- Although I rate IMDB very highly as an information source, I don't
take it that seriously as a centre for academic review. Every now and
then however, I feel compelled to step in to redress the balance if I
feel some cinematic ignoramus has completely mis-read a film and might
sway others' opinions.
A review of Le Souffle (2001) - written on 23rd
- 'Under-rated modern classic'
I'm afraid those who mis-read Le Souffle as a boring film
about a pretentious teenager are in need of cinematic guidance. The
film- shot in black and white as an aesthetic decision which marks both
the uncompromising stance of its director as well as the downbeat
narrative-is about a teenager, life, death, and the rituals associated
with all of them.
With echoes of Franju in its brutal depiction of animal cruelty,
Le Souffle weaves a coming-of-age story with a semi-mystical
backdrop of French rural life. This is not supposed to be 'real'- the
frequent dream sequences point to a directorial awareness that he is
making a comment on the very themes he is focusing on.
Le Souffle is a complex film but well worth watching- not once
but again if one is to even touch the surface of its cinematic depth.
Powerful, interesting stuff- the kind of film we can't make anymore.
A review of The Goodbye Bird (1993)- written on
- 'Lovely family film with a sensational performance by Pettiet'
I'm afraid our friend rsoonsa is guilty of misreading several films
apart from 'The Goodbye Bird'. In fact, this is a warm film about
truant teenager Francis 'Frank' Phillips gaining respect from the
adults around him and finding a place in the world. Thus, it is
ultimately a film about redemption and salvation.
One of the strengths of the film is its low-key opening and the wistful
atmosphere created by first the non-diegetic piano music and that of
the mouth organ. The opening scenes help flesh out Frank's character,
as he is seen by Judge Julius Bartlett (Jesse Bennett) and told
"sometimes the person you save may be you", setting up the theme of
redemption which permeates the film. Frank also suffers a very
unsettled home-life (his Father is absent, and later writes to say he
will never come home, whilst his Mother Sharon initially lounges in
bed). The reputation Frank has for transgressions make his interview
with Miss Van Borins both uncomfortable and amusing- he can see the
parrot escaping, she can not. That Frank is subsequently accused of
stealing the parrot introduces the familiar theme of injustice, wittily
undercut by Doris and her wildly eccentric behaviour.
The real thrust of the film's narrative concerns Frank's methods of
saving the unadopted animals from euthanasia whilst developing a
friendship with Miss Van Borins' parrot. Frank's increasing awareness
of the shelter and its procedures motivate him to rescue animals with a
youthful disregard of future consequences and is mirrored in the film's
mise-en-scene. Thus, the black baseball cap worn by Frank at the start
of the film is changed for the white cowboy hat (ironically sent to him
by his absent Father), but events conspire to close in on Frank and his
Although the ending of the film is a little cliched, it does satisfy
the expectations set up by the film's narrative- that Frank's humanity
will be recognised and he will succeed. The mutual understanding
amongst the adults that (apart from Ray and Doris) often have negative
comments to make about him is heartwarming, as is Frank's return to the
Overall, 'The Goodbye Bird' lacks pretentiousness and does not have a
glossy 'high concept' aura with an overpaid superstar cast. It is a
very gentle family film, with perhaps too many narrative strands but
highly enjoyable performances, not from (as rsoonsa states) Cindy
Pickett, but from Wayne Rogers and the film's young lead.
Finally, 'The Goodbye Bird' is inseparable from the brilliant
performance of Chris Pettiet as Frank Phillips, by turns sensitive, dry
and compassionate. Despite the film's positive imagery and upbeat
message, the feeling the film leaves me with is one of great sadness-
Chris Pettiet was not an actor who made hundreds of movies, married
five times and lived to be eight decades old. Instead, he had too
little time in the world, and did not reach 25 years of age.
Whatever its other merits (and, as I have argued, these are not merely
to be dismissed by those without sufficient engagement or knowledge),
'The Goodbye Bird' captures a moment in the life of Chris Pettiet, and
as such, is to be celebrated and preserved for eternity.
DVDs | Links | Biography | Archived
Editorials | Homepage