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 Les Histoires d'Eau - An A to Z of French Cinema in the 60s 
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 Les Histoires d'Eau - An A to Z of French Cinema in the 60s

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Early morning in the Parisian suburb of Villeneuve-Saint-Georges. Heavy painted shutters are opened in greeting to the pale light of a newborn Spring, only to find it reflected in a veritable sea of Alpine melt. Rope ladders are hurriedly dropped from balconies, thin wooden planks laid down between low country walls, and rowboats readied to aid the stranded in their daily pilgrimage to the distant capital. "I felt the water grope my legs," sings the bright girlish voice of our unmistakably Godardian narrator: "and watched it invade garages, cellars, living rooms." François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard's Une Histoire d'Eau, or A Story of Water, is a breezy 12-minute short that recounts the struggles of young woman wading towards Paris from her flooded rural suburb; trading her shoes for boots, boots for a semi-submerged bicycle and eventually the bike for a passing automobile complete with handsome young man. The film's title, seemingly literal on the surface, is actually a play on the name of Pauline Réage's Une Histoire d'O, an erotic novel whose overarching themes include love, dominance and submission. It is a titular pun that might be considered shallow, especially when aware of the source, but holds more meaning when we discover the content. Ultimately, while the eponymous water of Truffaut and Godard's short may impede cars, buses and trains alike, it can never begin to dampen the keen friskiness of young love.
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Water is also present in the work - and indeed the titles - of Jacques Demy, most notably the enjoyable Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and the film he allegedly shot while waiting for it to get off the ground in 1963, the infinitely more spontaneous La Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels), in which a bleach-blonde Jeanne Moreau snares the attentions and eventually the wallet of an impressionable young banker. Just as bathers are attracted to the glimmer of the film's eponymous bay, with its luxurious waters and gaggle of yachts, so high-rollers and socialites are attracted to the gaudy lights of its many casinos and gambling establishments; the gleam of their meticulously piled chips, the glint of their spinning roulette wheels. For the film's central couple, who belong firmly in this latter category, the bay represents not only a brief respite from heady stints at the table but also - in its seemingly endless expanse of blue - possible freedom from such a life of vice. A life that has taken everything from but ultimately hardened Moreau's character to the point where true emotion can only be seen in the moistness of fleeting tears upon her perfumed cheeks. Finally there is Michel Legrand's theme, a pattering piano piece that - despite the blazing whiteness of Demy's bay and its hanging sun - seems to evoke the joy of rain on a summer day; the embarrassed fleeing of lovers from a sudden downpour.
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Could we not, then, consider water as a symbol for French cinema in the sixties? Not just as an element found in the stories it recounts, but one that is symbolic of this entire period in French film history? This is, lest we forget, a landscape defined by one majestic wave, the Nouvelle Vague, whose cresting in the mid-sixties and subsequent outward ripples would go on to influence so many films and filmmakers alike. A wave that was, ironically enough, conjured into existence at the beginning of the decade largely thanks to the efforts of those two men listed above, Truffaut and Godard, whose Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows) and À Bout de Souffle (Breathless) are considered cornerstones of the movement. In the wake of this wave came many swirls and eddies; various currents and pockets of action, such as the Zanzibar films born in the minds of a repressed, post-May '68 youth, or the Cinéma Vérité documentaries of Jean Rouch and Louis Malle. Then there are those films influenced by the genre swings in the west: particularly, the Film Noir of Hollywood, a term that was of course coined by French critic Nino Frank. Water, like cinema, comes in many forms. Its level of purity differs wildly, from the natural to the artificial, with each offering a different level of sustenance to the consumer. This thread is an attempt to document this cinema, to sample this water, and savour this sustenance. Feel free to play along!

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Thu Oct 11, 2012 10:27 pm
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have my gaybies

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Thu Oct 11, 2012 10:27 pm
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I'm slanted and enchanted.


Thu Oct 11, 2012 10:28 pm
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I may actually know some of this.


Thu Oct 11, 2012 10:29 pm
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Man, Moreau looks kind of hideous there. I never found her attractive though.


Thu Oct 11, 2012 10:30 pm
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Awesome :).

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Thu Oct 11, 2012 10:36 pm
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Yeah baby.

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Thu Oct 11, 2012 10:40 pm
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elixir wrote:
Man, Moreau looks kind of hideous there. I never found her attractive though.

Oh, it's done on purpose. I mean, the peroxide blonde hair and layers of make-up. She was only 35 when Les Baie des Anges was filmed, so I imagine they had to make her look older since the character calls for a wily old gambler(ess) who can "ensnare" this innocent younger man. The hair dye and peroxide just adds to this image of someone who lives behind a mask, both literally and figuratively. The same goes for Malle's Le Feu Follet, which was also released in 1963: Maurice Ronet's character goes to see an old friend, played by Moreau, and she's supposed to be this wise woman in his life to whom he returns at this time of need. Hence, she's made up to look older.

Or perhaps she just looked much older anyway, I don't know...

Image Image

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Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:04 pm
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I haven't seen either of those films.


Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:06 pm
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elixir wrote:
I haven't seen either of those films.

I get the "never found her attractive" part, though.

I usually find her charming, even in small roles, though rarely attractive.

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Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:10 pm
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
I mean, the peroxide blonde hair and layers of make-up. She was only 35


I'm sold.

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Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:47 pm
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
I get the "never found her attractive" part, though.

I usually find her charming, even in small roles, though rarely attractive.


Her mouth is kind of annoying. I like her in general though, esp. in La notte

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 3:55 am
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snapper wrote:

Her mouth is kind of annoying. I like her in general though, esp. in La notte

La Notte is another good example: it was released two years before La Baie des Anges and Le Feu Follet, yet she might look even older. The downturned mouth certainly contributes to that, as does the smoker's face, though she was always so expressive - especially with her eyes. She's not conventionally beautiful by any means, though she did have a certain knack of playing the gorgeous, somehow unattainable type. Malle's debut springs to mind...

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 6:48 am
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I never find her beautiful, but it's something in the way she moves and the eyes that make her super sexy and magnetizing.

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 7:05 am
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Sinister knows what's up.

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 7:16 am
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how about the water at the end of Mouchette?


Fri Oct 12, 2012 7:17 am
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wigwam wrote:
how about the water at the end of Mouchette?

Yes!

Water and its religious connotations has always been important to Bresson, and never more so than in Mouchette. Another memorable Bresson scene involving water that springs to mind is the laundry scene in Les Anges Du Péché, with the reflections from the baths dancing on the walls. I love the way the nuns let go, almost, and let their gossip out while pounding away at the clothes. Almost as though the thorough scrubbing of each garment is somehow penance for the chattering that goes on while doing it. Another French director who loved his water was Jules Dassin, though he can't really be associated with the sixties, since most of the later films he made were produced outside France. His use of rain in particular seems to be a strong inspiration behind Tsai's work.

More watery allusions, please!

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 7:55 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
More watery allusions, please!

I prefer my allusions straight.

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 8:02 am
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Where do you find the time?

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 8:14 am
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Deliberate, inquisitive, transcendental: the camera of Alain Resnais has always been defined by its ethereal movements and long, traveling shots. Such shots can be seen in many of the director's earlier shorts, yet it is his 1961 film, L'Année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad), in which they appear most resounding; most effective in their ability to capture a moment in which both time and space seem all but irrelevant. "Rows of doorways, galleries, side corridors that in turn lead to empty salons, with ornamentation of a bygone era." These corridors down which Resnais' camera so quietly floats, then, are used to represent the annals of the mind, heavy with dust and the fragmented memories of yesteryear. This idea of remembering, of piecing together fractions of the past in search of a whole truth, is a central theme here and allows us to draw a direct line between Marienbad and Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, released three years earlier. James Stewart's endeavours to recall the events of one fateful evening; his memory of one memorable woman, can be compared to X's midnight musings here. Similarly, we the viewer are invited to absorb each meandering stroll through moonlit grounds, each reiterated chapter of veiled dialogue; to piece together these narrative fragments and rearrange these relayed memories, as though Marienbad is in itself one colossal cinematic version of Nim, the table game that X can never quite grasp.
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"A filmmaker is like a master of the shadow-show. He works in the dark." Proof, if ever we needed it, that Jean-Pierre Melville existed as his characters do: on the boundaries of a society; on the margin between black and white, between light and dark. Like Jef Costello in his celebrated Le Samouraï, Melville's approach is one steeped in years of routine, the quiet perfection of a craft, and he will never change. L'Armée des Ombres (Army of Shadows) is perhaps the most direct manifestation of this to be found in the director's small group of films, and rings true like none of the rest. Yet, in the same 1971 interview with Rui Nogueira, Melville goes on to state how it takes an "extraordinary dishonesty" to be effective, and how the "spectator should never be allowed to realise the extent to which everything is manipulated". Though, we are always aware of the director's aesthetic style: his toned down use of austere colours, of greys and browns and navy blues, and his static takes that decelerate the action while hurrying our heart rate. Similarly, we are always aware of his preferred genre, the gangster flick, and how that might translate to the political sabotage seen here. It is a connection that brought criticism from some quarters upon release, as though Melville had taken the resistance and sensationalised it beyond recognition, yet, as Melville countered, "the immediacy of death" is of course present in both tragic walks of life.
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The central characters found in the work of Robert Bresson, typically played by non-actors, often take the form of oppressed individuals who meekly accept their fate; who wordlessly surrender themselves to it, whether through weakness or indifference. The titular character of his 1966 film, Au Hasard Balthazar, is the ultimate in these trampled souls: aside from a brief prologue in which we witness his early days as a gambolling foal, Balthazar's life is one of servitude and pain. It would be naive of us to read Au Hasard Balthazar in purely religious, parabolic terms, for Bresson is no bona fide Christian allegorist and his works can never be so reduced. The donkey itself is of course a religious symbol, though, with the name Balthazar referring to one of the three wise men. There is also the idea put forth by James Quandt among others that each of Balthazar's seven masters represent a deadly sin, with Marie's name suggesting the mother of God, and that he dies for - literally, dies burdened by - their sins. The film draws from various literary sources including Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, though is perhaps best considered in reference to Bresson's slightly later Mouchette - as a kind of companion piece. Both characters are wild, silent witnesses to the cruelty of mankind. They each expire in a rural setting - he in a field, she in a lake - as Quandt goes on to point out, and in a manner that suggests some kind of divine and final deliverance.

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 8:15 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Another French director who loved his water was Jules Dassin...


10:30 P.M. Summer was one of floyd's thread entries.

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 9:17 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Another French director who loved his water was Jules Dassin, though he can't really be associated with the sixties, since most of the later films he made were produced outside France.

Plus he's not French.

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 9:30 am
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beautiful

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 1:37 pm
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Colonel Kurz wrote:
Plus he's not French.

Did not realise this. :oops:

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 1:54 pm
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Sinister wrote:
I never find her beautiful, but it's something in the way she moves and the eyes that make her super sexy and magnetizing.

Amo-te.

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 2:22 pm
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I always found Jeanne Moreau beautiful, but maybe attractive is more correct because conventionally, she isn't. I'm not sure there exists an actor whose face or presence I'd want to steal more than hers.

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Everything around me is evaporating. My whole life, my memories, my imagination and its contents, my personality - it's all evaporating. I continuously feel that I was someone else, that I felt something else, that I thought something else. What I'm attending here is a show with another set. And the show I'm attending is myself. Fernando Pessoa

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 2:36 pm
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Philosophe rouge wrote:
I always found Jeanne Moreau beautiful, but maybe attractive is more correct because conventionally, she isn't. I'm not sure there exists an actor whose face or presence I'd want to steal more than hers.

Top ten Moreau performances?

Personally, I'm quite fond of her dog-walking cameo in Les Quatre Cents Coups. :P

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 4:26 pm
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The early bedroom scene in Eva.

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 4:47 pm
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
This idea of remembering, of piecing together fractions of the past in search of a whole truth, is a central theme here and allows us to draw a direct line between Marienbad and Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, released three years earlier. James Stewart's endeavours to recall the events of one fateful evening, his memory of one memorable woman, can be compared to X's midnight musings here.

That, and also this. When you see it...

Image

Where does one even buy giant Alfred Hitchcock cutouts, anyway?

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 4:52 pm
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Wow, I never knew about that. Neat.

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 4:54 pm
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Trip wrote:
The early bedroom scene in Eva.

I kind of dismissed Eva for this thread since it was filmed in English, shot in Italy, etc.

Looks beautiful, though. And a soundtrack comprised of Michel Legrand and Billie Holiday?

Trip wrote:
Wow, I never knew about that. Neat.

I know!

Now I need to rewatch it to see if there's anything else.

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 4:55 pm
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I don't care for the film very much, unlike Blake and I believe Rouge, but that bedroom scene is mesmerising.

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 5:00 pm
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On the topic of Marienbad, there's a lot of great stuff in this book:

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Particularly, the chapter about imaginary time, or the idea of a continuous narrative in which linear time is redundant:

"Referring to his own Last Year at Marienbad, Resnais said that he wished to make a film for which it did not matter if reel one was projected after reel five, since the only time existing for a film would be the time of the film itself. This is a very strong statement about the continuity of narrative time, where continuity means basically circularity in which linear reasoning of traditional narration is dissolved into continuously returning, logically disconnected series. In these two early films Resnais's goal was to suspend the flow of linear time for the sake of an almost spatial surface where past, present, reality and imagination are brought onto the same continuous level, where getting from one dimension to another means a continuous flow."

In a later chapter entitled Modern Cinema Trends, Kovács goes on to categorise Marienbad in terms of genre and tradition. I don't necessarily agree with the definition, but the use of tables in such a situation always brings out the latent data analyst in me. Who doesn't like tables, anyway?

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Fri Oct 12, 2012 5:20 pm
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The day a Jedi thread debuts always feels like a Corn holiday to me. As always, I'll be reading.

Marienbad is my favorite film ever on certain days. I'll need to grab that book!


Fri Oct 12, 2012 6:52 pm
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This thread is wonderful.


Sat Oct 13, 2012 1:28 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
Did not realise this. :oops:

It's not an uncommon mistake. :P

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Sat Oct 13, 2012 3:04 am
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if i was nitpicking i would say it would be more impressive if you had recorded your written thoughts in voiceover to accompany the videos, but i am not nitpicking, not at all, and i will shut up and enjoy what is already proving to be another wonderful thread.


Sat Oct 13, 2012 3:07 am
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I'm just still impressed by how he's worked the video into that picture. I'm afraid to press play because it ruins the composition.

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Sat Oct 13, 2012 3:11 am
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ledfloyd wrote:
if i was nitpicking i would say it would be more impressive if you had recorded your written thoughts in voiceover to accompany the videos, but i am not nitpicking, not at all, and i will shut up and enjoy what is already proving to be another wonderful thread.

Ha! I did actually consider recording some sort of voice-over accompaniment, Mark Cousins-esque, but then remembered just how much flak he took for his narration over at Karagarga among other places (we're all looking at you, Blake!). Also, just how attractive his Irish drawl probably sounds when put alongside my Midlands grumble - "can you say, war-ahh?" In all seriousness though, who would ever want to distract from Bresson's stoic faces, or Melville's painstaking compositions?

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Sat Oct 13, 2012 4:18 am
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More on that aforementioned Balthazar-Mouchette twinship, this time from Beth Kathryn Curran:

[Spoilers abound]

"Bresson's familiarity with the Rousseaux interview (in which Bernanos compares Mouchette's death to that of a defeated bull) may explain why the filmmaker "intuitively" introduces animals whose sad destiny symbolizes the heroine's fate. A second source in provoking the filmmaker's "intuition" is Au Hazard Balthazar, the film that Bresson completed just months before filming Mouchette. Both films depict the limits of suffering and humiliation that a living being (human and animal) can bear. The affinity between these two films is striking: even for the viewer who knows Bernanos' text, the two films, as much as the novel and the film, seem toecho each other, each as a sort of continuation of the other. In both films there is a doubling of the human and animal: in Au Hasard Balthazar Marie's story is parallel to that of the donkey, whose suffering prefigures her own, just as the slaughter of the hares and strangling of the partridges prefigures Mouchette's destiny."

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Sat Oct 13, 2012 7:01 am
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Post Re: Les Histoires d'Eau - An A to Z of French Cinema in the 60s

JediMoonShyne wrote:
Ha! I did actually consider recording some sort of voice-over accompaniment, Mark Cousins-esque, but then remembered just how much flak he took for his narration over at Karagarga among other places (we're all looking at you, Blake!). Also, just how attractive his Irish drawl probably sounds when put alongside my Midlands grumble - "can you say, war-ahh?" In all seriousness though, who would ever want to distract from Bresson's stoic faces, or Melville's painstaking compositions?

I'm not familiar with Cousins, but I was thinking of the video-essays Matt Zoller Seitz and Kevin B. Lee do.


Sat Oct 13, 2012 1:58 pm
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lot of words

bookmarked for later reading

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Sat Oct 13, 2012 3:34 pm
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ledfloyd wrote:
I'm not familiar with Cousins, but I was thinking of the video-essays Matt Zoller Seitz and Kevin B. Lee do.

Oh, I like those kind of video essays, though I wanted to limit each film clip to around 2 minutes, just so that I could fit more in. Even with three films for each letter, there will still be so many that I don't get to. Anyway, yes, 2 minutes obviously limits the amount you can say, and I think if I did a video essay I'd rather speak about the form and content of each clip rather than the film in general.

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Sat Oct 13, 2012 4:56 pm
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Derninan wrote:
I'll need to grab that book!

Yes! It's available on Karagarga, if you're on Karagarga. If not, here's a viewable copy:

Image

I've only read a few chapters so far, skimming much of the rest, but have already garnered some interesting recommendations/reminders/bookmarks, including: (not entirely on topic, but) Has' The Saragossa Manuscript, Szabó's 25 Fireman's Street, Enrico's An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Widerberg's Adalen Riots, Schlöndorff's Coup de Grâce, Fleischmann's Hunting Scenes from Bavaria, Passer's Intimate Lighting, Robbe-Grillet's N. Took the Dice, Patino's Nine Letters to Berta, Schorm's The Parson's End , Papousek's Behold Homolka, Jakubisko's The Deserter and the Nomads, Alea's Memories of Underdevelopment, and a load more.

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“Bisogna essere molto forti per amare la solitudine.” - P.P. Pasolini

WCoF I II IIIL'EtàL'Eau한국88ShadowsBerlin thırd ISOLATIONVistaVision


Sun Oct 14, 2012 12:53 am
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I can't read your posts now because I just keep staring at your avatar.

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Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:05 am
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Colonel Kurz wrote:
I can't read your posts now because I just keep staring at your avatar.

Just imagine she's staring back at you, that's what I like to do.

Wait... there you go. :heart:

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Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:27 am
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Post Re: Les Histoires d'Eau - An A to Z of French Cinema in the 60s

I don't care for her, Jedi.

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Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:30 am
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Kayden Kross wrote:
I don't care for her, Jedi.

How about now?

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WCoF I II IIIL'EtàL'Eau한국88ShadowsBerlin thırd ISOLATIONVistaVision


Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:34 am
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haps!

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Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:36 am
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JediMoonShyne wrote:
How about now?


Much better, of course.

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Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:37 am
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