Michel Deville

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domino harvey
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Re: Michel Deville

#51 Post by domino harvey » Thu May 09, 2019 11:05 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Fri May 03, 2019 7:37 pm
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Le Paltoquet (1986)

Deville makes another crime-mystery film but this time in a fantastical stage play hybrid. If that sounds odd, that’s because it is- but it’s a Deville film, so as usual the joke’s on the viewer who thinks the director has run out of possible places to push a genre! Some scenes feel like they’re taken straight out of a David Lynch film in their surreal and bizarre nature, and much of the action is set in a spacious room with darkness in the place of walls, evoking the isolating sensation of Dogville’s set. Then you have Michel Piccoli as an eccentric antisocial type, who just kind of hangs around the action, behaving both predictably and unpredictably, alternating between a participant in the story and an observer. There are Brechtian techniques aplenty applied here, especially regarding staging (i.e. the look of the set, framing of the actors, and constant near-breaking of the fourth wall) as well as sound:
SpoilerShow
Piccoli moving his hands, scratching his nose, tapping his fingers on the door, etc. to create music in rhythm with these movements adds to the fun atmosphere, as does that wonderful transition from the opening credits to narrative via Piccoli swatting at the final name!
This murder mystery film feels completely unlike anything else, while also fitting the mold for many movies that have come before and after. I don’t rank this among his best work, and didn’t particularly care for the story itself, but that’s secondary to the blast I had watching Deville make more wild artistic choices and wondering what was going on in his mind when he conceived of this. As this auteur binge winds down it’s more than enough to watch Deville take another familiar ‘something’ and make it unrecognizable.
Watched this last night and this is pretty much how I feel about it (and Lynch crossed my mind too). It did helpfully answer a "What If" for me-- I've often wondered if all those endless Resnais theatrical adaptations he pumped out for most of his career were doomed from the start by Resnias' supernatural ability to seek out bad plays. But here Deville delivers a tour de force using absolute garbage material, hoary detective stage fiction that hasn't been fresh in a hundred years. In one film Deville completely schools and shames Resnais' entire late period output-- and this is still, as you say, not one of Deville's best. Some fun unexpected turns from the usual bunch of French acting royalty present-- I especially liked the almost unrecognizable Jean Yanne as the bearded inspector with his own theme song. Fanny Ardant's theatrical spotlight striptease here predates Ozon's echo of it in 8 femmes almost two decades later! It was interesting to see Deville return to 'Scope for only the second time in his career (the other being On a volé la Joconde) for such a would-be claustrophobic stagebound production (part of me feels like he only did so to get those great recurrent shots of Jeanne Moreau and Michel Piccoli on opposite ends of the bar). It's funny that this is one of the few Deville titles available in an English-friendly release (there's a UK DVD), because it's one where it really doesn't matter what's happening but how it's happening, so I'm not sure understanding the dialog/plot really factors in that much!

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Michel Deville

#52 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu May 09, 2019 12:38 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 11:05 am

Deville delivers a tour de force using absolute garbage material, hoary detective stage fiction that hasn't been fresh in a hundred years. In one film Deville completely schools and shames Resnais' entire late period output-- and this is still, as you say, not one of Deville's best.

...it really doesn't matter what's happening but how it's happening, so I'm not sure understanding the dialog/plot really factors in that much!
Thanks for validating my complete inability to grasp this plot. I'll freely admit that at a certain point I cared so little I stopped paying attention to the story and couldn't tell you any details today with a gun to my head. Having said that, I'll never forget the shots of Piccoli and Moreau commenting on the mundane "action" from behind the bar (reminding me of similar shots in Celine and Julie Go Boating as our leads are also playfully commenting on the repetitive dream sequences), as well as the dreamy Lynchian moments that surround said "action," particularly all those involving the woman on the hammock, and the men who approach her. I don't know what was going on, but I didn't need to for this to work on a level of sheer innovative aesthetic.

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domino harvey
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Re: Michel Deville

#53 Post by domino harvey » Thu May 09, 2019 12:50 pm

I haven't read the source novel by Franz-Rudolf Falk-- FYI it's the book Piccoli is reading at the bar the entire movie!

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-- but this detail alone lets me know why Deville might be drawn to his works
In the 1940s, [Philippe Du Puy de Clinchamps] published five mysteries under the pseudonym of Franz-Rudolf Falk and pretended they were translated from German into French by Philippe Géry, another of his aliases.
I don't know how much of it is in the original work, but Deville tips his hand pretty clearly in the finale of the film when the solution is arrived upon entirely by self-consciously ascribing oneself only to the cliches of the detective novel, completely frustrating anyone trying to treat the narrative seriously. Kind of reminds me of Godard's Detective in this regard...

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Michel Deville

#54 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue May 28, 2019 1:12 am

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Péril en la demeure (1985)

A very different kind of neo-noir than Bye Bye Barbara, but still fiddling with plot conventions and genre expectations. There are moments beyond just plot that evoke Hitchcock and Chabrol, most noticeably camera shots in their placement of objectivity. Of course Deville uses his moving camera to shake off subjectivity constantly, sharply breaking our connection to any particular character and embracing the director’s eye, via abrupt movements away from close-ups. Then there are shots thrown in seemingly from left field that are more obscure, like from behind trees looking through a window, or peering up the staircase with railings blocking the subject (there’s a reason for at least one of these, but the way it’s edited into the film transcends conventions of Hitchcockian suspense. There is a voyeuristic quality to this film that complements the brief subjective moments where we identify with our protagonist as he becomes increasingly confused. Much like Chabrol, Deville allows us to enjoy this shared confusion through a careful distancing process, less cold than slightly cool with a purpose. The engagement that ensues is quite pleasurable, full of twists, turns, and interesting characters (the scene where the hit-man is introduced and explains why he shares his secret is both the most humanistic, complex speech delivered by a flat-affected hired gun that I can think of, and the most bizarre, surreal, unrealistic Lynchian moment, depending on how you look at it).

It’s safe to say I loved this, partly because the constantly moving and creative plot devices, coupled with energetic technique, is a favorite cocktail of mine (i.e. North By Northwest or The Big Sleep, as domino mentioned). Deville, as usual, does his own thing here and makes a lively, brutal, and just plain engaging film. It may not be one of my favorites of his films, but it’s one that I expect I’ll rewatch more frequently than most, because like the other two films mentioned above, this is the most fun kind of cinema.

[Note: Speaking of Hitchcock and Chabrol, the voyeurism we feel through ourselves becomes an actual, tangible plot device that materializes as a kind of backwards nod to Rear Window, and Christophe Malavoy would play a stalker-voyeur protagonist in Chabrol’s Cry of the Owl two years later!]

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Michel Deville

#55 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Jun 27, 2019 4:45 pm

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Les petites demoiselles

In a relaxed change of pace from the thematic density hidden among the pleasurable aspects of his work, this early Deville short runs on 100% glee and packs as much playfulness into its plot as its style. We are immediately introduced to four lively young women who are bursting at the seams with energy as they collectively brainstorm an uncountable number of ideas of ‘what to do’ with themselves in the first three minutes of the film alone, a scene that would normally provide a half-hour’s worth of gags in and of itself in a typically-paced comedy. Françoise Dorléac plays one of the women in a role that could convincingly be the same character who steals the show in Ce soir ou jamais, and the other three women are right on her level! That the girls’ solution to their imaginative chaos is settling on the idea of opening up an agency that focuses on doing anything as a service for others is pure playfulness in throwing away any and all rules, allowing all the possibilities of the imagination to be welcomed into this story through these open characters.

Things get deeper as the pace slows down in the name of love, and the women find quick acceptance with ease in their roles as partners of men, rather than simply as free-wielding spirits. I don’t think Deville intends to create a mutually exclusive dichotomy here, and while one could perceive the abandonment of independence as perhaps too abrupt for comfort when watching in our current climate that celebrates the individualistic mentality with feminism hand in hand; if one places themselves in the time period of this film, these actions are not sacrilege or steps backward for the femenist movement. These women have their cake and eat it too, balancing their independence and codependence, demonstrated by the attention given by the camera and script to each woman continuing to express their idiosyncratic personalities full of pizzazz as they scurry off with their respective partners, providing the hope that they can and will retain their innate fun and creative natures even while engaging in the social customs of the times, institutions like the greater romantic partnership, or anything that holds them back from floating off the ground with the complete wild freedom they embodied at the start of the film. This is, simply put, a very inviting film, where characters say "yes" to everyone and everything. Deville wants to say yes too, because he knows that this is how we have fun at the movies.

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Randall Maysin
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Re: Michel Deville

#56 Post by Randall Maysin » Thu Jun 27, 2019 5:06 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 11:05 am
Le Paltoquet (1986)

Color me super-intrigued. I'm a complete novice at finding movies as obscure as this one to watch on the internet--any pointers at all?

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domino harvey
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Re: Michel Deville

#57 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jun 27, 2019 5:09 pm

My favorite self-referential gag from Les petites demoiselles gets lost in translation, but I loved the following exchange from Dorléac and beau:

LUI: Ce soir...
ELLE: Jamais!

I think Companeez' script is playing with conventional notions of how femininity is perceived, hence the outrageous "Turns out everything bad said about women is true and we embody it" speech, but I'm also not sure it really works here. The film feels like a deleted subplot from L'appartement des filles, and while it might have worked better as an extended episode of a larger narrative, on its own this didn't land as much more than a curio for me. I thought it was fine for what it is, but I'd still rank it only behind On a volé la Joconde as the least of his films from this era-- and jeez, when an okay film is still his second-worst film from this era, the man is doing something right! Nice defense as always, though

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Randall, there's a R2 UK DVD of Le Paltoquet here

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soundchaser wrote:
Fri Mar 29, 2019 12:16 pm
domino, where did you find English subs for Ce Soir ou Jamais? I don't see them on the usual backchannels.
For those with back channel access, Ce soir ou jamais is now also available with English subs

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domino harvey
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Re: Michel Deville

#58 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jul 04, 2019 1:39 am

This could plausibly go in several different threads, but I guess I'll put it here:

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From "Nouvelle Vague or Jeune Cinema?" (Sight and Sound. Winter 1964)

The whole article's pretty interesting-- I had no idea Rivette went on French TV in the early 60s and called all of Melville's films "dégueulasse" (A bout de souffle reference gone wrong?)-- but also openly hostile and host to too many half-truths and misconceptions about Cahiers (even so close to the period discussed-- no wonder these falsehoods are so pervasive today) from the participants discussing it. Gilles Jacob goes so far as to say Cahiers became "a Ku-Klux-Klan" after Bazin died, which I think tops any hyperbole the authors object to in the magazine itself! It was also pretty rich to see the critics lay into the Conseil des dix and then be treated to S&S' ripoff version a few pages later, with identical grid and star system...

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domino harvey
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Re: Michel Deville

#59 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jul 05, 2019 7:55 pm

I was curious why Zärtliche Haie / Tendres requins (1967) seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth despite the presence of Anna Karina and being made in the midst of Deville's consistent box office successes. I'd even been working on a theory that it didn't really exist, ala that phantom Joseph L Mankiewicz movie with John Ireland that was up on his IMDB page for a decade. Just stumbled upon a comment that Deville was unhappy with the producer's French cut so he buried it and refused to let it be released on video or TV, so the only copy that potentially exists is the German dub of an English-language French film, if any copy even exists to circulate. For a director already on the precipice of being forgotten, this might as well be considered a lost film...

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domino harvey
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Re: Michel Deville

#60 Post by domino harvey » Mon Aug 19, 2019 8:08 pm

Love the tag line for this UK La petite bande poster

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Michel Deville

#61 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Aug 19, 2019 8:47 pm

Amazing. As wild as this film is, with so many roads the poster could have taken across a variety of colorful settings, I actually love the simplicity of this design and think it would make great cover art if any major label decided to release it... (please)

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Michel Deville

#62 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Sep 29, 2019 2:00 am

I finally got around to watching On a volé la Joconde and while I agree that it’s lacking a lot of what distinguishes a Deville film, I didn’t think it was as divorced from his style as it appears to be. Notably absent are the degrees of cleverness in application of thematic content, excitable technique, and depth of roles twisting social dynamics. Despite all of these disappointments in the context of his filmography, returning to it after going through nearly every other Deville film definitely allowed me to appreciate the film’s strengths. Deville may be committing in half-measures here, but his signature hazy dark take on relationships and communication is present in several scenes between Vlady and Chakiris. I probably would have missed the subtle, playful yet biting way they talk past one another and deliver ominous lines that go nowhere had I seen this in a different context, but there’s still a light touch dipped into flexible play brooding within this otherwise passable caper film. Sadly, there are plenty of missed opportunities, and the film lost me for a significant chunk in the middle as it ventured into complacency, though it was still rather whimsical for the subgenre. I appreciated how Deville seemed content taking brief pockets of narrative space to draw out time with a stress-free attitude and populate his film with small cute moments as he pleases (including a pretty joyous extended slapstick setpiece near the end). I just wish the majority of these choices weren’t as aimless and had more value in their substance.

Overall I’d place this near the bottom of his oeuvre, thought I must admit even the ‘lesser’ Deville films have been growing esteem in my thoughts lately. We’ve still got a couple years for some label to release these on blu ray so that Deville can place on the decades list projects and the world can restore its balance to equilibrium.

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Re: Michel Deville

#63 Post by Aunt Peg » Sun Sep 29, 2019 9:42 am

I watched Death in a French Garden for the first time since its first cinema release and its even more delightful and intriguing the second time around.

I've seen a number Meville films over the years (I'm ashamed to same that I thought he passed away quite a few years ago).

Favourites include: Dossier 51 (1978), Death in a French Garden (1985), La Lectrice (1988), La Madadie De Sechs (1999) - my most wanted Blu Ray of his work, La Paltoquet (1986), Voyage en Douce (1980) my how I would love to upgrade the crappy US DVD for a restored Blu Ray with this one.

I'm lesser armoured with Almost Peaceful (2002), The Bear and the Doll (1969), Benjamin (1968), Deep Water (1982), The Girl's Apartment (1964), Nuit Dete en Ville (1990), Aux Petits Bonheurs (1993).

Really only scratched the surface with a director who's work in criminally hard to see.

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barryconvex
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Re: Michel Deville

#64 Post by barryconvex » Sun Dec 15, 2019 4:13 am

L'Appartement des filles

If this is really in 5-7th place on the Deville best of list than I have a lot of stellar movies ahead of me as I absolutely loved this. As Dom mentioned earlier the scene where the three women who share the apartment put on the play for Frey is as delightful a sequence as anything filmed in the entire decade, maybe ever. I did kind of wish the film had stayed with the girls and their boyfriends instead of switching gears and turning into more of a farcical caper/chase movie but by that point it could've degenerated into a farting contest and I still would've praised it to the rafters. I defy anyone to hate this movie.

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domino harvey
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Re: Michel Deville

#65 Post by domino harvey » Sun Dec 15, 2019 4:19 am

I don't even think it ranks anywhere near that high, but that says more about Deville's enormous body of great work than it does the film. Glad you enjoyed it so much! I am excited to move soon and finally have wall space to hang up my giant 5 foot tall poster for the movie (as seen on the first page)

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Michel Deville

#66 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Dec 15, 2019 10:57 am

I’d probably place it somewhere in the middle-top of his 60s works but when they’re all great, it’s hard to judge. Watching Deville’s filmography is like going through one’s 20s. You think you’ve just figured out what life is all about and then you live another few months and want to shake your slightly-younger self to say, “no this is it!” Rinse, cycle, repeat. The 70s and 80s involve him taking these strengths and developing them into more complex works that are better, but the 60s also might be his most consistent period in using his extreme playfulness to outdo this key feature amongst most nouvelle vague works of that decade that were already breaking new ground for infusing such a novel vibe.

Just hearing you suggest a ranking makes me realize we’ll likely never have enough participants (mostly due to access) to do a list project on the man, though I’ve been thinking about rewatching them all next year to do my own, but that’s more as a motivating excuse to relive the glory with fresh eyes.

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