YOU COULD SEE LA PUNITION THREE OR FOUR TIMES
From French television viewers to specialists in cinema verite, nearly everyone has condemned La Punition as a kind of cinema lie. Their attitude is unjustified because it confuses three very different elements: film, truth, and cinema verite. For example, we have no right to say that La Punition is bad because it's untrue (Rossif's documentaries are true, but look at the result), or because it's not real cinema verite (neither is The Rules of the Game), or because its director or, more precisely, its producer (and who should we believe if they disagree?) might incorrectly claim it is. In such a case itwould have been enough if they had said nothing, or were from a place (Afghanistan) or time (1909-1914) forgotten by interviewers, for the film to be considered good. The truth of La Punition isn't apparent without the active participation of the television viewer, who in talking or doing the dishes while trying to watch the film, fails to comply, fails to participate. This is not the kind of passivity that a nerve-wraking dramatic intrigue forces you into. The audience has to actively interpret the film to understand at which level of truth the film situates itself. If were lax our attention, we lose the sense of the film. It's possible to watch La Punition three or four times without it ever being the same film. Even if it were eight hours long, it would be equally compelling. In this light, it seems rather unnecessary to cut six or eight minutes out of La Punition, simply to broadcast the full versionof Cuba Si! afterwards. Here we have an exciting film devoid of eroticism and accessible to everyone, which would shatter box office records if the French didn't prefer, in place of simple, direct cinema (La Punition, Adieu Philippine, Proces de Jeanne), the preciocity of indirect cinema(Melodie en sous-sol, La Grande Evasion, La Guerre des boutons), whose useless digressions, dullness, and repetitiveness in the end reflect purely commercial values. Such values enable viewers to turn their attention from films in which a handful of powerful scenes leave lasting impressions on minds no longer required to confront the disturbing reality of unadorned facts.
Luc Moullet, Cahiers du cinema, May 1964
A WESTERN WITHOUT INDIANS
I hate westerns. That's why I adore Rio Bravo. The genre annoys me because, although the sentiments it portrays are admirable, they are almost always based on principle rather than fact. What little directing exists is concerned with something other than itself --personal problems, politics, technique. It denies the spirit of the true western and presents its opposite: emphasis, decorum, lyricism.Yet, Rio Bravo is pretty much the opposite of Johnny Guitar. There's nothing intrinsically poetic about the film although the end result is a kind of poetry. As always with Hawks the rules of the game are respected, at least until that moment when the director has hadenough. Rio Bravo is an extremely original film in that it's a western about confinement in which there are no Indians, landscapes, or chase scenes. It does something rare in rediscovering the essence of the genre, but it does so in this rather remarkable way (whereas Red River and Big Sky arrive at the same result without breaking with tradition). Rio Bravo brings to mind a thriller like To Have and Have Not or a meldrama, like Barbary Coast. So why did Hawks make this western? Because it enabled him to present actions that are not ordinarily seen in our everyday world, by beings outside of nature. I'm not a sheriff, or Angie Dickinson, or a pharaoh; neither are you.Yet Hawks shows us that the appeal of such individuals is unrelated to what we might expect ( the world of adventure, the extraordinary).Hawks the classicist has always rejected these values, satirized them, ridiculed them, even ignored them in The Thing. Yet he also accepts the everyday: a man is a sheriff the same way he's a laborer or a subway conductor. There are plenty of gunshots in Rio Bravo, but none of them real, none of them have any true dramatic value. The incessant gunfights end up only becoming monotonous, and they eliminate all suspense. Each repeated gesture cancels its predecessor. And Wayne's blase intelligence, far from contemplating the act, somehow immediately grasps the range of possible consequences. How Wayne does this is a question of telepathy, similar to the way Hawks' previous heroes had eyes in the back of their head.
Luc Moullet, Cahiers du cinema, July 1959
Two very good short articles on Moullet, on occasion of the recent travelling Moullet retrospective, one by Chris Fujiwara, "Mineral Cinema", and one by Sam Adams, "Funny Strange-Ha: The Not-Quite-Right Comedy of Luc Moullet".
If anyone has information about La Punition, please do tell. And if anyone is interested in the Moullet roundtable, please don't hesitate to email me.
This is the 100th post at Kino Slang. Russian proverb: "It is not the horse that draws the cart, but the oats." Thank you friends, for everything.