Friday, July 26, 2013

Bay Of Angels (1963)

WHO: Jacques Demy wrote and directed this.

WHAT: Demy's second feature film, and his only one made with the great Jeanne Moreau as Jackie (playing opposite Claude Mann as Jean), was the first of his films I saw, back in 2002 when the Castro Theatre gave it a full week-long run. I recall really liking this gambling-obsession tale but being disappointed with the ending. But it seems high time to revisit the film. Here's an excerpt from Johnny Ray Huston's dual review of Bay of Angels and Demy's debut feature Lola, that helped convince me to go in the first place eleven years ago:
Never one to be associated with the term "fancy-free," the rumpled Moreau brings a nervous undercurrent to Jackie's impetuousness, a quality that Demy further emphasizes in the casino scenes' sound design: stretches of tense silence interrupted by the clatter of chips and the skitter of the ball across niches on a roulette wheel. These noises rarely sync up directly with an image; most often Demy focuses instead on the faces of the gamblers, who – however outlandish their attire – look grimly preoccupied rather than celebratory.
WHERE/WHEN: Tonight only at the Pacific Film Archive at 7:00.

WHY: In the Spring of 2006 the PFA held a small Jacques Demy retrospective: five of his feature films plus one about him directed by his widow Agnès Varda. More than seven years later and the venue is presenting a far more complete survey of the French New Wave-era pioneer's work. This time there are ten features and four shorts by Demy, taken from all phases of his career, as well as three films by Varda (including two not included in her own 2009 retro at the venue.)

I've been slow to warm to Demy. Though I found a good deal to admire in Lola (which screened last night to open this series), Bay of Angels and Model Shop (Demy's sole experience working in Hollywood, which screens August 2nd), it wasn't until seeing his 1964 The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (screening tomorrow & August 31) that I realized the director was as capable of making a great masterpiece as anyone of his generation. I now have a renewed interest in seeing and re-seeing his films, and am glad the PFA offers chances to see well-known titles like Donkey Skin (Aug. 4) and The Young Girls of Rochefort (Aug. 8 & 30), as well as more rarely-seen features like A Room In Town (Aug. 17) and his swan song Three Seats For the 26th (Aug. 24). The shorts and Varda features should bring even more richness to a very appealing series.

Speaking of appealing PFA series, the venue has recently added to its website the five Chinese cinema classics being added to Yang Fudong's An Estranged Paradise to make up the August-October series Yang Fudong's Cinematic Influences, mounted in conjunction with a mid-career survey of Yang's work at the Berkeley Art Musuem. Whether or not you're already familiar with the Chinese artist and filmmaker (perhaps best known in cinephile circles for his his Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest cycle), and whether or not you even care to be, you should know that this series is going to be special. Imported 35mm prints of seminal Chinese classics like the fifth-generation landmark Yellow Earth and the early Shanghai talkie Street Angel don't come around often at all, and as for the canonized "greatest Chinese film of all time", Fei Mu's 1948 Spring in a Small Town is such a rare masterpiece, impossible to see in even a decent home video version, I can almost forgive that it's the one title in the series expected to show via DCP.

HOW: Bay of Angels screens via a 35mm print. Though technically not a double-bill, there is a discounted admission to Patrice Leconte's Monsieur Hire, screening in 35mm at 8:45 as part of the Simenon and Cinema series, for anyone who also buys a ticket to Bay of Angels.


  1. I had the opportunity to meet Michel Legrand quite a while ago, when my mother interviewed him for "The Denver Post". I told him about how part of the score for Bay of Angels had stuck with me. My mother told me later that he was happy to talk to someone who knew about his work before Hollywood.

  2. Thanks, Peter. Michel Legrand should have been part of this post- he's such an important part of Demy's career. Thanks for bringing him up with that anecdote. Interestingly he came up again when doing research on today's post on Jerry Lewis- it seems the composer scored Lewis's newest film Max Rose, their first collaboration since Slapstick.