Thursday, 4 October 2007

Judex (1963)

Louis Feuillade had enjoyed enormous success during the silent era with his action/adventure serials involving master criminals such as Fantômas and master crime fighters. Georges Franju’s Judex, made in 1963, is a remake of the 1916 Feuillade production of the same name. It’s a movie that really does seem to come from another era – you have to keep reminding yourself that this movie came out after the first of the James Bond films. Franju’s movie is deliberately archaic, and once you get used to the feel of it its considerable charm starts to win you over. It has the touches of the surreal that you expect from the director of Eyes Without a Face, and it really is unlike any other movie of the 1960s. The convoluted plot involves a crooked banker (is there any other king of banker one may ask), his beautiful daughter, a masked-avenger style crime-fighter called Judex, and a remarkably appealing and very sexy (and very wicked) female criminal named Diana Monti. She gets to wear an extraordinary array of costumes, ranging from typical 1914 women’s clothing to black catsuits and at one point she even gets to dress up as a nun. Francine Bergé’s performance as Diana is the highlight of the movie. The great crime-fighter Judex is played by an American stage magician named Channing Pollock, and his magic act plays an important role in the movie, especially in the memorable masked-ball scene early on. Audiences whose ideas of pulp cinema are derived from Quentin Tarantino may find Judex a little slow and disappointingly lacking in mindless violence. This is a movie that has to be accepted on its own terms – it’s an arty, surreal action/adventure movie and if you can get your head around that concept then it’s a fascinating viewing experience.

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