The School for Postmen is a 16 minute short film from 1947 by French director and physical comedian Jacques Tati. It's being shown on The Guardian's website and is introduced by their film critic Peter Bradshaw. The film is about a postman in rural southern France trying to finish his round on time.
Those Americans who are familiar with the name Claude Lanzmann most likely know him as the director of “Shoah,” his monumental 1985 documentary about the extermination of the European Jews in the Nazi gas chambers. As it turns out, though, the story of Lanzmann’s eventful life would have been well worth telling even if he had never come to direct “Shoah.” In addition to film director, Lanzmann’s roles have included those of journalist, editor, public intellectual, member of the French Resistance, long-term lover of Simone de Beauvoir and close friend of Jean-Paul Sartre, world traveler, political activist, ghostwriter for Jacques Cousteau — I could go on, but it’s a good deal more entertaining to hear Lanzmann himself go on, and thanks to the publication in English of his memoir, “The Patagonian Hare,” we now have the opportunity to do so. (previously)
Frédéric Back was born in 1924 in France, where he studied drawing and lithography. He was lured to Canada by Jack London's stories and Clarence Gagnon's paintings, as well as correspondence with a Canadian pen-pal. Back moved to Canada in 1948, married his pen-pal Ghylaine Paquin, and was hired by Radio Canada at the birth of their television network to create still images for display on and to promote moving pictures. The drawings lead to experiments with animations, which lead to a series of animated shorts, starting with the wordless short Abracadabra (9:23, YT) in 1970. You can read and see more about Frédéric Back on his extensive website, and see more animations inside. [more inside]
The French romantic thriller “Diva” dashes along with a pellmell gracefulness, and it doesn’t take long to see that the images and visual gags and homages all fit together and reverberate back and forth. It’s a glittering toy of a movie... This one is by a new director, Jean-Jacques Beineix... who understands the pleasures to be had from a picture that doesn’t take itself very seriously. Every shot seems designed to delight the audience. - Pauline Kael, 1982 [more inside]
Journeyman Pictures has uploaded nearly 4000 videos to YouTube. Many of these are trailers for the documentaries they sell, but they have also posted hundreds of full-length videos. Most are for short documentarie, but there are a lot of features too. It's somewhat daunting to explore, but the playlists are a good place to start, and so are the shows: Features, Shorts, News and Savouring Europe, a European travelogue series. Here's a few interesting ones: Gastronauts, about French culinary students working to make astronaut food more palatable, Demon Drummers, about student Kodo drummers, India's Free Lunch, about the effects of free school lunches on Indian society, The Twitter Revolution, about YouTube and Twitter's role in the 2009 Iranian uprising, Europe's Black Hole, about Transnistria, the breakaway region of Moldova, Small Town Boy, about a gay male carnival queen in a small town in England, The Vertigo of Lists, Umberto Eco talks about the ubiquity of lists in modern culture and Monsters from the Id, about scientists in the science fiction films of the Fifties.
A Tale of Two Films. Bertrand Tavernier's In The Electric Mist nee Dans la brume électrique [more inside]
He invented or popularized a startling array of the fundamental elements of film: the dissolve, the fade-in and fade-out, slow motion, fast motion, stop motion, double exposures and multiple exposures, miniatures, the in-camera matte, time-lapse photography, color film (albeit hand-painted), artificial film lighting, production sketches and storyboards, and the whole idea of narrative film.
By 1897, in a studio of his own design and construction – the first complete movie studio – his hand forged virtually everything on his screen. Norman McLaren writes, "He was not only his own producer, ideas man, script writer, but he was his own set-builder, scene painter, choreographer, deviser of mechanical contrivances, special effects man, costume designer, model maker, actor, multiple actor, editor and distributor." Also, his own cinematographer, and the inventor of cameras to suit his special conceptions. Not even auteur directors such as Charles Chaplin, Orson Welles, John Cassavetes, and Stanley Kubrick would personally author so many aspects of their films."Inside: 57 films by Georges Méliès, the Grandfather of Visual Effects. [more inside]
Ques ça c'est? Scopitones were film jukeboxes in post-war France. See Jacque Brel and Johnny Hallyday in vivid couleur! (via)
Jerry Lewis at 80 (more inside)
Assia Djebar the Algerian novelist and filmmaker was elected to fill the only vacancy at the Académie Française, the august French institution that watches over the French language. Ms. Djebar, 68, is the first North African to join the 40-member academy. Most interesting in light of recent discussions here on Dutch/Muslim relations. Comments from those who've read her books or know her from her work at LSU or elsewhere would no doubt be appreciated
"You can fool everybody, but landie dearie me, you can't fool a cat. They seem to know who's not right". The psychoanalyst calmly explains to his patient that her idea that she is turning into a member of the cat family is a fantasy; she silences him with fang and talon. Val Lewton made his name as a producer with the horror film Cat People, produced for RKO on a minuscule budget and directed by Jacques Tourneur. The star? French actress Simone Simon, who died today in Paris aged 93. More inside.
Detailing the impossible. Louis Feuillade made more than 800 films covering almost every contemporary genre: historical drama, comedy, realist drama, melodrama, religious films. However, he was most famous, or infamous, for his crime serials: Fantômas (1913-14), Les Vampires, Judex (1916), La Nouvelle Mission de Judex (1917), Tih-Minh (1918) and Barrabas (1919). Critics panned his crime films, often savagely, because the preoccupation of French critics and film-makers in the 1910s and 20s was to elevate cinema -– and, ironically, back then the French saw their own films as lacking the artistry and sophistication of American ones, by Griffith or DeMille – to the level of art. It was years before Feuillade's films escaped the label of aesthetic backwardness. Now, critics have realized that what Feuillade has done is to offer us an alternative cinematic mode to Griffiths', one that continues in updated variants throughout cinema. It is predicated on a principle of uncertainty, that questions our understanding of the real. It is as fluid and elusive a tradition as a cat burglar, dressed in black on a night-time rooftop.
The movie censored in France opens in the US this week. Base-Moi is being translated by the newspapers as "Rape Me" but a better translation would be "Fuck Me," which better indicates that sexual power that the main female characters have. They use sex as a weapon, as the gateway firearm to murders and massacre. Violent, bloody, aggressively sexual, even pornographic, filled with "chic amoralism," as the New York Times says, and perhaps difficult to redeem. Gratuitous everything.