Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pleins feux sur l'assassin

Valokeila murhaajaan / Mord i strålkastarljus / Spotlight on a Murderer. FR,  year of production 1960, year of release 1961. PC: Champs-Élysées Productions. Original distributor: MGM. P: Jules Borkon. D: Georges Franju. SC: Pierre Boileau, Thomas Narcejac - adaptation: Georges Franju - dialogue: Robert Thomas. DP: Marcel Fradetal. PD: Roger Briaucourt. COST: Lorène. M: Maurice Jarre. "Où sont les funérailles d'antan?" by Georges Brassens. S: Robert Biard. ED: Gilbert Natot. CAST: Pierre Brasseur (Comte Hervé de Kerloguen), Pascale Audret (Jeanne Benoist-Sainval), Marianne Koch (Edwige), Jean-Louis Trintignant (Jean-Marie de Kerloguen), Dany Saval (Micheline), Philippe Leroy (André), Jean Babilée (Christian de Kerloguen), Georges Rollin (Claude Benoist-Sainval). 92 min. A vintage print with Finnish / Swedish subtitles. Viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki, 11 Aug 2010

Revisited Georges Franju's mystery thriller which I had previously seen 40 years ago on tv and saw now on screen for the first time. After Franju's magisterial short films, La Tête contre les murs and Les Yeux sans visage this is a more light entertainment picture.

"A ghost story without a ghost. What I shall enjoy is making emptiness live." The impressive medieval castle is the main "character", and in a hidden closet beyond a double mirror the dead count pulls the last trick on his greedy inheritors... just by staying undiscovered, because the legal term until the inheritance is five years if his corpse is never found. Franju relishes in the imagery of the old castle, the Maltese Knight emblems, the spiral stairways, the dead ravens, the owl in the tower, the white horse.

The "great men" version of history is evoked and parodied in the way Franju presents the Son et Lumière presentation (spotlights and audio commentary presenting the legend of the old castle to a distinguished audience). Modern technology is introduced into the old castle, and there are funny new inventions to the ghost theme thanks to the technical means.

This is another Boileau-Narcejac story with "an absent protagonist" like Les Diaboliques, Vertigo, and Les Yeux sans visage. The absence or invisibility is also expressed via the "spotlight on nothing" theme, first at the control board where a light signal indicates the presence of the "ghost", and then at the Son et Lumière performances where the audience needs to imagine the characters to the spotlights.

Not a profound masterpiece, but I like Franju's light, amusing touch and the work of his trusted fellow artists, the cinematographer Marcel Fradetal, and the composer Maurice Jarre. The elegantly thrilling cinematography serves Franju's conception of the insolite, and Maurice Jarre contributes to the proper atmosphere with his strange waltzes. The vintage print still looks quite fine.

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