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 Post subject: Portmanteau Films
PostPosted: Wed Jan 03, 2007 9:04 pm 
Dot Com Dom
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I picked up a sealed VHS copy of the Fox Lorber edition of the French collective film the Seven Deadly Sins from Amazon for about $7 including shipping, and it was worth about that much I'd say. I'm surprised it has not (to my knowledge?) been released on DVD anywhere yet.

The seven directors involved are Phlippe de Broca, Claude Chabrol, Jacques Demy, Sylvain Dhomme, Jean-Luc Godard, Edouard Molinaro, and Roger Vadim. Like any collective film, it's fairly uneven, but unsurprisingly Godard's entry comes off as the most complete and thought-out of the segments. Chabrol and Demy's segments are more interesting than those they surround but still feel like half-finished sketches. I feel like giving Molinaro's Envy segment a by just for how attractive the maid is. Glottony and Vadim's Pride are the most obvious and predictable of the group, and the humor falls pretty flat in Gluttony, which goes on and on with the same joke that wasn't even all the funny to begin with. The Ianesco-scripted Anger is just bad and it's curiously placed first in the film's sequence.


Last edited by domino harvey on Mon Nov 29, 2010 9:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 04, 2007 12:54 am 

Joined: Tue Oct 11, 2005 8:30 pm
The Demy is quite teriffic and the Godard mildly amusing, thanks to Eddie Constantine. The rest is expendable.


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 Post subject: Re: Portmanteau Films
PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2010 10:33 pm 
Dot Com Dom
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So I finally managed to see one of my Holy Grail Films, Les plus belles escroqueries du monde (World's Greatest Swindles), one of the many portmanteau films of the early 60s. While these sorts of films are required by law to be miserable on the whole, this one is the "best" portmanteau film of this era I've seen-- "best" in that of the five segments, two are great, one is pretty good, one is a miss, and one is enjoyable on the level of unanesthetized oral surgery.

The Good For the Amsterdam segment, Roman Polanski films his then-girlfriend Nicole Karen with all the slaver of someone who knows how to make an attractive woman look even more attractive. This one is a total aesthetic treat, and words don't do it (her?) justice:

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Polanski's segment is probably the best attempt I've seen in one of these films to reconcile the desire on the part of the producers for light sex fluff with the need for artistic cred via directorial hires.

Hiromichi Horikawa's Tokyo-set segment has the same basic idea as the Polanski short that follows it (Girl wants expensive necklace at all costs) but is a lot weirder (!) and is a broad farce involving platinum dentures, funny money, and a not particularly convincing police interrogation. I'm not familiar with the director at all, but maybe one of our Asian experts is? Wouldn't mind seeing another of his films after this light but well-crafted fare.

Speaking of directors I've never heard of, I thought I hadn't, re: Ugo Gregoretti, but internet research shows he's the guy who directed the worst segment of RoGoPaG-- 2 for 2 on the horrible scale, this one. His "comedy" about a whore who marries a homeless man for citizenship, then refuses to disrobe for him, is not merely tasteless, but cinematically inept-- horrid editing choices abound and the narrative is confused to say the least. Italians Love Sex So So Much! Are you laughing yet?!

Chabrol fares worse than most in these portmanteau films, as his sense of humor is better suited to easing the tension of his dramas rather than straightforward attempts like this lark about fleecing a wealthy man into purchasing the Eiffel Tower. Chabrol gets in his anti-German digs (he none-too-subtly dresses his German target in lederhosen and everything) and wastes Cassel and Deneuve in a silly one-note skit with no punchline. Hey, I'm all for getting in the Vichy digs, but do something else too.

Oh but the Godard segment. It's not even listed in the opening credits and it's a tonal shift from what came before, to be sure. But this was the last piece of first period Godard I hadn't seen and what a treat it was. Not that there's much competition, but this is handily his best short-form work of the era. Jean Seberg (reprising her Breathless role?!) traipses around Marrakesh attempting to capture "the truth" via cinema verite, and while Laszlo Szabo name-drops Godard-approved documentarian Jean Rouch (whose entry for Paris vu par is still the best portmanteau segment ever made), Godard seems much more skeptical here of the ability of cinema to ever capture "truth" than I'd have thought-- "This truth is mine," Seberg's subject objects. Gotta love that final shot, too

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 Post subject: Re: Portmanteau Films
PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2010 10:48 pm 
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The Japanese director did a lot of second unit work for Kurosawa starting way back on The Most Beautiful. I haven't seen any of his actual features and they don't seem to have any subbed releases.


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 Post subject: Re: Portmanteau Films
PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2010 1:08 pm 
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That Seberg segment -- did Godard quote it Pierrot le Fou? The description of it, and the selected frame, looks familiar.

Does 'portmanteau film' mean the same thing as 'omnibus'?


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 Post subject: Re: Portmanteau Films
PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2010 1:47 pm 
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bottled spider wrote:
That Seberg segment -- did Godard quote it Pierrot le Fou? The description of it, and the selected frame, looks familiar.

Does 'portmanteau film' mean the same thing as 'omnibus'?

Yes.

Yes.


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 Post subject: Re: Portmanteau Films
PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2010 3:15 pm 
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Thanks.

I've avoided these kind of films in the past, assuming them gimmicky. ("Uneven" seems the ubiquitous criticism). But as I mentioned in another thread, I just saw Tickets by Olmi, Kiarostami, & Loach, and was very impressed. The three sections functioned independently, yet integrated with one another organically. The train journey supplied a natural, er, vehicle for combining three stories.


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 Post subject: Re: Portmanteau Films
PostPosted: Sun Dec 05, 2010 7:22 pm 
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Portmanteau films are indeed notoriously uneven and gimmicky, but they have their moments, and they're often the only opportunity established filmmakers get to work in short forms. Some of them embarrass themselves, but some do great work, for a variety of reasons.

Sometimes a given subject is more suited to the short form. I can't be the only one who's glad that Truffaut's Antoine et Colette wasn't made as a feature, or who thinks it's one of his best works.

Sometimes the opportunity coincides with a moment of important artistic development for the filmmaker (e.g. Pasolini's La Ricotta) and sometimes the filmmaker seems to respond very strongly and positively to the specific constraints and requirements of the commission, which may even be outside their comfort zone (e.g. Rouch's Gare du Nord, Lynch's Premonition Following an Evil Deed). Either way, from an auteurist perspective it's interesting to see how different directors respond to specific constraints, even when they fail to pull a great film out of the hat.

And then there are those instances when a portmanteau commission happens to be the last work of a great filmmaker (Imamura contributes by far the best segment to the generally awful 11'09"01) or the only work in a long time from somebody reliably excellent (e.g. Erice's Lifelines).


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 Post subject: Re: Portmanteau Films
PostPosted: Wed Dec 08, 2010 8:43 am 
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zedz wrote:
Portmanteau films are indeed notoriously uneven and gimmicky, but they have their moments, and they're often the only opportunity established filmmakers get to work in short forms. Some of them embarrass themselves, but some do great work, for a variety of reasons.


Indeed - you've already mentioned La Ricotta, and Fellini was no slouch either when it comes to memorable portmanteau contributions: L'Amore in Citta, Boccaccio '70 and especially Spirits of the Dead are worth a look for his involvement alone.


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 Post subject: Re: Portmanteau Films
PostPosted: Sat Jan 02, 2016 9:59 am 
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Just finished the '50s Seven Deadly Sins and it is about the norm for these sorts of films. A bit sleepy, but nothing too terrible. The most notable thing about this as a whole is the attempt even in the comedy segments to have a sense of drama to it which is very different from the sex comedy crazed entries from the '60s. The framing device is quite nice also even if there have been better examples of such. I'm curious who directed it as it is left uncredited. I'm assuming Georges Lacombe sue to the end segment but I'd love to find out anyway. Below is the handle of the individual segments.

de Filipo--Avarice and Anger

I admire the narrative structure and handling of the title themes even though it regularly slips into nonsensical histrionics especially with the performances which run as terrible attempts at comedy. Still this is exactly what you want out of the first segment for this sort of film. Good enough to remain optimistic while not the best blowing out the rest and thus leaving the film even more unsatisfactory.

Dreville--Sloth
This on the other hand is a good example of why to dread omnibuses. This isn't the worst segment ever, but it's a total waste of time. This is ostensibly a comedy segment, but there aren't any jokes made. It all just has a tone of lightness. It's also the most off topic segment detailing sloth in a less interesting way then any of the other segments. In general the shorts show how the sins aren't as such before revealing how they can lead to actual bankruptcy. Dreville does a little of this, but leaves sloth in itself as the sin and doesn't seem curious in how it can be used positively. It's just a dead fish.

Allegret--Lust
I've heard about Allegret for a while now, but this makes me want to actively search out his films. The quality and care shown makes the segment feel as if it could sustain a whole feature and pretty much only has as a reason to complain that it ends so soon. The short is essentially a reversal of the above showing the vice of lust and then converting it into a virtue. It's also very daring dealing in an explicit way with female sexuality that even today gets left to either broad comedies like Juno or hamfisted scare films like you see on Lifetime. There's a sensitivity and wit to the proceedings that allow things to go far without any sense of excess. By appearing as a plain country drama it's able to grapple with harsh topics.

Rossellini--Envy
This is closest to of his features The Machine that Kills Bad People though the plot is straight Poe. Rossellini plays everything very reserved and serious which allows the comedy to flourish in a decidedly un-Italian fashion despite the purely Italian ideal of envy. Of course this wouldn't be able to land without Andree Debar who gives one of the great Rossellini women performances. The idea of a woman vying for the love of Orfeo Tamburi's mustache with a cat as her rival is just absurd yet Debar plays it with the right sort of sensual frustration to make it feel as important as any other great romance. There's also a number of great shots. Rossellini's sense of comedy for instance can be best summarized by the halo made by a pan he has for the model while Debar eating the camera during her j'accuse scene is a marvel with intense effect. It's hard to choose anything but 'Lust' as the best segment, but this probably beats it on account of it succeeding as a short where that one feels like it was cut down to a short.

Rim--Gluttony
Unfortunately despite being a comedy about a man obsessed with cheese this isn't Wallace and Gromit funny. This isn't even Max Ophuls funny. It's just a parade of silly French stereotypes played up in a fashion only the French can achieve. Thankfully it is only about 10 minutes long.

Autant-Lara--Pride
Here's another great French director who I have heard nothing but praise for and am only now introducing myself to. While not as complete a picture as the other two good ones this is the most formally daring and at the start feels like the grandfather to Linklater's Slacker. The film becomes more ordinary once we get into the pride aspect of it, but it flows so well that being only a minor charm feels like a powerful and unique advantage despite earlier acting as a detriment. The ending is also quite the powerful statement matching Renoir's humanism quite nicely.

Lacombe----8th
I have no clue why they insisted on having seven segments yet folding also insisting on folding sins together. It's an absurd thing especially when the film is already over two hours long. The segment is at least pleasant enough a way to end though with Lacombe doing his usual thing and what might be the oldest sound example I've encountered of full frontal nudity.


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