‘L’ Assommoir Perdu’ Part 1- Berlin films 1995 – 1997

15th June 2022

In 1995 I began making a series of short, silent Super 8 films that would be collectively known as ‘L’ Assommoir Perdu’.

The first film made in March 1995, after a particularly bitter Berlin winter, was called ‘Igor or the Young Person’s Guide to Berlin.’ The title refers to the music chosen to accompany the film: ‘The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra’ by Benjamin Britten.

Igor, played by Martin O’Shea (who was my main actor in many films, and later theatre projects), is an idealistic Socialist and Brecht fanatic. The young man visits Berlin, making pilgrimages to the Brecht Haus and grave, as well as various locations associated with Socialist Berlin.

We began the film quite seriously but at one point, when Igor reaches into his pocket to find a toffee, it took on a more light-hearted tone.

The climax, with a cast of dozens, was totally unplanned. The boy band Take That were playing two gigs in Berlin and the weekend before, for some reason, a large group of teenage girls marched up Unter Den Linden, from Alexanderplatz to the Brandenburg Gate, singing Take That songs.

Following ‘Igor’ was a more modest film, shot in about an hour in a small park at the end of my street.

In ‘Kleingeld und Dulcimer’, Martin O’Shea plays Mr Kleingeld (German for small change), a loner of indeterminate age. After going shopping in a cheap supermarket, Mr Kleingeld sees a busker and is so impressed, he gives the musician some small change. Very small change. However, Mr Kleingeld has no idea about social behaviour and Mr Dulcimer, played by Detroit musician Jeff Tarlton, reacts to having his space invaded.

This film won first prize at the Prenzlau International Film Festival in winter 1995, which was held on a farm north of Berlin.

Cultural nod – the character of Mr Kleingeld was based on British comedian Eric Morcombe.

The third film, featuring a cameo from Mr Kleingeld, is ‘Les Aventures de Bruno Dalle’. Bruno tries to be French cinema icon Jean-Paul Belmondo. His girlfriend, Iris, brings him back to reality. She needs him to get a job. Angered, Bruno decides to take his Belmondo fascination further. He meets his friend, Richard Rastignac (who will appear in a later film), and is given a gun and told to go rob a bank. Will Bruno go through with the plan ? How will he appease Iris ? What exactly is Mr Kleingeld doing in this movie ?

Cine transfer organised by Martin O’Shea with the assistance of Screenshot Berlin (www.screenshot-berlin.de).

Jean-Paul Belmondo R.I.P.

8th September 2021

On Monday 6th September Jean-Paul Belmondo, icon of French Cinema, passed away. Jean-Paul, who was 88, worked with many of the top names in French Cinema: Jean-Pierre Melville, with Francois Truffaut, Alain Resnais, Claude Chabrol, Claude Lelouche, with Agnes Varda and Louis Malle. With Jean-Luc Godard, the director with whom he will always be associated.

Noir City International
Le Doulos 1962

Belmondo was much more than an actor; he was a star. His charisma and screen presence was inimitable. In the three films he made with Godard, he portrayed a petty criminal being hunted by the police (‘A Bout de Souffle’), a lovable rogue with a flair for comedy and dance (‘Une Femme est une Femme’) and an existential adventurer on the road to freedom (‘Pierrot le Feu’). With these three film alone, Belmondo became a part of Cinema history.

Une femme est une femme: the places documented - The Cine-Tourist
Une Femme est une Femme 1961

What are their plans for the evening ? Belmondo wants to watch a film on TV “With my friend Burt Lancaster.” He turns to the camera and smiles.

Such a scene is typical of the Nouvelle Vague, the French New Wave of Cinema that wanted to move away from studio sets and unrealistic dialogue. It was youth, energy, charm in abundance, and it was referential and respectful to Cinema and filmmaking. We hear projectors whirl, clapperboards clapping, calls for “Lights, cameras, action.” Characters were named after directors (in the above scene, Belmondo is named after the German director Ernst Lubitsch), they would turn to the camera and address the audience. Cinema was fun, it was life, “In a word ’emotion’,” and we were all invited. Fifty years later, the films retain this exuberance, this spirit, this joie de vivre.

Stavisky - Film d'Alain Resnais - Critique
Stavisky 1974

Belomondo’s performances contribute to this magic because, for me, that is exactly what Cinema is, what it should be – pure magic.

Jean-Paul died aged 88, so at that age, death is not a tragedy. The tragedy is that he is irreplaceable. His persona was unique. So unique. For many cineastes, he is part of our cultural DNA, his work is ineffably part of our lives, which he enriched.

If you’re not familiar with Jean-Paul’s work, here’s a good place to start, some clips from fifteen of his films:

Just in July, I posted a blog about a reunion Belmondo had with fellow French icon Alain Delon, a post that may be accessed here: https://thaypaulsnotes.com/2021/07/12/quest-ce-que-le-cinema-belmondo-delon/

Suggested Viewing:

À bout de souffle 1960 Une femme est une femme 1961 Pierrot le Fou 1965 all directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Le Doulos 1962 directed by Jean-Pierre Melville

La Sirène du Mississippi 1969 directed by Francois Truffaut

Les Misérables 1995 directed by Claude Lelouche

Goodbye Jean-Paul. Merci pour tout

Jean-Paul Belmondo at worst? Close friend discusses rumors of alarming  health

Jean-Paul Belmondo 9th April 1933 – 6th September 2021

Qu’est-ce que le cinema ? Belmondo & Delon

12th July 2021

Jean-Paul Belmondo – CINEBEATS
Jean-Paul Belmondo
Alain Delon | The Great Acting Blog —
Alain Delon

Two icons of French Cinema, reunited for a Paris Match anniversary, back in 2019:

Jean-Paul Belmondo has his place in the Cinema Parthenon for his work with Jean-Luc Godard in the early 1960s

1960
1961
Blu-ray Review: Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le Fou on the Criterion  Collection - Slant Magazine
1965

Belmondo also worked with Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Jean-Pierre Melville and Alain Resnais.

Bande à part & Pierrot le fou : critiques

Alain Delon has worked with Luchino Visconti, Michelangelo Antonioni, Jean-Pierre Melville and one film, in 1990, with Jean-Luc Godard.

Nouvelle Vague 1990
Rocco and his Brothers 1960
L’ Eclisse 1962
Le Samourai 1967

The actors worked together in 1970 in ‘Borsalino’ (Dir. Jacques Deray)

Borsalino (W9) Delon / Belmondo : la guerre des egos

Vive le cinéma!