Skip’s Quips: Dusting Off the Snow for a Little de Broca

Blog Sketch 082813It’s wintry days like these that make me want to watch movies such as That Man From Rio.

The tropically tinged Philippe de Broca film—a ludicrous and wonderfully affable 1964 romp through the titular city with Jean-Paul Belmondo, Françoise Dorléac and Adolfo Celi—is one of the most chipper movies ever to gild the silver screen … and also one of the most unsung. I’m not sure why de Broca has fallen by the public-estimation wayside; he was a master of light comedy, and That Man is one of his frothiest creations. It’s totally silly, with jewel thieves, egomaniacal archaeologists and other characters pursuing and/or being pursued by Belmondo’s carefree Adrien, who crosses the Atlantic in a mad chase to rescue his kidnapped girlfriend (Dorléac). Plus, there’s some sort of ancient statue that everyone’s after, because it’s the key to getting all of these riches or whatever.

Yeah, it’s a far cry from Breathless, isn’t it?

I’d recommend trying this flick on a day like today. It’s sunny, summery, full of bright music and craziness. And you’ve got the charming Belmondo and Dorléac careening through the picture. True, it’s fluff, but it’s so well done, you’ll remember it, along with vehicular color-and-design-combinations such as “pink with green stars.”

Oui, pink with green stars. That Man will explain all.

Skip’s Quips: Cinema of the Irritating

Blog Sketch 082813A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (well, Manhattan), I was told by an otherwise rational budding critic that Jean-Luc Godard was the real French New Wave director–not François Truffaut.

In the words of Michael Caine’s character Peachy Carnehan in The Man Who Would Be King: “Pardon me while I fall down laughing.”

Yes, this was told to me in all seriousness, with the utmost authority. I guess if you make movies that are too enjoyable, it’s trendy to discount them in favor of more “experimental” cinema.

Frankly, I like to be entertained. And in general, Truffaut’s body of work is light-years more entertaining than Godard’s–Breathless aside.

You’re right: The critic’s point was that Godard was more of a New Wave exponent than Truffaut … not necessarily a better filmmaker (although I think that was implied). Yet I’ll have to disagree with this, too. Truffaut’s edgy cuts, intimate camera, and use of tricks ranging from irises to freeze-frames invigorated the cinema, bringing it close to an accessible, pertinent ideal. That his films are greater, in general, than Godard’s is just gravy. It’s François I think of when I think of La Nouvelle Vague, not Jean-Luc.

Do I consider Breathless a hallmark of world cinema? Of course. But I consider it a Truffaut film, anyway. Sans François, Godard’s films aren’t as good–and often veer on the irritating.

To be a “real” artist in any medium, one must excel in the field. That’s why I also prefer Alban Berg’s compositions to Arnold Schoenberg’s–despite the latter’s involvement in the development of 12-tone music. And I like Picasso’s art more than Braque’s, though they both had a hand in Cubism. The greater creator is the real one, the one whose works you’d rather absorb.

At least, that’s my reality. Is it everyone’s?

Ha. In my dreams.

Skip’s Quips: Why Not Remake ‘Citizen Kane’ While We’re at It?

This isn’t something a critic freely admits, but I have to say it anyway: I didn’t see Takashi Miike’s remake of Masaki Kobayashi’s classic 1962 film Harakiri.

I did watch the original, however. That’s the reason right there.

I’m always puzzled as to why directors feel they have to recreate cinematic masterpieces. The 1983 American iteration of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless comes to mind first, but it’s only one point in a long line of reinterpretations. Remakes are about as traditional as apple pie, yet they’re rarely warranted. Miike’s version of Harakiri is an example. A brilliant, harrowing attack on feudal convention and injustice, Kobayashi’s iteration–the story of a samurai who, after telling a damning tale recounting his history, revenges himself on a clan that has destroyed his impoverished family–is as indignant as a film can get…and mesmerizing through and through.

I can’t think of any way it can be improved upon, and so I feel Miike’s version is irrelevant.

True, even great films aren’t perfect. I don’t think any work of art is without flaws. But you don’t care when viewing the best ones. You only want to be in their world.

So I’m not going to watch Miike’s remake of Harakiri. In this case, ignorance is bliss. But I may put on Kobayashi’s iteration sometime soon. And absorb it to the fullest–as such originality deserves.