Exploring the Artifacts #6: Jewels of Admiration Part 1
Exploring The Artifacts is a series in which I examine some unique and significant components, or by-products, of cinema storytelling that are often under-appreciated.
I'd like to express my deepest gratitude for film directors who are taking the time to make enthusiastic comments on other filmmakers and their works. These dedications are typically presented as supplements on a plethora of DVDs and Blu-rays. Here are a few worth seeking out:
Violent Saturday (1955) Director: Richard Fleischer
The commentary on this stunningly gorgeous Blu-ray (released by Carlotta Films in France with removable French subtitles) presented here as a 21 minute supplement: "Inconnus Dans La Ville" is by film director William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist, To Live and Die in L.A.). This seasoned director has combined an authoritative but youthful delivery with unbridled passion providing a deep admiration for the underrated director Fleischer and a valuable look into his film making style.
Decision at Sundown (1957) Director: Bud Boetticher
An introduction is provided on this DVD (Disc 2 in this set) by director Taylor Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman, Proof of Life, Ray). It's brief but particularly insightful partly because he points out a fascinatingly atypical flaw in the Randolph Scott figure which allows us to see the character as more disturbingly complex. His commentary enriches the viewing experience of this lesser known Western.
This superlative Sony/Columbia set also boasts worthwhile commentary on, and praise for, director Boetticher from Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood and Quentin Tarantino.
Le Deuxieme Souffle (1966) Director: Jean Pierre-Melville
A video interview with director Bertrand Tavernier (Coup de torchan, Captain Conan, 'Round Midnight) is included on this Criterion DVD. Aside from his many directorial accomplishments, Tavernier has lectured on film, authored books on American motion pictures, and began his career in film as a critic. His informative and enthusiastic commentaries appear on a wide range of motion picture DVDs including some rather obscure titles like Joseph Losey's 1951 noir The Prowler (released by VCI Entertainment). On Le Deuxieme Souffle his observances are most revealing since he not only has a strong background in film criticism but worked as a publicist for Melville on this outstanding crime drama. His insightful comments extend from location to casting selections to a candid admission of disliking a prior film directed by Melville. Also noteworthy here is the fact that he picked up on a connection between three great French crime films that was lost on Gilles Jacob, a highly respected writer and essayist who would go on to become President of the Cannes Film Festival. Tavernier tells us that shortly after the release of Le Deuxieme Souffle, Gilles wrote a big article on three films he correctly identified as masterpieces of the French crime genre namely Classe Tous Risque, Le Trou and Le Deuxieme Souffle. Three great films with no link between them was what Jacob reported. So when Tavernier read this he thought it bizarre and showed the article to Jose Giovanni who immediately contacted Gilles declaring that since he had basically written all three films asked Gilles "don't you think that is a link between them?" Tavernier goes on to discuss Giovanni's remarkable background, his relationship with Melville and Giovanni's important contribution to French cinema which to this day is sadly under valued.
Next Time In Part 2: Director John Milius' admiration for The Bridge on the River Kwai, director Allison Anders' tribute to There's Always Tomorrow, and both Michael Mann's and Martin Scorsese's valuable insights into The Big Heat.