Tuesday, February 24, 2009
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog about the three new Jean Gabin DVD releases that we're getting this spring.
There's some equally important Gabin News this week: Two Jean Gabin movies will be re-made in 2009! A few months ago I mentioned that director John Woo was developing his re-make of the high-octane 1969 Jean Gabin thriller Le Clan des Siciliens (The Sicilian Clan), so that's something to look forward to (or: maybe not, since the original is as close to perfection as you can get, in a heist movie).
Well, here's some up-to-the minute news which was just announced on February 18th, 2009:
This year, the French director Tonie Marshall (Passe-Passe, 2008), who is also an actress of great repute, will helm a brand new re-make of Jean Gabin's 1956 noir mindroaster Voici le temps des assassins, a film which is widely considered, throughout France (as well as by the director Bertrand Tavernier) to be the final masterpiece of director Julien Duvivier, who had earlier directed Gabin in Pepe Le Moko, La Belle equipe, Maria Chapdelaine, and Impostor, and who continued to direct movies up through his death in 1967. Of course, as with many other Jean Gabin movies I wrote about in my book WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, the original Gabin/Duvivier version of Voici le temps is completely unknown in the United States today, even though it was released in one NYC theater in 1957 for about a week, in a severly truncated (cut by 15 minutes) and horribly English-dubbed version, which completely castrates Duvivier's intended vision. (I actually saw this bastardized version, courtesty of a collector who sent me a VHS transfer of her own 16 millimeter print; it's shocking how American distributors used to butcher great classics of foreign films, including a number of Jean Gabin movies.)
In Voici le temps des assassins, chef Andre Chatelin (Jean Gabin in the old version, Gerard Depardieu in the new, upcoming re-make) owns a restaurant in the Les Halles section of Paris (Les Halles, of course, is the large outdoor market in the 1st arrondissement) who gets grifted by a team of manipulative, hopped-up mother and daughter prostitutes, two unsavory women who turn his life into a living hell. To tell you more would spoil the surprise, because Voici le temps des assassins offers one great twist after another -- even a final twist which is actually jaw-dropping, in the truest sense of the word.
Hopefully, this new re-make of Voici le temps des assassins will lead to a greater awareness of the original Gabin/Duvivier version, here in America. Since Tonie Marshall is a very good director, I'm sure that the re-make stands a good chance as well. Marshall is the daughter of the French actress Micheline Presle, who co-starred with Jean Gabin in 1960's Le Baron de l'ecluse, and the American film actor William Marshall, who appeared in a number of movies in the 1940s and weirdly, William Marshall was also married to both Michele Morgan (Gabin's most important co-star)and Ginger Rogers (Gabin's lover, in the 1940s).
BREAKING NEWS: Yesterday, February 27th, 2009, the actor Jean-Paul Roussillon, age 80, won Best Supporting Actor at the Cesars, the French version of the Academy Awards, for his role in director Arnaud Desplechin's new film Un Conte de Noel, which was released in the U.S., at the end of '08, as A Christmas Tale. Fifty-three years ago, in 1956, a much younger Rousillon played Amedee, one of 'chef' Jean Gabin's sous-chefs, in the original Voici le temps des assassins.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
2009 starts out with an embarrassment of riches for Jean Gabin fans.
Not one, not two, but three (3) Jean Gabin movies are being released on DVD. And none of these titles has ever been released on home video with English subtitles. When I originally watched these three films to research them for my book WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR, THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, I was relying on French language DVDs with no English subtitles at all, and watching them with 'human translators' who provided simultaneous French-to-English translations for me (me, with my limited -- or, should I say, non-existent -- French), so these three releases are really unexpected treats.
1. RAZZIA SUR LA CHNOUF (1955), directed by Henri Decoin is, for me, the best of the many film noir thrillers in which Jean Gabin starred in the 1950s, and in my personal opinion, it even edges out Gabin's noir film which is universally acknowledged as being "the important one" -- director Jacques Becker's Touchez pas au grisbi (1954). In Razzia, as in the previous year's Grisbi, Gabin portrays a gentleman-gangster who's uncovering corruption within his own crime organization, and both films share the same tone. Razzia, though, is more 'trippy' and experimental than Grisbi, and features a few scenes (particularly one set in a bar) which I would characterize as being 'pre-psychedelic,' and kind of anticipative of some of the wilder moments in Orson Welles' Touch of Evil, which would come two years later. IMPORTANT NOTE: The English subtitled DVD of Razzia sur la chnouf is not an 'official' release, which is to say that it's a high-end bootleg, but the transfer and the electronic subtitles are very high quality. You can only buy the subtitled version from this on-line merchant -- www.notavailableondvd.com -- and this is important to remember, because there are legitimate DVDs of Razzia available on Amazon.com (US) and Amazon. fr (France), but they do NOT have subtitles. The DVD comes in a plain envelope -- there's no cover-art or extras, but at $12.50 ($10 + 2.50 postage), it's a great buy, and notavailableondvd.com ships fast. This DVD is a February 2009 release.
2. GAS-OIL (1955): Another brand new Jean Gabin DVD release, also 'unofficial' and available with English subtitles ONLY from one on-line seller, is director Gilles Grangier's Gas-Oil, a terrific picture which also happen to be the only movie to co-star Jean Gabin with another French icon, Jeanne Moreau, although Moreau did have a small, supporting role in the previous year's Touchez pas au grisbi. In this picture (which was almost entitled Hi-Jack Highway) as in the following year's Des gens sans importance, Gabin is a trucker (he even drives the truck himself, according to the credits!)who's on the lam from the mob, because they think he's stolen their cache of cash. In the 1950s, American 'car culture' spread to the world, so you get movies like Rebel Without a Cause and Robert Mitchum's Thunder Road in the US, and Gas-Oil in France. If you want to see this DVD with English subtitles, you get it from this excellent online seller, 'Senor Noir,' who also happens to sell a lot of other great international noirs on DVD, and the best news is that it's only $9, including postage. This is a February 2009 release. http://www.ioffer.com/i/Rare-DVD-NOIRS-CRIME-DRAMA-FILMS-Free-Shipping-55224356
3. L'AIR DE PARIS (1954): In March 2009, we get an "official" release, L'Air de Paris , and this movie now has English subtitles for the very first time, as well. This is the picture which reunited Jean Gabin with director and co-star from 1939's Le Jour se leve, Marcel Carne and Arletty, to which it is a worthy follow-up. In this movie, Gabin is a former boxer who takes a young protege (actor Roland Lesaffre, who passed away on February 3, 2009) and trains him to be France's new champion, much to the chagrin of Gabin's wife (Arletty) who feels that Gabin is spending more time with the protege than with her -- so it's kind of a love-triangle, and it's also just as worthy a film about boxing as Raging Bull, Body and Soul, and Champion. Optimum Home Video is releasing this title on March 16, 2009, and you can pre-order it from Amazon.co.uk (British Amazon.com); note that this is a Region 2/'PAL'-system DVD, which means that while it won't play on conventional American 'NTSC' DVD players, you CAN play it on your computer's DVD drive, OR you can buy an international DVD player for less than $200 from various on-line sellers (just Google "codeless DVD player"); it's a good idea to have an international DVD player anyway, if you're a serious movie buff, because there a lot of great movies available on DVD in Europe which aren't available on DVD in the US. (Of course, you can order from British Amazon.com if you live anywhere in the world, and Amazon converts the 'pounds sterling' to 'dollars' on your credit card statement.)
BREAKING NEWS! POST-SCRIPT: It's now March 2nd, and I have just learned that an eBay seller based in Korea is selling a "Region Free" DVD of "L'Air de Paris" with English subtitles, which you can play on any DVD player in the world -- including ALL American DVD players. It's only $11.99 + $2.99 for shipment to the US. I bought one for myself and the quality is excellent, and the seller's turnaround time is fast. Here's the info for this eBay seller:
So: How about that?! Not one, not two, but three great Jean Gabin movies, available on DVD with English subtitles for the first time!
To learn more about Razzia sur la chnouf, Gas-Oil, and L'Air de Paris, read my book WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN, VOLUMES ONE AND TWO.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
2009 started off with a bang -- and that 'bang' was supplied by the heater of Jean Gabin, whose 1937 classic Pepe Le Moko played at Seattle's SIFF theater on Friday January 16th, as part of the repertory theater's 37-film festival "French Crime Wave, 1937-1981." Similar to the festival which played at New York's Film Forum in '08, this Seattle festival also featured a rare screening of Gabin's 1969 thriller The Sicilian Clan on Thursday January 20th.
And there's more to come:
On Thursday February 19th, the Miami Beach Cinematheque (512 Espanola Way, Miami Beach) will feature a rare 35mm screening of director Max Ophuls' 1952 classic Le Plaisir, the only film collaboration between Ophuls and Gabin, as part of a three-film Ophuls festival (the other two films to be screened are 1950's La Ronde and 1955's Lola Montes).
A three-part anthology film based upon the short stories of Guy de Maupassant, Le Plaisir, besides being one of Ophuls' characteristically entertaining idylls, is also unusual in the Gabin cinema canon, because it's one of the rare films in which we get a smiling, cheerful Gabin, in lieu of the somber tough guy we're used to.
Miami, Seattle, Los Angeles... Jean Gabin is Everywhere.
On January 19, 2009, legendary French producer Jacques Bar passed away in Paris, at the age of 87.
Bar, one of the shining lights of French cinema, produced 83 films during a lengthy career which spanned the years between 1949 (La Maternelle) and 2004 (Steven Soderbergh's segment of the anthology film, Eros).
He produced seven of actor Jean Gabin's best "late period" movies -- Le Rouge est mis (1957); Les Vieux de la vieille (1960); Le Cave se rebiffe (1961); Un Singe en hiver (1962); Le Gentleman d'Epsom (1962); and Melodie en sous-sol (1963). All of those titles, except for Le Rouge est mis, were released in the US by MGM in the early '60s, although MGM/UA, and Warner Bros., which owns the MGM/UA catalog today, did not retain their English-subtitled prints (which is par for the course for many of Gabin's movies). Jacques Bar's Gabin pictures represent some of the star's classiest productions, and most were filmed and released in Cinemascope. Bar also produced innumerable features starring two of France's best-loved comedians (both friends of Jean Gabin), Fernandel and Bourvil.
Bar, who was on the Board of Directors of the Musee Gabin (Jean Gabin Museum) in Meriel, France produced a number of other great movies, including Jules Dassin's criminally underrated La Legge (The Law, 1959) which featured Gina Lollobrigida, Marcello Mastroianni, and Yves Montand; Fellini's I Vitelloni (1953, uncredited); Les Felins (aka, Joy House, w/Jane Fonda and Alain Delon, 1964); and, later in his career, both the French and American versions of Gerard Depardieu's stateside hit My Father the Hero (1991 and 1994). Film noir buffs know that Bar produced two of the most hard-boiled, fast-paced neo-noirs -- Ralph Nelson's French/U.S. co-production Once a Thief (1965, starring Alain Delon, Ann-Margret, and Jack Palance) and director Jacques Deray's Outside Man (1973, starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Roy Scheider, and Ann-Margret).