Jeanne Moreau

The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964)

The Yellow Rolls Royce 1964

The Yellow Rolls-Royce follows the journey of a single yellow Rolls-Royce as it changes ownership three times and the role it plays in all their lives. The Rolls-Royce is originally purchased by Charles (Rex Harrison), the Marquess of Frinton as an anniversary gift for his wife Eloise (Jeanne Moreau). It’s their tenth anniversary, so he wants to get her something truly special. Unbeknownst to him, Eloise has been having an affair with another man. Charles is enthusiastic about horse racing and dreams of winning a big title, but when the day of the big race comes and his horse comes in first, Charles’ day is tainted by catching Eloise together with her lover in the brand new Rolls-Royce. He isn’t about to divorce her; it wouldn’t look good. However, he does sell her new car.

Next, the Rolls-Royce is bought by gangster Paolo Maltese (George C. Scott) as a gift for his girlfriend Mae (Shirley MacLaine), who are on vacation in Italy. Not long after they buy the car, Paolo has to leave to tend to some “business,” so he has his associate Joey (Art Carney) to take her out and keep an eye on her. Mae is bored of Italy, but her trip gets a little more interesting when she meets photographer Stefano (Alain Delon) and falls in love with him. Joey allows their affair to carry on, but when the news of Paolo’s “business trip” (a brutal murder) makes headlines, he feels the need to remind her of who she’d be dealing with if she left. Although she loves Stefano dearly, she reluctantly decides to leave with Paolo.

The third owner of the Rolls-Royce is Gerda Millett (Ingrid Bergman), a wealthy American woman taking a trip in Europe, who decides to buy the car on a whim. She meets Davich (Omar Sharif), who is looking to get back into Yugoslavia, to avoid a Nazi attack. She reluctantly agrees and isn’t happy about being involved, until she realizes just how serious the situation is. After getting a taste of what the Nazis are capable of, Gerda becomes active in smuggling people to safety. She works very closely with Davich and the two begin to fall in love, but they realize they can do more good for the cause by working apart than they can together.

The Yellow Rolls-Royce has a similar concept to The Earrings of Madame De…, a story about how an object finds its way to different owners. While I really liked The Earrings of Madame De…The Yellow Rolls-Royce didn’t do anything for me. The only story I found interesting was the one with Ingrid Bergman and Omar Sharif, but since that was the last chapter, that wasn’t enough to redeem the movie for me. The first two stories didn’t hold my interest at all. The movie is full of great stars, but none of them are at their best. It’s one of those movies that made it hard for me to muster up any reaction stronger than, “meh.”

La Notte (1961)

La Notte

When writer Giovanni Pontano (Marcello Matroianni) and his wife Lidia (Jeanne Moreau) go to the hospital to visit their terminally ill friend Tommaso Garani (Bernhard Wicki), the experience effects them each in different ways. While Giovanni is largely unbothered by seeing his friend in such a state, he’s more bothered by the strange woman he encounters in the hallway who tries to seduce him. As for Lidia, seeing her friend in so much pain is too much for her to stand. As they drive home, Giovanni is unconcerned with how upset his wife is and she’s unconcerned about the incident with the woman in the hallway.

Later while Giovanni is at a party for his new book, Lidia goes off by herself to visit the neighborhood they lived in as newlyweds. Giovanni and Lidia have been married for ten years any love they once had has long since gone. As they continue their night by going to a nightclub and a party, the emptiness of their marriage becomes more and more apparent. During the party, Giovanni spends his time pursing Valentina (Monica Vitti). Lidia takes a moment to call the hospital to check on Tommaso, only to find out he had just died ten minutes earlier. Now even more despondent, she starts spending time with Roberto (Giorgio Negro). Neither of their pursuits works out and when Giovanni and Lidia leave the party together the next morning, they are left to face just how empty their marriage is. When Lidia reads aloud an old love letter Giovanni had written to her, he doesn’t even realize that he had written it.

La Notte is a prime example of 1960s Italian filmmaking. But that being said, it’s a style of film that simply not everyone will enjoy. I liked La Notte, which is a pleasant surprise since Antonioni has generally been kind of hit-or-miss with me. The overall moodiness and sense of emptiness really grabbed me. It’s hard for movies to convey a sense of emptiness without actually feeling empty. So many movies have tried to do that and failed miserably, but that’s exactly what La Notte does perfectly. I almost wish I hadn’t chosen this movie to write about during one of my post-a-day events because I can’t really give it the proper analysis it deserves.

Elevator to the Gallows (1958)

Julien Tavernier (Maurice Ronet) and Florence Carala (Jeanne Moreau) are in the middle of a sordid affair.  The only thing standing in the way of them being together is Simon Carala, Florence’s husband and Julien’s boss.  As is the case in so many movies, they hatch a scheme to kill the husband and run off together.  And as is always the case, they think they’ve covered themselves in every way.  Julien goes into Simon’s office unnoticed, shoots him, makes it look like a suicide, escapes out the window using a rope, and goes straight to his car.  But once he gets to his car, he realizes he left behind one vital clue — the rope.  So he goes back to get it, but he leaves his car keys in the ignition.

What Julien doesn’t realize is that as he was getting ready to leave, flower shop sales girl Veronique (Yori Bertin) and her delinquent boyfriend Louis (Georges Poujouly) were admiring his car from a distance.  When he left, Louis couldn’t resist taking a closer look.  Then he couldn’t resist jumping in and taking a little ride with Veronique.  But nobody realizes the car has been stolen because the elevator Julien is in breaks down and he gets stuck.  As Louis and Veronique leave town, they pass the cafe where Julien was supposed to pick Florence up.  When Florence sees Julien’s car drive by with another woman in the passenger seat, she assumes that he’s leaving town with another woman and is devastated and spends the night wandering the streets of the city.

Louis and Veronique drive off to a motel where they check in as Mr. and Mrs. Julien Tavernier and spend the evening relaxing with a couple visiting from Germany.  The German couple also arrived in a pretty swanky car and after they go to bed, Louis decides to try to steal their car too.  When Louis’ attempts get the owner out of bed, Louis pulls out Julien’s gun, which had been left in his car, and shoots him and his wife.  They hurry back to Veronique’s apartment where they try to overdose on sleeping pills.  Meanwhile, when the police find Julien’s car and gun at the scene of the crime, of course the police start searching for him and Julien manages to escape from the elevator just in time for his picture to hit the morning papers.  He is quickly arrested and because the police don’t buy his elevator story, is charged with killing the German couple.  However, Florence does buy his story and sets out to put the record straight.  The police also found her husband’s body but suspected nothing, so if she could clear him of killing the Germans, he’d be free to be with her again.  Veronique and Louis survive their suicide attempt and Florence confronts them.  But after Florence leaves, they realize they left behind one clue at the motel that would undeniably tie them to the murders and Louis races back to the motel to retrieve it before it’s too late.

I loved every minute of Elevator to the Gallows.  Beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and truly taut and suspenseful.  Very classic example of late 1950s French filmmaking.  And with a runtime of 88 minutes, I’m sure even people who don’t usually have the patience for foreign movies could handle this.  Do not let an aversion to subtitles turn you away from this one because you will be missing out big time.  Hands down, one of the best crime films I’ve ever seen.

What’s on TCM: March 2011

Ah, March.  March always feels like a bit of a slow month just because it’s hard to keep up the kind of momentum that 31 Days of Oscar has.  But it’s always been a little bit of a welcome lull to me since 31 Days of Oscar can be such a marathon.  But there are still definitely some big highlights to look forward to this month.  Namely, I’m most looking forward to Jean Harlow as Star of the Month.  If you’ve been wanting to see more of her movies, now is the perfect time because TCM will be playing nearly all of her most important movies.  Also worth noting is that instead of having just one guest programmer this month, there will be many.  On Mondays and Thursdays this month, prime time will consist of movies chosen by TCM employees and they have made a lot of very excellent choices.  Now, with no further ado, let’s get onto my highlights for the month!