air and has a rainbow that comes out of it’s head when it’s happy is tricky business and soon enough questions are asked. As per his previous films the result here is a perfect melding of live action for the family and animation for Miu the cat and the performance from Gaspard Tif is as much a revelation as those from the child stars of Baba Yaga and Le Petit Ombré. A fitting end for Illienko’s career with the director achieving three masterpieces with all three of his films.

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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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#35 – Petit Ombré, Le (Little Shadow)

(1962, Fr, 50 min) Dir Alexander Illienko.

Another marvel from Illienko, the first following his relocation from the Ukraine to Paris and only the second of three films he would ever make. The ‘Petite Ombré’ of the title is a sentient umbrella that seemingly drops from the clear blue Paris skies and proceeds to flit about the streets, causing mischief wherever it goes. It’s essentially a silent film in that there is no dialogue, just the sounds of the street and the umbrella’s schoolgirl giggling. It all leads to some fantastic slapstick worthy of the silent masters. In one sequence the whole of a street with its half dozen market stalls is turned into an elaborate Rube Goldberg style cause and effect contraption by the umbrella brushing its handle against a mere lemon. Just as there’s no real beginning to the film there is also no real end – the umbrella simply makes to the skies once again at the end, off to cause mischief somewhere else no doubt. A seriously playful film whose occasional visible strings only add to the charm. Despite winning the Golden Star at the Paris Festival de Fantasie and garnering general praise it would be another nine years before Illienko made it to the big screen once again.

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms