DIRECTED BY: Louis Malle
FEATURING: Catherine Demongeot, Phillipe Noiret, Vittorio Caprioli, Carla Marlier, Annie Fratellini, Yvonne Clech, Antoine Roblot, Jacques Dufilho, Hubert Deschamps
PLOT: Young Zazie goes to Paris and stays with her exotic dancer uncle; the only thing she wants to see is the Metro, but the workers are on strike, so she explores the city instead.
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: It might make the List thanks to its insane, anarchic soul. A minor character casually kills a waiter by firing a woman’s high-heeled shoe at him, and a parrot transforms into a dog when it’s sprayed with seltzer water; something of this sort happens in just about every detail-packed frame of the film. Zazie’s transvestite uncle proclaims the film’s manifesto: “All Paris is a dream, Zazie is a reverie, and all this is a reverie within a dream…”
COMMENTS: Raymond Queneau’s 1959 comic novel “Zazie dans le Metro” was a surprise sensation in France; with its wordplay, neologisms and nonsense passages, it earned the author comparisons to a French James Joyce. When Louis Malle decided to adapt it, he wanted to fracture the language of film in the same way that Queneau twisted words. Malle used a constant barrage of editing and camera tricks as his main strategy for achieving this goal: speeding up and slowing down the film (sometimes within the same shot), having people unexpectedly pop into and out of the frame, and using rear projection effects and tricks of perspective. There’s a shot where Zazie’s uncle talks to her as she sits on his right, and then the camera seamlessly swings around to show her now seated on his left; in another bit, one speaker in a conversation inexplicably appears in blackface in a reaction shot lasting under a second. These editing pranks fit perfectly with the movie’s absurd scenarios: this is a film where the protagonists climb the Eiffel Tower and find a sea captain and a shivering polar bear at the top. As she wanders about Paris, Zazie encounters a strange cast of characters, starting with her uncle (an artiste who dances in drag) and his wife Albertine (who has a mysterious power to hypnotize men with her beauty), and eventually including a dirty old man, an amorous widow with white and lavender hair, a parrot (who complains about the other characters’ yakking) and the aforementioned polar bear, among other eccentric denizens of Paris (the city is virtually a character itself). Zazie almost has the form of a satire Continue reading LIST CANDIDATE: ZAZIE DANS LE METRO (1960)