Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Judex (1963)

Judex - salaperäinen kostaja / Judex - den hemlighetsfulle hämnaren. FR/IT 1963. PC: Comptoir Français du Film (CFFP) / Filmes Cinematografica. P: Robert de Nesle. D: Georges Franju. SC: Jacques Champreux, Francis Lacassin - based on the 1916 screenplay by Arthur Bernède and Louis Feuillade. DP: Marcel Fradetal. AD: Robert Giordani. Cost: Christiane Courcelles. Makeup: Maguy Vernadet. Hair: Loulou Broyard, Louis Bonnemaison. SFX: Jean Fouchet. M: Maurice Jarre. S: Jean Labussière. ED: Gilbert Natot. C: Channing Pollock (Judex alias Vallières), Francine Bergé (Diana Monti alias Marie Verdier), Édith Scob (Jacqueline Favraux), Michel Vitold (the banker Favraux), Jacques Jouanneau (private detective Alfred Cocantin), Sylva Koscina (Daisy), Théo Sarapo (Morales), Benjamin Boda (Réglisse), Philippe Mareuil (Amaury de la Rochefontaine), René Génin (Pierre Kerjean), Jean Degrave (notary), Luigi Cotese (Pierrob), Roger Fradet (Léon), Ketty France (Jeanne-Marie Bontemps), Suzanne Gossen (landlady), André Méliès (doctor). Helsinki premiere 26.7.1966 Boston, distributor: Aito Mäkinen – VET 72563 – K16 – 2680 m / 98 min. A KAVA print deposited by Aito Mäkinen viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (50 Years Ago), 31 July 2013

In one of the finest hommages to the silent cinema Georges Franju does not follow the early cinema mode of Louis Feuillade. Instead of the tableau style of long takes and long shots recorded by an immobile camera he and Marcel Fradetal resort to a mobile camera, and Franju's concept of mise-en-scène is entirely different from Feuillade. But there is a spiritual affinity between Franju and Feuillade: a matter-of-fact approach to an outlandish plot, a profound, subtle sense of humour, and a strong sense of milieu and landscape shot on location. A surrealism of the real.

As always, a sense of the insolite, the uncanny, is dominant. Franju is delighted to invent something strange in every scene: the masked ball where the participants are dressed as bird creatures, the three watchdogs who rescue Jacqueline, the rooftop confrontation between two female antagonists in tights. This movie is driven by haunting images, several of which would deserve to be hanging on the wall.

There is a joy in showcasing vintage cars and conveying information via amusing intertitles. There are delicious details in the images. Franju puts all his love into his images, but there is not an irresistible sense of rhythm and movement from shot to shot, from sequence to sequence. The movie is a series of fantastic images, but the general structure is not particularly dynamic. Judex is oneiric also in the sense of making the viewer feel a bit drowsy...

Maurice Jarre composes new eerie, fascinating waltzes for Franju.

Marcel Fradetal is again the king of the night as the cinematographer.

A real magician was cast as Judex. Franju found good successors to Feuillade's casting coups: Francine  Bergé is impressive in a role that was played by Musidora, and Jacques Jouanneau is not bad in the comical detective role created by Marcel Lévesque. As before, Édith Scob is Franju's unforgettable soulful female protagonist. Édith Scob has been prominent in recent films such as L'Heure d'été and Holy Motors. There is an open Franju hommage in the latter.

The basic story is about a huge financial fraud related to the Panama affair that has ruined or distorted everyone's lives. When Jacqueline learns the truth about the blackmail and fraud upon which her family's fortune is based she disclaims her inheritance to the dismay of her suitor who immediately distances himself from her. Seen today there is a sense of contemporary relevance in the backstory.

We screened this movie in our Fifty Years Ago series. It was a thrill to read the final intertitle of the movie reminding us that the remake was made fifty years after the original, shot in 1914, during the First World War which changed the world. (The original Judex was released in 1916, two years after it had been shot.) In Judex we are still in the world of la  Belle Époque which has become utterly strange for us. That strangeness is of the essence, as an aesthetic experience, and as a challenge for reflection.

We did not think about this when we programmed Judex but it is also a fitting entry into the 75th Anniversary year of the FIAF, la Fédération Internationale des Archives du Film. Georges Franju was the closest partner of Henri Langlois establishing La Cinémathèque française, and he also served as the General Secretary of the FIAF in his time. Judex is a wonderful love letter about film heritage in many ways.

The vintage print has been in full service in active circulation but it is complete and there are just some scratches in the heads and tails of the reels.

No comments: