As much as I revere some of the Belgian films of Chantal Akerman, if I had to choose only one Belgian film to take with me to a desert island, I’d have a pretty rough time forsaking this 1971 masterpiece by André Delvaux, which I seriously, even spectacularly, underrated when I reviewed it for the Monthly Film Bulletin (in their April 1976 issue, vol. 43, no. 507) — although paradoxically I seemed pretty well attuned to its special enchantments even when I kept finding ways to undervalue them, perhaps because I couldn’t find adequate ways to account for them. Happily, I’ve been able to rediscover this film thanks to a sublime Belgian box set that I reviewed some time ago in my DVD column for Cinema Scope, which is still available at http://www.mediadis.com/video/detail.asp?id=136408. Even though this is a pricey package (39.99 Euros) — the set contains two DVDs, a CD, a paperback book, and a pamphlet — it’s one of the most treasured sets that I own. —J.R.
Rendez-vous à Bray (Rendezvous at Bray)
France/Belgium/West Germany, 1971
Director: André Delvaux
Cert—A. dist—Essential Cinema. p.c—Parc Films/ORTF (Paris)/Studios Arthur Mathonet/Ciné Vog (Brussels)/Taurus Film (Munich). p—Mag Bodard. assoc. p—Philippe Dussart, Pierre Gout.… Read more »
Three short reviews for the Monthly Film Bulletin in 1976, the first two for their April issue (vol. 43, no. 507), and third for their November issue (vol. 43, no. 514). –- J.R.
Battle of Billy’s Pond, The
Great Britain, 1976
Director: Harley Cokliss
Finding a dead fish in a pond where he frequently goes fishing, Billy Bateson takes it home, where his cat makes off with it and becomes ill. Informed by a vet that the cat’s illness was caused by chemicals, Billy investigates the pond further with his friend Gobby, discovers more dead fish and eventually learns the cause: industrial waste is being emptied into an underground stream, originating from an abandoned quarry, which feeds the pond. After secretly witnessing two lorry drivers in the quarry and then seeing green fluid enter the pond, the boys report their findings to the police and learn from Billy’s father about “Breeze”, a detergent manufactured at Con-Chem nearby. Getting into the factory by subterfuge, they videotape the tanker drivers with Gobby’s father’s camera and sneak out to the quarry that night to trap them in the act, rigging up speakers and lights and then letting air out of the tanker’s tires.… Read more »
From Sight and Sound (Spring 1976). –- J.R.
If Numéro Deux is the most important film of Jean-Luc Godard in nearly a decade — specifically, since 2 ou 3 Choses que je sais d’elle -– one should explain at the outset what gives these films privileged places within his oeuvre. Focusing in 35mm and wide screen on a fictional working-class family, both are essentially bound up in issues of representation, and neither allies itself to any organized political faction or has any links with the Dziga-Vertov Group and/or Jean-Pierre Gorin. The point of this distinction is that Godard’s pre-eminence has always stemmed directly from his grasp of the problems of representation — a line of inquiry leading from the jump-cuts of Breathless to the fragmented double-images of Numéro Deux -– and that his political commitments have always been inscribed within this concern; it is highly debatable whether he has contributed anything of value to political thought apart from this context. Yet broadly speaking, the increasing emphasis in his work after 2 ou 3 Choses — in La Chinoise,Weekend, 1 + 1, Le Gai Savoir and all the subsequent ventures — has until now been more on the ‘signified’ (subject) and less on the ‘signifier’ (manner of representation), away from investigation and towards didacticism.… Read more »