Just Above Sunset Archives
On emotion in film and real death...
Item 1: A Man and a Woman
Release Date: 1966
Director: Claude Lelouch
Producer: Claude Lelouch
Screenwriter: Claude Lelouch, Pierre Uytterhoeven
Starring: Anouk Aimée, Jean-Louis Trintignant
Item 2: And Now Ladies and Gentlemen
North American Release Date: August 1, 2003 (NY, LA)
French Release (Cannes): Valentin, May 2002
Director: Claude Lelouch
Screenwriter: Claude Lelouch, Pierre Leroux, Pierre Uytterhoeven
Starring: Jeremy Irons, Patricia Kaas, Thierry Lhermitte, Alessandra Martines, Jean-Marie Bigard, Ticky Holgado, Yvan Attal, Amidou, Claudia Cardinale, Sylvie Loeillet, Patrick Braoudé, Constantin Alexandrov, Stéphane Ferrara, Samuel Labarthe, Paul Freeman
Item 3: Actress dies after alleged beating
This week Lelouch's new film And Now Ladies and Gentlemen opened here in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times (Kevin Thomas) loved it. The LA Weekly (Scott Foundas) was only a little less positive.
But it seems kind of odd that the daughter of the star of the first film, A Man and a Woman, died this week, while making a film about Colette and the plight of women in a male-dominated world.
It looks as if her boyfriend might have beaten her to death. (Sunday, August 1, BBC and Reuters reported the results of the autopsy. The cause of death was repeated blows to the head which caused the brain damage.)
If you don't remember A Man and a Woman the synopsis is this: While visiting their children at boarding school, handsome race car driver Jean-Louis meets movie script-girl Anne, a slightly sullen but beautiful widow. A widower himself, Jean-Louis discovers he and Anne have quite a bit in common. Remembering for the first time what it's like to feel overwhelmed by passion, they begin a rapturous love affair. It's a romance that may enable them to forget their painful pasts.
And the new film? The synopsis is this: Jeremy Irons is Valentin, a criminal mastermind whose jewel-stealing business, despite having made him rich, does not offer him much room for personal growth. Hoping to find meaning for his existence, Valentin buys a boat and sets off on a one-man sailing trip around the world, with the police at his heels. At the same time, a burned-out jazz singer named Jane (Patricia Kaas) is in Morocco trying to forget an ill-fated love affair. Valentin, after being struck by a serious illness, makes an emergency landing on the Moroccan coast. Jane soon crosses paths with the suave con artist, and they begin a relationship.
Events in Vilnius and Paris as reported by Araminta Wordsworth in the National Post (Canada):
Lelouch, who loves to open his films with literary quotes scrawled on the screen, this time picked one from 19th-century poet and playwright Alfred de Musset: "Life is a deep sleep of which love is the dream."
There are movies and there is real life. Lelouch makes gorgeous, sad films. Real life is not even that nice.
A conversation in the late eighties with a friend at work - we were discussing the Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) - Jacques Demy's film from 1964 - and he commented that there were no French films with happy endings. We couldn't think of a one. This was before Amélie of course.
In the studio system out here in Hollywood you have to fight hard to produce a film without a happy ending. The list of "downer" films where the studio insisted on tacking on a happy ending is endless - the most obvious example could be the baseball film The Natural. It's marketing. Audiences here, as judged by the studios, will not pay good money to see the boy lose the girl, or to see he bad guys win. The opposite seems to be the case in France. The Cannes folks would not allow Amélie to be screened at their festival - too commercial. Why? Everything worked out?
American films opening this week included American Wedding, the third in that series of gross-out comedies. And we've been through The Hulk and the second Charlie's Angels and the latest Terminator thing.
The French give us sad, over-the-top romantic, hopeless emotional stuff. Odd.
Seems they are an emotional folk, while we're more comfortable with the hero-machine that kills the bad guys, who may or may not morph into our next Governor out here in California.
Going to the movies? So what will it be? Endless tragedy of real folks, or the mechanical man who saves the world?
There's no getting the two cultures together.
Marcel Proust said it this way: "The life of nations merely repeats, on a larger scale, the lives of their component cells; and he who is incapable of understanding the mystery, the reactions, the laws that determine the movements of the individual, can never hope to say anything worth listening to about the struggles of nations."
Francis Lai did the score for A Man and a Woman its pretty famous. This new film, And Now Ladies And Gentlemen, is scored by Michel Legrand, who wrote the score for the Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
Lots of us who picked up extra money playing in piano bars in the late sixties and in the seventies used both those early scores extensively. Great melodies.
This latest film stars Patricia Kass - the singer from Alsace - who has been hugely popular in the last decade or two. She sings in this film, the old good stuff like Le Mer. This is not the Bobby Darrin version Somewhere Beyond the Sea. The French lyric is a bit more about loving the earth and sea and sky of the true France.
My friends know I have all of Patricia Kass's albums and am fond of putting the top down and cruising Sunset Boulevard, through Sunset Plaza, blasting her version of Regarde les Riches from the 1998 Bercy concert. Seems fitting. You could look up the words - use Google and you'd find them. Funny, angry stuff.
Kaas was out here three months ago at Universal Amphitheater a few miles down the way. I missed that. Oh well.
Last time the French voted for who was going to be the new Marianne that Casta woman won, and Patricia Kass came in second. If you don't know what that vote is about, don't worry. It's a French thing. Bridget Bardot won a long time ago.