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The Last Metro (1980)

August 23, 2011

Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu are wonderful to watch in this beautifully filmed look at French theater under the German occupation in 1942.
The movie is about a theater ownwer, Lucas Steiner, who is Jewish and is forced to hide in the cellar, pretending to have left the country. His wife, Marion, runs the theater and stars in the new production. The leading man, Bernard is in love with her, but she keeps putting him off.
In the end, Marion gives in to her desires, betraying her husband. As the war nears its end, the occupation is lifted and Lucas can come out of the cellar.
Marion visits Bernard in the hospital and tells him she wants to be with him and we think it is a real life scene, but it is just a scene from a play. We have been tricked.
The movie takes a rather light handed look at a dreadful time for the world and for France, but that is how Truffaut saw France in his youth.
A movie about the French, the Nazis, the collaborators and love in the theater.


Fahrenheit 451

February 14, 2010

The lead actor, Oskar Werner, who was so good in Jules and Jim, was really bad in this and ruined the movie. He played the lead role stiffly, with no emotion. How could someone who was selling his soul to the devil have absolutely no emotion over it.
When he was a fireman the lack of emotion was understandable, but once he starts making his conversion to book lover he should have started developing a personality.
It’s a shame. Great book, great director but the movie was just mediocre.

The Story of Adele H (1975)

February 9, 2010

Truffaut tells the ‘true’ story of Adele Hugo, the daughter of Victor Hugo. As the film open it is 1863 and we are in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She has followed a British soldier, Lt. Pinson, who had been stationed in Guernsey, an island between France and England. She is infactuated with him. She writes him a letter saying that she loves him and he must never have received any of her letters. He doesn’t answer her letter. She is devastated.
She sends home for money and writes lots of letters. When he comes to see her, he tells her to return home. She tries to bribe the poor Lieutenant by saying that when they marry she will come into a lot of money, but he knows the family will never give their permission. She threatens to go to his superiors if he discards her. She gives him money for his gambling debts and he takes it. She continues with her delusional letters.
She begins spying on him and sees him with another woman. As her health suffers, she writes her parents that Lt. Pinson wants to marry her, but only with both their permissions. She also asks for more money. They write back with their permissions and some money. When she shows him the permissions he still rejects her.
She is obsessed. She has given herself to this man and she can’t face his rejection. She has alienated herself from her parents and her whole life. She sends a letter to her parents saying that she has been married and needs more money.
Victor Hugo has the news of her marriage published in the papers. Her parents then found out about the deception and beg her to come home.
Adele begins (continues?) a descent into madness, possibly originally sparked by her older sister’s death at the age of 19 years ago. When Lt. Pinson gets engaged she goes to the family and tries to sabotage it, which she does.
Adele’s mother dies and Lt. Pinson is transferred to Barbadoes. Adele follows him and her descent into madness is completed. A Barbadoes woman who nursed her accompanied her home. Adele was placed in a private clinic where she stayed for forty years.
An interesting story of obsession and madness.

Love on the Run (1979)

February 7, 2010

The fifth, and final, film in Truffaut’s Adventures of Antoine Doneil that began with The 400 Blows. When we last left off in Bed and Board Antoine had returned to Christine after having left her for a brief fling.
This movie starts with Antoine being in love with Sabine who works selling records. After five years of troubled marriage (with several separations), Antoine and Christine Doinel have a private audience with the judge and conclude a friendly divorce process (the first by mutual consent under a new law) . During the process we see flashbacks to earlier times (and movies).
While leaving the court house lawyer Colette who we had met in Antoine and Colette sees him and then goes and picks up his book.
When he sees her get on a train she waves and then he gets on to. She reads his book with interest, particularly the parts that are about her. He then surprises her with his appearance. They talk about the old times, including fabrications he had in his book.
Antoine is shocked to find out that Colette, who is unemployed, has been making money sleeping with men on trains. Another youthful dream exploded.
Now Antoine is almost desperate to get back to Sabine, who doesn’t want to see him. She is really upset over the way he acted.
An old friend of Antoine’s mother and father, Mr. Lucien, shows up at work. He was the man kissing Antoine’s mother in The 400 Blows. Between Colette and him the series has come full circle.
This was a good movie, but much better when watched as part of the series. There are a lot of flash backs to scenes in the earlier films. The most interesting thing is watching Antoine grow up and down and conversely trying to figure if this how Truffaut really regards himself. If this is it, then it has to be one of the most truthful exposes ever written.

Bed and Board (1970)

February 7, 2010

The fourth installment of the Adventures of Antoine Doneil has the French title of Domicile conjugal which sounds so much better than the English title. Has Antoine finally settled down? The movie opens and Christine is now Christine Doneil. Now down the cellar it is Christine that kisses him.
Antoine is running a flower stand, coloring carnations, and Christine is giving violin lessons. Antoine gets a job working with model boats. Antoine and Christine get along great and then Christine gets pregnant and they have a little boy. One thing that really works for me is the square with the eccentric people who inhabit it. The women who is always after Antoine, the complainer who won’t leave his apartment until Marshall Petain is buried with honor. the actor who they thought was a gangster ..
Then there are Japanese visitors to the company Antoine works for and he is fascinated by one of the women in traditional garb. When Antoine retrieves the bracelet that she dropped in the pond she gives him a kiss.
When Antoine starts reading about Japanese women and asking Christine to wear glasses in bed we know he is in trouble. He waited so long to be happy and now he is going to risk it. Such is the human condition. Antoine starts going over to Kyoko’s apartment and staying out late. Christine suspects something is going on and it is.
When Antoine accidently brings home roses Kyoko has given him, little notes start falling out when the flowers open, that Kyoko has inserted for Antoine, and Christine reads them. Antoine tries to explain himself saying “she is another world” but Christine isn’t buying it. Antoine leaves the apartment.
Antoine’s legs begin to hurt as he sits on the floor to eat with Kyoto. Some of the excitement seems to be leaving what was once exotic. Antoine begins to miss Christine. While out at dinner with Kyoto he keeps getting up to call Christine. After one of the calls she was gone when he came back, leaving a message to “Drop Dead”.
The movie really works for me as part of the series, as a character study of Antoine. He starts as an unloved youth, then an awkward rejected young lover and when he finally finds happiness he has trouble embracing it. The running gag with the man who owes him money is like something out of Chaplin.
A funny, sweet and very good movie.

Stolen Kisses (1968)

February 7, 2010

The third movie in the series, it opens with Antoine Doinel in the army and in the brig, for going AWOL all the time (Truffaut had also when he was put in jail because he deserted the army). He gets a dishonorable discharge. He goes to visit a former girlfriend, Christine, but she is out and he visits with her parents.
Chrisitine’s dad makes a call and gets Antoine a job as a night clerk. Chrisitine comes to see him at work. We find out that Antoine was writing her up to nineteen letters a week and not all of them were nice. She must have been the reason he joined the army.
A detective comes to the hotel with a husband. They tell Antoine a story and he takes them up to a room where they catch the man’s wife with another man. Antoine is fired. The detective feels sorry for Antoine and gets him a job as a PI.
When Antoine tries to kiss Christine down the cellar, she rejects him, just as it was in the scene with Colette in Antoine and Colette.
Antoine has some adventures on the job. He brings Christine to a magic show because he has to find out about him for a job.
Antoine meets Colette and her husband Albert (from the movie Antoine and Colette) and their baby on the street.
Antoine then takes a job for the agency in a shoe shop. The owner wants to know why everyone hates him. Antoine falls for his wife – he doesn’t even want to see Christine.
When the woman makes a pass at him Antoine panics. When Mrs. Tabard comes to his apartment the next day she is trailed by the detective agency. Another job ends for Antoine. He next becomes a TV repairman. Chrisitine calls for a repairman and they finally get together.
A funny, clever, light-hearted movie.

Antoine et Colette (1962)

February 6, 2010

Truffaut contributed this 30 minute movie to an anthology called Love at Twenty. His segment called Antoine and Colette was a look at Antoine Doinel, his character created in The 400 Blows, at the age of seventeen.
Antoine has been released from the detention center on probation. He works at a record company and lives on his own.
He goes to a concert with a friend and keeps exchanging eye contact with a girl. He begins seeing her around and becomes smitten. He meets her and they become friends and companions.
When she doesn’t show for a lecture he leaves and calls her. She had gone out with friends. When he stops by at her apartment she is out but he meets her parents.
Antoine then decides to move to an apartment right across the street from Colette’s. Antoine started visiting the Colette’s parents. Antoine watched Colette come and go.
When Antoine tries to kiss Colette at the movies she doesn’t go for it. He gets up and walks out. When she visits later she calls him an idiot.
When he goes over to visit her parents, Albert comes in to pick Colette up. Antoine is not happy. He watches a concert on TV with the parents.
A nice little movie on the tribulations of young love.

Small Change (1976)

February 6, 2010

The movie opens with a great scene of a lady teacher who really wants the boys in her class to learn a poem, but the boys can really care less. There are some great classroom scenes where Truffaut really captures what it is like to be a child. In one a boy anxiously waits for the clock to signal the end of the school day so he won’t have to answer a question.
There is another really scary scene where a delightful two year old boy plays near an open window. He falls two stories but he is not hurt.
When a stubborn little girl is left at home while her parents go to the restaurant she gets on a megaphone and announces to the square that she is hungry and her parents have left her home while they went out. People are shocked and send her up food in baskets. The whole plaza watches as the food is lowered. A very funny scene.
Boys try to sell their school books. When some boys want to borrow some money they give their friend a hair cut and take the money that was meant for that. The young barbers swear that his father will never know the difference. The father sees the result and goes to the barber demanding an apology.
Two of the boys meet two girls and take them to the movie. The girls want to be kissed but one boy is afraid so the other kisses both of them.
The boy who wouldn’t kiss the girls falls for one of his friends mother and buys her roses.
In the last scenes we find out that the new boy at school Juliene, who is always up to some trouble, was being beat at home. When h goes for his physical he has bruises, scars and burns. Juliene’s mothe and grandmother are taken out of their shack in chains by the police.
Juliene’s teacher feels really bad because she was so hard on him. Another teacher comes in to talk to the boys in the class and he says;
Jean-François Richet, the Schoolteacher: I know we are all thinking about Julien Leclou. It’s in the press… and you’ve heard your parents talking at home. Before you go on vacation… let’s talk about Julien. I don’t know much more than you do… but I’ll tell you how I feel. First, Julien will be taken care of by Welfare. He will be placed in a family. Wherever he goes, he’ll be better off than in his own home… where, in his own words, “he was beaten.” His mother shall lose her maternal right. For Julien, it may be quite a few years before he’ll know the freedom to come and go as he pleases. Julien’s case is so tragic that we cannot help comparing our lives with his. My own childhood was also quite painful. I couldn’t wait to grow up. I felt adults had all the rights. They can lead their lives the way they want. An unhappy adult can start again from scratch. But an unhappy child is helpless. He may not know how to put it in words, but he feels that he cannot even contest his parents’ right to hurt him. An unloved and battered child feels guilty. That’s what’s so tragic! Of all mankind’s injustices… injustice to children is the most despicable! Life isn’t always fair… but we can fight for justice. It’s the only way! It’s a slow process, but we do move forward. All people with power like to claim they’re impervious to threats. But they do give in to pressure! A show of strength is the only way to get results. Adults understand that… and they obtain what they ask for by demonstrating. I want to show that when adults are determined they can improve their lot. But children’s rights are totally ignored. Political parties are not concerned with kids like Julien or you. Do you know why? Because children don’t vote! If kids had the right to vote they’d have better schools, sports facilities. You’d get them because politicians need your votes. You could come to school an hour later in winter instead of rushing out before daylight. I also want to say, because of my own childhood… I feel kids rate a better deal. That’s why I became a schoolteacher. Life isn’t easy. You must steel yourselves to face it. I don’t mean “hard-boiled.” I’m talking about stamina! Some of us who’ve had a difficult childhood are better equipped for adult life than those who were overprotected with love. It’s the law of compensation. Life may be hard, but it’s also wonderful. When we’re confined to sickbed we can’t wait to get out and enjoy life. We sometimes forget how much we really love it. You’re about to go on vacation. You will discover new places and make new friends. In September, you’ll move up a grade. We’ll enroll both boys and girls. Time flies. Before long, you’ll have kids of your own. If you love them, they’ll love you. If they don’t feel you love them they’ll transfer their love and tenderness to other people or other things. That’s life! Each of us needs to be loved! Well, boys, school is over. Have a happy vacation!
The movie lets us look at two worlds. The parents world is very different from that children. We also see two different worlds for the children. There are those who are raised so lovingly, and there are others like Juliene (and Antoine from The 400 Blows), who grow up in a world without love and stability.
 Truffaut’s look into the children’s world seems so truthful. A wonderful movie.

The Bride Wore Black (1968)

January 19, 2010
Julie (Jeanne Moreau) tries to jump out the window, but her mom stops her. Julie then leaves on a trip. She pretends to get on the train but just gets off on the other side. Julie goes to a wedding and talks to the groom. She throws her scarf out on an over hang off the balcony and then asks the groom to get it for him. When he does she says “I am Julie Kohler” and pushes him off to his death.
Then Julie starts checking out another guy’s apartment. She leaves Mr. Coral a ticket for a concert. He arrives to an empty box. She slips in and sits down behind him. After the concert she arranges to meet him tomorrow at his apartment. She then buys a bottle of wine and injects something into it. The next night she brought the wine. When they have a toast she doesn’t drink any. With Coral dying she tells him that they met at her wedding where her husband was shot as they exited the church. He tells he recognizes her. He also said it wasn’t their fault. She watches him die.
Julie goes out to the country to see a house and meets a little boy. She then pretends to be the son’s teacher and makes supper for the boy and his father, Morane, because the wife is away. The boy says she is not his teacher but Morane doesn’t believe him. When the boy goes off to bed, she tricks Morane into a closet and then locks it. She tells him she is Julie Kohler and she has come to kill him. Morane tries to explain what happened on the wedding day. the five of them were playing cards and drinking. He was bragging to the others about his hunting abilities. He took down a rifle and aimed at a weather vane. His friend got a bullet and they loaded the gun. Another friend, not knowing the gun was loaded fired at the wedding party, and killed the groom, David. Then they fled. Julie went back to the church and made a vow. She would track the five of them down, one by one. Julie tapes all around the closet. Morane suffocated to death. They arrest the boy’s teacher because of his confused testimony. Julie calls the police and tells them to let the teacher go because she is the real murderer and she gives them details.
She tracks down the fourth, the shooter (Mr. Delvaux) to a junk yard. But just as she was preparing to shoot him the police arrested him for something else. She then heads for Fergus, an artist, who needs a model. She poses as Diana the huntress. Next we see Delvaux dead on the ground with an arrow in his back.
A friend of the first man killed recognizes Julie from the balcony and at the funeral of Devaux they catch her. She admits to the killings but won’t tell the police why she did it.
She gets into the same jail as the fourth man, the junkyard owner. She steals a knife and while serving food finishes off number four. The wedding march song plays and the movie ends.
This film was Truffaut’s homage to Alfred Hitchcock. He based his movie on a novel by the same author who wrote Rear Window. He also had Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Hermann compose the score. While the movie didn’t capture the suspense of the better Hitchcock movies, the music was really good. Overall a really good homage and a really good movie.

Shoot the Piano Player (1960)

January 4, 2010

Charlie (real name Edouard Saroyan, piano virtuoso) plays the piano in a bar. One day his brother, Chico, who he hasn’t seen in four years, comes running in. Two guys he did a job with are after him. His brother asks Charlie what he is doing in such a place when he is such a talent. The two, ex-partners, come in after Charlie but he escapes out the back.
One of the girls who works at the bar, Lena, likes Charlie and he walks her home. Two men follow them and pick up Charlie the next morning and the they pick up Lena. They want to know where Chico is. Charlie and Lena escape when police pull the car over for going through a red light.
Charlie goes home with Lena and she has a poster on the wall of his days as
Edouard Saroyan. Charlie thinks back to those days and to his wife, Theresa, who was a waitress. Charlie played concerts and tried to talk to his wife about them, but she wasn’t really too supportive. Charlie plays really well but he doesn’t have much confidence in himself. His marriage is coming to an end. His wife confesses to him that she had to sleep with the promoter to get his career started. That is why she is so distraught. He is famous now, but she can’t forgive herself.  Instead of comforting her, Charlie flees in anger. He knows he made a mistake so he rushes back to the room, it is too late, she has jumped to her death.
Edouard fled his old life and started again as Charlie, sweeping up at a bar. But he couldn’t keep his hands off the old piano there. The next thing you know he is Charlie the piano player. The story drifts back to the present and Charlie is with Lena.
Lena wants to turn Charlie back into Edouard again. The two gangster come and kidnap Charlie’s little brother, Fido, who lives with him. Charlie and Lena, not knowing about Fido, go to quit their jobs at the bar. Charlie and the bar owner get in a fight and Charlie stabs him as he is being choked to death. The bar owner is dead.
Charlie headed back to the family farm, to where Chico is. Charlie meets his brothers Richard and Chico there. Lena comes out to the farm and tells Charlie he is in the clear, witnesses saw what happened. Charlie goes to tell his bothers that he is leaving but in the meantime the gangsters come, with Fido, who promptly escapes into the woods. There is shooting back and forth and Lena gets killed.
The scene shifts back to the bar. Charlie is back playing like he had never been gone. A very good movie.