Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Fiancés of the Pont Mac Donald, or: (Beware of Dark Glasses)

The New Wave at Its Beautiful Infancy — But Not So Beautiful Yet as It Would Be

A deceptively simple 5-minute short built around one primary comic gag, — and yet — Varda makes this all, Les fiancés du Pont Mac Donald, ou (Méfiez-vous des lunettes noires) [The Fiancés of the Pont Mac Donald, or: (Beware of Dark Glasses), 1961], seem effortless, — "But of course," one might say, "it's five minutes," at that moment thereby annulling their opinion. As Varda explains in her short intro video made in the early 2000s, she was sick of Jean-Luc Godard, her friend, hiding what she deemed such beautiful eyes constantly behind the dark sunglasses-schtick. She proposed she would chance to make a 'light' movie to be based around his weirdo predilection, and that this would be a short-film to be inserted in its entirety within her feature-in-progress Cléo de 5 à 7 to some rather splendid effect when she felt the amusement could be used in the pacing. 

Here I focus on the short stand-alone, Les fiancés du Pont Mac Donald, which was subsumed by her Cléo only months from the time of finishing. It's superb. 

This film came about in the same year as Godard's third feature film Une femme est une femme [A Woman Is a Woman], but not precisely exactly in the same Paris-universe para-universe. In fact the Pont Mac Donald (i.e., the MacDonald Bridge; I'm never sure whether to write it as the "pont" or the "Pont"; if this is a problem for me can I still eventually move to France?) was demolished some years after the shooting. The Pont du Mac Donald was no architectural spectacle by Paris standards, but on film it heaved proportion, some silent rigging of a Rivettean flair that was yet to come to be.

Of Une femme est une femme — a multiplication of the gag film par excellence..... What to say here, re: this precious five minutes of celluloid except that: in its course, JLG throws his arms up in exasperation skyward like Harold Lloyd pleading for a touchdown; that: Godardian brilliance reveals its asymptote like they taught us in high-school, that it can only be attained by he-himself, while Varda films the short that allows him to act; that one must beware not just in Hitchcock for those dark glasses (Strangers on a Train, Psycho, etc.); that to read an analysis of "the gag" if one is so inclined, one has to buy this probably out of print Buster Keaton Blu-ray box I produced during my time at Eureka!'s The Masters of Cinema Series that's 180-pages with a dialogue between Dan Sallitt, Jean-Pierre Coursodon, and Brad Stevens; that here Sami Frey is black like death, and there's a relevant dream in The Chase by Arthur Ripley; that one also thinks of Cocteau's Orphée; that the music of the dark glasses is a vamp by Michel Legrand; that the music that comes before Legrand is visual, comes before the action, was named Frankenstein and James Whale. •


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