And the winner is...

...Marek Moehling.  Is there anything he can't do?

"Elevator to the Scaffold" was Malle's first studio release, and what a cooly intelligent crackler it is.  Miles Davis' soundtrack is moody and tense, and well worth buying on its own.  It's my second-favorite French film soundtrack performed by an American jazz musician after Stan Getz's Le Mort d'un Pourri

The influence of American film noir (esp. Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity, if you ask me, and yes, I know Billy Wilder's not American) is still palpable, but the scenes featuring the toothsome Jeanne Moreau wandering the streets of Paris at night are unmistakable Malle.  The DVD I watched has an interview with Malle filmed in the mid-1970s.  Malle, looking tanned but tense, with questing, slightly protuberant eyes, sits in a room chain-smoking and chain-talking.  He radiates a kind impersonal brilliance that, to me, is the trademark of the French intellectual. The interviewer, trapped in his wide lapels and de rigeur mid-70s aviator glasses, barely gets a word in edgewise.  Several camera crews circle the table, paying no attention to whether they enter shots.

Malle says that during "Elevator," he tried to stage Paris as a modern, anonymous city: the film is built around the five most modern buildings Malle could find in mid-50s Paris, plus what was then the only luxury motor hotel in France. He expresses his gratitude to Jacques Cousteau for giving him his first break. The enormous challenges of filming underwater honed his technical skills, but, he adds, so did the challenges of "directing fishes."

"If I could not hear your voice...

...I would be lost in a land of silence."  Obviously, this is French.  It's a movie.  Shortly after our man tells his lover this, she goes to wait for him at a cafe. But he doesn't arrive, because he's trapped in an elevator.

What's the name of the cafe?

Who wrote the book on which the movie is based?

Which documentary filmmaker gave the director of this movie his first responsible directing job?

German Joys Trivia Contest II

A few months ago, we had the first installment of the German Joys Obscure Cultural Trivia Contest. Somebody won the contest, which I wasn't expecting. They received the prize, which was musical in nature. A success for all concerned, except for me, who had to prepare and mail off the bloody prize. Next time, I resolved, I'm going to make this more obscure.

Like all German Joys features, this one happens intermittently; whenever I feel like it, or get inspired. Inspiration struck me recently. In a book, I read the following description of a play:

[T]hree persons, dressed in red, enter and bow. We do not know to whom. One of them recites a poem (which should make the impression of something necessary exactly at that moment). A gentle old man enters with a cat he leads on a string. Until now, everything has been going on against the background of a black curtain. The curtain is drawn apart and an Italian landscape appears. Organ music is heard. The old man talks to the three persons. He says something which corresponds to the created mood. A glass falls from the table. All of them, suddenly on their knees, are weeping. The old man changes into a furious brute and murders a little girl who just crawled out from the left side. At this, a handsome young man runs in and thanks the old man for that murder, while the persons in red sing and dance. The young man then weeps over the corpse of the little girl saying extremely funny things, and the old man changes again into a tender-hearted character chuckling on the sidelines. The sentences he pronounces are sublime and lofty.

Tell me who originally wrote this description of a play, and you win the prize, which is lots of beautiful music. Good luck!

The German Joys Cultural Trivia Contest Part I: The Pink Austrian Mercury

Yep, it's a new contest. This contest will reward those of you who, like me, have wasted spent invested countless thousands of hours exploring the hidden treasures of European culture, broadly defined. 

This contest is not designed to increase traffic to my site.  It's designed to reduce it.

Here are the rules.  I ask one or two questions.  The questions relate to one particular work of art (remember -- broadly defined).  The first person to answer these questions correctly, either in a comment or in an email to me, wins the contest. Your answer has to identify the work of art that provides the answer to the question. 

Don't go thinkin' you can just Google up an answer.  The questions are all going to be Google-proof, I guarantee you (at least the English and German versions of Google...)

What does the winner win?  They win a few DVDs, lovingly created by me, filled with huge amounts of beautiful music.  You win, you give me your address, and you'll get the DVDs.  Promise.  I'll ship them anywhere in the world. Restriction: Nobody who knows me gets to play! 

Simple, eh?  So here are the first two questions:

Continue reading "The German Joys Cultural Trivia Contest Part I: The Pink Austrian Mercury" »