Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 09, 2016 4:13 pm 
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CLUB MEMBERS IN CAT FETISH MASKS IN AN EARLY SCENE OF LA FILLE AUX YEUX D'OR; ON THE RIGHT, PAUL GUERS AS HENRI MARSAY

Jean-Gabriel Albicocco: The Girl with the Golden Eyes/La fille aux yeux d'or (1961)

Rarely seen film showing in 35mm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's New Queer Cinema Series 28 and 29 April 2016.

Baroque B&W visual beauty, decadent glamour, Paris late Fifties: what's not to like?

Some films are to be seen almost exclusively for their style, which can outlive story as a source to keep drawing on, and this is a most notable example. Its use of gorgeous, heightened B&W chiaroscuro grows out of silent classics and relates to Greg Toland's dramatic lighting with Welles but fits in with Girl's baroque, decadent theme drawn from Balzac of a a spoiled men's club with gambling, debauchery & women kept as slaves transposed to the world of late Fifties Paris fashion. I saw this twice when it was new in memorable circumstances, at Amos Vogel's Cinema 16 in 1961 and in a film series in Cairo in 1965. I've seen thousands of films since, and the memory of Girl never ceased to haunt me. Those lush shadows! Of course, this epitomizes the potentials of B&W that color loses, the contrast, the exploitation of pure light.

Finally I just ordered a PAL format DVD of the film, it came, and I watched it. Now I just learnt by coincidence it is in a film series, New Queer Cinema at Lincoln Center, showing in two weeks, 28 & 29 April 2016. Their brochure quotes Vogel from 1961: "A mysterious, perverse Gothic tale, derived from Balzac and transposed to a deceptively contemporary Paris, probes the secret of a bizarre love in an atmosphere of sophisticated decadence. . . Opulent in its artificiality, the film is especially noteworthy for its visual pyrotechnics, luxuriant imagination and unexpected continuity."

A re-watch confirms this, especially of the opening scenes (and the classical guitar theme is beautiful too; one can get the sound track on vinyl). I don't think such deliberately over-ripe, decadent, baroque, rococo B&W visual style has ever been so intensely achieved, though Armando Nannuzzi's intense chiaroscuro for Visconti's 1965 Sandra/Vaghe stelle dell'Orsa comes close. Another rarity, never shown in the US; but you can watch it on YouTube entire in Italian without subtitles .

The Girl with the Golden Eyes showed at the Paris Theater in NYC in Aug. '62, it seems, and Bosley Crowther of the Times, , not for the first time, didn't particularly get it, noting the graphic qualities were "rare and interesting" but damning it as "obscurantism," its characters as merely "weird," its action (despite Vogel) without "continuity."

It would be nice if the Criterion Collection would issue Girl with Albicocco's other big success, his 1967 Le Grand Meaulnes (there actually is a French "coffret" of the two). They should issue Visconti's Sandra (Vaghe stelle dell'Orsa) too -- another decadent feast of voluptuous shadows (1965). There is a place for excessive style, fake glamour, and baroque visuals. Add a touch of humor and an exciting thriller plot and you get Beinix's film version of Delacorta's Diva.

This time the decadent heir Henri Marsay (Paul Guers) is a fashion photog and (somewhat implausibly is a close friend/collaborator of lesbian couturier Léo (Françoise Prévost) who's been hiding the Girl (Marie Laforet) in the nifty secret pad. When I first saw Léo this time, I thought of Coco Chanel (the real Coco, Coco before Tautou). There are also fab sports cars. When you've got cigarettes, alcohol, deep shadows, amour fou, and fab sports cars, you've got classic movie glamor.

Another lost film decadence I want to rediscover: Roger Vadim's 1957 No Sun in Venice (Sait-on jamais), with its MJQ soundtrack.

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A STILL THAT SHOWS LÉO (FRANÇOISE PRÉVOST) IS CONCEIVED AS A VERSION OF CHANEL

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