Friday, June 25, 2010

Astounding Debut


Le combat dans l’ile (Zeitgeist), the 1961 feature debut by French director Alain Cavalier, is some kind of movie miracle: a New Wave-inspired crime thriller that still feels fresh nearly 50 years later. Cavalier--who went on to make the memorable 1986 biopic Therese--shows an aptitude for gritty characterization and subtle tension in his story of a right-wing extremist (Jean-Louis Trintigant) and his left-wing pacifist friend (Henri Serre) who end up loving the same woman: the right-winger’s beautiful wife (Romy Schneider). Shot in luminous black and white by Pierre Lhomme, Le combat breathes extraordinarily new life into a love triangle hinging on jealousy and revenge. Although extras are minimal—on-set photos and a new Cavalier short—the latter is a doozy: France 1961 is a self-referential short slyly and affectionately shows how an unknown director felt making a movie by using photos of Schneider and her co-stars.
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