Zazie in the Metro (1960)

OK, so I suppose one out of three isn’t too bad… is it? Zazie finally did it for me, although in saying that there are still a lot of moments where its charm wears somewhat thin (though admittedly never quite wears out completely) and there’s just so much fucking stuff going on it’s actually kind of exhausting… and I’m sure I missed a fair bit at that of what was going on by virtue of not being very good at French. Film’s adapted from the novel by Raymond Queneau, founder of the Oulipo group that also gave us Georges Perec; from what I can gather there’s an awful lot of wordplay in the book, and I suspect only a little of that comes through in the subtitles. However, Malle was clearly determined to find some sort of visual equivalent of the verbal experimentation, so the film is full of all manner of jump cuts, continuity violations (a particularly beautiful combination of the two coming when one character changes skin colour from one shot to another), sudden alterations of speed (both image and sound), lots and lots of hand-held camerawork, and in one sequence at least a few lessons seem to have been taken from Warner Brothers cartoons. About the only thing it doesn’t do is switch between colour and b/w. The story, such as it is: 12 year old Zazie gets left with her uncle in Paris while Mum’s visiting some new lover or other. All she really wants to do is ride the Metro, but it’s on strike. Chaos ensues (just for a change from complications). Catherine Demongeot is oddly sweet as Zazie given how fantastically obnoxious she is, and the film undeniably demonstrates the truth of what I’ve read about Malle elsewhere, i.e. that he seemed determined to vary his output as much as possible. As for me, one box set later, I’m still not much closer to an opinion of Malle. Mark this one for further study…

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