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Friday, April 27, 2012

The Art of the Movie Poster: Claude Lelouch's A Man and a Woman

Very warm birthday wishes to the great Anouk Aimée, who turns eighty today, and thanks to Claude Lelouch for making this extraordinary film, which I will always count among my very favorites.

The Hidden Cinema of Jean Rollin: Douce pénétration (Gode Story) (1976)

After the unfortunate financial failure of Lips of Blood in 1975, Jean Rollin had no choice but to begin directing again under the pseudonym of Michel Gentil. He had previously shot two films as Gentil (Jeunes Filles Impudiques and Tout le monde il en a deux) in 1973 and 1974 but starting in '76 his main non de plume would be seen on more movie posters than the name Jean Rollin. Indeed by the end of the seventies 'Michel Gentil' would be credited as the director of almost ten films (with Rollin's other moniker Robert Xavier cited with almost another half-dozen).

Gode Story, Rollin's first adult-feature of 1976 (after the infinitely superior Phantasmes in '75) had the more extreme title of Douces pénétrations upon its initial French release. According to the IMDB it also been known as
Fransk weekend and La romancière lubrique during theatrical and home video releases.

While it proved much more financially successful than the masterful Lips of Blood, Gode Story finds Rollin essentially on autopilot as a director and it would be hard to recommend the film to anyone outside of serious fans. Clearly shot extremely quickly, and on the cheap, Gode Story finds Rollin in workmanlike mode and, save a couple of shots of the Castel Twins wandering down a lonely hallway, there is little to suggest that this is the work of one of our great masters of the Fantastique.

It is indeed the presence of the iconic Cathy and Marie-Pierre Castel that will attract most fans to Gode Story. The film would in fact, sadly, mark the final time Rollin would work with the mesmerizing Marie-Pierre (Pony) Castel, as she would retire from cinema after appearing in Francis Girod's Rene the Cane in 1977. Considering how magical the collaboration between Jean Rollin and Pony Castel had been, Gode Story is a rather sad closing-chapter. Rollin would continue working with Cathy Castel, as an actress and make-up artist, throughout the seventies in various adult projects.

Some of the cast and crew for Gode Story will be immediately recognizable to Rollin devotees. The amazing Jean-Jacques Renon photographed the film, as Oscar Lapin, and Lips of Blood composer Didier William Lepauw is credited with the score. Speaking of Lips of Blood, the intoxicating Matine Grimaud is also featured in Gode Story. Perhaps the most familiar face in Gode Story, outside of our beloved Castel Twins, will be Rollin himself, who appears as a hapless chef throughout the film.

Gode Story has a few interesting connections to two other wildly non-conforming filmmakers from the period, Jean-Francois Davy and Jess Franco. Adult actress Jocelyne Clairis had already worked numerous times with Davy before being called on by Rollin and the co-screenwriter of Gode Story, filmmaker Jean-Pierre Bouyxou (who also appears in the film) had worked on several films with Franco in the early seventies before becoming one of Rollin's most trusted collaborators in front of and behind the camera.

Like almost all of Jean Rollin's Michel Gentil films Gode Story can typically only be found via the collector's market. My copy comes from an old French VHS copy and I have no idea if the film has ever appeared on disc anywhere. Due to the Castel Twins appearance, Gode Story will be sort of a 'must-see' work for Rollin obsessives (like myself) but there finally isn't much to recommend about it. It was a film made to help the financial burden that had been placed on Rollin in the mid-seventies and, in that sense, it helped allow the string of truly great works he was able to deliver just a few years down the road.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Moseby Confidential Files (Laura Gemser in the Seventies) El Periscopio (1979)

***A promotional shot of Laura Gemser in the seventies***

While he is primarily known as a director of horror films, with Vampyres being the most celebrated, and thrillers, the masterful Symptoms standing as his greatest work, Spanish filmmaker Jose Ramon Larraz has worked in a number of, sometimes surprising, genres including comedies. While not among his more notable films, El Periscopio, a sex-comedy from 1979 starring a lovely Laura Gemser remains a lightly perverse and fitfully funny film that is worth seeking out for fans of this iconic director, as well as its popular star.

Larraz was turning fifty years old when El Periscopio hit the European film market in 1979. Given the more provocative title And Give Us Our Daily Sex in some English language markets, El Periscopio wouldn't turn out to be a great success for Larraz but it would provide an interesting conclusion to his powerful seventies output. Sandwiched in between the relatively obscure The Golden Lady (1979) and the underrated Stigma (1980), El Periscopio is the most lightweight film Larraz ever shot, a deliberately ridiculous and goofy work centering on a teenagers obsessive peeping at two often-undressed nurses who are his neighbors. Even though it is bogged down by a series of bizarre subplots, El Periscopio ultimately succeeds as a sexy dumbed-down farce precisely because Larraz understood the type of film he was making. In other words, El Periscopio is the kind of intellectually vacant film only a very intelligent director could successfully make.

While preparing El Periscopio in 1978 Larraz handed over his story idea to none other Sergio Garrone, the writer and director of some of the most deranged and infamous Italian exploitation films of the sixties and seventies, including Kill Django...Kill First and SS Experiment Love Camp. Garrone would end up penning the final screenplay for Larraz but his work would turn out to be surprisingly soft as well. While El Periscopio is slightly seedy, and surprisingly explicit, in spots, this is a rather tame collaboration from the minds of Larraz and Garrone, a collaboration that could have proven very dangerous indeed had the two been looking to make something truly disturbing.

Exploitation fans will notice several familiar, and welcome, names on the credits of El Periscopio including composer Ubaldo Continiello (he would provide the excellent score for Lamberto Bava's terrific Macabre less than a year later) and former Pasolini cinematographer and future director Roberto Girometti, who photographed the film. In front of the camera, we have a few familiar faces as well including Gabriele Tinti and, of course, Laura Gemser.

While El Periscopio will be of interest to fans of Jose Larraz, perhaps the reason most will want to seek it out will be due to the presence of Laura Gemser. The Indonesian beauty had been working almost nonstop in the five or six years leading up to El Periscopio and she's a pleasure to watch in the film, even though Larraz doesn't ask much of her. Still, Gemser manages to be both funny and sexy and, I suspect, the role must have felt like a breeze after the globe-hopping films she had been making mostly with Joe D'Amato.

El Periscopio remains one of the more elusive films that Laura Gemser shot in the seventies. My version comes from an imported VHS English language dub that leaves a lot to be desired visually, but at least appears to be taken from an uncut print. Considering the considerable cult followings that both Laura Gemser and Jose Larraz have a proper release on disc would be most welcome.

Moon in the Gutter (Month By Month)

BLOG CREATED, EDITED and WRITTEN BY JEREMY RICHEY: Began in DEC 2006. The written content of all posts (excepting quotes from reviews, books, other publications) COPYRIGHT JEREMY RICHEY.