erik lundegaard

LE CORBEAU (1943) et HORS DE PRIX (2006)

Saw two French films this week.

Monday, at the Uptown in Queen Anne, I checked out HORS DE PRIX (Priceless), a 2006 comedy about a gold-digger, Irene (Audrey Tautou), who, in a late-morning luxury hotel bar, mistakes the bartender, Jean (Gad Elmaleh), for a wealthy patron and sleeps with him. A year later she returns, and, despite getting engaged that day to her wealthy patron, sleeps with Jean again, only to get caught, and quickly disengaged, by her fiance. When she returns to Jean's “room,” Jean is subsequently caught by the hotel staff, fired, and left in the lurch by the now-wiser Irene. The steps Jean goes through to win her back among the obscenely wealthy along the Cote d'Azur are both sweet and degrading — immoral, some Americans might say — but the tone of the movie is adult and amoral (what is, is), even as the film eventually steers us from how they live to how we do, or would like to. For a comedy, its humor is dry and rarely laugh-out-loud, but it does end the way most such comedies end. Which, for me, is the wrong ending. It's ending just as it's getting interesting.

The other film, watched last night on DVD, is a classic I'd never seen before, LE CORBEAU (The Raven), made during WWII by Henri-Georges Clouzot, who would go on to direct QUAI DES ORFEVRES, LE SALAIRE DE LA PEUR (The Wages of Fear) and LES DIABLOLIQUES. A doctor, Remy Germain (Pierre Fresnay), becomes the target, or the first target anyway, of posion-pen letters signed by “Le Corbeau,” in which secrets are revealed and falsehoods spread. As more people get these letters, as more unwanted information (true and false) winds up in the public sphere, distrust and anxiety mounts, and the village leaders will do anything to flush out Le Corbeau. It's both mystery and character study, with sharp dialogue, beautiful black-and-white photography, and a gloriously ambiguous ending that, in a sense, makes us members of the village. Seen as an indictment of the Gestapo in Vichy, France, it's more, and worth the quick 90-minute trip. Netflix it.

No tagsPosted at 03:08 PM on Wed. Apr 23, 2008 in category Movies - Foreign  


Scott Ellington wrote:

Queued because I greatly value your opinion, although I've got a couple of bones to pick regarding FINAL CUT. Loathed in on the first pass to the extent that I very nearly flung the DVD against the wall, because it was so both so deeply monotone And culminated in tremendous anticlimax. But I relented and returned to catch the commentary, which opened the film significantly. It's now among my favorites.

The other bone of contention doesn't exactly reside in your evaluation of GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT which was dead-nuts-solid-perfect: Holm!run! It's about the Arthur Miller-based FOCUS (Neal Slavin) that picks up the storyline of the personnel director whose tacit antiSemitism nearly removes Phil Green from the TimeLife waiting room and the building. (The fact that you don't seem to have reviewed FOCUS doesn't mean you haven't seen it.) I'd just like to recommend the pairing of GA & F as a curious example of an inadvertent remix long before the term was current. Miller actually seems to have forgotten (interview in Special Features) that GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT was an incredibly big deal in hardcover and film.
And far from picking nits, your revelation of Michael Mann has me heading for the door to score a copy of MOHICANS before I look again at MANHUNTER because I found RED DRAGON vastly more engaging. An open mind with hungry eyes.
Comment posted on Fri. Apr 25, 2008 at 06:17 PM

Erik wrote:

Haven't seen FOCUS but will check it out - or think about checking it out anyway. I'll queue it up and hope that it's turn actually arrives someday.

As for FINAL CUT, well, that's gotta be a helluva commentary (from loathing to including it among your favorites), but you didn't convince me to look at it again. I already know its faults and can't imagine they'll go away. I will, however, read your theories about why the film is worthwhile.
Comment posted on Sun. Apr 27, 2008 at 10:43 AM

Scott Ellington wrote:

The tipping-point of purchase for FINAL CUT really derives from your assessment of Mann and specifically from the parallel you drew in THE INSIDER, as two men independently discover the shock of isolation as they elect to separate themselves from the collective power of what-they-do to who-they-are.

FINAL CUT was absolutely unbearably tedious in the absence of a clue to the maker's intent. The commentary turned my head entirely around, fusing intent with execution so effectively that now I return to it regularly (primary track) just to cleanse my palate, if only to build to the final frames' sforzando of irresolution, quite brilliantly.
What we do is ultimately far more important than who we actually are. Paraphrasing Whedon, via ANGEL.
Comment posted on Sun. Apr 27, 2008 at 05:06 PM
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