Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

Discuss DVDs released in the Eclipse and Essential Art House lines and the films on them.
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movielocke
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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#26 Post by movielocke » Wed Aug 19, 2015 2:34 pm

lubitsch wrote:Thrilling release, I'm very pleased.

The absence of Belle equipe and La fin du jour in this set could and should mean that they're saving something for a potential second set. Since Duvivier is the most versatile and talented of France's 30s directors one can easily fill two Eclipse sets with his films. La charrette fantome is also a fine remake and Golgotha is one of the very best and most interesting Jesus Christ films.

What I don't get is why they are so slow with these Eclipse sets. They must have the rights to lots of films who'll never make the main line so why not release every month a set?
On the podcast with Michael koresky, he explains this somewhat, but isnt super clear given the interviewers' dissembling interruptions to prevent him from talking about release scheduling (it's otherwise a good interview).

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Finch
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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#27 Post by Finch » Mon Aug 24, 2015 4:21 pm

Gaumont released his 1940s film The Maurizius Affair in April and it's only costing 12 Euros or so at Amazon France just now.

Pathe will be releasing La Belle Equipe in 2016.

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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#28 Post by Cagliostro » Tue Sep 01, 2015 11:02 pm

David's essay also appears here.

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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#29 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Thu Sep 03, 2015 8:07 pm

What an interesting post and great summary of Duvivier's career. I was under the impression that Carne was the master of Poetic Realism so I had no idea La Belle Equipe was so integral to it. I'd hope Criterion or someone else will release it in the next year or so. Thanks for bringing attention to the Good Jew/Bad Jew issue in French cinema. I'd read about it, but didn't know there was a film that addressed it. Golgotha sounds really intriguing as well. I'll definitely seek out more on Duvivier now.

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movielocke
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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#30 Post by movielocke » Mon Nov 30, 2015 12:25 pm

The boxset seems to be telling the story of Duvivier and Baur in the Thirties, though the actor isn’t in the title. The first two films are rather nice contrasts of one another, interior and aged to exterior and youthful. I really wanted to love these films, hoping for a great new discovery ala Shimizu, but even though I enjoyed both films and find them very well made with strong scripts and great performances by Baur, I didn’t love either.

David Golder is a fascinating, grim yet entertaining tale of the folly of wealth, in a way, or at least the failings of money to buy happiness—even for Golder’s daughter, money merely purchases diversions. Harry Baur gives a monstrously good performance that overshadows everything else in the film, save perhaps the fantastic montage sequences that are nothing short of stunning. The title character begins by driving a former colleague to ruin, travels to the south to visit his wife and daughter and then suffers a heart attack. The vicious dialog between Golder and his wife is incredible. Ultimately, Golder has sacrificed living for work and he finds that like the mafia, he can’t escape it, everytime he thinks he is out, they pull him back in.

As trite as that sounds, what makes the film work is that although Golder sacrificed life for work, we also see clearly that his daughter and wife--who have never worked and instead lived as fabulously as possible--are also in unsatisfying lives. The film neither posits a position that you should live-it-up nor work-to-death, suggesting, rather that both lifestyles are filled with their own contradictions and failings. Since this is something that few films or stories today can acknowledge, it is refreshing to have a film address it.

Carrot-top, presumably left untranslated so film snobs won’t make the association with the comedian, is basically a French Mickey Rooney film that is a shade darker than Boys Town and their ilk. The central drawback is that the central child performance is mediocre at best, with the actor spending the first half of the film on tenterhooks waiting for his turn to talk, and often laughing before be he says his lines because he finds them so funny and outrageous. When the film switches to him being sullen and depressed, his performance improves somewhat, but he basically suffers from the same poor child performance tics you’d find in a similar Hollywood film.

But, he is far superior to the adolescents playing his older siblings, who are flat out bad actors (and the girl playing his sister is adorned with an extremely unfortunate hair piece that is as fake as one found in a high school play). He also does better than the adorable little girl playing his “fiancée” who is simply too young to actually act.

Harry Baur gives a great performance, as always, though his role feels underwritten because he is so good. That is to say, we always want more of him in the film. Carrottop’s mother looms over the film with a vicious and one-note performance that calls to mind the wicked stepmother of Disney’s Cinderella.

What saves the film is that it at times feels as though it is critiquing itself. The story begins that Carrot-top is unhappy with his family, but otherwise is boisterous and happy. We quickly see, though, that his problems go far deeper; the child abuse he suffers from his mother and neglect he suffers from his father and siblings have profoundly and realistically harmed him. He reacts, lashing out and escalating as he absolutely should, it’s a stunning turn—at the halfway point of the film—when the story becomes about how Carrottop is affected emotionally by the abuse and neglect he suffers. If this were a Hollywood or American tale, overcoming the one dimensional parents would all be part of the nostalgic “fun” of growing up, ending in an affirmation of family and winning his mothers love and father’s acknowledgement.
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The darker, and more limited affirmation found in this film is refreshing, including the oblique suggestion (which I felt like the title suggested before even starting the film) that he is a bastard. Being a bastard also explains the mother’s and father’s attitude, as he continually reminds the mother of her shame, sin, and failings in having an affair, and his father knowing from the boy’s mop of red hair and estrangement from his wife that the child is definitively not his. The film ends with the father claiming the boy as his own anyway, exactly the decision David Golder makes to claim his daughter even when he knows she is not his, and that decision is equally satisfying in both films and ties them together nicely, in spite of their apparent contrasts.
In writing about the films just now, I talked myself into liking them more than I did at first glance, particularly Carrot-top. They both have surprising thematic depth as you dig into them.

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Gregory
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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#31 Post by Gregory » Mon Nov 30, 2015 1:45 pm

movielocke wrote:Carrot-top, presumably left untranslated so film snobs won’t make the association with the comedian...
They could have translated it as The Red Head but the source text by Jules Renard was published in the English-language market with the original title Poil de carotte.

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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#32 Post by movielocke » Wed Dec 02, 2015 7:33 pm

A Man's Head is the highlight of set for me, so far.  The film plays like a proto-Melville film, or like how Melville might have made a 1930s style Thin Man film.  

The film is nominally a traditional mystery of aforementioned Thin Man, style, but once the initial scene is finished, the style and approach of the film quickly become relatively unique.

The set up is that a rich man is overheard in a bar lamenting that he would pay 100,000 francs to anyone who killed his aunt for him and made him a rich man. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a note that says, "Your offer of 100,000 has been accepted." His golddigging girlfriend also sees the note.  Slightly creeped out they nervously scope out the bar hoping to figure out who there they have employed as an assassin.  

The next scene is in the room of the murder. An oaf, with a map of the house, makes his way into the room.

And here is where the film diverges from genre type.  Duvivier shows you the murderer, he shows you the clues as they get left and everything else one would expect to be revealed only in the end by the all-knowing great detective. Everything is shown.

Enter the all-knowing great detective, and here is where things get rather interesting, because the audience knows this is going to be the all knowing great detective and also because the audience already knows everything about the crime, more than the detective, actually, the film puts itself in the unique situation of playing out the remainder of the film as a game of psychological tension between the detective and the murderer.  

Instead of wondering, "is that a clue," "Is X the murderer?" throughout the film you wonder if the murderer will slip up, will the detective see through the ruse or fall for the ruse.  

It's a wonderful way to change the balance of power within the crime drama where the omniscient-ness and infallibility of the detective type always means the wicked will be caught and punished, the innocent vindicated etc etc.  Instead, this approach seems to foreground the fallibility of the police and justice system, and rather than exulting in how great detectives are for solving such tricky puzzles, you're left thinking how easy it would be for injustice to be committed if you weren't lucky enough to have such a superhuman working the case. 

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Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#33 Post by movielocke » Sun Dec 13, 2015 1:38 pm

Dance Card is the hidden gem of this set, structurally it seems to have inspired Duvivier to attempt a similar thing with the wonderful Tales of Manhattan. We open with a young childless widow--she's in her early forties, it seems--in her empty house, her elderly husband has recently passed and they are clearing away old papers. She discovers her titular dance card from her first ball at 16, and wonders what happened to all these men and boys who courted her twenty years ago. After a brief, foreshadowing dream, Thus launches an anthology structure of a series of nearly perfect short stories of these men's lives, and her ignorance of her effect on them. In a way, the film is critiquing her female privilege, as the repeated point is that's she had no idea her girlish flirtations had such monumentally outsized impacts on males that took her attentions far more seriously than she did. On the other hand, or is terrificly unfair to blame any woman for ones own inability to distinguish attention from favor. The film manages a very nice balancing between these points, in a sense she's learning a lesson about men, in another sense she's validated in not having chosen any of these men as none seem particularly well suited as a match for her.

Several of the men are dead, and the first story is strongly gothic and tragic in the story of the boy of her beaus.

The second story is deeply melancholy, beautiful, wistful and somewhat soaring as Harry bauer steals the movie in a single scene tour de force piece of acting, it's simply breathtaking.

The third story is almost a sexy romantic adventure, as she meets with a roguish beau who went to the woods to live deep, and fell in love with his independence as a mountain man, tempered by a total commitment to his lifestyle.

The fourth story is almost a comic operetta, as her beau has gone to fat and she arrives on the day he is marrying his combative housekeeper.

The film navigates all these stories and style changes perfectly wrapping it all up with a sad yet hopeful note as an unexpected new life opens up for her.

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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#34 Post by lubitsch » Sun Dec 13, 2015 2:02 pm

movielocke wrote:Dance Card is the hidden gem of this set,
It's not so hidden because it was early on acknowledged as a masterpiece and influential for its anthology structure. In fact there was a German remake of the film in 1943 (!), Reise in die Vergangenheit by Hans H. Zerlett, though it's vastly inferior. And Duvivier himself remaked it right away upon his arrival in the USA in 1940 as Lydia.

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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#35 Post by movielocke » Mon Dec 14, 2015 2:31 am

lubitsch wrote:
movielocke wrote:Dance Card is the hidden gem of this set,
It's not so hidden because it was early on acknowledged as a masterpiece and influential for its anthology structure. In fact there was a German remake of the film in 1943 (!), Reise in die Vergangenheit by Hans H. Zerlett, though it's vastly inferior. And Duvivier himself remaked it right away upon his arrival in the USA in 1940 as Lydia.
thank you for reinforcing an observation with additional evidence.

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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#36 Post by rohmerin » Mon Dec 14, 2015 3:43 pm

Carnet de bal is beautiful and won the Golden Lion in Venice during the Fascist regime.
I haven't seen the others yet.

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La Tête d'un homme (Julien Duvivier, 1933)

#37 Post by swo17 » Mon Dec 21, 2015 11:43 am

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Re: La Tête d'un homme (Julien Duvivier, 1933)

#38 Post by Drucker » Wed Dec 23, 2015 7:06 pm

More than anything, Duviviver's film seemed intent on deceiving its audience and characters in creative ways. In the first scene at the bar, we are introduced to a character who seems like he could be the centerpiece of the story. As the film goes on, however, it really becomes about the police detectives and primary inspector looking into the murder case. When this character's fiancee looks at the note, to see the offer that has been extended to him, two men stare back, who we assume may be the people who gave the note, but they are never heard from or seen again! When we meet the deceased aunt's nephew at the end of the film, he's totally changed his identity, and become an artistocrat, no longer one of the many regulars at his local bar. And the initial suspect for the crime at the center of the film? He eventually escapes the police custody and we never see him again. The film strings you along, allowing you to believe one thing, or at least, imaging a certain character will be with you all the way. Instead, we live through the eyes and knowledge of the lead inspector, and sometimes that means plots and characters are dropped once they no longer concern him.

From a filmmaking style, the film does something similar. Duvivier is clearly a child of the silent era, with beautiful editing and shots all over the place. As the inspector interviews various storefronts in the neighborhood, trying to find out where the killer is, we get a beautifully staged shots with the inspector in live foreground interacting with rear projection that dissolves from setting to setting. Throughout the film, there are dissolves, upside down shots that turn right side up that both immerse you in the world of the film but simultaneously have the ability to confound the viewer. In one particular shot, we see Heurtin's shadow, and then he appears in a dissolve, and then begins to flee from the people he believes could be after him. There are so many beautiful little moments like this which are brief yet beautiful looking.

As the film turns dark in its last act, political undertones begin to ring out. While I know nothing about pre-WW2 France, I know The Rules of The Game and Boudu Saved From Drowning, two films that illustrate just how out of touch the wealthy French people of the era were. Just as with other deceptions, we are finally led to* believe that anger at the upper class is what led our killer to act. The nephew is a perfect archetype for someone to hate if you want to loathe the rich: he murders for his money, and then distances himself completely from his old life, his old companions: money changes him and elevates him socially. Not everyone has that opportunity. I don't take the film as a true political/social story, but I think this detail acts as a sincere motivator for our character, and is a great little subversive undertone to the film.

(I say led to believe, because there are many elements of the film which I believe aren't conclusively answered. For one thing: it really seems our killer did commit the perfect crime, we never see him do it, and we only have his confession to prove he did it. Another thought: we don't ever really know the financial situation of the nephew).

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Re: La Tête d'un homme (Julien Duvivier, 1933)

#39 Post by domino harvey » Sun Dec 27, 2015 8:31 pm

A fun, if slight, film, with class consciousness somewhat getting prioritized over the more conventional details of the policier. The murderer may have committed the "perfect crime", but like all of the brilliant criminals we know of, his hubris gets in the way and he starts getting cocky and wants to rub his superiority in the faces of those beneath him (calling to mind the later and perhaps best example of this trope, the twerps in Hitchcock's Rope). I thought it was clever of Duvivier to give the murderer a mouthpiece for the noble, class-warfare reasoning behind his crime, only to reveal at the end that he really did it all because he was hot for a rich lady! I know men will do pretty much anything for a pretty face, but man, talk about taking a long way around in pursuit of getting off!

To be honest, the police inspector who many people single out as the best part of this film didn't even register for me, though perhaps I've just seen this kind of character too many times to find it novel enough here. The film's at its most interesting when the Czech emigrant goes through the motions of his (rather sloppy) cashing in, like an overeager middle schooler, and not so much when the inspector extends man-power and rear projection to follow what could best be described as a longshot hunch. The film is lightweight, but entertaining, and that's more than we often get during these Film Club assignments!

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Re: La Tête d'un homme (Julien Duvivier, 1933)

#40 Post by Drucker » Sun Dec 27, 2015 9:01 pm

I've seen two of the other films in the Eclipse set, and it's interesting to see how the class consciousness subtly seeps into Duvivier's other films. The first film in the set, David Golder, does this, well, not so subtly. A good little film that clearly shows the ultimate hollowness that comes from seeking out money for all of one's life. Thinking about it a day later, I'm really not sure how well it sits, since the ending kind of implies
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that the pursuit of money is okay if you're trying to do the right thing with it.
That said, a mostly enjoyable film which certainly condemns the speculative/idle rich.

On the other hand, Poil De Carotte does a beautiful job of showing a truly neglected child and how the rich really have their priorities screwed up, demanding love before they are willing to give it back. Anyone participating in the Youth Film list should definitely watch it, as the protagonist gives one of the best child lead roles I've ever seen.

I found this element to the most interesting link between the films. Duvivier inflicts class consciousness in all of the films, and while he obviously sympathizes with the rich and the problems they've created in their lives, he does not let them off the hook.

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Re: La Tête d'un homme (Julien Duvivier, 1933)

#41 Post by Rayon Vert » Fri Jan 01, 2016 2:39 pm

Watched it for the first time last night. Duvivier started in the silent era, and is known for his innovative cinematography. I was struck by how very stylized much of this was, and at times Expressionistic
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(especially everything surrounding the murder and escape scenes),
and some scenes (a lot of close-ups) had the feel of silent cinema. The visuals are constantly inventive and playful. I didn't think it was a great movie, but solid and enjoyable. Inkijinoff/Radek steals the show, and this combination of a wretched and tremendously pained character brought to mind Lorre/Hans in Lang's M. I was left wondering if Duvivier had been inspired and influenced by the film.

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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#42 Post by knives » Sun Sep 24, 2017 2:48 pm

Am I the only one really put off by David Golder's antisemitism? The film is largely good, but given how much it speaks of Golder's (real subtle name right there) ethnicity and how it seems to be used in direct relation to his use of wealth (the opening scene with the poor man really emphasizes this) I couldn't help but hold offense to some of the characterization.

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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#43 Post by david hare » Sun Sep 24, 2017 5:23 pm

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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#44 Post by knives » Sun Sep 24, 2017 5:36 pm

I'll take that though and perhaps the film's intentions would be more clear if I had seen L'Argent previously. What you say sounds similar to the book (and the British adaptation of) Jew Suss which of course would later be used for antisemetic means. I suspect also what you talk about gets a fuller realization in the book since the movie is only afforded so much time. Where the film got me skittish is that it seemed to be about the flaws of modern capitalism (with the depression and bankers that you mention) and used stereotypes of North Eastern European Jews (surely Algerians and Moroccans would also be known to French people) to help build its commentary though it sounds like you are arguing the opposite is the film's intention?

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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#45 Post by david hare » Sun Sep 24, 2017 6:03 pm

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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#46 Post by knives » Sun Sep 24, 2017 6:08 pm

I was referring to Algerian and Moroccan Jews if that isn't clear.

I think you are taking me to be less sympathetic to your argument than I'm intending to be since I'm not really disagreeing with anything you've said and am just trying to understand the motivations of the film.

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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#47 Post by david hare » Sun Sep 24, 2017 6:30 pm

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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#48 Post by knives » Sun Sep 24, 2017 7:21 pm

Yes, and I said that your argument makes sense though I need more elaboration to see where I fall on the film. To go back to my previous post I mean to say why present a bad jew if the attempt is to fight the stereotype or paradigm? The reason I brought up the African Jews is that is a figure readily apparent to French people that does not have associated with it the 'badness' of the bankers and at the time zionists.

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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#49 Post by david hare » Sun Sep 24, 2017 8:12 pm

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Re: Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier in the Thirties

#50 Post by knives » Sun Sep 24, 2017 9:03 pm

I'm not Zionist nor right and dislike the implication of such. I find at the moment you are treating my comments in a way they are not just so you can imagine an argument I am posing which I find to be annoying. I am not saying the film is bad or even racist and even if I were I don't see how that would render me zionist since the film has nothing to do with Israel or right wing since I am fine with an anti-capitalist message and have already said so. My question above was really only just do I have things right with my Jew Suss comparison and if so wouldn't a more effective way of dealing with this idea of a bad jew be to show other types of jews such as the North African Jews which would be well known to the French.

Even if that is a no and the film for whatever reason must be askenormative then why show and criticize (at least in the film) the character blindly. A well characterized stereotype is still a stereotype and the film does nothing to comment upon such a stereotype (which I take to be your perspective) presenting it very straightforwardly though I could someone being able to argue the ending against my question which I hope someone does. I really liked your first response and would have liked more information like that, but for whatever reason you are reacting defensively and I just don't get it.

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