Judex (1963)

As with pretty much everything I’ve watched so far (and will be watching for the rest of January), I haven’t seen this in many years. From memory I think I saw it in early 1992 and probably haven’t seen it since then (thinking on it, it’s probably remarkable how many of the films in my old tape library never got watched more than once; I’d record it off TV and keep it for future reference that usually wound up not being needed). I recall kind of liking it at the time, hence why I was a bit surprised to find myself less enthused by it this time around. Obviously a reworking (and obviously a highly compressed one) of Feuillade’s 1916 serial, in conjunction with Feuillade’s grandson Jacques Champreux; the latter says in the interview featurette that, though the stuff depicted in the film is literally incredible, they got some good actors on board, and it must be said the actors do much to sell the film. Though it was a self-conscious exercise in retro, Franju evidently wanted to avoid mere camp; the nearest he gets here to real knowing irony is a scene where the detective Cocantin reads a Fantomas novel. But, when you know the backstory of the production, that novel also serves as Franju’s announcement that he would’ve much preferred to remake Fantomas than Judex, and perhaps his comparative lack of enthusiasm for this story made it into the film; it teeters on that fine line between being enigmatic (the somewhat reserved, almost magical character of Judex in this version) and just looking enigmatic because you can’t be bothered being clear (the lack of motivation for what Judex actually does, said motivation being a key part of the 1916 film but absent from this one). Nice, but I wanted to like it more than I suspect I really did.

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