About Those Dames: “Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne”

Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne

Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Frenchman Jean ceases to love Helene, who in turn plots to avenge herself on him.  She starts financially supporting Agnes, a destitute cabaret dancer, and Agnes’s mother with the objective of introducing Agnes to Jean, sensing that he will fall for her.  He does, but without knowing that Agnes is less than respectable—as ashamed, indeed, as she is cynical.

This is what goes on in  Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (1944), Robert Bresson‘s second film.  The tale is lifted from a Diderot novel, though it seems very Henry Jamesian, infused with Bresson’s perennial Catholic morality.  With a moving last scene, it’s quite a good love story (between Jean and Agnes), and by no means are the characters two-dimensional.  They are intelligently acted by Maria Casares (Helene), a not-miscast Elina Labourdette (Agnes), and Lucienne Bogaert (Agnes’s mother).  Paul Bernard, however, is deplorably charmless as Jean.

(In French with English subtitles)

The Triumph Of “Wonder Woman”

The whole physical package of Gal Gadot—pro-Israel and former Miss Israel—is stunningly gorgeous, and the character she plays, Wonder Woman (or Diana), in Wonder Woman (2017), is truly morally good.  Which only adds to her irresistible being.

Directed by Patty Jenkins, the film may prove to be the summer’s best pop feature.  Diana is a princess on a splendid all-female island, and when she saves the life of a World War I pilot (Chris Pine), pulling his drenched body to the island’s beach where other Amazon inhabitants join the pair, it is the kind of rich, spectacular sequence Fellini would have enjoyed shooting had the technology been available in his day.  Jenkins has an eye for grandeur and wide scopes, and is adeptly served by her team of technicians.

Granted, Wonder Woman is imperfect but certainly watchable, and thrilling.  It has beauty and violence but neither is overdone.  Moreover, well, it’s a rather confused religious film (three men, by the way, devised the story here).  In the final scenes, Wonder Woman begins to represent the ascent of Christ-as-God, of Christianity, and—because she mightily battles Ares, the god of war—the elimination of mean pagan gods.  The puzzling thing is that Diana, from that all-female island, was created out of clay by Zeus (!), and he too is ripe for elimination.

Oh, well.  I liked the flick more than I do most superhero movies. . .  Gee, those Middle Eastern Arabs who refuse to see Wonder Woman because it stars a pro-Israel Jew don’t know what they’re missing.  Get a life!

A Hack Job: Benton’s “Twilight”

Cover of "Twilight"

Cover of Twilight

A very fine Paul Newman entertainment of post-studio system film is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, not the 1998 Twilight.  A very fine detective entertainment of post-studio system film is Chinatown, not the 1998 Twilight.  In this Robert Benton movie in which Newman plays an aging P.I., many of the details are a load of bull, especially in light of how many shootings take place.

Further, most crime dramas of the Sixties and early Seventies are candid but not vulgar (exception: Dirty Harry); Twilight is both.  Floating around is a rumor that Newman’s P.I. had his “pecker” accidentally shot off by a 17-year-old girl.  A man acted by James Garner urinates off his elevated terrace instead of in a toilet bowl, nearly hitting the P.I.  Part of the bull I mentioned consists in these scenes.  About the header on this review, let me say that much of the dialogue alone in the film proves it’s the work of a hack.


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