a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Jacques Rozier no Vacansu

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The re-release of Jacques Rozier’s work, hailed as the rediscovery of a “lost” New Wave auteur is not only justified, but also a bit short in describing a completely original and brilliant filmmaker. He not only beat the likes of Godard and Truffaut (both lovers of his work) to the punch with his new style of fast, timely and innovative filmmaking that became the shorthand for the great French filmmakers of the early 60s, but continued making, albeit at his own pace, highly idiosyncratic works. His work hearkens back to a more heroic time in cinema. Where a film could be made without a script and the barest notion of where it might go. Where film could take risks. Blue Jeans (1958) introduces Rozier’s favorite location, the beach. In Rozier’s world, the vacation is where his characters have the opportunity to exhibit their true selves – and they aren’t always so pretty. Blue Jeans follows a pair of happy-go-lucky young men on relentless prowl for sex. The energy is high, the filmmaking style handheld and furious, the emotions displayed pretty basic and chauvinistic. By the time of his first feature, Adieu Philipinne (1962), the Algerian war looms large. Michel (Jean-Claude Aimini) is a young TV grip awaiting to be deployed to Algeria. He gets involved In a love triangle with two lovely gamines, Juliette (Stefania Sabatini) and Liliane (Yveline Céry). A summer road trip though Corsica opens up an honest discussion of intimacy and the issues of the modern and rootless generation of the early 60s in France. With Du côté d’Orouët (1973), Rozier had truly found his style and voice. Off-season in the seaside town of Orouët, three young women go for their vacation. An unhurried pace reveals character insights and revelations with a superb ensemble cast comprised of Danièle Croisy, Françoise Guégan and Caroline Cartier. Of course the politics of sex wouldn’t be complete without the introduction of menfolk. Rozier regular, Bernard Menez was introduced in this film as Gilbert, the creepy and clueless boss who follows the trio to their beach getaway. But Rozier’s loves of all of his character’s foibles and Gilbert comes off as very human, even likeable. Maine-Océan (1986) begins a bit clunkishly, but soon becomes his true masterpiece. A brilliant caste includes Yves Afonso as Pettigas, a marble-mouthed rough-hewn  Pedro Armendáriz Jr as promoter Pedro De La Moccorra and Menez as the uptight and easily manipulated Inspector Le Gallec. Unexpected plot twists ultimately lead to stunning set piece in which the cast attempts to drunkenly perform a song. The films spills into a splendid high wire act, like a Gallic Casavettes, Rozier pushes and allows his cast to go places rarely caught on screen.

Originally published in EL Magazine, February 2010

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