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Thursday, 3 February 2011

A Collection of Short French Films 1946-1971

I came across this amusing and highly interesting collection of short films the other day when searching for anything to do with the French New Wave, I got hold of it and I'm glad to say I'm not disappointed, these are not cinematic masterpieces but I enjoyed watching  this fun little collection that occasionally provides considerable insight into the budding careers of now acclaimed directors.
Don't feel obligated to read this, it's nothing very important but you many find it interesting...

1. L'Amour Existe Maurice Pialat 1961, 19 mins

The first short film in the collection was by a director I am not at all familiar with, Maurice Pialat, but it was easily my favourite of the 8 shorts.
It is an insightful and sometimes poetical look at the Banlieue of Paris, such a peculiar place and well worth watching a short film about.
The narrative mixes interesting facts with fanciful musings and combined the the excellent choices of music makes for a most entertaining and informative film.
Like a couple of the others in this collection, this short film has almost no sound except for the narrative and the music, this prevents it from seeming like a documentary and makes it seem more like a study from a personal point of view, very interesting. I would highly recommend this one and I myself look forward to seeing more of Pialat's work.

2. Le Chant du Styrene Alain Resnais 1957, 14 mins

Before watching this I had seen another film by Alain Resnais, Last Year In Marienbad which was one of the strangest films I've ever seen. So I was expecting something out of the ordinary from Resnais's contribution and I wasn't disappointed.
This short film tells the simple tale of a plastic bowl, it traces it existence right back to it's original form, petrol, and takes a look at all the different processes used along the way.

Now your probably wondering how a  film explaining how a plain plastic bowl was created and you would be right to do so, I myself was surprised that I had just sat through something so seemingly banal. For the way it was made, the music, the poetical and often rambling voice-over, and above all the swift decisiveness that presents it's subject purposefully and without diversions. Of course it's hardly a great work of art or a particularly accomplished short film, but it remains far more entertaining that it has any right to be.
It also has a wonderfully surreal opening sequence

3. Charlotte et son Jules Jean-Luc Godard , 13 mins

And now we come to Jean Luc Godard's contribution, he directed this in somewhere between 1958 and 1960 (the dates differ from source to source) but what is sure, is that it is a precursor to his ground-breaking film A Bout De Souffle 1960.
In a way this film almost feels like a scene taken directly out of A Bout De Souffle, for one thing it stars Jean Paul Belmondo ,who also starred in A Bout De Souffle, as well as the little known Anne Colette, who more than slightly resembles Jean Seberg, who also starred in the aforementioned film.
Thus is you have seen A Bout De Souffle you will already be familiar with all this film has to offer, it's acting style, it's lengthy rambling dialogue full of irony and acerbic wit.
It's an interesting short film ,and I would say maybe a good little introduction to Godard's early work, but it isn't anything extraordinary. A couple of facts make the film slightly more interesting, it was filmed entirely in Godard's own apartment, and it was "en homage" to French Director and artist Jean Cocteau.

4. Le Coup du Berger Jacques Rivette 1957, 27 mins

Directed by one of the least known directors of the French New Wave, Jacques Rivette, and written by one of the most acclaimed, Claude Chabrol.
I thought this short was one of the least intriguing of the collection, it has a rather trivial story, decent acting, but really it is nothing special, I was expecting something slightly better.
It tells the tale of an adulterous wife who is given a fur coat by her lover and comes up with a scheme to be able to keep the coat without raising her husbands suspicions... Nothing very remarkable here and I thought the end twist fell rather flat.
One of the least interesting of the collection but you if you have the collection then you might as well see it anyway.

5. Une Histoire d'Eau Francois Truffaut 1958, 12 mins

I have to admit that I was expecting something slightly better from the genius behind Les 400 Coups, Francois Truffaut. But all in all this isn't a bad little short, it shows a young woman who upon awaking and preparing to go to Paris finds that the countryside around here is flooded. She proceeds to make her way to the capital and has various adventures along the way.
This one also happens to be soundless, the voices are dubbed in and the dialogue is mainly internal dialogue of the main character.
It was amusing to see all the flooded countryside and peoples various responses to the event but the short never rises above being slightly amusing, it is nothing more nothing less.

6. Laboratoire de l'Angoisse Patrice Leconte 1971, 11 mins

This is the latest short of the collection and is directed by a director with whom I am not at all familiar, yet I thought this short, in colour and with sound, was one of the better ones of the collection.At first I wasn't at all sure what direction the film was going in, and was somewhat puzzled by the events but then by the end I realised that it was a dark comedy, a very dark one for that matter, and is quite amusing, hardly anything exceptional though. But the competent acting and direction and an amusing script make for a pleasant short film.

7.Les Surmenes Jacques Doniol-Valcroze 1957, 19 mins

 This one was of the better shorts of the collection, by a director of which I know nothing, it has better than average acting and includes Jean Pierre Cassel which was a pleasant surprise.
It tells of a young woman from the country who comes to Paris and soon takes up a way of life that proves unsustainable, dancing all night and other such things, before being persuaded to calm down and adopt a more decent rhythm of life by her fiance.
Of course the films message was more than slightly patronising but I thought it was light and enjoyable throughout.

 8. 24 heures de la Vie d'un Cloun Melville 1946, 18 mins

I was looking forward to this one as it is director Jean Pierre Melville's first attempt at film making, but I found little evidence of his distinctive style and 24 hours in the life of an ageing clown, filmed not very well and with no sound and poor dubbing bored me. I was disappointed with this short but it just goes to show that it's hard to judge a director by their earliest work. For Melville is now known as one of the great directors but no one could of predicted that after watching this short.

France 1946-1971
Total:133 mins

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