28 March 2019 | chuckster-1
Awesome Movie! Unfairly Maligned!
Even though I have always enjoyed Melville's films, I had never heard of "L'Aine des Ferchaux" until it was on TCM this past week. I'm bowled over. It was amazing!
The American title is "Magnet of Doom." Before I saw the film, I thought, "This is the best movie title ever. There's no way the film can live up to it. And not only does it live up to it, but it exceeds it in every way!
Down and out boxer Jean-Paul Belmondo is hired to drive a disgraced, on-the-run, banker Charles Vanel across the backroads of the US, from NYC to New Orleans, in Kennedy-era 1962, kind of like a proto-"Green Book"... except "The Green Book" sucks and "L'Aine des Ferchaux" is amazing!
I loved seeing the cold/stoic characters of French Film Noir thrown into the over-the-top world that's also occupied by American films like "Cool Hand Luke," "Midnight Cowboy," "Easy Rider," Tennessee Williams, and even "Hurry, Sundown." It's film noir, it's a road trip, and it's also a fantastic widescreen/color travelogue of JFK-era US in 1962. Belmondo even visits Sinatra's home in Hoboken, and he brawls with toughs in a diner, like Rock Hudson does in "Giant." Much of the dialogue is in English, too.
European directors sometimes pick up on little nuances of Americana that American filmmakers miss. Here, I'm thinking of this film, but also of Wim Wenders' "Paris, Texas." This film is full of small details that only a European outsider would notice (Melville is definitely fetishizing Chevrolets, roadside motels, lady hitchhikers, and American rock and roll), plus a few comedic set-pieces that seem to be right out of David Lynch or John Waters.
The score by Georges Delerue is excellent, and it stays in your head, long after the film is over.
This film is sometimes left out of Melville retrospectives, because it's less somber than some of his other films, and I guess Melville purists don't like it. I enjoy the director's other movies, but I also really liked this one a lot. Entertaining and fun, from beginning to end.