Tag Archives: French cinema

RIP Michel Robin (1930 – 2020)

In France, the actor Michel Robin died. He turned 90. He played in more than 120 films. Always bit parts. You can recognize him by his bald head and the banal characters he usually had to portray.

Mais ne nous délivrez pas du mal (1971)

Favorites are Mais ne nous délivrez pas du mal (1971), a film about two beautiful adolescent girls who start indulging in a satanic love for evil. Robin plays the simple gardener whose parakeet is killed by the diabolic duo.

There is L’Invitation (1973) in which Robin plays a simple and clumsy office worker who, after inheriting a fortune, invites his colleagues to his new estate. There, those good bourgeois men and women are intoxicated by a spiked drink at the hands of a rogue bartender. The situation escalates. Cult movie.

 Marquis (1989)

And then there is the genius animal head puppet film Marquis (1989) in which Robin voices a certain Ambert, a rat prison guard who is eager to be sodomized by the Marquis de Sade, something Colin, the living and talking phallus of the Marquis does not wish to indulge in.

“Paris sleeps in the arms of the Seine”

Following the death of Juliette Gréco, I watched the 1951 French film Sous le ciel de Paris by Julien Duvivier.

 Sous le ciel de Paris 

It’s undervalued film. It begins with an exhilarating fly-over of Paris by night, topped with a voice-over mentioning all these souls in the city for which fate has a thing or two in store.

The ensuing action takes place over a period of 24 hours while many of the participants lives intermingle, making it an early example of hyperlink cinema.

RIP Juliette Gréco (1927 – 2020)

Juliette Gréco was a French actress and singer. 

She first appeared on my radar in 2010 in the Gainsbourg movie Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life where she is played by Anna Mouglalis.

The scene from Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life in which Gainsbourg meets Gréco and plays for her “La Javanaise”.

Below the song “L’Accordéon” (1962) in which she plays her own black-clad body as an instrument. Very French and sensual.

While cycling to work, it dawned upon me that “L’Accordéon” reminded me of the Mary Poppins song “Chim Chim Cher-ee” (1964).

RIP Michael Lonsdale (1931 – 2020)

Michael Lonsdale was a British-French actor who mainly worked in France, one of my favorite actors. He played in many films, though rarely as the protagonist. He turned 89.

Final scene from the French 1976 ‘Bartleby’ adaptation

In the English-speaking world, he was known for his role as the villain Hugo Drax in the James Bond film Moonraker, and for his appearances in The Day of the Jackal and The Remains of the Day.

As a character actor with a penetrating gaze, he can be admired in auteur films such as Le fantôme de la liberté (1974) by Luis Buñuel, Glissements progressifs du plaisir (1974) by Alain Robbe-Grillet and the unforgettable 5×2 (2004) by François Ozon.

I would like to take this rather sinister opportunity to highlight the story “Bartleby” (1853) by Herman “Moby Dick” Melville. That short story was adapted for film four times, and in the 1976 French version, Lonsdale plays the bailiff.

The hero in “Bartleby” is called Bartleby. He is a clerk who is recruited at a law firm to copy documents, but soon after his arrival at the firm refuses an assignment with the legendary words “I would prefer not to”. From then on, Bartleby the clerk basically refuses everything, which means that he refuses to live.

This hero is reminiscent of other impossible, frustrated novel characters such as the nameless hero in Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground (1864) and Julien Sorel in Stendhal’s The Red and the Black (1830).

In the clip, Lonsdale visits Bartleby in prison where he urges the latter to make a last effort to live. In vain. We see Bartleby die while standing up.

RIP Michel Piccoli (1925 – 2020)

Michel Piccoli was a French actor of the generation of Philippe Noiret, Jean Rochefort and yes, Yves Montand.

Of note is his work with Marco Ferreri (Dillinger Is Dead, La Grande Bouffe, The Last Woman and Don’t Touch the White Woman!); with Luis Buñuel (Diary of a Chambermaid Belle de jour, The Milky Way, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Phantom of Liberty); and Jean-Luc Godard (Contempt).

In The Milky Way (1969) he plays Marquis de Sade.

Then there is the iconic La Grande Bouffe (1973), the story of three bourgeois men who decide to eat themselves to death.

Later I saw Themroc (1973), one of the strangest counterculture films where he played opposite the tragic but delightful Patrick Dewaere.

Watching clips on YouTube, you see him with Romy Schneider in The Things of Life (1970), my god what a beautiful woman she was.

RIP Philippe Nahon (1938 – 2020)


Philippe Nahon was a French actor known for his roles in French horror and thriller films.

Nahon was has been described as the fetish actor of maverick director Gaspar Noé, playing a nameless butcher in no less than three films: CarneI Stand Alone, and Irréversible (cameo).

Above is the gimmicky “30 seconds to leave this film” scene from I Stand Alone (1988).

The film is especially bleak.

Not surprisingly, because it focuses on several pivotal days in the life of a butcher faced with abandonment, isolation, rejection and unemployment.

There was a time when I relished these kind of films. I remember seeing a trailer for Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and absolutely wanting to see it.

The attraction for this fare has largely faded.

Nevertheless, watching scenes from I Stand Alone, one cannot help being immediately intrigued.

RIP Anna Karina (1940 – 2019)

Anna Karina was a Danish actress best-known for her work with the French New Wave and Jean-Luc Godard.

‘Monsavon’ commercial

She appeared four times in the film On the Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Unity of Time (1959) by Marxist/situationist Guy Debord, a much more interesting figure than Godard.

On the Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Unity of Time (1959)

These four appearances were from television commercials. Three fragments are from a Monsavon commercial, a fourth I have been unable to identify.

In the first clip (13:53) Anna stands in front of a mirror in the same bathroom as in which she takes a bath in the third clip.

The voice-over: “What was directly lived reappears frozen in the distance, engraved in the tastes and illustions of an era and carried off with it.”

In the second clip (14:41) she is in the bath and rubs herself with soap.

The voice-over: “There is no more should-be; being has been consumed to the point of ceasing to exist. The details are already lost in the dust of time. “Who was afraid of life, afraid of the night, afraid of being taken, afraid of being kept?”

In the third clip (17:30) she is seen at the wheel of a convertible car, a bird’s eye view, three young people get out of the car.

The voice-over: “In the final analysis, stars are not created by their talent or lack of talent, or even by the film industry or advertising. They are created by the need we have for them.”

The fourth clip (18:09) begins where the first clip left off.

The voice-over: “The advertisements during intermissions are the truest reflection of an intermission from life.”
Translations are from [1].

C’est quoi Anna Karina ? – Blow Up – ARTE