Jerry Lewis at 80 (more inside)
Flaubert on Structural Unity. "I’ve just read 'Pickwick' by Dickens. Do you know it? Some bits are magnificent; but what a defective structure! All English writers are like that. Walter Scott apart, they lack composition. This is intolerable for us Latins". Extracts from the letters of Flaubert (via the very awesome book coolie)
"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.
The stomach of Paris. Finally, after months of deliberation, Paris city hall awarded the task of reworking the site of Les Halles to French architect David Mangin: the winner has a vision of a Barcelona Ramblas-style walkway integrating Les Halles with the surrounding cityscape. Among the losers, Rem Koolhaas. The Les Halles site was first built in 1135 when King Louis VI moved the market there from the nearby Place de la Greve. The site was endowed in the 1850s with the huge metal halls for which it became famous; but in the 1970's the old market moved to the outskirts of the city. Then-mayor Jacques Chirac ordered the redevelopment of Les Halles -- it was supposed to re-emerge as a bustling tourist attraction. Instead that project gave birth to an architectural WTF? of a gigantic disaster. Unpopular and difficult to maintain to boot. (warning: the words in italic link to a French-language page)
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.
It all comes down do one question: Must France stay in Algeria? “If the answer is yes,” he says, “then you must accept the consequences.” Gillo Pontecorvo's "The Battle of Algiers", now out on a Criterion dvd, is a film of quiet, overwhelming power. The mix of subjective and documentary techniques holds the viewer's trust so authoritatively that many scenes come close to sneaking out of the mental "movies I saw" box to mix with the viewer's own memories. No matter how complicated or fragmented the action becomes, Pontecorvo gets the pace, tone and rhythm exactly right, filling the screen with eloquent details. (Last year, Pontecorvo's masterpiece was discussed here, too. More inside)
The most beautiful woman in France? She's actually a guy! Well, not exactly, but...