Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Zazie dans le Métro

"Zazie dans le Métro" is the film version of Raymond Queneau's novel of the same name. Apparently Queneau used a lot of neologisms in his book, which is a bigger deal in French, where they have the language police (L'Académie française), than it is in English. When director Louis Malle set about making the book into a movie in 1960, he decided that the filmic equivalents of this literary playfulness were the gags of the great comedies of the Silent Era.

The best things about the film are the performances of the actors (particularly Catherine Demongeot as the wonderfully foulmouthed Zazie and Annie Fratellini as the lovestruck waitress Mado), the art direction and the Paris locations. I was with the film until the last part where it degenerated into an endless chase sequence, which was true to its silent film influences, but finally became tedious.

I was reminded of Richard Lester's two Beatles films, "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help" which were made a few years later. Actually all of "A Hard Day's Night" is a chase sequence as the Fab Four ceaselessly flee from mobs of screaming female fans. The difference between "Zazie" and Lester's films is that if the chase sequences go on too long in the latter, we have still have the Beatles and their amazing music. The score of "Zazie" sounds like Spaghetti Western music unsuccessfully repurposed for a comedy.

I don't want to end on a down note. I enjoyed a good bit of "Zazie" and can give it a qualified recommendation. It's out on a new Criterion DVD.

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