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New DVDs 6-17-2008

Transgression, with bananas. Fox Home Entertainment takes another crack at “The Gang’s All Here” and does much better by it, as part of a Carmen Miranda box set, reviewed in today’s NY Times.

The streaming video is still pretty sluggish, but when this site gets going, it’s going to be something: masses of rare material from the European film archives, including John Ford’s 1917 feature “Bucking Broadway” and the oldest surviving film (1919) by Mihaly Kertesz, aka Michael Curtiz.

77 comments to New DVDs 6-17-2008

  • Kent Jones

    Ryan and Widmark seemed quite similar in many ways. Manny Farber and Patricia Patterson once told me about the time they met Ryan (Manny’s brother was his analyst), what a gentleman he was, and how he even did a little song and dance.

  • seanflynn

    Two other possible 1908 born directors still alive, one confirmed (Manoel de Oliveira of course, 100 as of December 11), the other, Jose Diaz Morales, Spanish-born Mexican-emigre with 91 titles to his credit, born July 31. The latter is best (only?) known outside of Mexico for his many Santos movies.
    IMDb shows him still alive, but otherwise can find no confirmation.

  • david hare

    Alex, while most of his notable films have Prevert screenplay credit the one grand exception is Hotel du Nord (38) made between Quai des Brumes (38) and Le Jour se Leve (39). Hotel’s screenplay is by Jean Aurenche and it was the culmination of Carne’s determination to get film “out of the boulevardier tradition, into the streets… and into the mouths of ordinary people”. Indeed the mouth munching argot and strong accents, especially Arletty’s, are often too heavy for my very ordinary French to penetrate. Notwithstanding this turn to “naturalism” in character at least the entire set of the Canal St Martin and its environs was magnificently reconstructed in the studio by Alexandre Trauner. The mise en scene is however classic Carne – formally precise, and lyrical only to the point of necessity with the entire focus on the actors, and with a Minellian eye for for brush of sets and decor. This is (or used to be) available on a PAL DVD from the UK on the Soda label – a port of the restored print used on the unsubbed French MK2. There is also a R1 NTSC DVD of Drole de Drama. I am absolutely certain Carne “adopted” Prevert as a colleague, giving regard to his own sensibilities concerning the direction French ciname was taking in its development of Poetic Realism. I also have a boot of Carne’ very first(silent) short film from 1929, “Nogent, Eldorado du Dimanche” , a stylish and already formally conceived poetic essay on the weekend escapes of working Parisians on the short trian ride to Nogent, a mini paradise with it’s river bank Ginguiettes where folks shed the weariness of weekly drudgery. In any case I believe Carne’s unique fusion of poetic tone with “realist” narrative determination, all focussed through a mise en scene curcially attentive to actors and performance is fuly formed by the time he makes his pact with Prevert.
    I think in looking at 30s French cinema you have to consider the absolutely crucial role of writers in shaping the tone and direction, even the “optique” of the national cinema through the ups and down of the decade. Towering above them all of are course Prevert and Charles Spaak.

    Prevert himself worked with every serious French director including Renoir and Gremillon. Interestingly he walked off the shoot of Grem’s Remorques in 1940 considering the project “trop religieuse” and left completion of screenplay to his oft-time cowriter Pierre Laroche.

    A perfect expression of Carne’s sensibility is a scene in the first third of the great Le Jour se Leve. THe narrative now in flashback, Gabin follows Jacqueline Laurent to a small music hall where she is going to watch the act performed by her “patron”, Jules Berry who appears to exercise some sort of demonic control over her. On the way Gabin runs into Arletty whom he joins in attending the show. Berry’s “Act” is a little vaudeville routine with a group of trained dogs who do tricks. The movie noe totally chan ges tone and focusses entirely on the proscenium, the audience and the dogs, and for three or four minutes he lifts us, and the four protagonists tonally out of the narrative and into a small spectacle of literal enchantment. Yet the spectacle itself is a distilllation and an coda to Act 1 of the movie’s meaning. The only closeup throughout the seuqence is small boy who stares with unbridled joy at the stage, and the camera.
    Carne’s filsm are full of these privleged moments, invariably involving spectacle and gaze, which are his own entirely, not Prevert’s.

  • david hare

    Nicolas, I think your Duvivier/Clouzot link is very pertinent. Among the simliarities they both share a profound pessimism bordering on misanthropy. But where Clouzot is fairly singular in tone, and he seems to have made relatively few movies (BTW- Manon I think is one of his best later pictures) Duviv through the 30s was like a French Walsh or Curtiz, given the sheer volume AND the quality of the films. His detractors would simply call this “journeyman” filmmaking I suppose but that moniker is belied by the very personal investment in virtually every film from the 30s. THere are weird sub generic works like Golgotha with Gabin as Pontius PIlate (and a page boy wig and miniskirt) which are certainly odd these days, although the energy of the narrative drive in this, if not the ideas make it far more appealing than someone like deMille. But the unresolved question about Duviv is how much is he a French Curtiz (a journeyman with some great works) or a Walsh (an undisputed master)?

    I have a couple of the Amerifcan Pictures, Flesh and Fantasy, and The Imposter with Gabin – this I think suffers greatly from comparison with its generic source, La Bandera. (And Gabin’s performance, or at least his delivery is dreadful – a far cry from his work in the Mayo/Lang Moontide.)

  • Joe

    Kent– Re Robert Ryan doing a little song & dance for Manny Farber and Patricia Patterson, don’t forget that he starred with Nanette Fabray on Broadway in the Irving Berlin musical, “Mr. President,” directed in 1962 by Joshua Logan. It didn’t have a long run but a cast album (newly reissued by Sony) does exist. That’s an FYI, in case anyone wants to hear what kind of singing voice Ryan had. Given his melifluous speaking voice, I’d wager he had a pretty good one. –Joe

  • Kent Jones

    Yes Joe, I believe he actually did a little bit of a song from the show.

  • Alex

    Vive “Hotel du Nord,” “Quai des Brumes,” “Le Jour se Leve,” and “Les Enfants du Paradis”!

    Kudos for whomever can help get Gremillion films available!

    Foggy inquiry: Can anyone recall, an perhaps recall a tilte for a film noir with scenes at a foggy nocturnal boardwalk and moody boardwalk bar (reminiscent of “Quai des Brumes” –and perhaps staring Robert Ryan!)?

  • nicolas saada

    Wyler’s “Dead end” ? or maybe “99 river street” by Phil Karlson. There’s a great foggy nocturnal scene in the opening of “Mildred Pierce”. Carné stole most of the stuff he did in “Quai de Brumes” from Sternberg’s “Docks of New-York”, one of the great american silent films… Being French, I am not a Carné fan, although I still really love “Le Jour se lève”. Haven’t seen “Paradis” in years. Gremillon is a master; as proves “Remorques” or “Lumière d’été”. Shame that his movies, like those by Sautet or Duvivier are not available in the US. I know that Sautet’s “Classe tous risques” has just been released in the US, but the film, no matter how remarkable it is, is not representative of his style. Sautet’s bets work; “Max et les Ferrailleurs ” is available in france with a terrible english dubbed track. It’s a very good film. There is also “Mado”, a wonderful dark social satire.

  • Kent Jones

    It sounds like Alex is describing either OUT OF THE FOG or the aforementioned MOONTIDE (which isn’t really a film noir but is very moody), both of which star Ida Lupino but in which her future co-star Robert Ryan is nowhere to be seen. Unless he’s thinking of CLASH BY NIGHT, but it doesn’t sound like it.

  • Alex

    Kent, Thanks for the OUT OF THE FOG and MOONTIDE tips. Now to the physical evidence!

    Nicolas, Well, I certainly like “Docks of New York” at least as well as “Quai de Brumes.” Never saw a movie so many times before it stopped getting richer as “Les Enfants du Paradis” (about 15 times).

    “Clash by Night,” like “Mildred Pierce,” probably just uses the he omnipresent Santa Monica Pier.

  • Kent Jones

    Dave, wasn’t a great part of CLASH BY NIGHT shot on location? In any case, the mood is in the emotional mix rather than the visuals. For the record, my closest friend in the world, Peter Gizzi, ended one of his greatest poems, “Revival,” with a quote from CLASH BY NIGHT. Robert Ryan to Barbara Stanwyck: “On your way, dust.”

  • seanflynn

    Clash By Night had extensive exterior (and if I remember correctly, some interior) shooting in Monterey.

  • Kent Jones

    Yes, and that was what atracted Lang to the project, if I remember correctly.

  • Alex: Any chance that you might be thinking of Renoir’s Woman on the Beach?

  • Kent Jones

    Jonathan, I don’t think there’s a boardwalk or a bar in WOMAN ON THE BEACH, although it does begin with Robert Ryan on a beach riding from out of the fog on a horse.

  • Herman Scobie

    Few factoids can compare to Manny’s bro being Ryan’s shrink. Nevertheless, James Michener’s favorite film was Children of Paradise.

  • Alex Hicks

    No, Jonathan, not “Woman on the Beach,” which was my first guess but is now eliminated via reviewing. Actually, with the best hints from this coven of noir and Ryan cognescenti Kent’s to NON-Ryan films (I’ve seen the other suggestions), my own noir and Carne fanaticism and hundred of childhood hours on and around the Rye, New York, Playland pier, park and boardwalk fascsimile of the Santa Monica pier (“Maybe I’ll bever get over her, maybe I’ll die trying’) I’m starting to worry that I might have dreamed up the mystery film up.

    (BTW, thanks for your piece on Yang without which my son –Ryan!– and I might not have bothered feretting out a copy of a top favorite: “A Brighter Summer Day.”)

  • “Caught” (Max Ophuls) has Ryan on a pier early in the film, if memory serves. No bar through.

  • davidhare

    Isn’t it “Woman on Pier 13”? There’s Ryan, a pier, a bar and fog!! (And a very interesting bit of cold war/HUAC paranoia.)

  • Kent Jones

    That could be the one.

  • nicolas saada

    So “99 river street” is out ? It has docks, fog, a bar, and a great performance by John Payne. And it(s definitely “noir”

  • A great Karlson, to be sure–one of the best. But Robert Ryan isn’t in it.

  • nicolas saada

    Oh, what about the pier in Mankiewicz “Somewhere in the night”?

  • Can anyone here advise me: is the Altman-produced (and part-directed) TV series GUN worth seeing? It’s just hit the DVD shops here in Australia.

  • Alex Hicks

    With “Woman on Pier 13″ and, yes, “99 River Street” to add to OUT OF THE FOG and MOONTIDE, it looks like hope and serendipitous noir heaven, if not full success, so long as I can safely traverse the video netherworld that may lie between clue and completed investigation; and though I dropped “Rye, New York,” I trace back to Jersey City, and can call on at least a few informants and navigators of the meaner electronic streets and so do expect to return from the quest with at least one some loot, if not THE treasured Falcon.

  • DamienB

    Alex, I have 99 River Street and Woman on Pier 13 on video. If you need them, I can transfer them to DVD for you.

  • Alex Hicks

    Damien, “need” is too strong a word to attach to my interest in 99 River Street and Woman on Pier 13 and you are althogether too kind, but if you would enjoy such a transfer, what would I do next to faciltate it? Perhaps I’d have some interesting DVD lying around you might not have seen that I could send you in return.