Sleeping Car Murders (Costa-Gavras, 1965) and Dante 01 (Caro, 2008)

I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen The Sleeping Car Murders before. Maybe at the Dryden years ago. Regardless, it’s a really fun thriller that predates Costa-Gavras’ superior, political films. It has a bit of the Elevator to the Gallows feel in that it’s noirish, jazzy, and modern, but it’s more procedural and less existential than the Malle film.

There are some SPOILERS below.

Costa-Gavras really assembles a hell of a cast for his feature: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Simone Signoret, Michel Piccoli, Yves Montand… I wonder if this is because of his AD work with Jacques Demy, René Clément, and René Clair, among others.

The two things I remembered from the film are the last shot and an elevator sequence. Apologies for the low quality, but here’s that last shot. A police investigation ends with a long dolly away under a bridge alone the Seine (I think; I know nothing about French geography):

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 7.20.10 PM

But it’s the elevator sequence that’s more memorable. It feels like the gallios that the film is concurrent with.

Simone Signoret, great as Eliane Darrès, gets in an elevator to descend. Costa-Gavras’ cuts are rapid fire. We start in this medium establishing the approaching killer and Darrès’ position. He then cuts to a direct overhead that zooms dramatically down. It’s not quite a POV – it’s too overhead. Instead it’s sort of a combination of an accelerated elevator descent and Darrès’ doom reaching her:

Then to these three cuts, nearly on-axis, cutting to the barrel of the gun until it’s pointing at us:

Back to Darrès for her reaction:

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 7.21.16 PM

And then to these ECUs:

I love those eyes back and forth. They sort of make no sense. The killer is above her. Why is she looking left and right? It’s one of the longer shots (probably less than 2 seconds) in this montage and it seems, if anything, to again talk to us. It’s like a pink panther moment, mocking a stereotypical image of investigation films.

We cut tighter on her eye (this sequence is also, probably obviously because Bava was, too, indebted to Hitchcock). Then to two quick shots of the gun, this time cutting a little further away sequentially, rather than the reverse, above:

Back to a tight reaction, and then wider, on action, as she reacts and falls:

There’s so much coverage for one moment. It’s the only sequence in the film really like it. It feels like a young filmmaker (successfully) experimenting, and also like a moment for Signoret. But it’s also dramatic and a nice use of Psycho’s implied montage (an elevator instead of a shadow, a gun instead of a knife).

Dante 01

I know the Jeunet-Caro collaborations, but I had never seen Marc Caro’s solo sci-fi effort from 2008.

On its surface it looks a lot like those films…well, at least its color scheme looks a lot like Jeunet’s second solo feature, Amelie. It’s rather green and yellow, there are a lot of inflected animals, and the characters are peculiar.

The mood in the film is nice, and there’s some somewhat interesting philosophizing but the film ultimately feels like it was cut short or altered drastically in post (I wonder if it was). Things feel rushed; the voiceover doesn’t really help things; so much is reliant on Christ-figure symbolism.

For some reason all of the characters are bald:

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 7.25.13 PM

There are some interesting connections to be made. Like the nanotechnology that is shot into the spaceship-prisoner’s blood-

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 7.26.55 PM

-looks a lot like the actual spaceship which the entire crew is traveling on:

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 7.26.06 PM

It’s as though within is the same as without. That’s fun and all, but it doesn’t really advance beyond this visual similarity. There’s an overlong VFX-heavy ending that feels dated and eventually brings us here:

Screen Shot 2017-09-18 at 7.25.41 PM

Where we seem to now be at earth. I wonder if there are theories about this ending. I’m sure there are. I didn’t really feel the urge to investigate. Something transcendent happened and we’re transported to a more human, survivable environment. It’s not that it doesn’t track, it’s that it feels a little exhausting to track it.

 

 

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About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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