Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, The (1973)

“Discipline’s okay as long as you’re having fun.”

Bitter Tears Poster

Synopsis:
A successful, recently divorced fashion designer (Margit Carstensen) falls for a lovely young model (Hanna Schygulla) and is devastated to learn she’s been unfaithful to her.

Genres:

Review:
Your reaction to this formative entry in iconic director Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s oeuvre will depend largely on two factors: first, how devoted you are to joining Fassbinder on each of his cinematic journeys into the realm of sado-masochistic power dynamics (the central concern of his astonishingly rich career, cut short by a drug overdose when he was just 37 years old), and second, how much tolerance you have for the film’s title character — an unabashedly self-absorbed, narcissistic, petulant fashion designer whose “bitter tears” are caused by her failure to retain ultimate power over all those in her midst. Within the film’s fascinating first half hour, we witness Petra (Carstensen gives an unforgettable leading performance) boldly mistreating her meek, ghostly assistant (Irm Hermann), dissembling to her mother on the phone, avoiding making a payment to Joseph Mankiewicz (!), and generally lolling around in her bedroom before slowly getting dressed and making herself up for the day. When Petra is introduced to an aspiring model named Karin (Schygulla), the film rapidly shifts into a new realm, as Petra’s obsessive love for Karin soon colors her entire existence.

Based upon Fassbinder’s own play, Bitter Tears very much retains its theatrical origins: it’s neatly divided into “acts”, and all takes place within the strategically claustrophobic quarters of Petra’s apartment. This works just fine throughout the first “act”, when viewers are sure to be intrigued (if nothing else) by the direction Fassbinder is taking us in. But by the time the story’s central thesis is finally established — that Petra’s obsession with “owning” Karin will be her undoing — we’ve become a little weary of the film’s slow pacing and patently artificial staging. Fassbinder constructs his film as an elaborate homage to Douglas Sirk’s colorful mid-century melodramas, with a decidedly perverse bent: his lead characters (all female) inhabit a world of outlandishly baroque outfits (complete with wigs and garish make-up) and surreal sets populated by strategically framed female mannequins and an over-sized reproduction of Nicolas Poussin’s 1629 painting “Midas and Bacchus” dominating one of the walls of Petra’s home. It’s all visually arresting, but eventually not compelling enough to keep us invested in watching “poor” Petra’s downward spiral. With that said, Bitter Tears is the kind of dense, wordy film that lends itself to academic deconstruction — so if you’re up for this type of intellectual challenge, definitely check it out (and be sure to read Jonathan Rosenbaum’s critical essay).

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Margit Carstensen as Petra von Kant
    Bitter Tears Carstensen
  • Visually arresting sets and costumes
    Bitter Tears Sets

Must See?
No, though Fassbinder completists will certainly want to visit it. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Love Me Or Leave Me (1955)

“I’ve had enough! It’s up to here for me. From now on, I’m number one!”

Love Me Or Leave Me Poster

Synopsis:
Aspiring singer Ruth Etting (Doris Day) marries a gangster (Jimmy Cagney) who helps her make a name for herself — but she continues to hold romantic feelings towards her pianist (Cameron Mitchell).

Genres:

Review:
It’s probably safe to say that most film fanatics would be unfamiliar with torch singer Ruth Etting — “American’s Sweetheart of Song” — if it weren’t for this white-washed but relatively gritty biopic about her infamous rise to stardom courtesy of gangster Marty “Moe” Snyder (whose insane jealousy eventually led him to shoot her lover). The screenplay manages to nicely sidestep the issue of whether Etting slept with Snyder during the early, pre-marriage phase of their relationship together (which she surely must have) — instead implying that Snyder eventually raped her and “forced” her into an unhappy marriage. To that end, it’s frustrating to view Etting portrayed in such a uniformly righteous light — and fascinating to know how upset many of Day’s fans nonetheless were at her for deviating so noticeably from her more traditional “good girl” roles.

Given the limitations of their characters as dictated by the screenplay, however, Day and Cagney work wonders with their roles, and share a number of hard-hitting scenes together. Cagney turns in an especially powerful performance as a “gimpy” gangster accustomed to getting his way at every turn, while Day effectively taps into Etting’s emotional core as she struggles to stay loyal to the man she knows she owes her career to despite feeling more and more disgusted by him. Meanwhile, Cameron Mitchell is nicely cast (against type) as Etting’s enduring love interest, waiting patiently behind the wings. Most importantly, however, Day fans will enjoy her fine renditions of a number of Etting’s most noteworthy songs — including “I’ll Never Stop Loving You”, “Shaking the Blues Away”, and the title song. While it’s not must-see viewing for all-purpose film fanatics, Love Me or Leave Me is essential viewing for any fans of Doris Day.

P.S. Check out TCM’s trivia page for the film, which includes a number of interesting tidbits — including the fact that Cagney accepted second billing for the first time since achieving stardom in the 1930s, given his acknowledgment that “Day’s character was more central to the film’s plot”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Jimmy Cagney as Martin Snyder
    Love Me Or Leave Me Cagney
  • Doris Day as Ruth Etting
    Love Me Or Leave Me Day
  • Cameron Mitchell as Johnny
    Love Me Or Leave Me Mitchell

Must See?
Yes, for the fine leading performances.

Categories

Links:

Altered States (1980)

“There’s a physiological pathway to our earlier consciousnesses. There has to be.”

Altered States Poster

Synopsis:
In search of the Ultimate Truth, a determined psychiatrist (William Hurt) takes hallucinatory drugs and undergoes sensory deprivation — but when he starts experiencing physiological changes, his wife (Blair Brown) and colleagues (Bob Balaban and Charles Haid) begin to fear for his safety.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary accurately labels this surreal, mind-bending cult favorite by director Ken Russell — based on a novel by Paddy Chayefsky — a “Jekyll-and-Hyde variation” which “takes viewers on [an] ambitious, if hokey, exploration of man’s origins” and “advances [the] intriguing theory that there can be genetic change if one’s consciousness is manipulated”. Through foolhardy experimentation with hallucinatory drugs and sensory deprivation — Chayefsky’s story was purportedly inspired by “John Lilly’s mind-expansion experiments in the mid-sixties” — Hurt’s Dr. Jessup actually turns into a primitive apeman (played by dancer Miguel Godreau) and eventually regresses into an “embryonic state”. Given this fascinating sci-fi/horror premise, it’s too bad that “towards the end, the storyline drops several intellectual planes” and is content with making “simplistic points” about the nature of Truth and Life. Without giving away spoilers (like Peary does), suffice it to say that the film “unfortunately avoids controversy” with an overly pat ending that is perhaps meant to appeal to mass audiences, but will likely alienate the type of viewers most drawn towards this type of heady material.

Peary does point out, however, that “there is much that is noteworthy” in the film — including its “blasting soundtrack” (which “won the picture an Oscar”), special effects by Bran Ferren (which Peary argues are “often ill-chosen but dynamic”, though I found them appropriately surreal throughout), and the “remarkable make-up work” of “the legendary Dick Smith” (who worked on, among many other titles, The Exorcist and Scanners — click here for his website). Peary notes that Russell “keeps things under surprising control for a change”, and does wonders with Chayefsky’s “overwritten script”; in his more detailed analysis of the film for his Cult Movies 2 book, Peary explains that Russell “solved much of [Chayefsky’s] overwritten dialogue problem by having his actors talk so quickly that lines that would make no sense to the average viewer anyway are lost” — a technique which works remarkably well, and actually helps to impress upon us the essential fact that “the characters are loquacious about erudite subjects”. As Peary notes, the fine ensemble cast “are all believable, and smooth, as they deliver intellectual diatribes” (with Blair particularly noteworthy in what could have been a somewhat thankless role). Despite its flaws, then, film fanatics will surely want to check out this audacious, visually evocative, finely acted headtrip at least once.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • William Hurt as Eddie Jessup
    Altered States Hurt
  • Blair Brown as Emily Jessup
    Altered States Brown
  • Bob Balaban and Charles Haid as Eddie’s colleagues
    Altered States Balaban Haid
  • Memorable hallucinatory imagery
    Altered States Imagery
  • Dick Smith’s makeup
    Altered States Makeup
  • John Corigliani’s Oscar-nominated score

Must See?
Yes, as a cult favorite by a famed director.

Categories

Links:

Hans Christian Andersen (1952)

“That’s the nice thing about the world, my friend: people.”

Hans Christian Andersen Poster

Synopsis:
A storytelling cobbler named Hans Christian Andersen (Danny Kaye) falls in love with a ballerina (Jeanmarie) he believes is being abused by her domineering husband (Farley Granger).

Genres:

Review:
I was pleasantly surprised to find that this popular Danny Kaye vehicle — one of three titles (along with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and The Court Jester) he’s most closely associated with today — has retained much of its charm. Kaye is remarkably convincing playing the famed “pied piper” of storytelling, a dream-filled cobbler with the ability to lure children and adults alike (including us) into his fantasy realm. He brings just the right level of childlike whimsy and romantic yearning to the proceedings — which, we’re immediately informed, are “not the story of [Andersen’s] life, but a fairy tale about the great spinner of fairy tales.” Indeed, the first half hour of the film is its most magical, as we witness (courtesy of Moss Hart’s clever screenplay) Andersen’s incomparable gift with turning the merest morsel of an idea into a touching fable — with music, no less! To that end, Frank Loesser’s score is delightful, full of many catchy tunes. My favorite is probably “The King’s New Clothes” (a tongue-twisting marvel which Kaye handles with his typical finesse), but “Thumbelina”, “Inchworm”, and “Ugly Duckling” are equally memorable — and I challenge you not to find yourself humming “I’m Hans Christian Andersen” before the film is through.

Unfortunately, the film becomes somewhat notoriously bogged down by its central subplot, in which Andersen — presumably a romantic neophyte — develops an obsessive crush on a beautiful ballerina (Jeanmarie) who he believes is being sorely mistreated by her ruthless manager/husband (played by Farley Granger, who apparently hated being forced to do this role). The key scene Andersen witnesses — in which Granger mercilessly chastises Jeanmarie’s performance, and the two actually exchange physical blows — smacks weirdly of sado-masochism, given that the two clearly have an “understanding” with one another, and are still just as much in love as ever after their “encounter” (something Andersen fails to learn until much later on, naturally). With that said, it makes sense that Andersen would fall for a fairy-tale version of a woman rather than the complex adult herself — so perhaps this subplot isn’t quite as egregious as many critics have claimed.

P.S. It’s distressing and a bit of a let-down to know that Kaye himself was very un-Andersen-like on the set of the film. According to TCM’s article, he was “repeatedly frustrated” with Jeanmarie’s “struggling grasp of English”, ran hot and cold in his friendliness towards Granger, and “became so petulant about the costumes that he wailed to Granger, ‘How come you get to wear all these beautiful clothes and I have to wear rags?'”

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Danny Kaye as Hans Christian Andersen
    Hans Christian Kaye
  • Many delightful songs
    Hans Christian Songs
  • Fine sets and costumes
    Hans Christian Sets
  • Moss Hart’s often-clever screenplay: “You’d be surprised how many kings are only a queen with a mustache.”

Must See?
No, though it’s recommended, and certainly must-see for Kaye fans.

Links:

Kid From Brooklyn, The (1946)

“What a wit, what a clown — what a fighter!”

Kid From Brooklyn Poster

Synopsis:
When a bumbling milkman (Danny Kaye) accidentally knocks out a prize fighter (Steve Cochran), he becomes an overnight media sensation, and soon finds himself taken advantage of by an unscrupulous manager (Walter Abel).

Genres:

Review:
This remake of Harold Lloyd’s classic talkie The Milky Way (1936) was clearly designed as a prime vehicle for Danny Kaye — and as such, fans of his are sure to enjoy it. Kaye acquits himself well, showing off plenty of humorously deft “boxing” maneuvers, and making the most of his character’s transformation from mild-mannered milkman to arrogant would-be boxing champion. But director Norman McLeod doesn’t possess quite the same gift for comedic timing as The Milky Way‘s Leo McCarey; watching the two films neck-to-neck (as I did) makes this disparity abundantly clear. The Kid From Brooklyn does possess one infamous “claim to fame”: in a bit of near-tragic cinema lore, Goldwyn ordered all copies of Lloyd’s original film to be destroyed (presumably because the two films are almost identical). Fortunately, Lloyd had his own preserved copy, so it survived — and film fanatics now have the opportunity to choose between the two.

P.S. Despite her best efforts, Virginia Mayo — playing Kaye’s unassuming romantic interest, Polly Pringle — simply isn’t as believable in this role as her earlier counterpart (Dorothy Wilson). She does get to wear some lovely gowns, though, so watch for those.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Danny Kaye’s nimble “boxing” maneuvers
    Kid From Brooklyn Boxing
  • The surreal opening musical sequence
    Kid From Brooklyn Cows
  • Miles White’s lovely gowns
    Kid From Brooklyn Gowns

Must See?
No; this one is only must-see viewing for Danny Kaye fans. Check out the original instead.

Links:

Milky Way, The (1936)

“I’m just as surprised as you are — I could swear I missed him!”

Milky Way Poster

Synopsis:
When a timid milkman (Harold Lloyd) accidentally knocks out a prize fighter (William Gargan), a corrupt manager (Adolph Menjou) hires him for a series of fixed fights, and he soon develops an enormous ego — much to the distress of his new girlfriend (Dorothy Wilson) and his sister (Helen Mack).

Genres:

Review:
Widely considered the best of Harold Lloyd’s talkies, this enjoyable adaptation of Lynn Root and Harry Clork’s Broadway play offers Lloyd a plum opportunity to further milk (sorry) his iconic comedic persona as a bespectacled, “resourceful, success-seeking go-getter”. The storyline is rather silly, but it does allow us to watch Lloyd engaging in plenty of delightful pseudo-boxing — including a classic scene in which he teaches said moves to an enthused society woman (Marjorie Gateson). Dorothy Wilson is appropriately sweet and unassuming as Lloyd’s new girlfriend, and Adolph Menjou is perfectly cast as Lloyd’s sleazy new manager. Somewhat notoriously, The Milky Way almost didn’t survive for modern audiences to enjoy: when producer Samuel Goldwyn decided to remake the film with Danny Kaye in 1946 (as The Kid From Brooklyn), he ordered all negatives of the original to be burned; fortunately, Lloyd had his own pristine copy squirreled away, and the rest is history.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Harold Lloyd as Burleigh Sullivan
    Milky Way Harold Lloyd
  • Burleigh teaching a society woman how to “dance” in the ring
    Milky Way Dancing

Must See?
No, but it’s certainly recommended, and a definite must for Lloyd fans.

Links:

Landlord, The (1970)

“I just don’t understand your sudden interest in those kind of people.”

Landlord Poster

Synopsis:
A wealthy white man (Beau Bridges) purchases a rundown tenement in Brooklyn, intending to convert it into a ritzy apartment — but soon he finds himself deeply enmeshed in the lives of his black tenants, and his plans begin to shift.

Genres:

Review:
Before being asked to helm the cult hit Harold and Maude (1971), Hal Ashby made his directorial debut with this irreverent, hard-hitting satire about race and class relations in New York City. Centering on its titular protagonist’s belated “coming of age” at 29 years old (and his growing social consciousness), it boldly explores the tensions inherent in gentrification. Much like Bud Cort’s Harold, Bridges’ Elgar Enders is a baby-faced, overly protected man-boy from a wealthy family who longs for independence from his domineering mother — played here by Lee Grant, giving a fearless performance as a bigoted shrew (she was rightfully nominated as Best Supporting Actress). Subplots involve Elgar’s romance with a light-skinned dancer (Marki Bey), and his drunken one-night-stand with a tenant (Diana Sands), which propels the film towards its increasingly dark denouement. While Ashby can’t quite seem to figure out the right tone for the film — it veers wildly from satire to drama and back again — he should be applauded for daring to tackle such challenging issues his first time behind the camera.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Beau Bridges as Elgar Enders
    Landlord Bridges
  • Lee Grant as Elgar’s mom
    Landlord Grant
  • Diana Sands as Francine
    Landlord Sands
  • A refreshingly blunt look at racial tensions
    Landlord Racial Tensions
  • Creative editing
    Landlord Editing

Must See?
No, but it’s strongly recommended.

Links:

Harold and Maude (1971)

“Tell me about yourself. What do you do when you aren’t visiting funerals?”

Harold and Maude Poster

Synopsis:
The depressed grown son (Bud Cort) of an overbearing mother (Vivian Pickles) meets a vivacious older woman (Ruth Gordon) and falls in love.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this black comedy by director Hal Ashby remains “one of the most popular of all cult movies” — one which, unlike King of Hearts (another counter-culture hit of the era), actually “holds up quite well today”. Peary argues that it possesses an “uplifting quality, a breeziness, a spark, [and] a wonderful sense of successful rebellion that more than compensates for first-time screenwriter Colin Higgins’s self-indulgences, puerile moments, and misdirected flights of fancy”. When I first saw Harold and Maude as a teenager, it hit me in just the right way: I could relate (along with so many others) to Harold’s sense of repression, and was truly taken with the film’s uniquely perverse sense of black humor; each of Harold’s infamous “faux suicide” attempts — and his mother’s utterly nonchalant responses to them — took me by giddy surprise. Meanwhile, I remember being genuinely inspired by the “simple things” Maude teaches Harold: “not to back away from life, to be an individual, to experiment, to take chances, and to sing and dance and play music”.

Watching it again years later, I’m much more aware of the script’s heavy-handed faults, yet there’s still much here to take delight in. Cort and Gordon are perfectly cast as cinema’s most enduring odd couple, epitomizing a “May-December romance” taken to chronological extremes (Gordon’s 80-year-old character could actually be 20-year-old Cort’s great-grandmother — just chew on that one for a while). The suicide attempts remain clever and often laugh-out-loud funny; my particular favorite has Harold committing elaborate hara-kiri in front of his third blind date, an aspiring actress named Sunshine (Ellen Geer) who — rather than reacting with horror like her predecessors — shrieks with delight and proceeds to join Harold in his dramatics (though I wish the scene went on for a bit longer — I’d like to know what happened next!). And it’s true, as Peary notes, that there are “touching glimpses” throughout the film which reveal the shadow-side of Maude’s exuberance for life — though along with many others, I find the film’s surprising ending a bit “infuriating”, and am not quite sure I agree with Peary that it “makes sense”.

P.S. In both his GFTFF and Cult Movies reviews of the film, Peary makes an interesting comparison between Harold and Maude and Val Lewton’s Curse of the Cat People, noting the parallels between Ruth Gordon and Simone Simon, who becomes “an unhappy little girl’s imaginary playmate, her one friend, until the girl can turn elsewhere”.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Bud Cort as Harold
    Harold and Maude Cort
  • Ruth Gordon as Maude (Peary nominates her as best actress of the year in his Alternate Oscars)
    Harold and Maude Gordon
  • Vivian Pickles as Harold’s mom
    Harold and Maude Pickles
  • Harold’s faux suicide attempts
    Harold and Maude Suicide
  • Cat Stevens’ “terrific, cheery” score

Must See?
Yes, as a genuine cult favorite.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

Links:

Heartbreak Kid, The (1972)

“I married a grouch!”

Heartbreak Kid Poster

Synopsis:
A newlywed (Charles Grodin) falls in love with a gorgeous blonde (Cybill Shepherd) he meets on his honeymoon, and suddenly realizes he should never have married his wife (Jeannie Berlin).

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary begins his review of The Heartbreak Kid — director Elaine May’s second feature film — by noting the “interesting phenomenon” of “Jewish boys from the East [who] may end up marrying Jewish girls from the East” but “invariably get wild crushes on blond Midwest WASPs” — exactly the scenario played out in this wickedly funny black comedy, scripted by Neil Simon and based on the short story “A Change of Plan” by Bruce Jay Friedman. As we watch this “series of short skits strung together, in which Grodin somehow manages again and again to talk, through prime BS, a bad situation into his favor”, we do indeed “shake our heads because we can’t believe he has the gall to say what we’re hearing, or [to be] so tactless and insensitive, or… to get away with what he does”.

Indeed, it’s deeply discomfiting to find oneself laughing at Grodin’s bald-faced deceit towards his hapless wife, who becomes trapped in the ultimate living nightmare during what should be the happiest time of her life. Nonetheless, the film is so full of “hilarious, sharply satirical scenes” — Berlin irritating Grodin by drawing circles on his chest; Berlin smearing egg salad all over her face; Grodin waxing enthusiastic about the humble pleasures of midwestern food — that we can’t help remaining glued to the screen, curious to know what will happen next to our determined anti-hero. Deftly directed by May, and wonderfully acted by the “superb cast” — including Jeannie Berlin in what should have been a career-defining role (what happened?), Eddie Albert in a priceless performance as Kelly’s WASPy father (who solemnly asserts he wouldn’t approve of Grodin “if you tied me to a horse and dragged me forty miles by my tongue”), and Audra Lindley as Kelly’s “easily impressed mother” (watch her quietly hilarious silent reactions).

P.S. The parallels between this and May’s feature debut, A New Leaf (1971), are startlingly clear: Grodin’s Lenny Cantrow and Walter Matthau’s Henry Graham are both arrogant, self-centered men who make life miserable for their new wives (Jeannie Berlin and Elaine May, respectively) — both of whom are sloppy, mildly irritating, but ultimately utterly endearing to audiences. Knowing Berlin is May’s real-life daughter makes the parallels even eerier.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Charles Grodin as Lenny
    Heartbreak Kid Grodin
  • Jeannie Berlin as Lila
    Heartbreak Kid Berlin
  • Eddie Albert as Kelly’s disapproving father
    Heartbreak Kid Albert
  • Audra Lindley as Kelly’s mother
    Heartbreak Kid Lindley
  • Many humorously memorable scenes
    Heartbreak Kid Egg Salad
    Heartbreak Kid Cream
  • Neil Simon’s dark but often hilarious screenplay:

    “There is no deceit in the cauliflower.”

Must See?
Yes, as a disturbingly provocative dark comedy.

Categories

Links:

Zazie / Zazie dans le Metro (1960)

“All Paris is a dream; Zazie is a reverie.”

Zazie Poster

Synopsis:
A young girl (Catherine Demongeot) visiting her aunt (Carla Marlier) and uncle (Philippe Noiret) in Paris runs away to explore the city.

Genres:

Review:
It’s difficult to describe just how uniquely surreal Louis Malle’s adaptation of Raymond Queneau’s 1959 novel really is. Dubbed “an elaborate French exercise in cinematic Dadaism” by Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, it’s both deliciously mindbending and seemingly random; if it weren’t based on a novel, one would accuse Malle of relying on (possibly drug-induced) free association as the basis for his script. Indeed, it’s literally impossible to absorb every moment of this story in one viewing — and you may very well feel giddily exhausted by the end of your attempt to keep up with both Zazie and Malle (whose other films give little indication of the radical parameters he sets for himself here). Malle’s cinematic bag of tricks seemingly knows no boundaries, as he speeds up his camera and then slows down again, utilizes jump-cuts, and generally messes as much as he can with the viewer’s sense of continuity and rationality.

To provide an example: in just one 25-second section of a delightfully lengthy chase scene between Zazie and a policeman named Trouscaillon (Vittorio Caprioli), Zazie pours a glass of water over Trouscaillon’s head, which he promptly spouts out of his mouth like a fish. Zazie then jumps down the stairs and hides in a metal pail, which Trouscaillon sits down on. He hears rattling inside, and when he opens the lid, he sees that Zazie has transformed into a black cat. He leaps up in surprise and is suddenly found standing on the banister of a marble stairway, reeling Zazie in with a fishing pole. When Zazie reappears on-screen, she’s played by an elderly woman wearing the same orange shirt and gray skirt. This “older Zazie” slaps Trouscaillon, and their chase continues, with the original Zazie now back on-screen. And so it goes.

Zazie herself is an incomparably precocious and delightfully salty protagonist. As played by Demongeot (who apparently never pursued an adult acting career), she’s fearless in her encounters with the lewd and/or sexually confused adults she’s surrounded by — including her uncle (the always wonderful Philippe Noiret) and creepy Caprioli (who reminds me of Stanley Tucci). Meanwhile, another of the many delights offered by the film is its time-capsule view of Paris: made the same year as Godard’s Breathless, it provides a heady visual counterpart to that fabled vision of the city, shown here in vibrant colors rather than in stark b&w. Though Zazie is repeatedly foiled in her attempts to see the Metro (whose employees are on strike), her experiences in the rest of the city — including, naturally, the Eiffel Tower — are a treat to partake in.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Catherine Demongeot as Zazie
    Zazie Demongeot
  • Philippe Noiret as Uncle Gabriel
    Zazie Noiret
  • Simple but effective special effects
    Zazie Effects
  • Wonderful use of authentic Paris locales
    Zazie Paris
  • Creative direction
    Zazie Direction
  • Countless surreal moments
    Zazie Surreal
    Zazie Surreal2
  • Amusing word play, very creatively translated into English: “Damngodit!”

Must See?
Yes, as an entirely unique New Wave masterpiece. Listed as a film with Historical Importance and a Cult Movie in the back of Peary’s book.

Categories

Links: