Tag Archives: Catherine Deneuve

The Hunger (1983, Tony Scott)

A lot of The Hunger is so exquisitely directed by Scott, it almost seems like there’s nothing the narrative could do to mess it up. His Panavision composition is precise, fixated on the small detail, whether it’s David Bowie’s stubble or Catherine Deneuve’s sunglasses. These details become larger than life, filling the frame, but Scott and photographer Stephen Goldblatt want their actual size to be far more important, always haunting the viewer. The Hunger’s filmmaking is all about precision, whether it’s the direction, the photographer or Pamela Power’s thoughtfully hectic editing. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for Ivan Davis and Michael Thomas’s script, which eventually undoes most of the filmmaking.

The Hunger is a very tight story. David Bowie is a vampire. He is getting sick. Catherine Deneuve is his master. There’s no description of the vampire logic in The Hunger, which is initially charming and then grating. It gets grating about the time it’s clear Scott’s style can’t carry the film, somewhere around the second half. Anyway, Deneuve finds out about aging scientist–she’s a scientist who specializes in aging, she’s not aging herself–aging scientist Susan Sarandon. Bowie tries to go to Sarandon for help. After some complications and revelations, Sarandon herself is afflicted.

The simple problem with The Hunger is the script. The more complex problem with it is how little Scott cares about the script. David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve manage a classical tragic elegance. Sarandon brings this modern elegance. Scott loves the dark elegance of it, he doesn’t care about the story. The film rushes through any of its “science” scenes, which come across as so ludicrous Bram Stoker wouldn’t have used them in 1897. But when Scott’s got to show the science–regardless of how stupid Davis and Thomas explain that science–Scott is able to make it look good. He stumbles occasionally in the third act, which is way too rushed both in terms of present action and runtime, but Scott’s even able to visualize the dumb ending pretty well. It’s just too bad he can’t save it. Once Sarandon stops being the protagonist of the film and its subject, The Hunger slips and doesn’t recover. It handled changing protagonists from Bowie to Sarandon, but when it tries to hand off to Deneuve, the third act rush is too close and it’s a big fumble.

Lots of mixed metaphors and so on in there but The Hunger’s a little hard to rip on. It deserves it–the bad finish just makes the previous missteps more obvious, especially in the case of Cliff De Young. He’s Sarandon’s fellow aging scientist and also her boyfriend. He gets nothing to do, not even in the scenes where the other scientists have something to do, and then he gets a couple big moments. Scott doesn’t direct either of those scenes well. It feels like a different picture.

Good music from Danny Jaeger and Michel Rubini. Some great special effects. Good performances from Bowie and Sarandon. Deneuve’s fine until the script passes the buck on her as a protagonist (and, subsequently, even as a character). Effective supporting turn from Beth Ehlers. Dan Hedaya is out of place as a grizzled cop. Dan Hedaya should never be out of place as a grizzled cop.

It’s a beautifully made film. Shame about that script.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Tony Scott; screenplay by Ivan Davis and Michael Thomas, based on the novel by Whitley Strieber; director of photography, Stephen Goldblatt; edited by Pamela Power; music by Denny Jaeger and Michel Rubini; production designer, Brian Morris; produced by Richard Shepherd; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Susan Sarandon (Sarah), David Bowie (John), Catherine Deneuve (Miriam), Beth Ehlers (Alice), Cliff De Young (Tom), Rufus Collins (Charlie), Suzanne Bertish (Phyllis) and Dan Hedaya (Lieutenant Allegrezza).


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Repulsion (1965, Roman Polanski)

At around the seventy minute mark, Repulsion finally gives Catherine Deneuve some personality. Sure, she’s gone completely insane at this point, but she sings a little lullaby to herself. And Deneuve is in at least sixty-five of those seventy minutes without any personality (she loses it again soon after). She is the subject of the film, not the protagonist.

The titular Repulsion refers to Deneuve’s repulsion towards sex. She’s this beautiful young woman who doesn’t appreciate the lecherous men of London–and director Polanski’s very clear about it, all the men in London are lecherous. Even Deneuve’s affable though clearly obsessive suitor, played by John Fraser. Even Fraser’s male friends, who exude piggishness towards women while leaving the door open for male company. That last bit is implied, just like when Deneuve freaks out when a girlfriend stops talking about hanging out with her and instead talks to her about men. There’s some brief, but hateful speech about lesbians.

And, even though the hateful opinions come from the piggish guys, it’s not like the script (from Polanski, Gérard Brach and David Stone) is against it. If Deneuve’s been driven insane by her virginity–and unrealized lust for male attention–then all the men in the film get a pass.

Including when Fraser becomes a dangerously unhinged stalker and when Patrick Wymark tries to rape Deneuve. They’re victims of her insane actions.

It’s a creepy movie; it’s calculated and insincere for its entire running time, which I guess is something.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Roman Polanski; written by Polanski, Gérard Brach and David Stone; director of photography, Gilbert Taylor; edited by Alastair McIntyre; music by Chico Hamilton; produced by Gene Gutowski; released by Compton Films.

Starring Catherine Deneuve (Carol), Ian Hendry (Michael), John Fraser (Colin), Yvonne Furneaux (Helen), Patrick Wymark (Landlord), Renee Houston (Miss Balch) and Valerie Taylor (Madame Denise).


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Hustle (1975, Robert Aldrich)

Leonard Maltin calls Hustle pretentious. I think he’s referring to the spotlights Aldrich shines in people’s faces for close-ups. I think Maltin’s wrong about those shots and their pretense. Aldrich isn’t being pretentious, he’s just totally incompetent when it comes to directing a movie like Hustle.

But I’m not talking about the story content–it’s a really poorly written character study of Burt Reynolds’s uncaring cop and Catherine Denueve as his call girl girlfriend–but the production. Ernest Borgnine plays Reynold’s boss (the movie’s hilariously loose with police ranks and their responsibilities) and through Borgnine’s office windows is the city of Los Angeles. Well, a picture of the city. In black and white. Clearly in black and white.

The movie looks like it was shot on a bunch of cheap TV sets, with Joseph F. Biroc’s cinematography less artful than episode of the Adam West “Batman” show. It’s not all Biroc’s fault, Aldrich doesn’t have a good shot in the film. It looks like he’s directing a poorly budgeted television show, one with a great cast and an awful script.

As the leads, I guess Reynolds and Denueve aren’t terrible. When Hustle is just the two of them sitting around the sitcom set they call home, it’s just this incredibly boring character piece. It’s like a misfired play, but it’s not awful. Once they leave, however… trouble begins.

Worst is Ben Johnson in some ways–he’s almost good, but his character is so poorly written, he’s awful.

Hustle stinks.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Robert Aldrich; screenplay by Steve Shagan, based on his novel; director of photography, Joseph F. Biroc; edited by Michael Luciano; music by Frank De Vol; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Burt Reynolds (Lieutenant Phil Gaines), Catherine Deneuve (Nicole Britton), Ben Johnson (Marty Hollinger), Paul Winfield (Sergeant Louis Belgrave), Eileen Brennan (Paula Hollinger), Eddie Albert (Leo Sellers), Ernest Borgnine (Santuro), Jack Carter (Herbie Dalitz), Colleen Brennan (Gloria Hollinger), James Hampton (Bus Driver), David Spielberg (Bellamy) and Catherine Bach (Peggy Summers).


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Tristana (1970, Luis Buñuel)

Deliberate, somehow endless–it clocks in at ninety-five–Tristana is something of an anti-Buñuel or, at least, I was expecting something a little more uncanny. Tristana is so normal, it’s something of a surprise (the film occasionally seems ready to leap into the surreal, but it remains grounded throughout). But it’s very boring, in that good way films can be boring. I can’t tell if Buñuel was doing something fantastic with the sound design or if the DVD was just a poor transfer. I think he was doing something with it though, just because some of the metallic echoes didn’t seem right for a bad transfer.

Tristana is the story of a young woman, Deneuve, whose mother dies and she ends up as the ward of Fernando Rey… and, as it turns out, Rey is a dirty old man. He doesn’t quite force himself on her and he doesn’t quite seduce her, something in between, and that development (after he endears himself to the viewer by not being a dirty old man toward her) sets the film’s present “action” (quotation marks for absurdity’s sake) in motion. Buñuel skips through time a few times in the film, so it’s hard to know how much time passes before the end, but less than ten years seems reasonable (it’s from a novel, so I suppose I could check but I don’t really want to know).

It’s rare–and I suppose it’s appropriate Buñuel does it one of the handful of times I’ve seen it done–a film can cover so much time, so much change to a character (I never really understood Deneuve’s reputation as an actress, but she’s astounding in Tristana), with so little deliberate action and be so affecting in the end. Tristana works because of its end… but it wouldn’t make any sense without what came before. Even though, for the first bit and sometimes again throughout the film, Rey is the central character, it’s all about Deneuve and seeing what terrible effect Rey has on her. It’s a tragedy, but one so quite and common seeming… especially when one is waiting for a sword fight for most of the first half.

The setting of a small Spanish town and the sound design–along with the maid (Rey’s, also Deneuve’s only friend for most of the film) having a deaf son–create an odd atmosphere for the film… if it weren’t for the setting, I’d say it were practically Gothic, feminist revisionist, if such a genre exists. Buñuel has an interesting way of shooting the empty streets too–he has ornate camera setups he never allows to complete, big crane shots only get a few feet off the ground before he cuts away, creating a sense of incompleteness. The whole film–no spoilers, though one could just go to IMDb–but the whole film is about incompleteness and the terrible, selfish things people do to each other.

The only real indicator of the uncanny–besides being suspicious of Buñuel–is a dream sequence, which lays the groundwork, early on, to be suspicious of everything. But it could be me.

Deneuve’s character’s arc in this film is one of those singular filmic tragedies. Buñuel’s handling of it makes it all the more effective, but her performance makes everything possible. It’s an odd thing–a choice role, one anyone could succeed in, filled with a performance proving no one else could succeed in it.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Luis Buñuel; screenplay by Buñuel and Julio Alejandro, based on the novel by Benito Pérez Galdós; director of photography, José F. Aguayo; edited by Pedro del Rey; produced by Buñuel and Robert Dorfmann; released by Maron Films.

Starring Catherine Deneuve (Tristana), Fernando Rey (Don Lope), Franco Nero (Horacio), Lola Gaos (Saturna), Jesús Fernández (Saturno) and Antonio Casas (Don Cosme).


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