Judex (Georges Franju / France-Italy, 1963):

After the eulogy for Méliès, the resurrection of Feuillade. Iris in on the villain, the tycoon (Michel Vitold) with a banking empire erected on blackmail, a mysterious letter promises punishment at midnight. The business anniversary is also the engagement party for the heiress (Edith Scob), an astounding bal masqué: Sleight of hand on slain doves announces the avian motif, the elongated figure with tuxedo and falcon head (a touch of Ovid in the Leroux ambiance) ambles away following his revenge. The fair heroine is too pure to drown, her opposite number is the scheming governess (Francine Bergé) with tight catsuit and gleaming dagger beneath her nun disguise. "These city women are so fragile!" Georges Franju's perfect séance of antique pulp, so analytical and pellucid that the eponymous avenger (Channing Pollock) often becomes just a black cape flowing through the silvery canvas. Detective Cocantin (Jacques Jouanneau) on the case, regaling children with Lewis Carroll quotes and burying his nose in crime fiction. ("Fantômas!" he exclaims while flipping through the latest volume.) A knife scuffle is just the occasion for a reunion between the wronged old vagabond (René Génin) and his estranged son the dense henchman (Théo Sarapo), Judex's subterranean hideout comes equipped with an electronic surveillance system—the revived scoundrel hurls his vest at the camera, it promptly bursts into flames. Silent-screen shenanigans through the Sixties prism (cp. Lang's Die Tausend Augen des Dr. Mabuse), a magician's turn, une conte de fée. The circus comes to town right on cue, sans lion tamer ("Well, the lions ate him..."), the Licorice Kid awakens from his nap in time to watch the curvaceous acrobat (Sylva Koscina) climbing the side of a building. A saltimbanque's trumpet for the fallen vamp, "en souvenir d'unne epoque qui ne fuit pas heureuse." Assayas in Irma Vep follows the lead three decades later. Cinematography by Marcel Fradetal. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

Back to Reviews
Back Home