Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Bride Wore Black

"The Bride Wore Black" aka "La Mariée Était en Noir" (Francois Truffaut, 1968) Like most film-scholars turned directors, Francois Truffaut spent a fair amount of his early years paying tribute to films he loved in the film he was the author of. This film, and to a certain extent, "Farenheit 451," were part of his chilly "Son of Hitchcock" period, using strategies, if not direct shots, from the Master of Suspense in his own films. But where Hitchcock's films had an eerieness derived from the rigid structure of his films, Truffaut's seemed sterile, artificial, aping Hitchcock's structure, but without the lengths to which Hitchcock would try to simulate life. For example, in "The Bride Wore Black," there's a sequence where Jeanne Moreau is walking around a bachelor's apartment that she describes as cluttered, but it is personified by a single tie hanging over a rod. Pretty specific clutter! Compare that to The Master's meticulous recreation of real locations on-set. Hitchcock did not start out directing; he began as an art director in films and worked his way up.

Truffaut began as a critic.

It's for that reason that his plot structure for "
The Bride Wore Black" has the deliberate pace of a funeral dirge. One by one, "The Bride" seeks out disparate men who seem to have nothing in common and devises intricate ways to win their trust and take their lives, each crime pre-meditated and carried out with a cold efficiency--Moreau barely registers any emotion at all. But, why? What's the reason? Why these men? Truffaut takes his time revealing everything, but by that time the audience may be getting impatient with so many murders and no punishment. Truffaut even has an answer for that in his movie machinations.

One can see Truffaut still experimenting with his medium with varying results. For example, the frightening of a chamber-maid by "The Bride" would play a bit better if Truffaut hadn't insisted on a flash-cut of only a couple of frames. Moreau barely registers before the angle has changed immediately, and the maid has spun around (impossibly fast, given the split-second amount of time that bridging shot took). And after utilizing Hitchcock's best composer,
Bernard Herrmann, for the earlier "Farenheit 451," here Herrmann's score is a bit too lush for the visuals that Truffaut has shot. It's heart is on its sleeve, whereas the rest of the movie doesn't seem to have any heart at all. Perhaps Herrmann was over-compensating for the movie he saw, and went over the top to express the emotions that Truffaut keeps submerged.

Finally, one can't watch the movie and help but think this is where Quentin Tarantino got his inspiration for "Kill Bill," only tarted it up with his obsessions--prolonged violent sequences, cribbed movie styles, and the expected but ultimately pointless comic-book discussion. Somehow, "The Bride Wore a Yellow Track Suit" just doesn't cut it.*

*no pun intended.

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