Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Zazie dans le Metro


Saw this great film last night during TCM's Louis Malle birthday celebration (Monsieur Malle, who left us in 1995, would have been 75!). The zany pace, diverse film techniques, irreverent slapstick humor (right out out the silent film genre) and surreal narrative structure is very 60s and the cinematography is brilliant, as brightly colored as any acid trip I can no longer remember. It made me think of The Beatles Help! or The Monkees' Head crossed with Willie Wonka. And, for being based on a children's book (by Raymond Queneau), it has some rather mature, or should I say "French" attitudes to certain subject matters. Like Zazie asking her uncle if he's a "homosessual" or playing the romantic endeavors of a lech (the wonderful Vittoria Caprioli) for comic effect (Caprioli is charming but he is initially chasing after an 8-year-old jeune fille, after all!). But my favorite moment is when one French woman confides to another that she's getting married, only to be asked, "Why, are you pregnant?". That is just sooooo French. As if, why would you bother if you didn't have to get hitched? Tres continental and very chic, that's Zazie in a nutshell.

Following is a review from World Film's About.com:

ZAZIE DANS LE METRO
Directed by Louis Malle
Screenplay: Raymond Queneau and Louis Malle
Starring Philippe Noiret, Catherine Demongeot, Vittorio Caprioli, Carla Marlier.
France, 1960.

Louis Malle's fourth film is an absurdist wonder to behold. If you enjoy madcap urban screwball comedy, anything between, say, After Hours and Run Lola Run, you owe it to yourself to check out Zazie.

The story goes something like this: little Zazie, an 8-year-old foul-mouthed brat is dropped off with her uncle in Paris while her mom sees her lover. For 24 hours, she terrorizes her Uncle (Philippe Noiret), who is a transvestite dancer, a love-lorn flic, a man who may or may not be a child molester, and a polar bear. Complications include a metro strike, an attack by hordes of sex-crazed Skandinavian girls on top of the Eiffel Tower, and some sort of Marxist revolution.

This gut-bustingly funny madcap adventure is based on a novel by freak novelist Raymond Queneau, and to match Queneau's whacky linguistic tricks, Malle didn't hold back on cinematic gimmicks. Zazie is full of camera trickery and sight gags, allusions to everything from Marx Brothers movies and cartoons to The Third Man and Citizen Kane. I'm sure I missed half of it because I was too busy reading the subtitles and cracking up over Zazie's absolutely monstrous insults.

The little girl, played by Catherine Demongeot, is a riot. She's crass, crude, but somehow always cute. You won't find a comparable child anywhere in American movies short of Harmony Korine. Shirley Temple would rather have died before even hinting at some of the stuff Zazie spits out with matter-of-fact deadpan.

No doubt about it: this is one of the silliest movies every made, and I don't mean silly-bad like Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man or silly-dumb like Leslie Nielsen. I'm talking about hold-your-head-in-disbelief-silly, whacked-out-silly, liberating-silly. After you're done laughing, Zazie makes you see the absurd and often despicable world of adults with the eyes of a child again -- a thieving shameless child, but maybe that's the best you can ask for. The movie dances along with infectious lightness. I dare you to watch this and not be splendidly entertained. And if it bends your cerebral cortex out of shape just a bit, I'm sure Malle wouldn't mind.

Related links:
IMDB entry
Zazie Trailer

1 Comments:

Blogger Marc said...

Tom,
Hate to burst your bubble, but Zazie was not a children's book. I tried to read it years ago and it was definitely not a book for children.

Marc

7:30 PM  

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