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Archive for May, 2011

And when I say truffle, I mean the chocolate delicious kind, not the fungus. Hello! It’s WhatsUpWill blogging once again. I’m lazy, I know, but I got school and stuff, so I hope this tides you over for a while. Note 1: I think I’m going to do these marathons monthly. I like them. Three films, three reviews, it works! Note 2: I’m not going to keep myself organized meaning I’m not going to tell you what I see next month because I have no idea what’s going to grab my interest for the next blog of three films. I’m being predictably unpredictable (read the reviews, heh) Note 3: Watching Truffaut has made me realized that, to a certain extent, Wes Anderson is essentially an extension of Truffaut. Which is absolutely wondrous and beautiful because he’s become one of my favorite directors of all time. Not only that, but I feel spiritually connected to him! Weird, I know! But that’s how it is. As I see more films, I feel like I’m discovering a family of sorts that I never knew. Strange? Perhaps. But to be honest, I could care less. Read on, pretty please. Enjoy.

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SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER (Francois Truffaut, 1960)

For duration of 80 minutes, SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER really cuts deep into expansive character history. The film goes into the characters past marriage that fell apart due to tragic circumstances with intense detail. It’s one of the highlights of this sometimes ridiculous but always consistent film. The complexity of the character is so simply observed – it’s astounding how well the character is established and developed given how small a slice it is. Charles Aznavour gives a fantastic well rounded performance that more than justifies the written character and plot. The story is as follows: pianist gets caught up in his brother’s criminal affairs and his life begins to spin out of control as he reflects on his past life. The problems that persist are some illogical character actions. The antagonists are often silly and not menacing at all. They range from nice babysitters to cold blood killers. It feels kind of like Truffaut wanted to give them this quirky sensibility for quirk sake.  Is Truffaut trying to be realistic? Or is he trying to break some sort of rules? It isn’t quite clear. I found the attraction that the boss has towards to be odd too, but in a different way. I don’t believe the guy would go as far as he could for the girl of his dreams (he tries to kill someone), so it comes off as a little weird. As a whole though, the film really works. It’s a lot of fun and the style is bouncy without ever feeling like it’s getting in the way of the very moving and lovely source material. 8/10

JULES & JIM (Francois Truffaut, 1962)

More so than his other films, JULES & JIM, often hailed as his masterpiece, didn’t affect me much. This is mainly due to the completely illogical choices of the characters within the film, mainly by the character of Jim. However, if you take the film’s characters as non-thinking emotional based active characters and not thinkers or observers, it makes sense. Still, I find the ending to be beyond ridiculous and even a bit stupid. It’s the first time in a long time that I reacted so vocally to a film. On a surface level, it annoys me to no end. On a deeper level, it makes me somewhat appreciate the film’s unpredictable predictability. Characters don’t learn by the end of the story and that makes complete sense – but after the failed attempt, you’d suspect that Jim would have learned something since death is so severe and final. Anyway, an ending shouldn’t make or break a film, so I’ll lay off it. JULES & JIM meanders a lot and Truffaut fails to make Catherine alluring to the audience. Without this element, I think the film falls flat. Why is this girl so special to the characters? Why do I care about her as much as they do? But am I supposed to? It’s something to think about, but I do believe you’re supposed to be at least somewhat attracted to her. I found her, for the most part, to be completely disgusting and repulsive. The way the film is directed instantly enlightened me from where all of my favorite modern directors got their influences from. Acting from the three leads is magnificent, but Werner and Serre clearly outshine Moreau. Truffaut makes some interesting choices that are worthy of discussion, but aside from my somewhat mixed feelings about the ending, I’m not really interested or affected enough to care. 7/10

DAY FOR NIGHT (Francois Truffaut, 1973)

Wow! What a warm, creative, and observant film! DAY FOR NIGHT is a wonderful expose that feels like a behind-the-scenes cinema verite documentary of making a film. No one notices the camera that’s constantly following them – it becomes practically invisible – but then Truffaut goes into Avant Garde mode with a delightful trilogy of dream sequences which shows him as young cinephile stealing pictures of CITIZEN KANE from a local movie theatre. This film is specifically a film for cinephiles and film makers. It’s about the process of making a movie but ends up to be a story about the life of a very unconventional family. As much as I love 8 ½, I see that film more as a story about an artist while this film is about specifically film. We see the production from all sides – the writers, the director, the actors, the producers, even the lower employees such as the script supervisors. It’s a consistently silly, but ultimately lovely film that feels perfectly crafted for me. One of my favorite shots is a take where the camera looks into the camera of the production of the film. The camera that’s in the film within the film is on a crane and we can only assume that the camera that Truffaut uses has to be on a crane as well! It’s a reflection as the entire film is. There’s all of these small moments in the film – a producer accuses a girl as if she’s the younger sister of cheating on her husband, there’s a point where Truffaut (he plays himself, ha) tells his lead actor (Jean-Pierre Leaud, his muse) how he and him are similar in the way that they are only truly happy when filming, there’s a funny tryst in the woods, and there are many overheard comments by the other workers on the film which are, most of the time, said off screen. Hilarious quotes abound! Some of my favorites: “I’d drop a guy for a film. I’d never drop a film for a guy!”, “Making a film is like a stagecoach ride in the old west. When you start, you are hoping for a pleasant trip. By the halfway point, you just hope to survive.”, “You’re a very good actor. No one’s private life runs smoothly. That only happens in the movies. No traffic jams, no dead periods. Movies go along like trains in the night.”, among MANY more. Can I just step into this film and live in its world? I love Truffaut, there’s a definite connection between us. He once asked if cinema was more important than life. I feel with this film, he’s telling us cinema IS life. 10/10

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Until next time, adieu!

-Will

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