Daily Archives: November 11, 2005

Jean Renoir, The Boss: The Direction Of Actors

Rarely screened, this is the 90-minute centerpiece to Jacques Rivette’s three-part TV documentary Jean Renoir, the Boss (1966), made just before Rivette discovered improvisation in his fictional L’Amour Fou, Out 1, and Celine and Julie Go Boating. The full on-screen title is Michel Simon as Seen by Jean Renoir or Jean Renoir as Seen by Michel Simon or The Direction of Actors, and the raw record of after-dinner talk between the great director and his greatest actor, both in their early 70s, is punctuated with relevant clips from Tire-au-Flanc (1928), On Purge Bebe (1931), La Chienne (1931), Boudu Saved From Drowning (1932), and Tosca (1941). Stills photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson and producers Janine Bazin and Andre S. Labarthe are on hand to prod the two old friends, whose palpable joy in each other’s company is complemented by Rivette’s determination to take it all in. Clips of this are included in the Criterion DVD of Boudu, but the full version is as radical in its own way as Renoir and Simon’s masterpiece. (JR)… Read more »

Films By Yasujiro Ozu

Two silent narratives by the Japanese director, surviving only in fragments. A Straightforward Boy (1929) was a 40-minute comedy inspired by O. Henry’s The Ransom of Red Chief; the 14 minutes extant hilariously recount the misery of a kidnapper who’s abducted a bratty child. (Little Tomio Aiko made such an impact that he permanently changed his name to Tokkan Kozo, the Japanese title). A Mother Should Be Loved (1934, 71 min.), which is missing the first and last reels, takes on melodramatic material more suited to Douglas Sirk: two grown brothers are alienated after the older one secretly discovers that their mother is really his stepmother. Subtitled Japanese intertitles fill in the missing bits of plot; the first film is untranslated. (JR)… Read more »

Dreams Of Cinema, Dreams Of Tokyo

Directed and narrated by Yoshishige Yoshida (Eros + Massacre), this thoughtful, provocative essay (1997, 52 min.) considers the work of Gabriel Veyre, a camera operator for the Lumiere brothers who traveled around the world at the end of the 19th century and brought back notable footage of Mexico and Japan. Yoshida’s highly speculative account alternates Veyre footage with contemporary views of similar locations and includes some fictionalized dramatizations. Focusing on the colonialist connotations of filming foreigners, Yoshida notes that Veyre’s relatively unexotic Japanese footage was coolly received in France. Also on the program, Nelly Kaplan’s Abel Gance: Yesterday and Tomorrow (1963, 26 min.) digests the career of the French director (Napoleon), drawing on his recorded interviews and emphasizing his frenetic editing and multiple images. Both films have English voice-overs, a method that works better with Yoshida’s film. (JR)… Read more »

Cinevardaphoto

These three short films about still photography, made by Agnes Varda at different points in her career, add up to a first-rate triptych that highlights the French director’s filmmaking strengths and mercurial intelligence. For Salut les Cubains (1963, 30 min.) Varda edited and animated 1,500 photographs she’d taken during a holiday in Cuba; in Ulysse (1982, 22 min.) she investigates and interrogates a photograph taken in Egypt during the 50s; and in the haunting piece de resistance, Ydessa, les Ours et Etc . . . (2004, 44 min.), she examines a Toronto exhibition by Ydessa Hendeles, a daughter of Holocaust survivors who’s responded to the loss of her family’s mementos by assembling thousands of historical photographs featuring teddy bears. In French with subtitles. 96 min. (JR)… Read more »

I Graduated, But . . . And I Flunked, But . . .

Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu shot these silent films with complementary titles in 1929 and 1930 respectively. I Graduated, But . . . appears to be a drama; only an 11-minute fragment survives, but it manages to synopsize the entire story, in which a college graduate refuses to accept a job as receptionist and then hides his unemployment from his visiting family. I Flunked, But . . . (64 min.), a pre-Animal House romp about college goof-offs who cheat on their exams, is so light it threatens to evaporate. But Ozu gets some weird formal effects by periodically synchronizing the movement of the students as they walk or do little dance turns, and the film includes the first screen appearance of Ozu regular Chishu Ryu. The great actress Kinuyo Tanaka, known for her work with Kenji Mizoguchi as well as Ozu, appears in both films. (JR)… Read more »

An Inn In Tokyo

Like Passing Fancy two years earlier, Yasujiro Ozu’s penultimate silent film (1935) is a glum Depression-era tale with Takeshi Sakamoto as a poor laborer and single parent (he even has the same given name as in the earlier film). Homeless, he cares for two little boys (the older one, hammy Tokkan Kozo, also appeared in 1932′s I Was Born, But . . . ) and befriends an equally desperate single mother, stealing for her after her little girl contracts dysentery. Despite the characteristic visual distinction, this lacks the passion and urgency of Ozu’s best work, and the moralistic conclusion feels strained. With subtitled Japanese intertitles. 80 min. (JR)… Read more »