Goodbye Bunuel, His Hollywood Home

Written by Joe D on September 30th, 2007

To celebrate the end of the Bunuel Blogathon I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. I looked up his old address in Hollywood, went there and took a picture. I got the address from some correspondence published in a book of his collected writings. This is where he lived with his family directly after he lost his job with the Museum of Modern Art in New York and right before he went to Mexico to make films. Around 1945/46. The 101 freeway was blasted through his old neighborhood about 100 yards from his house but this was several years after he moved to Mexico. Across the street is a new building I think it’s a school so we’re lucky his place is still there. bunuel-house.jpg

Bunuel’s Hollywood Hacienda-5642 Fountain Avenue

I watched a French documentary on Bunuel that one of the Blogathoners linked to on Google video. It was very good and at the end when the filmmakers went to Calanda they found the house Bunuel was born in being torn down. They filmed it’s demolition and put the end credits over it. Somehow fitting for a Surrealist admirer of the Marquis deSade

Sukiyaki Western Django

Written by Joe D on September 28th, 2007

Here’s a trailer for a new Samurai/Spaghetti Western Opus:Sukiayki Western Django. It looks pretty crazy, I’ll have to check it out. Also it features a guest appearance by the Crown Prince of Genre Art House Kick Ass Cinema: Quentin Tarantino!

Even More Bunuel, That Obscure Object Of Desire

Written by Joe D on September 26th, 2007


Due to popular demand the Bunuel Blogathon continues with That Obscure Object Of Desire, Bunuels final film. Loosely based on a novel from 1898, The Woman And The Puppet which had already reached the screen in several incarnations, That Obscure Object Of Desire tells the ageless story of an older man (Fernando Rey) led on by a much younger woman (Angela Molina, Carole Bouquet).

The old rake tempted by the seductress keeps coming back for more punishment like the Puppet in the novel’s title or like Charlie Brown always talked into trying to kick the football Lucy holds for him only to have it yanked away at the last second leading to his flying through the air and crashing to the ground. It’s like an eternal cycle, The Woman tempts the Man, he gives in to her demands with the understanding that she will sleep with him, not only does she not sleep with him she dances naked at a tourist strip bar, has sex with a younger man right in front of him, wears a chastity belt to bed with him, generally frustrates, humiliates and drives him crazy. He runs off vowing to never see her again. But she pursues him and like a Pavlovian Dog, he goes for it again.

Good Luck With That!

They both cannot stop the cycle they are in. Like the mating dance of exotic birds they find themselves locked in this pas a deux time and again. Bunuel also throws a little subversive twist on the story by having two actresses play the part of Conchita. Is one the good girl and the other the bad, is this a comment on the duality of this woman? Maybe on the menstrual cycle and it’s effects on a woman’s personality? Or is it just Bunuel’s sense of humor, “Let the critics figure it out” Whatever the reason it works beautifully and like many Bunuelian masterstrokes inexplicably.


Care to Try Again? Come on!

The story I heard about the dual casting was this. Maria Schnieder was originally cast to play the part, maybe because of the extreme reaction to Last Tango In Paris she suddenly refused to appear nude in the film. I understand she was almost psychotic after Tango and you can see why. In any case Bunuel met with Silberman and they were about to call off the project entirely when inspiration struck. “I’ll have two women play the part of Conchita!” I don’t know why this solved the problem but it did and the film went on as scheduled.



As usual this film is rich with original ideas, jokes, images as for example Mathieu telling the story of his relationship with Conchita on a train, to a dwarf who just happens to be a psychologist, the misogynistic man servant, doesn’t every guy who has been mistreated by a woman have a friend that advises him to dump her or beat her or something like that and to make it Mathieu’s servant is a funny play on class distinctions.


Strangers On A Train

But my favorite part of the movie is the end. Bunuel always has great endings to his films, I think of all filmmakers he really understood the power, the mysticism of the end of a film. You can do anything at the end of a play or a film because it’s over right after that. The audience must leave the theater, walk out into the sunlight, decompress back to reality. You don’t have to explain or follow through on what you do, it’s over. The Greeks understood this in their plays with the deus ex machina and Bunuel understood it better than any other filmmaker. So after exiting the train, Mathieu and Conchita stroll down a street in a big city, it’s semi-deserted, terrorists are planning a coordinated attack. They notice a woman in a shop window sitting in a chair darning a white lace mantilla that’s stained with blood. I don’t know why but something about this image is so powerful I am always moved by it. Maybe because Bunuel was able to realize an image directly from his subconscious, undiluted, unquestioned with the conviction only a Surrealist could have, is it so effective. Just after this during an argument our protagonists are blown to bits. THE END.

Trailer For That Obscure Object Of Desire

More Bunuel for the Blogathon

Written by Joe D on September 25th, 2007


Here are some posters from my collection. Belle de Jour and two one sheets from Robinson Crusoe. I saw Crusoe as a kid. It played on the wonderful Million Dollar Movie on WOR-TV Channel 9 New York. It fascinated me even when I was 10 years old. I bought the DVD and there is an interview with the star Dan O’Herlihy. He tells of how the American producers were pushing Bunuel to hire Orson Welles for the part of Crusoe.

One of the producers knew Welles and felt he could talk him into accepting the part. Bunuel refused, maybe he sensed that two genius directors on one set might prove difficult. The producers arranged for a screening of Welles MacBeth so Bunuel could see Welles in period dress and with a beard. Bunuel watched the film. ” I don’t want Welles” he said, “Get me that guy.” Bunuel pointed at Dan O’Herlihy who played MacDuff and that’s how he got the part.

Tristana, Luis Bunuel Blog-A-Thon

Written by Joe D on September 24th, 2007


Portrait Of Bunuel by Dali

I’m writing about Tristana, a wonderful film starring Fernando Rey and Catherine Deneuve.

Main Title floating over Toledo- note cool lack of drop shadow

This was Bunuel’s 2nd film made in Spain after the war. A lot of the intellectuals, artists, musicians, left Spain when the Fascists took over, including Bunuel. But in the early 60’s Bunuel was persuaded or allowed to make Viridiana. The film was viewed as subversive and banned by the Spanish government. Luckily a print had been smuggled out of the country and it won the Palme D’Or at Cannes.

Predator and Prey Role Reversal on the way

So it took many years for Tristana to reach the silver screen. Bunuel wrote the screenplay in 1964 but because the Spanish government kept denying permission to film it, it didn’t go into production until 1969. But Bunuel wasn’t sitting around idly, he rewrote the script four times and I think that’s why the finished film is so polished and chock full of great images and ideas.

The Bishop of Toledo and Deneuve

Tristana is based on a short novel by Galdos, Bunuel had made Nazarin from a Galdos novel a few years before and he considered Galdos one of the greatest writers Spain has produced. Tristana was filmed in Toledo, a city Bunuel loved as a young man. While attending the Resedencia in Madrid he and a group of fellow students( Lorca, Alberti, Dali, etc.) formed an honorary society, the Order of Toledo. The rules were that you visited Toledo as often as possible and stayed up all night drinking and wandering it’s medieval streets.

Women In Black

Tristana really feels like a novel, the story, the characters are so detailed and finely drawn. Also it takes place over about 20 years or so which somehow adds to it’s literary pedigree. In the beginning Deneuve is an innocent girl who following the death of her mother becomes the ward of Fernando Rey. Don Lope (Rey) is an aging Don Juan, obsessed with chivalry, dueling, sticking up for the underdog but this does not prevent him from seducing the childlike girl he has taken in to protect. Tristana (Deneuve’s name in the movie) dreams of climbing a bell tower with a deaf mute boy (Saturno) she examines the huge bell and is horrified to find Don Lope’s head attached to the end of the clapper. She awakens from this nightmare screaming.

Tristana, let go of that huge penis, I mean bell clapper!

After being Don Lope’s concubine for a number of years Tristana meets a young artist Horacio (Franco Nero) she falls in love with him and runs off.

Unsuccessful Artist

A while later Horacio writes to Don Lope that Tristana is deathly ill and needs help. Don Lope fetches her back to his home. She is at death’s door and in order to save her life the doctor must amputate her leg. Don Lope is horrified but secretly overjoyed knowing she will never escape his clutches again. Tristana turns bitter and strange. As one critic said the star of the film is not Deneuve but her amputated leg! It certainly made a hit with Alfred Hitchcock, when he met Bunuel he kept saying” That Leg! That Leg!”.


Tristana exposes herself to the Masturbating Mute

The once shy girl exposes herself to the deaf mute Saturno from her balcony and tortures the aging Don Lope eventually killing him by leaving the window of his bedroom open as he struggles with pneumonia. Then Bunuel does a very strange thing. In rapid fashion he flashes a montage of clips that retell the story in reverse accompanied by the sound of a church bell playing in reverse. It works incredibly and since it is the end of the film there is no need to explain it or recover from it, the film is over. I last saw Tristana about 20 years ago at a special screening at the New York Film Festival in Lincoln Center. I don’t know if it ever came out on DVD but Hopefully you will be able to see it at a revival theater in 35mm the way it was intended to be seen.
I’m writing this as part of a Bunuel Blog-A-Thon, you can check out the rest of the blogs here:
And here for your delectation is the trailer for Tristana

Jean Luc Godard, Anna Karina, Vivre Sa Vie

Written by Joe D on September 23rd, 2007


The Alchemistic King and Queen of Cinema

Here are some production stills from a couple of Godard’s early films. I’m also including a link to a scan of the scenario for Vivre Sa Vie. Don’t worry it’s only one page! It illustrates perfectly the incredible creativity Godard was capable of.
Fritz Lang was amazed at the “script” for Contempt. He said there were things in it like ” Dear Producer, how can I describe this scene? I won’t know what it is like until I see Bardot in the bath.”


Michel Piccoli, Fritz Lang, Jack Palance, Jean Luc Godard

Godard was acutely aware (maybe more than anyone else) of the Cinema’s ability to “record truth 24 times a second”. His early films have a particular resonance of truth. No other films bring to life what it was like to be a 20 year old running around, having fun, loving, being disappointed, living. Watching A Bande Apart, or A Woman Is A Woman creates in the viewer such a strong sense of the emotional reality of being a young person that you can’t help but be moved, feel those impulses course through your veins once again. They are like emotional time capsules or time machines transporting us back to our lost youth.


One Of The Greatest Film Actresses Of All Time

Is it because there was barely a script to get in the way of the actors? Did it allow them to just “be” and therefore let the camera eye capture their naked souls perfectly? I believe so. Read the scenario for Vivre Sa Vie, is there anyone today that works like this or even thinks like this?


Shooting Vivre Sa Vie

I recently watched the Criterion Collection DVD of A Face In The Crowd. There is an interview with Andy Griffith in the special features section. Griffith tells the story of his first day on the set with Elia Kazan. Kazan tells Griffith ” The movie camera is a machine that will record what you are thinking through your eyes and then communicate it to everyone else.” An incredible piece of directing.


Godard understood this phenomenon and played it like a virtuoso. His films are like trapeze acts with no nets to interfere with our enjoying them. Vivre Sa Vie is a an incredible piece of filmmaking. Anna Karina is one of the greatest film actresses of all time. The Film Gods were smiling when they caused her to meet Godard on the chessboard of Cinema. Vivre Sa Vie is composed of 12 chapters each one with a title card heading. Each section is so creatively filmed and acted and photographed it never ceases to amaze you.

The first scene is a breakup between a man and a woman in a cafe. It is shot on their backs, making them anonymous or like everyman and everywoman.
There is an incredible scene in a Cinema where Karina watches Dreyer’s The Passion Of Joan Of Arc, a silent film. Falconetti and Artaud’s beatific faces on the screen, intercut with Karina’s face, tears streaming down her cheeks, she belongs with them. The lowly prostitute is the same as the Saint, both will be sacrificed.

Later a scene plays out at a table in a cafe with Nana and her pimp. The camera moves around them catching them in an odd profile two shot, their faces jutting in from opposite sides of the frame just as he asks her to smile, “I can’t” she says but we hold in this two shot until she breaks and smiles, submitting her innocence to the will of this pimp.

Nana sits in another cafe and discusses life, thought, existence with an aging philosopher(Brice Parain- playing himself) it’s incredible.

I understand Godard would not give the actors their lines until just before each scene, then he would only shoot one or two takes because he loved the freshness of a first take. I’m reminded of Charlie Rouse, tenor saxophonist and long time collaborator of Thelonious Monk, who said Monk would usually go with the first take of a recording, sometimes the second but never the third.

Vivre Sa Vie is concerned with the elemental , the fundamental truths of existence. Godard understood this vis a vis Cinema and his street scenes capture portraits of a civilization like a fly trapped in amber, elemental as the first films of the Lumiere brothers when inexperienced audiences fled screaming at the shot of an approaching train. By capturing reality in such a way, he captured an emotional truth specific to the age and emotional makeup of his characters(especially Karina) that is so true it’s impossible not to be moved, to re-experience that age and energy and through this mechanism Godard creates a canvas where the audience can project themselves and interpret the film as they feel it. I think every person that watches this film will bring something different away from it. With Vivre Sa Vie Godard has created a machine that allows you to look into yourself and examine your feelings, thoughts,and experiences through the magical prisms that are Anna Karina’s eyes.

Click The Magic Link below to read the scenario of Vivre Sa Vie published in Film Culture, Fall, 1962.
Godard Scenario “Vivra Sa Vie”

Mexican Horror, The Brainiac

Written by Joe D on September 21st, 2007

This is a film I really liked as a kid. The Brainiac has it all, it starts 300 years ago with an Inquisition. The Baron is on trial for being a witch. He’s condemned to die, as the flames lick around him he curses his persecutors. He points to a comet blazing away in the sky. “When it returns I will be back and I’ll take my revenge on your descendants.” Great set up.

No One Expects The Spanish Inquisition!

He returns in 1960 Mexico and causes quite a ruckus. He’s a debonair, sophisticated guy. Rich and of royal lineage so all of society is clamoring to meet him.

So Suave, So Sophisticated, So Fond Of Eating Brains

He uses some kind of mind control to make people do his will. Then he transforms into a strange monster with exaggerated features( a racial stereotype?) and a forked tongue that he jabs into the back of his victims necks so he can suck their brains out.

Ooga Booga!

One of my favorite scenes is where the Baron is entertaining some guests at his castle-like pad. They’re playing bridge or cribbage or whatever the upper class Mexican would play in 1960. Suddenly the Baron breaks out in a sweat, he looks as if he might faint. He excuses himself from his guests and retires to another room. There is a huge wooden treasure chest in the room. The Baron takes out an ancient key and opens it. Inside the chest is an ornate serving dish of heavy silver and in the dish is a human brain. The Baron grabs a sort of chalice and begins eating. Within moments he is refreshed and he returns to his guests.

Curiously Refreshing

There are some sexy sequences where the Baron uses his powers to subdue beautiful women. The catholicism of Mexico gives the imagery a certain perversion that is very powerful.

Slip Her The Tongue

To quote the maestro Luis Bunuel:” Eroticism without Religion is like an egg without salt.” There are several Mexican Horror films from this period I found oddly disturbing. The Witch’s Mirror and The Curse of The Crying Woman The Curse Of The Doll People and The Vampire’s Coffin. They were obviously made for very low budgets. In Brainiac there are several scenes staged before a slide projected background, an interesting technique. All these films are very atmospheric and have a primitive ruthlessness that is effective.

Do You Like It From The Back, My Dear?

Also I only saw the K. Gordon Murray versions of these films. He dubbed them in English at his own low budget sound facility.

K. Gordon Murray’s Dub House
There’s something about that simple unadorned sound mix that adds to the wierdness of these films. If you’ve ever seen Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space you might remember the Bela Lugosi footage narrated by Wood. It shows Bela coming out of his house, smelling a flower and walking off, while the narration tells of the recent death of his wife.

Bela Baby

The sparseness of that voice with hardly any background sound creates an eerie feeling in the spectator. Maybe because we’re not used to hearing such raw, unadorned sound. Most movies have music, backgrounds,sound effects, foley, and production sound all mixed to create an aural world. These films have such a different sonic palate that we’re unbalanced but we don’t know why. I’ve also heard rumors of a Satanic cult on Long Island that held Black masses whenever a K. Gordon Murray Horror film was on. If you watch any it will make sense to you.


Estes Park Film festival

Written by Joe D on September 18th, 2007


The historic Park Theater

It’s incredibly beautiful here in Estes Park Colorado. We saw elk butting heads on the golf course yesterday, the golfers had to play around them.


Estes Park is a pretty little town surrounded by rough, rock escarpments and pine covered mountains. There’s a stream running through the town, right behind the main street. The Starbuck’s has the most beautiful patio right on the stream. But the real gem on the crown is the Park Theater. This is the 2nd oldest operating theater in the USA and soon to be the oldest as a theater in Pennsylvania that had that distinction is closing. The theater is a time capsule into our movie heritage. The guys at the festival, Sean, Cliff, Pete, and Tony are all film buffs and are super proud of the theater.

3 Cool Cats-Pete, Tony, Sean in the booth!

Cliff, Wild Man Of The Mountain

They took great pleasure in showing me around and brought out some recently discovered treasures. Recruiting trailers from WWII, “Women Join The Wacs, Uncle Sam Needs You!”, “Buy Liberty Bonds”, all kinds of amazing historical stuff. Box office receipts from the original presentation of “Gone With The Wind”, original posters from a lot of movies including King Kong and Frankenstein. It’s incredible! An old projector from the silent days complete with Vitaphone record player. The owner of the theater, Sharon Seeley, is super committed to keeping that theater going and I applaud her and her daughter Jenna for doing a great job and a great favor to all film lovers.

Sharon and Jenna-First Ladies of Theater Preservation

This theater is a priceless treasure trove of American Cinema History! The guys told me that there are tons of artifacts piled up in the storage spaces that need to be catalogued and preserved. The Park opened in 1913 and has been showing movies ever since! There’s a Valentino poster in the lobby.
It was a real honor for me to have my film One Night With You screen there. I scrambled like mad to get a 35mm print ready in time for the festival and thanks to my pals at Triage Motion Picture Services I made it. Sean, Tony (the projectionist, a young guy totally committed to film, quality projection, and old theaters),Pete, Cliff, and Jenna were really happy we could project on film. It’s a FILM festival! show it on FILM if possible.



Night Falls on The Park Theater. Psst! It’s Haunted!

I’ve been to a few film fests in my day and I’ve got to say Estes Park was superbly organized! Everything went off without a hitch. I saw more films at this festival than any other. My hat is off to all the organizers. Hey Filmmakers! Go to this festival! It’s just starting to grow and I predict it will be the next Sundance. (Or maybe I should say what Sundance used to be before it got all corporate).

Welcome to The Stanley Hotel! Mwah Ha Ha!

We went to a screening of Horror/Fantasy type films at the Stanley Hotel. This is the spot where The Shining takes place. A cool creepy dreamlike joint. Beautiful but you expect to see a guy from 1920 come strolling around the corner.
The Horror/Fantasy screenings were great. Maybe because of the nature of the genre the films were consistently Cinematic. Effect Shots, creepy sequences, a lot of visually stunning stuff and a great sidebar to the Festival. So Filmmakers submit your films, Film Lovers Go to this festival. I guarantee an excellent time will be had by all.
P.S. By the way I won the Best Director Prize for my film One Night With You and I’m super happy and grateful to all these wonderful people up there in Estes Park!


Joseph Losey’s The Damned

Written by Joe D on September 13th, 2007

Yowza! What a crazy movie! I had heard about this one for years and finally got a chance to see it a couple months ago on TCM. It’s a very good film.


Losey Directs

For one thing it has about 3 or 4 plots stitched together like Dr. Frankenstein’s monster,The Damned takes place in a small seaside town in England , visiting American MacDonald Carey floats in on his yacht and is bewitched by young & beautiful Shirley Anne Field. Her incestuously jealous brother ( Oliver Reed) doesn’t take kindly to the attention Carey is paying his sister so he and his Teddy boy gang kick Carey’s ass good and proper almost like he was rooting for the opposing soccer team!


Ollie the Sadistic Fop!

Anyway Carey bumps into sculptress Vivica Lindfors and her pal super top secret scientist Alexander Knox, they live in the town, Lindfors up on a bluff overlooking the sea where she creates cool kind of organic apocalyptic sculpture and Knox in an underground bunker surrounded by barb wire, soldiers, guns, guard dogs, and searchlights where he creates mutated children.

a Sculpture By Frink from the same period

Some how Carey and his young concubine fleeing the gang wind up in a subterranean compound habituated by radioactive children, genetically engineered to survive in a post nuclear apocalyptic world!


Oliver Reed bullies the sculptress by smashing some of her work (it’s incredible sculpture made for the film by Elisabeth Frink) then Ollie winds up in the Atomic Children’s Ward as well. The ending is bleak, bleak, super bleak with the added amorality of the government killing people, torturing these children, doing whatever evil horrible things it wants to in the name of National Security. Rings a Bell, n’est pas?


Here Comes The Government

Joseph Losey had a strange, uneven career. He went to the same high school as Nicholas Ray. His first feature was The Boy With The Green Hair I saw it on Million Dollar movie as a kid and it’s stayed with me all these years, I should watch it again. Losey was named by the Commie witch hunt HUAC, but he never named names like a lot of others. Instead he moved to England and made the rest of his films in Europe. I recommend this film, it has made me want to check out some of Losey’s earlier works like The Prowler and The Criminal and even though I swore I’d never watch it, his remake of M.

Vincent Price, Diary Of A Madman, Lowell Grant, Fred Sexton, The Maltese Falcon, & The Black Dahlia

Written by Joe D on September 12th, 2007


Once again inspired by the wonderful blog Cinebeats I am posting something I have been wanting to write about for some time. Vincent Price! The master of 60’s horror, Roger Corman’s Poe-etic icon, mad scientist, mad magician, mad sculptor, reincarnated warlock, horny Inquisitor, bon vivant, gourmand, art connoisseur extrodinare! A Renaissance Man, Lover Of Laura, Drinker of Malmsey. The Last Man On Earth.

The Man

Where to begin? OK some years back I was showing my visiting sister-in-law the sights of Southern california. We were in Santa Monica and stopped into a vintage clothing store. I found a tuxedo jacket that looked cool and purchased it for $10. A little while later back at my house my sis-in law was checking out the jacket. She pulled an inside pocket out and there was a label, it said this jacket had been custom made for Mr. Vincent Price!

The Jacket

The date of creation was printed as well. July 20, 1969. That’s the day that Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. I happen to remember this because it’s also my birthday( the day not the year) .

The Label

I was pleasantly surprised to say the least having grown up a fan of V. P. Cut to about one year ago. There is a deserted cement slab and foundation around the corner from my house. I live in Echo Park. I’ve always wondered about it, it’s been like that for as long as I’ve been here (15 years). One day I was speaking to a neighbor, he’s an older guy maybe 70 or so named Fred. He told me the story of the cement slab. It was a house, lived in by his friend a sculptor named Lowell Grant. Fred used to help Lowell instal sculptures around L.A.

Where the Sculptor Lived and Died

One day in the 70’s there was a terrific explosion! Lowell’s kiln exploded, killing him and burning down his house which has remained vacant to this day. You can see it in the movie Mi Vida Loca, a gang hangs out there. I googled the name Lowell Grant and I got an IMDB hit. Lowell had made sculptures for a Vincent Price movie back in 1963 Diary Of A Madman.
Based on a Guy de Maupassant story about an invisible creature called a Horla that inhabits humans and forces them to commit horrible murders. I saw it when I was a kid and thought it was pretty scary but I found a VHS recently and it’s not that great. It was produced by Robert E. Kent and Edward Small, I guess they were trying to cash in on the success of other Vincent Price Horror films, these two guys finished up their careers with the exploitation flick The Christine Jorgenson Story (more about that in a later post).

Creation Of A Mad Sculptor

I am going to photograph some of Lowell’s public art and post the pictures one of these days.

Anyway back to V.P. , he has a strange connection to the famous Black Dahlia murder case. This case has fascinated people for years and I consider The Black Dahlia the spirit of Los Angeles, the muse to many creators, a human sacrifice to the arcane supernatural mechanisms at work just beneath the surface of the City.

The Black Dahlia

I use her as a character in my film One Night With You. Anyway VP operated an art gallery in Beverly Hills in 1943/44. He exhibited works by Man Ray among others. Man Ray was a friend to Dr. George Hodel, a major suspect in the Black Dahlia Murder.


Dr. George Hodel

Price’s friend and fellow art maven Frank Perls gave a show to Fred Sexton a sculptor who made the Maltese Falcon statue for Hodel crony John Huston.

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Sexton lived at Hodel ‘s creepy lair on Franklin Ave. and is considered a co-suspect by Hodel’s son who wrote a book about the case. The house was bugged by the LAPD back in the early 50’s, transcriptions of the wire recordings show Dr. Hodel discussing Vincent Price with someone.

Lair of The Black Dahlia Killer

Steve Hodel’s book is called Black Dahlia Avenger and now there is a new book called Exquisite Corpse about the Surrealist aspect to the crime and all the Hollywood connections to it. Check out these websites for fascinating information on the crime and the web of connective tissue that emantes from it.

Le Doulos, Jean Pierre Melville, Jean Paul Belmondo

Written by Joe D on September 9th, 2007


Rialto Pictures has done it again! They re-released a classic film from the early 60’s. Jean Pierre Melville’s Le Doulos.

Super Cool Graphic

They resurrected Melville’s Army of Shadows last year, another gem. I really like their technique, find a super cool film that was never released here ( or minimally released) make a few restored prints and do a limited traveling theatrical exhibition. This keeps the overhead low and gives people all over the country ( at least in the big cities) a chance to see these films in a theater. Also it generates interest for DVD sales! A win/win situation.

Doulos means hat

So I went to the Friday night 10:30 pm show at the Nuart Theater in Santa Monica and it was at least 3/4 full! Right On! The movie is great , a little convoluted with a lot of characters and a big expositional flashback, probably all inherited from the Serie Noir novel it was based on but worth the effort. Jean Paul Belmondo gives an austere focused performance. He is incredible, sharp as a razor and ruthless but with a deep sense of honor.

Shooting Star Belmondo

Watching this film I was made aware of his astounding versatility. He can be very funny, ice cold, sexy, cool and pull off dangerous stunts, and his persona leaps off the screen, you want to know him, be his friend or depending on your orientation, sleep with him, in a word he is a movie star. A star of the ice blue super cool part of the Spectrum. Melville the americanophile delivers his noir take on a Hollywood Gangster Film. The Hat, the Trench Coat, symbols oF The Detective, the Lone Wolf that operates outside of the Law but is subject to his own strict moral code.

Le Car American

Characters drive around Paris in big American cars, just like Melville did. The atmosphere of this film is astounding, fog, train whistles screaming at you and hurtling out of the mist like Forces of Fate, oblivious to the lives of the insignificant men pursuing their nefarious ends under their trestles, struggling like ants over gold, jewels, money, women, power, death.

Trains Rush By like the Crushing Fates Of Greek Tragedy

Betrayal, Loyalty, Revenge, Love, Need. The pieces on the Chessboard. A man digs a hole like an animal with his bare hands and buries jewels wrapped in a handkerchief, a block of bank notes and a pistol swathed in an oil cloth. The spoils of a murder he’s just committed.

Digging Like an Animal

And the Police, doggedly pursuing the criminals who treat them with studied indifference, cooly facing long stretches in prison, The Police prying, forcing information with intimidation, blackmail, whatever it takes. Trying to turn a crook into a doulos or finger man, a rat. There is a famous scene at Police HQ where Silien (J.P. Belmondo) is being interrogated, the inspector circles Silien like a bird of prey, sniping at him , trying to trip him up, his two detectives chime in from time to time, the camera dances with them all in the confined glass enclosed space and without noticing it, a 10 minute scene has played out before you, all without cutting once! a masterpiece of camera movement, blocking, dialog, looks, sounds.

The One Take Scene
I feel it’s a direct homage to Orson Welles’ Touch Of Evil. Everyone always talks about the opening shot of that film but it’s the scene in the love nest apartment where Quinlan plants the dynamite and his partner discovers it that blows me away, and that’s the scene I think Melville is referencing. Check it out, the dialogue is so perfectly deilvered you’ll have a hard time noticing it doesn’t cut! Melville’s attention to detail is superb as well, the locations, cars , clothes, casting. This film was made at the Rue Jenner Studio. The Studio Melville owned in Paris! How cool is that the guy had his own studio! The set pieces are all excellently executed, a caper gone wrong, a sly set-up to throw blame on the wrong men, A tense scene at a nightclub where Belmondo pulls the bad guy’s girl, right from under his nose. These scenes click like clockwork.

Bad Guy’s Babe in Belmondo’s Bed

It’s also full of textures, sensual moments, tactile pleasures.

Sensual. Tactile Elements

At the end of the film there is a shot of a hat falling, rolling towards the camera. Suddenly in the middle of a camera move the image freezes. Did Melville not want us to see what the camera was panning to reveal? Why did he freeze? I think it gives a horrible finality, to freeze like that in the middle of a move.

The Final Frame
A lot of films end with freeze frames but this one had a powerful effect on me. Check it out and see if you agree now that you have the chance.

Always Adjust Your Hat

One Night With You Gets Nod From New Orleans Film Festival

Written by Joe D on September 8th, 2007


Calling all Film Forno Fans in the greater New Orleans area. ONWY was just accepted to the 2007 New Orleans Film Festival. We are super excited and raring to go down to the Big Easy, one of the coolest spots on the planet. If you dig music, food, architecture, birthplace of the cocktail, hey great human culture! Go to New Orleans! See the Zulu King! Come during October and check out our film! Spend some scratch in the cradle of Jazz, the Crescent City, they need your support! I’ll post details as we get them but we hope to see y’all there!