Milos Stehlik, Facets’ creative director and noted film expert, gives an overview of three films on Facets Edge, our new streaming and on-demand platform.
U.S. Go Home
Before Claire Denis was a household name for her film Beau Travail (1999), she made this fascinating film for French TV. This early work, called U.S. Go Home (1994), is now one of hundreds available on Facets Edge . Perhaps Denis is not known in as many households as Steven Spielberg although she’s been a more interesting filmmaker since 1994. U.S. Go Home features Beau Travail star Gregoire Colin as a newcomer, and the film was part of a TV film series about teenagers coming of age.
Alice Houri and Gregoire Colin play siblings who live with their mother in a Paris suburb. Houri plays Martine, a 14 year old with losing her virginity on her mind. Her best friend, the Russian-French Marlene, has the experience she seeks. A party, which Martine sees as an opportunity, is off-limits unless her brother can chaperone. The rock-saturated party infused with classics by The Animals, The Yardbirds, Otis Redding, Nico, Chuck Berry, and The Troggs is the centerpiece of the film.
I’ve given away too much plot as it is. But watch U.S. Go Home because this little film is filled with enormous nuance about the precociousness of youth. It’s about teenagers and crossing boundaries, social and class dynamics, and, for the brother, a political, anti-American context. There’s a U.S. military base near their home and Captain Brown is the American existential angel of the film. A young Vincent Gallo, of The Brown Bunny (2004) and Buffalo ’66 (1998) fame, appears toward the end as this enigmatic figure.
U.S. Go Home is beautifully shot by Agnes Godard the film features incredible camerawork, much of it in shadow and darkness. It was co-written by Godard’s muse and one time wife, Anne Wiazemsky. Her creative stamp and the camerawork emphasize physicality and peer beneath layers of psychology.
An ironic title if there was one, Good News (1979) is the last, almost never seen film by Elio Petri. Petri was perhaps the most politically-charged Italian filmmaker of the 70s and 80s. Petri gained fame for his films Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970), Working Class Goes to Heaven (1971), and the futuristic fantasy, starring Ursula Andress and Marcello Mastroianni, The Tenth Victim (1965). Good News is Petri’s final film before his death at the age of 53 from cancer.
This is a bitter, sometimes surreal, black comedy that takes a savage swipe at the emptiness of its media dominated age. Giancarlo Giannini of Lina Wertmüller films like Swept Away (1974), The Seduction of Mimi (1972), and Seven Beauties (1975), and of Luchino Visconti’s last film The Innocent (1976) stars as the nameless hero. He’s a cypher as a disaffected media executive who spends his days watching violent programming on six television screens in his office and his evenings neglecting his frustrated wife at home.
An encounter with an apparently delusional old friend who claims to be in mortal danger and his alluring, nymphomaniac wife, provides a temporary respite from the drab routine. Set against a notably blighted urban environment and featuring plenty of intentionally passionless and frustrated sex, this extravagant film offers a blistering caricature of contemporary alienation and media-induced vapidity.
I recall in the 1970s, when Facets did a special preview of The Innocent, the studio passed out and collected audience comment cards. One anonymous comment from an audience member on Giannini, “he can leave his shoes under my bed any time.” His performance in Good News I hope produces the same sentiment in audiences today.
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
This list has quickly turned into one preoccupied with films about sex and seduction. Why not one more?
Take the scandalous novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos Les Liaisons Dangereuses. For further context, Milan Kundera’s book, Slowness has a brilliant essay on the Laclos novel, Kundera is renowned as the author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but I digress. Les Liaisons Dangereuses has been the subject of numerous films including Stephen Frears’s Dangerous Liaisons (1989) with Glenn Close and John Malkovich, and Milos Forman’s Valmont (1989) with Colin Firth, Annette Benning, and Meg Tilly.
But it should come as no surprise that the first filmmaker to tackle the novel was none other than Roger Vadim in Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1959). Vadim was not a great filmmaker, but he was not an uninteresting one. As kitschy as his early films like And God Created Woman (1956) appear today, he developed themes and actors over his career.
Vadim was the filmmaker who claimed to have discovered and then either married or had long affairs with Brigitte Bardot, Jane Fonda, Catherine Deneuve, and finally, before his death, Marie-Christine Barrault. All women who starred in their own films surrounding often perverse sexual games from Pola X (1999) to Cousin Cousine (1975).
What makes Vadim’s version of this classic stand out are the performances by Jeanne Moreau as Madame de Meretuil and Gerard Philipe as Valmont. Additionally, Vadim made a bold choice to transpose the novel to 1959. To that end, he featured striking music by jazz legends Thelonious Monk and Art Blakey throughout, and explores sexual game playing among the upper social classes in a modern setting.
See these films, and the growing hundreds of other films we’ve selected for you, at our new streaming and VOD platform, Facets Edge .