My nominee for Louis Malle’s worst film is this toothless San Francisco remake (1983) of the great Italian heist comedy, Big Deal on Madonna Street, scripted by Jeffrey Fiskin. This was planned for John Belushi, who died before it could get off the ground and might have made the whole thing worth doing. With Jack Warden, Donald Sutherland, Wallace Shawn, and the young Sean Penn. PG, 91 min. (JR)
Although this 1960 movie is usually accorded a low place in the Marilyn Monroe canonunderstandably so, because the comedy and musical numbers never quite take off the way they’re supposed toit deserves to be reevaluated for the intelligence of Monroe’s performance and the rare independence of her character; this one was made after her brush with Actors Studio, and she isn’t playing a bimbo. Yves Montand costars as a reclusive billionaire who discovers he’s being parodied in an off-Broadway revue; he tries out for the part himself, incognito, and she’s the chorus girl who helps him along. George Cukor directed, in ‘Scope, and lent a certain glamour and polish to the proceedings. With Tony Randall, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Frankie Vaughan (whose number, Incurably Romantic, isn’t half-bad), and bits by Milton Berle, Bing Crosby, and Gene Kelly; Norman Krasna wrote the querulous script. 118 min. (JR)
Arguably Louis Malle’s best work (1960). Based on Raymond Queneau’s farcical novel about a little girl (Catherine Demongeot) left in Paris for a weekend with her decadent uncle (Philippe Noiret), this wild spree goes overboard reproducing Mack Sennett-style slapstick, parodying various films of the 1950s, and playing with editing and color effects (Henri Decae’s cinematography is especially impressive), though gradually it becomes a rather disturbing nightmare about fascism. Forget the preposterous claim by a few critics that the movie’s editing influenced Alain Resnais, but there’s no doubt that Malle affected Richard Lester–and was clearly influenced himself by William Klein, whom he credited on the film as a visual consultant. A rather sharp, albeit soulless, film, packed with ideas and glitter and certainly worth a look. In French with subtitles. 93 min. Sun 11/20, 3 and 5 PM, Facets Cinematheque.
Directed and narrated by Yoshishige Yoshida (Eros + Massacre), this thoughtful, provocative essay (1997, 52 min.) considers the work of Gabriel Veyre, a camera operator for the Lumiere brothers who traveled around the world at the end of the 19th century and brought back notable footage of Mexico and Japan. Yoshida’s highly speculative account alternates Veyre footage with contemporary views of similar locations and includes some fictionalized dramatizations. Focusing on the colonialist connotations of filming foreigners, Yoshida notes that Veyre’s relatively unexotic Japanese footage was coolly received in France. Also on the program, Nelly Kaplan’s Abel Gance: Yesterday and Tomorrow (1963, 26 min.) digests the career of the French director (Napoleon), drawing on his recorded interviews and emphasizing his frenetic editing and multiple images. Both films have English voice-overs, a method that works better with Yoshida’s film. (JR)