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The Forgotten: Fortune's Fools

A pilot, an engineer and a sculptor seek their fortunes in the easy-going, melancholy sort-of thriller from the intriguing Robert Enrico.
Les Aventuriers

Thought #1: contact sports have given us an unusual number of fine actors. George C. Scott's nose testified to his travails in the ring, as did John Huston's. France offers Michel Simon, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Italian emigre Lino Ventura. Ventura, a former boxer and wrestler, is perhaps the least celebrated of this triumvirate, but he is beyond great. Initially typed as toughs, understandably given his squat frame and flattened menhir of a nose, he demonstrated such conviction that he could be cast as an art dealer in Montparnasse 19 and as an intellectual freedom fighter in Melville's Army of Shadows. His combination of muscle and brains makes him a perfect choice to play an engineer in—but wait...

Les Aventuriers

Thought #2: It's remarkable how many truly horrible character Alain Delon has played. Impressive that he'd do that—either he's unusually interested in villainy, or directors just see him that way, or he genuinely doesn't realize what a gallery of shits he's created. Maybe those dazzling looks need to be balanced by some equally amazing moral turpitude within, as with Dorian Gray (a role he really ought to have played at some point). But it's nice to see him play a nice guy for a change, something he does just as persuasively in—but wait...

Les Aventuriers

Thought #3: the French love their two-guys-and-a-girl scenarios. If you avoid the macho competitive baloney, there's a charming dynamic which can evolve, with each of the guys going all out to be the most appealing person he can be. Still competitive, I guess, but in a nice way. To anchor such a triangle, you need a leading lady with sufficient appeal to make sense of the attraction, a certain gentleness as well as allure. Someone like Joanna Shimkus, maybe.

OK, now. I've held off talking openly about Les Aventuriers [The Last Adventure] (1967) because it's a little hard to pin down its pleasures. Finding the characters likable is critical, but that's a subjective reaction and you won't gain much from my opinion if you don't share it. The actors' and filmmakers' intention that we should like them is admirable, but in fact unprovable. I fall back on details—

Les Aventuriers

Color schemes which seem lightly influenced by Godard, such as the way a red shirt, a red flag, a red biplane and a red truck ping out at you in unison, or the way the yellow of the titles is picked up by some shreds of a poster clinging to a fence. The blue of the Congo skies.

Shimkus (who is Mrs Sidney Poitier) opening her exhibition of scrap metal kinetic art under a motorway flyover while wearing a metallic Paco Rabanne dress and great metal earrings that turn her into a hanging mobile.

Spectacular aerial stunts that actually make you gasp/wince.

A plot that's always going somewhere new, and we don't quite know where. The music of Francois de Roubaix, which promises sunshine and easy-going adventure, which, like the upbeat title (adventure!), is not the whole story.

The merest smudge of romance.

Les Aventuriers

Sometimes, in winter, you just need something summery to unroll before your eyes. Suggestions for future screenings are welcome.

Oh yes, the director! Robert Enrico made a celebrated film of Ambrose Bierce's An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, entitled La rivière du hibou, part of a trilogy of Bierce adaptations. From what I've now seen of his work, he has perhaps a tendency to overlength, getting the most out of every scene rather than ever allowing anything to be underplayed or slipped past the viewer. But he's controlled without seeming overdetermined, he has a fine eye for scenery, men, women and action, and an ear for unusual sounds: frogs belching inspires anxiety in his ghost story, La redevance du fantôme (1965), and lapping waves spell tragedy here—both sounds filtered through some kind of crude electronic enhancement, like Sergio Leone gunshots.

Les Aventuriers

Two guys and a girl try to make a fortune via aerial stunts, an experimental engine, kinetic art, a gambling system, and an expedition to retrieve sunken treasure off the Congo coast. And I can't promise you'll like it. But do you like adventure?

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The Forgotten is a regular Thursday column by David Cairns, author of Shadowplay.

Don’t forgot the great “Le Scoumoune” with Belmondo and a beatiful soundtrack from François de Roubaix
I was just watching Delon in Blier’s Notre Histoire, which reminded me again of his willingness not only to play vile characters but also to appear exhausted and wan onscreen: not only does he look like’s he been dragged out of bed backwards, he’s jowly and sullen most of the running time. Blier alone is of course responsible a major portion of the two-guys-and-a-girl genre, even if the girl is usually the least of his interests.
Roubaix does a magnificent job on Les Aventuriers’ soundtrack also. Blier doesn’t do likable, does he? Or he occasionally does, but he feels the need to subvert it with nastiness, just as he subverts the reality of his stories with alienation effects. He’s described his goal as Godardian: “to expose the mechanism of cinema while maintaining the emotion of cinema” — but something about him is very un-Godardian indeed. His latest, The Clink of Ice Cubes, is a meditation of death with some very good stuff in it. I like the first half of Notre Histoire, but find it goes dismayingly off the boil. Apparently it was, however, responsible for a major resurgence in Delon’s career.
“It’s remarkable how many truly horrible character Alain Delon has played. Impressive that he’d do that—either he’s unusually interested in villainy, or directors just see him that way, or he genuinely doesn’t realize what a gallery of shits he’s created.” Delon is th beating heart of French cinematic darkness. He is the embodiment of Evil, scarcely aware of itself. His key moments are always at the end of films: Plein Soleil, Monsiuer Klein,/i> and above all The Assassination of Trotsky
You must remember that Delon was the embodiment of Evil in real life. Check the end of the sixties and beggining of the seventies. Delon was an ex-para, and ono of his bodyguard died in very strange circunstances
Yes, plus his attitude to his child seems pretty cold-blooded. This was at the root of my suspicion that he may not even have been aware he was playing unsympathetic roles…
No, Blier does not do likable. I hadn’t watched anything by him for several years and just watched four of his 1980s films in quick succession; it leaves a rather sour taste. His tendency to throw up straw men that leave the female characters looking especially bad eventually wears you down somewhat. I had the same reaction to Notre Histoire; after the halfway mark, I was mostly diverted by the early-career appearances from actors like Vincent Lindon and Jean-Pierre Darroussin, and by the way Blier works with space. His sets are extraordinarily precise: I feel as though I could draw maps of the apartments/houses in Notre Histoire, La Femme de mon pote_, Beau-père. His movement through those spaces reminded me of Hitchock in Dial M For Murder, for some reason. All this is very far from Les Aventuriers, which I must see; Ventura is one of my favourite performers. I love his subsequent faceoffs with Jacques Brel and Michel Serrault, in particular.
I like his seemingly improvised, meandering plots, which so often seem to lead to groups of men marching through the night on lunatic quests, and I do find him hilarious at times, so I have a lot of affection for Blier…but he seems to take pains to destroy it at every opportunity. He is, as you say, a lucid and attractive mapper of space, and his vigorous approach to time, not-quite-jump-cutting the temporal flow into propulsive nuggets, is absolutely exemplary. He’s one of the best narrative cutters there is. I plan on catching all the Enrico I can this year — I liked Les Aventuriers that much. For more on him, see here: http://dcairns.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/ribbeting/
I should have added that notwithstanding the sometimes queasy sexual politics, I have a great deal of time for Blier, too (after all, I keep watching his films!). In addition to the humour, he has a wonderful ability to craft the memorable image/moment, even in films I don’t think are fully successful (Anouk Grinberg set to a Barry White soundtrack in Mon homme, among other choices).
For me (read this with french accent, please, even I am argentine) this is a milestone film; I was betwen 12 or 13, don´t remember exactly when, I saw this film -it was probably 1970 or 71, don´t remember- and all my life changed : I wanted to be an adventurer, I wanted to have risk, to move, to be on the road. I saw the film at least 40 times since then, still moves me, still touches me. I had plenty adventures, I risked my life in stupid ways but I have many storys to tell, I don´t regret nothing -well some things a bit- was great time. I lived in France, I learned French, I have french friends -mes potes, mes frangins- that I still keep; that much I like this film, now, at down of my life (58 is down even if you don´t feel like) I see it again once in a while -like a good book that you read once in again (Vol de nuit)- and a soft, beautifull melancolic feeling invades me. that is for me "les aventuriers".

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