Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Judex (Georges Franju, 1963)


The final note of Georges Franju’s Judex, following an elegantly romantic happy ending on a beach, is a reminder of the “unhappy time” of 1914 that gave rise to Louis Feuillade’s original silent film serial, reminding us of the severe global turmoil and threat that originally underlay such inventions, and that if we should feel inclined to dismiss them as pure genre fancifulness, they’re rooted in humankind’s darkest capacities. The point could perhaps be missed, because although Franju’s version has no shortage of venality – such as a rich man coldly running over his car over an old peasant who’s antagonized him – it doesn’t consistently evoke the pervasively disquieting societal threat that marks the original (and the most comparable works of Fritz Lang), being set instead in a rather charmingly disembodied world defined entirely by the narrative’s demands. At times Franju emphasizes pure whimsicality, perhaps best summed up by the scene in which a detective is standing in the street, at a loss over how to reach the upper floor of a building to carry out an urgent intervention, and a circus troop happens to wander by, including a star female acrobat who’s an old friend of his (problem solved!). Likewise, for a master operator, the titular Judex is quite charmingly fallible at times, letting his grand antagonist escape from custody and easily getting overpowered and knocked out at one key point (again, a good thing that acrobat came along). Other parts of the film – the eagle-headed magician that captivates the crowd at a grand ball; skin-tight costumed figures climbing walls or clambering across rooftops – are pure cinematic iconography, only notionally rooted in the surrounding narrative, and perhaps all the more striking for that. It all adds to a quite singular creation, nostalgia and retrospection inherent in its conception, without in any way diluting its vivid sense of presence.

No comments:

Post a Comment