Indiscreet (Donen, 1958) and Peppermint Soda (Kurys, 1977)

Indiscreet lives up to the Cary Grant-Ingrid Bergman-Stanley Donen-collaboration expectations. While I prefer it as the swooning romance that it is in the first half, it remains truly great even when it changes to something like a screwball romantic comedy.

From the opening credits that announce its beautiful palette-

-to the great supporting cast (David Kossof’s Carl: “How was I?”), this film is just so enjoyable front to back. There’s a mention of climate change (in 1958!), and it’s full of great dialogue: “How dare he make love to me and not be a married man!”

The set design is so gorgeous, as is the cinematography (by Donald M. Ashton and Freddie Young, respectively). Anna’s (Bergman) apartment turns from vivacious to lonesome in the flick of a switch:

There’s also a pretty daring split screen in here. Daring because it’s set up to show them in bed together. I wonder how the shooting of this was impacted by the Production Code. Or if the Code somehow led to this decision:

It’s fresh, and Donen clearly directed Grant and Bergman to act as though they are in bed together, despite the fact that they’re talking from different bedrooms.

And the two leads. This is chemistry. Indiscreet is immediately one of my favorite films with either of them. They just hold the frame so well and their scenes are full of glances and secret smiles. They’re perfect.

When Philip (Grant) comes to her apartment before their first date Donen blocks it rather well. They enter in a 2-shot and land at the liquor table. She makes him a drink:

He picks them up in a new wide. She perches on the couch, he keeps his distance before soon approaching. The camera pushes in:

They’re flirting and there are unsaid things in the air, so it doesn’t make sense for them to get comfortable right away. She goes to the fireplace, taking charge (it’s her apartment, after all). He follows and they land again, she open, he mostly closed:

I like how he’s alternating in this way: first landing we’re in a 50/50; second landing she’s closed and he’s open; third landing she’s open and he’s closed. Patterns can help blocking!

So based on that thought, you should be able to assume where we land next. That’s right – in another 50/50. The blocking is very battle-of-the-sexes here.

From there to coverage as their conversation takes a turn:

It’s that patterning in the blocking, and the well-built master that I mostly like. There’s a nervous energy in their little dance from couch to fireplace and back, but it takes that much time for them to both sit totally comfortably, just before all cards go on the table.

But without a doubt, the best sequence in the film is their walk home from dinner, through the elevator, and to the door. Ugh. This sequence is flawless. It’s one of those that you watch and can just feel it deep in your stomach, and it rises and crescendos expertly.

That score, and the opening dissolve (preceded by many others) as they walk silently. The perfectly played “Shall I see you to your elevator?” It’s all such a setup. I love Cary Grant’s eyes as he walks up the steps at 0:40. He’s scanning the place, but there’s something of “what’s my next move” in it.

At 0:47 they enter the elevator. That profile is the kicker. The first one, I mean. Where they make the silent decision. The wordless ride up, staring at each other, slight changes, the shadow of the gates moving, the elevator operator not even there…So simply and beautifully designed.

And then it continues! I love the camera following them out at 1:30. It’s fluid and romantic movement, saying as much as what their body language says. Her smile at 1:41!

The next cut, to the medium 2-shot at the door is so emotive and evocative. The camera pushing in at 1:50 for three more pitch-perfect lines, and then pulling away at 2:00. It’s a sly retreat, maybe a shy retreat. It’s also very Code-era.

God I love this part of the movie.

Peppermint Soda

This is part of an unofficial Peppermint-trilogy. Peppermint Frappé-Peppermint Soda-Peppermint Candy. All great.

This is the second Diane Kurys film I’ve seen after the fabulous Entre Nous. Comparisons to The 400 Blows are obvious and apt, down to the final freeze frame on a beach.

I like how easily Kurys moves through time and place in here. It’s a nostalgic film and its short scenes, beats that will come back (Perrine’s father), and others that are lost in time (Anne’s (Eléonore Klarwein) suitor at the dance) are handled so delicately.

Klarwein and Odile Michel are expertly cast as sisters. Casting is (close to) everything, and it’s not only their look, but their difference in age, and how well they play off of one-another. I love a meeting between them in a cafe where Frédérique flexes her superiority; when Anne feels no shame – or even second thought – about changing in a clothing shop while a lascivious owner looks on and Frédérique sees right through; and one of many united moments where they plan a surprise birthday celebration for their exhausted mother – the girls’ giddy reactions to her shock are priceless.

This is coming-of-age and boundary testing. Kurys and cinematographer Philippe Rousselot – whose done some pretty big films – shoot a lot of POV. I’ll associate this film with looking down on a courtyard from a window.

It’s also full of memorable, distinct characters. Each teacher in the school is a specific type, whether it be the math teacher who can’t keep control, the inflexible (literally) and stylish gym teacher, or the abusive art teacher. They’re – again – so well cast. They’re archetypal enough to be cross-culturally familiar, but they also have enough individual moments where we get to know them as more than just that (the gym teacher chasing off a few pervy lechers, the math teacher’s solo despair).

Like Entre Nous, this film is under the shadow of a parental relationship, and Kurys’ script (with Alain le Henry) is wise to bookend it that way.

About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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