Saturday, October 21, 2006
Michel Ciment: "For the grand rafle you used a lot of Jewish extras."
Joseph Losey: "Not only that--but many people of the crew had a direct experience of the period. Trauner for instance was a Hungarian Jew who had to work in a clandestine fashion when he was set-designing for Carné. The extraordinary casting director, Margot Chapellier, lost many of her family in the camps. The head of the laboratory at LTC, Claude Lyon, lost his mother this way too. We went to Jewish organizations for the final round-up of the Jews at the vel d'hiv. From them I had several thousand extras. On the first day of shooting at the stadium, quite a number of the older people just had to give up because they found it so close to what they had experienced that they couldn't stand it emotionally. They came to me and said 'We don't want any money but we're turning in our yellow stars because we simply can't stand and watch this for three days.'"
(Michel Ciment, Conversations with Losey, London/NY: Methuen. 1985. p.346-7.)
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With a DVD viewing of Mr. Klein last night, I think I'm finally starting to get Joseph Losey. I've basically liked the handful of films I've seen by him but I never could find a way in, totally past that old cliché of 'appreciation more than affection.' Now things are starting to make more sense. Thematically speaking, Losey seems to gravitate to protagonists who slowly, desperately come to realize (if not completely comprehend) the structure and parameters of the prison-narrative they've been built into. In Mr. Klein it's about a certain obsession with one's own (very civilized) complicity in utter social & political savagery.
At several points in the film, Alain Delon appears in a crowd, long shot, and our eyes are drawn to him (still) while the people around him are mainly in motion. The ocular attraction of the individual that we hold for Delon in this instances is grafted onto the more fleeting instances where Delon's Robert Klein spies the other Robert Klein, who (unwittingly?) flees our protagonist's grasp as easily as horror movie villains stalk victims by merely walking--it's irrational, but the film insists on our acceptance of it.
I'd have to look at the film again, but I got the feeling that the colors in Delon's wardrobe were slowly leeched out during the course of the film--when we first see him he's in a rich, mustard- or rust-colored coat. By the end of the film he's wearing a pale trench coat, as though this experience is draining him metaphorically as a character, literally as visual screen presence. (Very possibly my perception is off, however.)
After the movie was over I saw that Jesus Franco's Vampyros Lesbos was coming on some channel last night (Sundance, I think), and so I decided I'd watch a little bit of it just to see what it's like (thus far I'm not sold on Franco). Over the course of the last night, the anti-semitic drag act in Mr. Klein has blended a bit in my memory with the the wordless lesbian performance we see in the beginning of Vampyros ...
... Dan Callahan, writing a Senses of Cinema Great Directors profile on Losey, thinks little of Mr. Klein: "though acclaimed by some, [it] is a laborious tale of the French Occupation told at a funereal pace. The customary nervousness of his camera had turned clumsy and awkward by this point." Do any EL readers agree!?
Andy Rector on The Lawless.
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MC: "If you had not had your experience of McCarthy in America, you might not have been able to recreate so well this atmosphere of indifference and fear."
JL: "Certainly, because nobody was prepared to take a stand and say 'No.' Because if they did, then they were immediately blacklisted. The ultimate of that kind of attitude is what is happening now, torture as policy. Not torture to get information, because the police already have the information. Torture them long beyond the point where there would be any information that they could possibly give if they had it. The aim is to make everybody on the street so frightened that they won't even remotely engage in any kind of activity."
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MC: "Klein II must belong to the resistance. There's no other way of explaining his strategy."
JL: "Of course. That's why the girl works in a munitions factory. I wanted to show that he was a Rothschild type of Jew, who had musical gatherings and female companions, but who was at the same time committed. I'm thinking of Jean Lurçat, for example,a very cultured man, a remarkable painter, who became a leader in the Resistance. For if you are sensitive and enlightened, you make certain decisions in certain circumstances, you can't be an average bourgeois who eats at La Coupole. As Brecht said in Galileo, 'You can't pretend you haven't seen what you have seen.'"