Watching Judex is an amazing visual experience. Franju was alluding to an earlier period in French cinema and added a nice noirish look to it. The lighting and camera angles were very nice. The story seems a tad underdeveloped with characters and twists popping up out of nowhere, investing in stuff they have no stake in.
It's meant to be a light-hearted romp. But, all of Franju's work is so infused with the dark history of the two world wars, particularly the first, that the innocence in his films is always revelatory. And unsettling. The fragile magic here comes from a haunted void. Is the timeless setting France 1916? It's an evocation of a dream past that in the deadpan manner of its telling, must be real.
If the striking imagery of silent cinema met a cooler, more toned down version of Adam West’s Batman serials, with a dash of old crime caper thrown in. It has evocative images, such as the bird masks, and slightly sci-fi tinged silliness, with wall climbing vigilantees and masked do gooders. It’s a mixed bag, and seems more to be a string of ideas than a completed whole, but it is none the less a fun excursion.
A very entertaining yet oddly paced thriller, Judex mixes magic, mystery, and silent movie style to glorious affect Franju creates some influential setpieces around Maurice Jarre's magnificent score with fantastic performances from magician turned actor, Channing Pollock and seductive menace from Francine Bergé. It does get a bit weird towards the end, especially when the circus rolls into town, but it's worth it.
"To Louis Feuillade, in memory of an unhappy time." Strangely haunting. Franju takes Feuillade's plots—which were never exactly airtight to begin with—and makes them even more illogical. But the final scene brings it all together, underscoring this "remake" as a tribute to everything fanciful, preposterous, and magical about Feuillade specifically and cinema in general. A fantasy world superimposed over our own.
I'm difficult to please when it comes to symbolism, especially in a mystic context like this. Aesthetically it's nicely done, peaking at the ball room scene with the beautiful 'birdman'. The decoration is done nicely and some personas are fun, but the whole feels jumbled and without aim. It jumps betweeen infantile humor, Judex with his unclear intentions and role, and the insignificant crime storyline. Not so great.