XL Popcorn – Le Samouraï / The Awful Truth

We appear to be in the home stretch here. The pain is not as it once was, but it still means I can not type for longer than a few minutes without my wrist hurting or my fingers from going numb. So the dictated reviews and a ridiculous posting schedule continues on.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”Title: Le Samouraï
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
Year: 1967
Country: France

The 1001 film book lists The Godson as the English title of this film. Now I don’t claim to understand why this was called The Samurai (other than the fake quote in the beginning), but as titles go it is so much more evocative of the spirit of the film so let’s just call it The Samurai.

If you wanted to find a French film about an assassin that is incredibly stylised then look no further. If you want a nice piece of French male eye candy then this film is definitely for you (it also has some really good looking French women, but I don’t care as much about that).

Alain Delon smolders as professional hitman and pet bird haver Jef Costello whose life starts to become complicated after a professional hit results in his arrest. We never know why he was hired to kill who he killed, but as the owner of a nightclub it is likely that this man had enemies. Then again that doesn’t matter.

What does matter is just how stylish this film is. Usually when I look at a film it is the performances of the actors that I tend to focus on, but not in this one. The most interesting thing about this film is the use of silence. It takes nearly 10 minutes for us to hear the first line of dialogue and by that point we have already got a good idea of what sort of man he is. Delon is far more powerful in his performance when he is saying nothing.

Also of note is how little colour there is in the film. Now, this is a very 1960s thing as a lot of the good looking fashion was black and white. However, the absence of colour in certain shots is very deliberate. For example, the bird that Jef has is grey and this matches the rest of his apartment. Similarly, the nightclub is all decked out in very 1960s looking black and white decor. The only colourful things you really see in this film is blood and the blue of the cars that he hijacks. The lack of colour is even found in the fashion with Jef, the piano player, the nightclub bar staff and his girlfriend(?) all donning the same palette.

The whole film feels like a 1960s attempt of bringing a 1930s gangster comic book to life. The atmosphere does have a passing resemblance to the world of Road to Perdition just without the son. This film is not that heavy in the kills as we would come to expect as it needs to maintain style throughout. Seeing how many directors list this film as a major influence this is a film to be bearing in mind when I watch future films centred around an assassin.

Title: The Awful Truth
Director: Leo McCarey
Year: 1937
Country: USA

I woke up this morning thinking that my wrist might actually be okay today… and then I make myself a bowl of cereal only to have it flare up again. My fault, obviously, as I fell up the stairs yesterday and landed awkwardly. Now is that for an awful truth!

The Awful Truth fills in that strange niche caused by the Hays code known as the remarriage comedy. There were so many of these in the 30s and 40s only to have them disappear almost entirely once content restrictions were relaxed. By their nature the remarriage comedy tend to be farcical and this film was no exception.

The reason that The Awful Truth is on the 1001 list is because it is one of the few remarriage comedies to win major Oscars (a best director win no less). Also, this was the first film to see Cary Grant in an his now famous comedy persona. This is the persona he would go on to wear in hits such as His Girl Friday, Bringing Up Baby and Arsenic and Old Lace. So this film is a little slice of film history.

You’re never going to have a marriage comedy with a sad ending. The whole point is that the divorced couple have to rediscover their love for each other and reconcile. As with most of these the reason that they split is fairly tenuous. If they would have just talked to each other normally… but that’s hardly the point now is it.

Cary Grant and Irene Dunne are fantastic and in their role as the feuding couple. They also have an amazing dog. Seriously, that dog has more talent than most soap actors. There is a scene where they play a hiding game with the dog and he actually gets into a position where he is leaning on a chair and covering his eyes with his paws. I did not know you could train a dog to do that!

Another set piece of note is when Cary Grant’s character is dating a showgirl. He comes across his ex wife with her new fiancé and very revel in each other’s embarrassment. He gets embarrassed by the awful number sung by his showgirl girlfriend and is justifiably mocked. He, however, has the last laugh, in a rather well choreographed bad dancing number as performed by his ex wife.

The Awful Truth stands as a first for many things, not in the least being a screwball comedy that won a best Director Oscar. How often does it happen that the Director Oscar goes to a comedy, but the best picture is a biographical drama? This is the only time.

Progress: 562/1007

1 thought on “XL Popcorn – Le Samouraï / The Awful Truth

  1. Great review of The Awful Truth. I don’t think they make re-marriage comedies anymore, or at least I haven’t seen one. Irene Dunne was delightful in that film, a real firecracker.

    There is an interesting double-standard in that film. Irene doesn’t accuse Jerry of infidelity, even though he went to Florida. And it was a mystery to me… Why did he go to Florida?

    I wrote a short essay (400 words) on The Awful Truth called “How Trust is Restored.” If you would like to read it, I am open to any feedback: https://christopherjohnlindsay.wordpress.com/2017/01/22/the-awful-truth-1937/

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