Thankful for World Cinema: The Red Balloon and White Mane

The Criterion Collection packaged two of the most influential short films of all time on one great, yet stripped-down DVD package. They are both written and directed by the same man, Albert Lamorisse. Both are the recipients of many awards and have quite a few narrative similarities and as such they make great companion pieces.

White Mane, which is shot in stunning black and white with magnificent vistas of the French countryside, Camargue, is a modified tale of a boy and his horse. In this scenario, however, the horse is wild and the boy, whose intentions are pure, wants to keep the horse, whereas the Ranchers seek to only do it harm. It ends in a similar fashion to The Red Balloon except in a somewhat more bittersweet fashion as opposed to the whimsy of the other.

There are some brilliant dissolves in the film and while there is occasional dialogue it is for all intents and purposes a silent film as is The Red Balloon.

The second film in this collection is without a doubt the more well known. As a short it won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay in open competition against Hollywood features in 1956. This was a film that conquered the world both literally and figuratively. Yet it drew sharp criticism from one of cinema’s finest critics at the time and later one of its great filmmakers, Francois Truffaut.

Writing for Les Cahiers du Cinema at the time Truffaut literally tore the film to shreds. Rather than regurgitating his entire article point for point let us summarize: Truffaut found the personification of the balloon to be its unpardonable sin. Where Truffaut was coming from was being one who preferred the fables of La Fontaine as opposed to the films of Disney. La Fontaine told the tales about animals without making them speak, without humanizing them in any way and what he felt Lamorisse had done was fall into the schmaltz of Disney.

It is certainly conceivable how one can see this as a problem; however, the opposite view is the one I take. It takes little to fascinate and delight a child and considering that this child is alone most of the time there is the possibility of skewed perspective. It is a simple tale about a child’s delight and is told simply such that we connect. Had it been something other than a balloon it might not have worked but it does. There’s just something primal about it and many do connect with the Disney style, just as the man himself once said: “All right. I’m corny. But I think there’s just about a-hundred-and-forty-million people in this country that are just as corny as I am.”

While each one of these has a very small moment that makes you scratch your head somewhat, a moment which will not be revealed here, both are well worth your while – especially The Red Balloon. They are both fascinating and despite similarities they are their own works with their own distinct approaches to shooting and the edit aside from the obvious fact that one is sleekly shot in black and white and the other in shot in the unparalleled lusciousness of three-strip Technicolor.

White Mane 8/10

The Red Balloon 9/10

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TruffautHitchcockVillela: Part 4

This article is a partially fictitious account wherein I imagine myself in conversation with two of the greatest minds in cinema: Truffaut and Hitchcock. This work was inspired by the series of interviews the two conducted which was later turned into a book. The quotes from the two are real though the context isn’t always. If you are interested in the book it can be purchased here. If this alternate history premise insults your sensitivities please move on.

This is part three of a series which started here.

I then sought to get a few pointers on my favorite aspect of filmmaking:

B.V.: The screenplay is your favorite part of the production. What thoughts do you have about screenwriting?

A.H.: For me the film is 90 percent finished with the screenplay. I’d prefer to not have to shoot it. You conceive a film you want and after that it goes to pieces. The actors you had in mind are not available, you can’t get the proper cast. I dream of an IBM machine in which I’d insert the screenplay on one end and film would emerge on the other end complete and in color (330-331). To me, one of the cardinal sins for a script-writer when he runs into some difficulty, is to say, “We can cover that with a line of dialogue.” Dialogue should simply be a sound amongst other sounds, just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms (222).

B.V.: I disagree, to the extent that I think you oversimplify. If dialogue was as irrelevant as that we’d still be making silent films. Many films have shown how essential dialogue can be such as Last Year at Marienbad, your very own film Psycho was greatly enhanced by the ironic use of dialogue especially in the scene where Janet Leigh is eating with Anthony Perkins.

Psycho (1960, Universal)

B.V.: I am trying to devise a system that ranks films based on how they stem from a type of dream. Being either daydreams or nocturnal; nightmares or fantasies. I believe all these playful delusions are the genesis of creation. This is why I think Spellbound is such an accomplishment because it makes dreams and the workings of the psyche tangible. You worked with Salvador Dalí yet avoided being too surrealistic which, is a trapping of dream-based films.

A.H: I was determined to break with the traditional handling of dream sequences through a blurred and hazy screen (163). Since psychoanalysis was involved there was a reluctance to fantasize; we tried to use a logical approach to the man’s adventure (165).

F.T: I hope you won’t be offended, but I found the picture something of a disappointment (167).

A.H.: Not at all. The whole thing’s too complicated, and I found the explanations toward the end very confusing.

Spellbound (1945, United Artists)

B.V: Not at all! Plus, I prefer some explanation rather than none as in The Birds.

F.T.: I’m glad you didn’t give a specific reason for the attacks. It’s clearly speculation, a fantasy (286).

B.V.: I found that Spellbound combined a whodunit aspect which you hate with one of your favorite themes of the innocent man wrongly accused and with great psychoanalytic deduction that Arthur Conan Doyle would’ve used had it been at his disposal. I also find it interesting that in Spellbound you killed a child, albeit in flashback, yet in that instance you don’t look at it as a mistake like it was in Sabotage, why is that?

A.H.: I don’t know. (167).

B.V: A remake is always a difficult and dangerous task to undertake. How then did you remake your own film?

A.H.: Despite the similarities, they’re really quite different from each other (228).

B.V.: So in essence you feel it was like making an entirely new film?

A.H.: Naturally (228).

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934, Gaumont British picture Corporation)

B.V.: Charles Chaplin is perhaps one of the greatest minds in the history of cinema, he thought film was akin to ballet and was against the advent of sound. Yet in 1940 he wrote and performed the most moving speech in film history. What do you think of sound?

A.H.: Well, the silent pictures were the purest form of cinema; the only thing they lacked were the sound of people talking and noises (61). Many films now being made there is very little cinema: They are mostly what I call … Photographs of people talking.” In other words since all that was missing was simply natural sound, there was no need to completely abandon the technique of the pure motion picture, the way they did when sound came in (61).

F.T.: I agree. In the final era of silent movies, the great filmmakers […] in fact almost the whole of the production — had reached something of near perfection. The introduction of sound in a way jeopardized that perfection […] In this sense one might say that mediocrity came back into its own with the advent of sound (61).

A.H.: I agree absolutely (61).

Rope (1948, Warner Bros.)

B.V.: I disagree to an extent, I believe that as film has evolved; the lines between the arts has blurred. Film is now the most complete art-form. In your films you demonstrate this in Rope you capture some of the essence of theater, in a film like Fantasia music is the driving force, Le Chien andalou and Spellbound illustrates painting’s impact, any number of literary adaptations would show the impact of the written word. Statues coming to life have long been a popular motif in the arts and film is not immune; animation is a medium of its own in the realm of film. Even still photography has made its mark and while I hate the “freeze-frame ending” as a rule, the momentary freeze frame is wonderful as illustrated in Jules and Jim. What this all means is that the cinema is now the ultimate art-form and as such the quality of films suffers because there are too many incomplete artists and cannot handle all the disciplines film entails, having said that I believe this represents a paradigm shift, meaning that film is no longer “purely visual” but “primarily visual.”

A.H.: It seems unfortunate that with the arrival of sound in the motion picture, overnight, assumed a theatrical form (61).

B.V.: Film is the most theatrically contrived art-form. Nowhere else can the final product be so meticulously planned before hand. What occurred is that sound was used as a crutch for lazy and or less than competent visual artists. This conversation is rather moot since sound is dominant because the audience demanded sound. I don’t think they would’ve been satisfied with piecemeal sound, however, I agree that it is sad that many films were less visually interesting. Yet the slide continues. In the ’30s Hollywood made many dialogue-heavy films but the set design and cinematography were interesting so there was something to look at. The audience is dictating to studios who dictate the artist and when the audience will shell out money for subpar films money rules so quality won’t change. It’s a hard cycle to break. They say “We want sound! We want color! We want Cinemascope!” and they get that and story is thrown out the window.

End.

TruffautHitchcockVillela: Part 3

This article is a partially fictitious account wherein I imagine myself in conversation with two of the greatest minds in cinema: Truffaut and Hitchcock. This work was inspired by the series of interviews the two conducted which was later turned into a book. The quotes from the two are real though the context isn’t always. If you are interested in the book it can be purchased here. If this alternate history premise insults your sensitivities please move on.

This is part three of a series which started here.

When we began discussing Stage Fright Hitch asked:

A.H. Why is it we can’t tell a lie in a flashback? (189).
    
François had no answer, but I speculated.

B.V.: Well the nature of a flashback is slippery to begin with. When we’re taking an audience back in time it is implied that necessary information is going to be conveyed. Film is a continuous art-form as opposed to literature and television where there are breaks, so if we interrupt the forward progress of the story we must have good reason and we must also be truthful for then the audience will feel we have wasted their time even if for only 30 seconds.

B.V.: What did you think of the acting in Strangers on a Train?


A.H.: I wasn’t too pleased with Farley Granger; He’s a good actor but I would’ve liked to see William Holden in the part because he’s stronger (190).


B.V.: That’s a very good choice, Hitch.

I Confess (1953, Warner Bros.)

B.V.: You’ve made reference in that past to the fact that French films and films in general seem to be moving away from plots. Yet you’ve always seemed more interested in situations than plots, is that correct?


A.H.: Yes, I’d prefer to build a film around a situation rather than a plot (203).


B.V.: You’ve had reservations about I Confess, especially the fact that priests are not to divulge what they are told in a confessional. Is the fact that this is not universal information the cause of your reservations?


A.H.: Putting a situation in a film simply because you yourself can vouch for its authenticity, either because you’ve experienced it or heard about it simply isn’t good enough (203). That’s the trouble with I Confess. We Catholics know that a priest cannot disclose the secrets of the confessional but the Protestants, the atheists and agnostics all say, “Ridiculous! No man would remain silent and sacrifice his life for such a thing”(204).


F.T.: Then would you say that the basic concept of the film is wrong? (204).

A.H.: That’s right; we shouldn’t have made the picture (204).


B.V.: I absolutely disagree with you. I don’t think the concept is wrong. If any of your concepts was flawed it was that of The Birds because of the niggling wonder I get about the birds and why they act the way they do, even knowing that nature is unpredictable hasn’t helped me embrace that film. I Confess, however, has a great scenario.

To Be Continued

TruffautHitchcockVillela: Part 1

This article is a partially fictitious account wherein I imagine myself in conversation with two of the greatest minds in cinema: Truffaut and Hitchcock. This work was inspired by the series of interviews the two conducted which was later turned into a book. The quotes from the two are real though the context isn’t always. If you are interested in the book it can be purchased here. If this alternate history premise insults your sensitivities please move on.

Film is: Eternal yet momentary, Enormous but has no space, Minuscule yet takes its place, Inflexible yet elastic, Sincere and sarcastic, Confined to a frame, which expands in your brain. When a showing ends, The Journey begins. You close your eyes and travel within. Never has it ever been so warm to be frozen in form.
-Bernardo Villela

Francois Truffaut on the set of Confidentially Yours (1983, Le Films du Carrosse)

I’m a lot older than I look. I was in Paris in 1968 trying to get Nino Rota to score my latest film and ultimately I failed and managed only to gain six pounds eating Crepes Suzette. While there, however, I did run into Francois Truffaut. After I asked him how L’enfant Sage was going he told me he was going to meet with Hitchcock and asked me if I’d like to come along. Of course, I agreed. On the way there I asked him:

Bernardo Villela.: What do you believe is the art of suspense?

Francois Truffaut: The art of creating suspense is [!] the art of involving the audience, so that the viewer is a participant in the film. (Truffaut, 16).

We arrived a few minutes later in a very plush room at the Georges V. Francois introduced me and afterward Hitchcock said he’d like my last film very much, to which I got very embarrassed as I felt I didn’t deserve such phrase. We sat down had some Sauternes as apparently Hitch had just finished a meal. It wasn’t the best lead in but I then asked.

B.V.: What did you think of The Wizard of Oz?

Alfred Hitchcock: It was a very bad movie (39)

I was reading a newspaper and saw that Julie Andrews had just signed to make Darling Lili and this prompted me to ask:

B.V.: Can you tell me what you thought of the Star System?

A.H.: These are the problems we face with the star system. Very often the storyline is jeopardized because a star cannot be a villain (43). Cary Grant could not be a murderer (44).

B.V.: Yet you always seemed inclined to work with stars, why?

A.H.: I’ve learned from experience that whenever the protagonist isn’t portrayed by a star, the whole picture suffers, you see, because the audience is a lot less concerned about the predicament of a character who’s played by someone they don’t know. (145)

B.V.: The comment you made about Cary Grant brings us to the trouble with Suspicion. The film is constructed and leading us to think Cary Grant is guilty and then in the last 5 minutes you jump the rails.

A.H. Well I’m not too pleased with the way Suspicion ends. I had something else in mind. The scene I wanted, but it was never shot was for Cary Grant to was to bring her a glass of milk that’s been poisoned and Joan Fontaine has just finished a letter to her mother – “Dear Mother, I’m desperately in love with him, but I don’t want to live because he’s a killer. Though I’d rather die, I think society should be protected from him.” Then, Cary Grant comes in with the fatal glass and she says Will you mail this letter to mother for me, dear?” She drinks the milk and dies. Fade out and fade in on one short shot: Cary Grant, whistling cheerfully, walks over to the mailbox and pops the letter in. (142)

I felt quite embarrassed by dominating the questioning but I think Francois gave me free reign owing to the fact that this was a unique experience for me.

B.V.: Many directors including Robert Altman make films only for themselves and don’t care what the people or the studios think of them, what is your reaction to this kind of thinking?

A.H.: I always take the audience into account. (48)

Citizen Kane (1941, RKO)

Our exhaustive discussion of Citizen Kane led me to ask:

B.V.: How do you define as a masterpiece?

A.H.: Theoretically, a masterpiece is something that has already found its perfection of form, its definitive form. (72)

B.V.: Many people find your films very implausible. I love The Lady Vanishes but even I find the third act a little hard to swallow, what’s your response to that?

A.H.: I’m not concerned with plausibility; that’s the easiest part, so why bother? (99) In a documentary the basic material has been created by God, whereas in the fiction film the director is god; he must create life. (102)

B.V.: Can you comment on why your films so often deal with the extraordinary?

A.H.: I don’t want to do a “slice of life film” because people can get that at home, in the street or even in front of the movie theatre [!] And I avoid out-and-out fantasy because people should be able to identify with the characters. [!] What is drama, after all, but life with the dull parts cut out.(103)

B.V.: My two favorite British Hitchcock films are The Lady Vanishes and Sabotage. While I feel the Lady Vanishes is more sophisticated in its structure , bravery is something I greatly admire in filmmaking and that’s part of why I like Sabotage so much.

A.H.: I made a serious mistake in having the little boy carry the bomb (109).

F.T.: Making a child die in a picture is a rather ticklish matter; it comes close to an abuse of cinematic power (109).

A.H.: I agree with that; it was a grave error on my part. (109)

B.V.: But I feel that’s part of what made it such a compelling film, the fact that a man has to pay for his sins through the loss of his son.

This is the first part of a series that will post on Thursdays. This is the first time this series has appeared on my new home.

Underrated Dramas: France

Introduction

Recently I decided to partake in another great theme going on at Rupert Pupkin Speaks. The last list I did there was for the Underrated Comedies series. As I anticipated, there was far more competition among movies I like to make the dramas list than the comedies list. So much so that I decided to post ancillary lists here before the big list debuts there. I wasn’t able to get all the contenders onto these lists but I was able to feature the most competitive regions (foreign films were one of my main foci). This is my first list.

Underrated Dramas: France

One criteria that I tried to hold steadfastly to when creating the list submitted to Rupert Pupkin Speaks was that I wanted to avoid including “big directors.” Essentially, I wanted to try and find as obscured a film as possible that doesn’t deserve that fate. Hence, if a director is known the world over by his last name alone long after he has passed such title was usually omitted. One such director (François Truffaut) finds his way onto this list because of how staggeringly great I find one of his titles to be, how simultaneously like and unlike the rest of his works it is. Aside from that the rest of the list I think adheres fairly close to what I set out to do. There is one title that dabbles in myriad genre I feel and I’ll discuss it below.

La gloire de mon père/Le château de ma mère (My Father’s Glory/My Mother’s Castle) (1990)

My Mother's Castle (1990, Gaumont)

The way I figure it if you’re going to fudge selections, or it can be claimed that you are, you may as well start at the top. When I had these films listed I knew it’d be impossible to break them up. While you can watch one without the other, they are truly companion pieces. Here Yves Robert lovingly adapts the novels by Marcel Pagnol of simple childhood idyll in Provence roundabout the turn of the century. It’s not a wonder the series of novels is entitled “memories of childhood,” there is that reflective, glorified tinge to the most commonplace occurrence that makes the films radiate with warmth. With each title focusing more on one parent it really is impossible to pick one over the other for a list though I am inclined to say I like the former more. However, they ought to be viewed in the order listed above.

8 Femmes (8 Women) (2002)

8 Women (2002, Canal +)

Here’s another case where I can be said to be shoehorning a selection. Ultimately, these are some of the reasons these titles didn’t make the final list, but they are worthy of their attention here. It can be said that 8 Women plays in a number of genres: it’s unquestionably a musical, it’s also quite comedic, but there is a murder mystery aspect to much of it that brings skeletons out of everyone’s closet making it play out like a chamber drama in its straight moments. One way in which it qualifies as underrated is that while it certainly racked up many honors like 12 César nominations, it had no wins there; and while I lost my nomination records from 2003, I know it was much nominated there and only won one award (Best Song). It’s fairly different in some regards from Ozon’s other films, but in others quite similar, and definitely worth checking out.

Le Grand Chemin (The Grand Highway) (1987)

Le Grand Chemin (1987, Miramax)

As I have a tendency to do, some films will be references multiple times on this site. This is one of them. Having already written extensively, albeit in-depth, about this film in a series of posts (starting here); I’ll only add here, in very non-spoiler ways, that this film portrays three people in flux (a couple and a child), treats them with respect, as equal persons going through similar things at different stages of their life. This film also had the misfortune of being the subject of a watered-down American remake, which means the original deserves to have attention drawn to it.

La chambre verte (The Green Room) (1978)

The Green Room (1978, Les Films du Carrosse)

Here’s Truffaut’s selection on this list. I griped in the past about how this should be on DVD and was glad when it was, but I don’t necessarily think its profile has been elevated to where it should be. I’m rounding out my Truffaut filmography, but if you watch a few of his movies you very quickly get a sense for his milieu and his wheelhouse. That’s why it’s so brilliant to see him take an essentially Bergmanesque character who is preoccupied with death, portray him himself and also put his warm, humanist spin on it. For further thoughts you van visit the link above.

Mauvaises Frequentations (Bad Company )(1999)

Bad Company (1999, Pyramide)

If you become a fan of a particular foreign-bron actor, as I am of Robinson Stévenin, you may find their filmography sporadically available in the US. Every once in a while I’ve played catch up on his works. However, this film is much more than a personal showcase. It’s a disturbing and gritty tale of obsession, lust and greed that was one of the best films I saw in 2001, when it made its way here.

Five Most Outstanding Fake Movies

One a recent episode of Jessie a faux Danish arthouse film was mentioned in passing. It was called Cries of Ice and Pain and elicited from me one of the few genuine laughs that show can ever get. However, it did bring to mind that there are quite a few fake movie titles mentioned or chronicled either in a film or on TV shows that are funny and in some cases that I’d want to see.

What I will list below are just the five most outstanding examples that come directly to mind. I’m sure I like many others, and as I’ve said before no list is ever complete, and I’d welcome additions to this list and other suggestions.

Je Vous Présente Paméla (Meet Pamela) in François Truffaut’s Day for Night

Day for Night (1973, Les Filmes du Carrosse)

I have a long history with Day for Night. Since I first saw the film I have watched it anew on the eve of every new production I’ve directed. While Day for Night is about the production of the aforementioned film there are but fragmentary glimpses of what the film actually is. However, there is enough information that would make it an enticing view. It may seem, in terms of the synopsis we get, to be a plain film, but the scenes viewed suggest otherwise.

The Purple Rose of Cairo in The Purple Rose of Cairo

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985, MGM/UA)

Woody Allen’s faux film may be eponymous with the one he actually created. However, Allen beautifully and lovingly created Golden Age touchstones that made Farrow’s character’s obsession strike very true. While I personally, based on what is shown, may not have become obsessed with the tale, I could if a whole existed and I admire it for inducing such passion.

Don’t in Grindhouse

When dealing with faux films that are conveyed through faux trailers there are quite a few options one could consider. The bumps at the beginning of Tropic Thunder being quite memorable. However, if my wanting to see the film is a criteria, and is that an accurate rendition of a trailer style is also, then I must include Edgar Wright’s Don’t from Grindhouse. It not only emulates trailers of a certain era, but is also a hilarious send-up of the horror genre. For what else do people yell out at characters more than “Don’t…”?

The Pain and the Yearning on Seinfeld

Seinfeld (Castle Rock Entertainment)

The faux title that was the genesis for this post in all likelihood owes a debt to this Seinfeld faux film. I highly doubt there was a sitcom ever that created a vaster array of fake films than did Seinfeld. As with all things Seinfeld, the films are quite memorable, such as the tagline from Death Blow, or the climactic moment in Cry, Cry Again that is taped over with Elaine’s awkward, spastic dance. The amazing thing is we never see these films at all. In this episode we see video tape boxes, on occasion one sheets, and this is as close to seeing the film we ever get. It’s mostly about voice acting, scoring and the dialogue the main characters have about the film. What made me choose this one is that the one-line synopsis Elaine reads is “An old woman experiences pain and yearning,” which is a hilarious send up of the vague synopses some film have, particularly art films that are harder to summarize.

The Foot from Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (2011, 20th Century Fox)

One very old trope by now is: kids, without their parent or guardian knowing, watch a horror film and are terrified for the rest of the night. They subsequently cannot sleep and/or get paranoid about everything. Perhaps the best twist on this I’ve seen is The Foot in Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 because the film they watch is highly ridiculous, but then they’re scared by it making an old hat routine much funnier than it normally is.

As mentioned before there are likely many other ideas that could’ve been on here. I’d be gladly reminded of some.

Adding To Your Classics Library

A while back on Twitter, Bill Milner a great young actor, as well as past nominee and honoree, asked a simple yet important question: it was about bolstering his library of classics.

This is a fascinating question for me, and for any cinephile I feel, because it brings up the elusive question of “What are the essentials?”

My response was, and is, one that I think is not only apropos, but one I think a lot of people can use. Now, a reminder this is not a piece that aims to be a starter kit by cherry-picking milestones in film history, but rather one that will augment your collection when you think to yourself: “Well, what should I be getting now?”

My proposition is simple and personal, we all have our favorite directors throughout the various eras of cinema. I suggest getting the oft-overlooked works of these greats. More often than not these are the films I’ll point out as being a personal favorite.

Anyone, and everyone, can, and has, write, speak or opine on the greatness of Jules and Jim or The 400 Blows, but the film of Truffaut’s that affected me most was The Green Room (aka The Vanishing Fiancee), and its absence from DVD for so long bothered me. Hitchcock would be another good example. Everyone knows the widely recognized masterpieces he made. However, few of his films ever engaged me on first viewing like Rope did, even though he wasn’t too fond of his no-cut experiment, or for that matter Dial M for Murder, though I’ve never seen it in 3D.

Those are just two quick examples with a few films to illustrate my point. Who the directors are that you seek out the oft overlooked works in their ouevre is your choice entirely, but when one has the staples you’re filling in the pages, and, I for one have always been one to seek things out that are a little off the beaten path even amongst the most highly regarded cineastes.

Make Your Own Film Festival: Pick an Actor

Much in the way computers, be them Apple or PC, can liberate you from zone restrictions for a country-specific film festival the same can be true if you’re building a festival around an actor and they happen to be a foreign performer.

The focus of this film festival, which will serve as an example, is Robinson Stévenin. Acting, it would seem, has always been in Robinson’s blood. He is the son of the well-known French actor Jean-François Stévenin, who is perhaps best known for playing the role of François Truffaut’s Assistant Director in the film about filmmaking Day for Night.

His breakout role was in the film Bad Company (Mauvaises frequentations) where he played a young man who so enraptured his girlfriend she agreed to start an ad hoc prostitution ring with him. It’s a truly effective and great film that a one-line synopsis does not do justice to. For this role Robinson was nominated for a César Award (France’s Equivalent to the Oscar) as Most Promising Actor. He would go on to capture that award two years later for his role in Transfixed (Mauvais genres), which featured in this festival.

The Children’s Revolt

His first recognition came for his role in The Children’s Revolt a film about a rebellion in a children’s penal colony in the 19th century. Although he is by no means the lead in this film his performance, as the so-called Lil’ Shaver (Rase-Motte), he is such a standout as a precocious, funny, eloquent kid that he not only receives a favorable quote on the DVD cover but also captured Best Actor at the Paris Film Festival in 1992. What’s more impressive is that he seems to be playing a lot younger than he is in this part, and his scene with the Countess is most definitely one of the highlights of the film.

La Petit Lili

This is quite an interesting film and a great role for him. The film co-stars Ludivine Sagnier, known from Swimming Pool and Peter Pan, as his girlfriend and muse who stars in a short film he makes. He screens it for friends and family and it does not go as swimmingly as he hoped and in essence it starts snowballing in a way that will affect everyone. The characters retire to their separate quarters and start re-examining their lives. In this part he manages to portray the dichotomy of sensitive, brooding artist and also the malcontent who flies off the handle when hearing something he does not like. Yet his anger is justified at times and he handles intellectual dialogue with tremendous effect. He manages to turn the bitter petulant teenager into a character who is not reviled but can be an identifiable protagonist.

Transfixed 


As mentioned above this is the role that won Robinson the César as Most Promising Actor. It is inordinately rare to see an actor completely and totally change his persona and not just his appearance. In this film Robinson plays a transsexual prostitute embroiled in the middle of a whodunit it in Brussels. He is completely and utterly transformed and plays the part to a tee. You are never truly left watching a performance but a character. For whatever is lacking in the plot the performance more than makes up for it.

Mon Colonel

Yet another face of Stévenin – here he plays a soldier serving under a totalitarian Colonel in Algeria. Through his diary he reveals the details of his tour of duty and these pages are slowly delivered to the military assisting the police in the investigation of the Colonel’s murder many years later. Here Stévenin can be seen as a duty-bound man with a conscience who is still a bit of an idealist, but slowly loses some faith but struggles to do what is right and not always just follow orders. It is a tremendous piece of work, and the fact that it is shot in black and white shows the timelessness of his star-quality.