Archive for July 8th, 2015



by Allan Fish

(France 1925 117m) DVD1

Aka. Faces of Children

Portrait of mama

p  Dimitri de Zoubaloff, François Porchet  d  Jacques Feyder  w  Jacques Feyder, Françoise Rosay  ph  Leonce-Henri Burel, Paul Parguel  ed/art  Jacques Feyder

Jean Forest (Jean Amsler), Victor Vina (Pierre Amsler), Rachel Devirys (Jeanne Dutois), Arlette Peyran (Arlette Dutois), Pierrette Houyez (Pierrette Amsler), Henri Duval (Curé of Vissoy), Suzy Vernon (Jean’s mother), Charles Barrois,

My first sighting of this celebrated but long unseen silent drama was, as with many other films of its era, in Brownlow and Gill’s all-encompassing Cinema Europe series back in 1995.  Like many of the films seen therein, I little expected to ever get to see them in their entirety, so it was with great pleasure that the announcement of a DVD release of this and other Jacques Feyder silents was greeted in 2006.  By some fluky coincidence, I watched it the same day I reviewed Jean Delannoy’s magisterial tragedy La Symphonie Pastorale, for both share one fundamental common factor; the location, namely the snow-covered peaks of the Swiss Alps.

Shot and set in the Upper Valois region of the Alps, the film takes place in the village of Saint-Luc, where we find a house in mourning for the loss of its matriarch.  Her widower and their two children witness her coffin bring brought down the stairs for burial, and father and son, Jean, follow the funeral cortege to the burial place.  There, Jean faints, overcome with the emotion of the tragic event, and he begins to retreat into a personal form of mourning.  His father, however, decides after a suitable bereavement period has passed to marry again, and chooses a woman who had also lost her spouse and in need of a father for her young daughter.  From the outset, Jean does not take kindly to his step-mother and especially his step-sister, between whom an animosity develops.  This finally comes to head when, after tossing away his step-sister’s favourite doll when on a sleigh journey, he sends her out into the wintry conditions to look for it, only for an avalanche to leave her stranded and Jean guilt-stricken.  (more…)

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 © 2015 by James Clark

     Rather than immediately follow upon the overture that was the business regarding Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai (featuring a hit man), in the form of introducing links like Michael Mann’s Collateral or his Manhunter (featuring a “Tooth Fairy”), we’re going to make a brief hop over to Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Goodbye South, Goodbye (1996). There was an intriguing affinity to the goings on in Melville and Mann, in Hou’s Millennium Mambo with its premium upon a slippery process between right-hand self-possession and left-hand slacking off. And this seems the right point in our deliberation to consider how the deft Taiwanese master (the latest film of which, The Assassin [2015], brims with unusual promise) comes to grips with the love/hate paradox we need all the help with we can get. More particularly, we want some perspective upon the very sophisticated dialectic Melville and Mann find to be crucial, in view of the apparently far simpler harmonics Hou Hsiao Hsien settles upon so glowingly.

Here we especially key upon Hou’s apparently having no time for the tempered subversiveness the Occidental Two (Three, if you count Antonioni) broach, albeit from afar. The latters’ loner’s creed igniting their films with hardness many find repellent is nowhere to be found in Goodbye South, Goodbye. Instead we have a protagonist, Gao, having made a business partner of a younger brother, Flatty (or Flat Head), who, to put it mildly, has no aptitude for business life or any other form of adult comportment. Flatty’s girlfriend, Pretzel, supposedly adding to a going concern, is infantile to the point of emotional derangement and a suicidal cipher. The brothers had left their southern Taiwan, rural homeland to contest cooler atmospheres. Wanting no part of a tacky family distribution of a relative’s estate, they had pointedly told those hicks that they were above that. In the course of the film, Flatty’s default position, after a string of less than stellar start-ups, is to go for his share of that long-settled disbursement, citing his in fact having put in a bid however ridiculously late. Being told to get real in the most oblique way (a secondary family member and violent gambling addict having horned in on the loose cash), the one who should have remained a village idiot presses for confrontation and, once there, gets punched out by the mob of marginal loved ones who had long-ago squandered that abstraction, a network including a local cop. This prompts the bad-tempered moron to look for a gun and Gao, the boss man with few leadership qualities, makes some calls to this effect, calls that are bugged. The boys are taken for a long ride into wasteland where corpses would never be found. However the family includes a political boss of the area who counsels directing the city slickers back to Taipei. On the way home Flatty runs their car off the road and Gao is killed. (more…)

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