Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
France, 1965. Les Filmes du Cypres, Les Films du Losange. Screenplay by Claude Chabrol, Jean Douchet, Jean-Luc Godard, Georges Keller, Jean-Daniel Pollet, Eric Rohmer, Jean Rouch. Cinematography by Nestor Almendros, Etienne Becker, Alain Levant, Albert Maysles, Jean Rabier. Produced by Barbet Schroeder. Production Design by Eliane Bonneau, Andree Perraud. Film Editing by Jackie Raynal, Dominique Villain.
Six filmmakers of the Nouvelle Vague combine 16mm short films that each take place in different neighbourhoods of the City of Lights, all of them light and frothy to varying degrees of success. Jean Douchet provides a terrific start with the most delightful sequence, the tale of an American girl bedded by a handsome Frenchman who turns out to be a lying cad. Jean Rouch applies a near-documentary style with his impressive long take that follows a bickering couple from their breakfast table argument, out their front door and on to the street, where the wife is hit on by a wealthy man who begs her to let him take her away before a very shocking conclusion. Jean-Daniel Pollet’s is the campiest, about a shy man who takes a salty-tongued prostitute home and has to wine and dine her before getting to the task at hand (and her judgments of him are far more of a task to endure than actually having to entertain her). The two weakest segments are by two of the three most famous directors, Jean-Luc Godard phoning it in with his empty short about a woman caught between two men (he’s credited with supervising the experience, not actually filming it, which was left to one of the Maysles brothers), while Eric Rohmer’s tale of an uptight haberdasher who takes out his frustration on a drunk vagrant strikes a shallow note rather than the usual light touch he brings. Chabrol closes the experience with the film’s most outrageous tale, of a young bourgeois boy whose discovery of earplugs to deal with his constantly bickering parents (played by Chabrol himself with then-wife Stéphane Audran) results in dire consequences. It’s a mixed bag of results, but it’s also a wonderful way to travel back in time and see Paris, which is under construction in most segments, caught at the moment that it is recreating itself after the war into the modern city we know today.