Archive for September 3rd, 2009

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(France 1987 107m) DVD1/2

Is it Kippelstein or Kippelstein?

p/d/w  Louis Malle  ph  Renato Berta  ed  Emmanuelle Castro  m  Franz Schubert, Camille Saint-Saëns  art  Willy Holt

Gaspard Manesse (Julien Quentin), Raphaël Fejtö (Jean Bonnet), Françine Rocette (Mme.Quentin), Stanislas Carre de Malberg (François Quentin), Philippe Morier-Genoud (Father Jean), François Borleand (Father Michel), François Negret (Joseph), Irène Jacob (M’elle. Davenne),

It seems strange to look back on the career of a director, commonly regarded as an accepted master, and to say it’s with a degree of regret.  Louis Malle was an undoubted master, a director of great subtlety and style, and yet why is it that I struggle to pick out great films from his resume?  Think of his roll call post 1960 – Zazie dans le Métro, Le Feu Follet, La Souffle au Coeur, Lacombe Lucien, Pretty Baby, Milou en Mai and Vanya on 92nd Street.  Excellent films all, but not really a truly great one among them.  Like various others, it’s the cumulative effect of his career that impresses more than the individual films, which all have faults.  He was every bit as talented as those other masters of his generation, Resnais, Rivette, Godard and Truffaut, but didn’t make as many great films.  Neither of the Malles films I have selected (Les Amants, Lacombe, Lucien and Atlantic City were the others) were sure entries.  Indeed, Pauline Kael made one of her most telling observations when she said that she “felt as if I were watching a faded French classic, something I dimly recalled.”

            Sometime during the Vichy occupation, pupils gather at the small school of St John of the Cross, a private establishment run by monks.  A new pupil, Jean Bonnet, arrives into the class of Julien Quentin, and they strike up an uneasy friendship.  Things are put to the test, however, when Julien finds out that Bonnet’s real name is Kippelstein and he is a Jew, hidden at great risk by the principal, Father Jean.  Sadly, one January morning, the Gestapo get a tip off and they come to collect various Jewish pupils and workers at the school, from whence they are shipped to you know where. (more…)

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