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. – 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. asst. d—Charlotte Fraisse, Michel Rey. sc–André Delvaux. Based on the story Le Roi Cophétua by Julien Gracq. ph—Ghislain Cloquet. col—Eastman Color. ed—Nicole Berckmans. a.d—Claude Pignot. m—Frédéric Devreese; excerpts from the works of Brahms (including Intermezzos Nos.… Read more »
Recommended Reading: “When Jews Attack” by Daniel Mendelsohn, a two-page spread in the August 24 & 31 issue of Newsweek, begins to help me account for what I find so deeply offensive as well as profoundly stupid about Inglourious Basterds [sic sic -- or maybe I should say, sic, sic, sic]. A film that didn’t even entertain me past its opening sequence, and that profoundly bored me during the endlessly protracted build-up to a cellar shoot-out, it also gave me the sort of malaise that made me wonder periodically what it was (and is) about the film that seems morally akin to Holocaust denial, even though it proudly claims to be the opposite of that. It’s more than just the blindness to history that leaks out of every pore in this production (even when it’s being most attentive to period details) or the infantile lust for revenge that’s so obnoxious. When Mendelsohn asks, “Do you really want audiences cheering for a revenge that turns Jews into Nazis, that makes Jews into `sickening’ perpetrators?”, he zeroes in on what’s so vile about this gleeful celebration of savagery. He also clarifies the ugly meaning of Tarantino’s final scene when he points out that Nazis carved Stars of David into the chests of rabbis before killing them — a fact I either hadn’t known before or had somehow managed to suppress.… Read more »
From Cinema Scope #16 (Fall 2003). — J.R.
One of the more fascinating things about the linguistic options of DVDs in relation to their nationality is how often they confound expectations. It would appear that few countries show more indifference to other countries and their languages than the U.S., yet the DVDs with the greatest number of subtitling and dubbing options are often those on American labels. Conversely, when I visited Japan twice in the late 1990s, I was impressed by the cottage industries devoted to teaching foreign languages, which ranged from prime-time TV shows teaching conversational “business” English and Spanish to bilingual movie scripts sold in bookstores, some of them packaged with videos of the same films. But my recent efforts to hunt for Japanese DVDs with English or French subtitles have been in vain -— which is all the more frustrating when I come across listings for box sets devoted to Kiarostami and Godard’s Histoire(s) du Cinéma.
Attending Cinema Ritrovato, an archival film festival, in Bologna last summer, I went hunting for Italian DVDs and quickly discovered that those with Italian movies almost never come equipped with English subtitles (the restoration of The Leopard, which I noted in my last column, is a rare exception).… Read more »
This review was published in the June 1985 issue of Video Times. Criterion has just brought out an excellent Blu-Ray edition of this film that I can highly recommend — along with Thomas Pynchon’s Foreword to the 2003 Penguin edition of Orwell’s novel. — J.R.
(1984), C, Director: Michael Radford. With John Hurt, Richard Burton, Suzanna Hamilton, and Cyril Cusack [see below]. 110 min. R. USA, $79.95.
Director Michael Radford’s 1984, filmed in England between April and June of 1984 (the same period during which the action of George Orwell’s famous 1949 novel takes place), is a film adaptation that succeeds brilliantly. In one fell swoop, it repoliticizes the novel — translating it into terms that speak directly to the present. Paradoxically, it pulls off this singular feat not through any spurious “updating” of Orwell’s terrifying novel but by situating the novel squarely in its own period. Consequently, the film’s action can be said to unfold simultaneously in three separate time frames: the past (specifically the 1940s, during which Orwell conceived and wrote his novel), the future (as we postulate it in this decade), and the present (the mid-1980s).… Read more »