Cinema Scope

Second Thoughts & Double Takes

On “A Melody Composed by Chance…”—an excellent new audiovisual analysis of Jacques Demy’s Les demoiselles de Rochefort (1967) on the BFI’s Blu-ray of the film, written and narrated by Geoff Andrew and deftly edited by this disc’s producer Upekha Bandaranayake—I’m grateful to Andrew for correcting the gaffe in my booklet essay claiming that the film’s offscreen ax-murder victim is the Lola (Anouk Aimée) of Demy’s first feature, who subsequently turns up in Model Shop (1969); in fact, it’s the much older Lola Lola of The Blue Angel (1930), Josef von Sternberg’s first Marlene Dietrich feature. The other notable extras on this release include “feature-length” audio interviews with Demy (by Don Allen), Michel Legrand (by David Meeker), and Gene Kelly (by John Russell Taylor), Agnès Varda’s essential documentary Les demoiselles ont eu 25 ans (1993), and a fact-filled, critically acute audio commentary by Little White Lies’ David Jenkins—I especially like the way Jenkins cross-references this film with Varda’s underrated Le bonheur (1965), another film that posits dark ironies behind the Hollywoodish dreams it celebrates.

I find it astonishing, really jaw-dropping, that Midge Costin’s mainly enjoyable (2019), available on a UK DVD on the Dogwoof label, can seemingly base much of its film history around a ridiculous falsehood: the notion that stereophonic, multi-track cinema was invented in the ’70s by the Movie Brats—basically Walter Murch, in concert with his chums George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola—finally allowing the film industry to raise itself technically and aesthetically to the level already attained by The Beatles in music recording. I’m as much of a Murch fan as anyone, but (1940) and the multi-track speakers used in hundreds of other theatres across the US throughout much of the ’50s for films screening in CinemaScope, Cinerama, and Todd-AO. By pretending that none of this ever happened or existed, as Costin seems to do, we wind up in a far more impoverished version of the present than we have to be.

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