Monday, September 3, 2007

la cuisse d'edouard dermithe

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i'm watching jean-pierre melville's 1950 film adaptation of jean cocteau's once scandalous novel les enfants terribles.

its hints of homosexuality + incest predate the more explicit sense of wild abandon in bertolucci's the dreamers by 50 years. but, arguably, of the two films, the earlier one is more perverse in its implications. the fact that the actors playing brother + sister closely resemble each other makes the hint of incest intensify the hint of homosexuality.

forget that edouard dermithe was in his mid-twenties when he played the adolescent paul. he still looks wonderful, his rawboned face in pleasing contrast to the golden curls.

in fact, all the film's young actors are attractive--often in sexually ambiguous ways, too.

as his sister, nicole stéphane looks like a typical bergman heroine, tomboyish yet vulnerable, brainy enough to control her brother + their increasingly complicated fantasy life.

the photos of boxers + movie stars paul decorates his bedroom with all resemble dargelo, the beautiful boy he admires at school, whose prank triggers the illness that keeps paul out of school for the rest of the story.

his sister elizabeth shares his bedroom, + among the recognizable faces decorating her wall is greta garbo, the coolly suffering icon of lipstick lesbians + drag queens, even back then.

the confusion of genders is best symbolized in the bedroom by a neoclassical bust of a woman to which someone has affixed a fake mustache.

paul himself is the object of his friend gerard's infatuation, + as paul recuperates under his sister's care, gerard (jacques bernard) enters their obsessive fantasy world.

the trio are soon joined by a young girl, agathe, whose eerie resemblance to the boy dargelo derives from the fact that renée cosima plays both roles.

a fifth character michael, an aesthete + musician, briefly joins this ring of obsessive desire + unwittingly turns the story towards its insane + fatal conclusion, which bears a passing resemblance to another camp epic of 1950: sunset boulevard.

jean cocteau himself narrates this odd film, now out in a crisp, silvery print in the criterion collection.

one day, perhaps, i'll write at length about my queer-terion obsession, as dermithe belongs to a pantheon of european actors whose beauty criterion is restoring + preserving on dvd:

-- saïd taghmaoui, hubert koundé, mathieu kassovitz, + vincent cassel in la haine

-- gene bervoets in the vanishing

-- bruno zanin in amarcord

-- sami frey in band of outsiders

-- alain delon in l'eclisse

-- yevgeni zharikov in ivan's childhood

-- philippe leroy in le trou

-- jean-paul belmondo in breathless

-- martin lasalle in pickpocket

-- georges poujouly in elevator to the gallows

-- ken richmond in night + the city

-- +, not least, jean marais in cocteau's beauty + the beast

others, too, perhaps, that i have forgot or don't know about.

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