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Truffaut's Mississippi Mermaid

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Worst we've ever seen from Truffaut. How it manages to garner a 7.0 rating at IMDb--well, maybe I can imagine if there's enough moviegoers in rose-tinted glasses, who just somehow feel obligated to think such a highly touted 'auteur' can do no wrong.

I see the script was adapted from a novel by a writer with huge, like 'noir' pulp fiction cred, Cornell Woolrich, one of whose stories was brought to the screen as *Rear Window*. As for this one, maybe the novel is more credible, plot and character-wise, but all the way through, we just kept giving our screen the 'stink-eye' and saying to each other, "People don't act like that!" Or, "Nobody could be that stupid." Or, "Who the heck talks like that?" Some of the romantic dialogue could not have been more cloyingly trite.

I came away thinking I'd better see "Jules and Jim" again just to be sure it is all that I saw it to be, that I wasn't just being sort of 'cinematically correct' to think I loved it so much. I think I did though. Both times, even.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
This film gets blasted quite often actually, but it's a pretty good flick all the same. I realize I'm not rebutting your post, but there's nothing to rebut. You don't refer to one single scene in the entire movie. Perhaps you don't realize that Truffaut just wants to entertain. If anything, I'd probably agree with you more if your vague comments referred to Jules and Jim. I give Mississippi Mermaid
: no great shakes, but certainly worth a watch.
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This film gets blasted quite often actually, but it's a pretty good flick all the same. I realize I'm not rebutting your post, but there's nothing to rebut. You don't refer to one single scene in the entire movie. Perhaps you don't realize that Truffaut just wants to entertain. If anything, I'd probably agree with you more if your vague comments referred to Jules and Jim. I give Mississippi Mermaid
: no great shakes, but certainly worth a watch.
Good you were able to enjoy it, Mark. If I think of something specific, scene-wise, or as per a plot point that seemed off, I'll post it. Meanwhile, I'll mention this: the framing of the scenes, the camera work all seemed very rigid and static--entirely unlike a film from BBC we saw tonight, possibly the best war/anti-war film I've ever seen, and that includes Kubrick's *Paths of Glory*, Oliver Stone's *Platoon* and of course Coppola's *Apocalypse Now*. It's "My Boy Jack" from 2007, inspired by the Rudyard Kipling poem about a son who fought in the trenches during WWI.

All you have to see is the beginning title sequence of the film to witness a highly inventive use of the camera, such that the cinematography becomes a kind of narrative commentary on the action--and totally NOT in an obtrusive or distracting way, as often does happen. The scenes shot in the trenches, by means of steadicam, I don't doubt, put you right in there with them--and it is harrowing--edge of your seat suspense that is up there with the best.

But, to be fair, steadicam's only been an option since the mid-70s so Truffaut didn't have it in '69 for this film. Still, there was a lot of impressive hand-held work being done then, a technique which is also easily open to slovenliness if not approached with finesse and restraint. Antonioni (like Scorsese) was able to do a lot with flash editing to lend motion and momentum and emotion to the action on screen, as in Blow UP and Zabriskie Point.

When you say, "Truffaut just wants to entertain" I can't disagree, not at all but then wouldn't you say the "auteur" label, at least for the latter part of his career is a bit misapplied? What's to set him apart from most Hollywood directors then, other than what comes off in this film as amateurism? Really, that's the word that strikes me for this flick more than any other. Sorry, but that's my take on it. Got to keep it honest. ;-) Ask me about Godard's *Breathless* (or most of his other work) and I'd have the same thing to say.



Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
We seem to be the only ones discussing this so far, but we're going about it the proper way. Before I go on though, you need to clarify what "we" means when you discuss movies. Is it you and a significant other, a group of film buffs or the royal We? I don't really care, but it would probably help me to understand where you're coming from.

The thing I want to mention here is that I'm not even sure if any of the French critics who wrote for Cahiers who coined the phrase "auteur" ever claimed to be one. Did they actually have the audacity to compare themselves to Hitchcock and Hawks so early in their directorial careers? I think the auteur theory is a good thing in principle but many people disagree what constitutes an auteur. After all, Hawks was probably the exact opposite stylistically of Hitch yet I believe those were the '50s French critics' two most lionized directors.



Hey Mark --

Since the word 'auteur', for the French 'new wave' means "author", one sees how that could never have been applied to a Hollywood director working in the studio era, where "collaborative art" was always the descriptor of choice for that movie-making culture--even for Hitchcock who never worked without a screenwriter and cinematographer. Billy Wilder, for the most part also.

But just look at the list of credits at IMDb for Fellini, and what do you see for film after film but "story/screenplay/director". It would be no misnomer to say that the title, "auteur" is rightly applied in this case, for an author/auteur who pretty much after La Strada and the Nights of Cabiria was mostly flying (or shooting) by the seat of his pants without a screenplay, or at best a script that was being written a night before the next day's shoot.

That's what *8 1/2* is all about; what happens when an artist takes *that much* upon himself, while it becomes quite clear by the end, that this *was* the end of Fellini's career as a successful 'auteur'. Juliet of the Spirits and all that came after have never done for me what La Dolce Vita did, not even 8 1/2, which I still love to watch now and then. By the time Truffaut was into "Fahrenheit 451" he must have been breathing a sigh of relief to be back at work with a dependable script and out of that malaise of directorial hubris as well. And he put out a very impressive piece of work with that, and I'll say the same of The Story of Adele H.

I'm not putting the "New Wave" down! It was a lot of exciting fun while it lasted, totally suited to the culture of the Sixties as it was though, when it was gone, so was that, even so much as Bertolucci tried to keep it afloat with such abysmal fare as Last Tango and . . . well, shall I say also, "The Dreamers"? Maybe not. If somebody wanted to seriously trash that, I guess I might be the first to object.

So! Got any recommendations, Mark? I need a flick fix. Got to have it. My NetFlix queue is down to seeds and stems. Gotta have something with some real kick to it; something off-beat, aesthetically speaking, of course. ;-)

Have you seen . . .

The Secret Lives of Dentists?

He was a Quiet Man?

Bad Day to go Fishing?