BEAU TRAVAIL was a very small budget and very few days of shooting, it was a completely free experience. Also free because the French army that was really training in Djibouti was opposed to the fact that we were doing the movie, and therefore we had to keep in mind that the script should be able to change day by day in case they stopped the movie. I always told my producer that I was ready to finish shooting in hotel rooms, in case they would stop us from going outside. So we did rehearse in Paris. We rehearsed a long time. We knew everything we wanted to do, and then in Djibouti it was like free jazz, you know? It was like being free and every day we could shoot. — Claire Denis
With her ravishingly sensual take on Herman Melville’s novella, Claire Denis firmly established herself as one of the great visual tone poets of our time. Amid the azure waters and sunbaked desert landscapes of Djibouti, a French Foreign Legion sergeant (Denis Lavant) sows the seeds of his own ruin as his obsession with a striking young recruit (Grégoire Colin) plays out to the thunderous, operatic strains of Benjamin Britten. Denis and cinematographer Agnès Godard fold military and masculine codes of honor, colonialism’s legacy, destructive jealousy, and repressed desire into shimmering, hypnotic images that ultimately explode in one of the most startling and unforgettable endings in all of modern cinema.
The 4K restoration of Denis’ masterpiece—supervised by the cinematographer—is now streaming via Janus Films. See link below for details.
Yes, as Richard Brody and others have pointed out, JAZZ ON A SUMMER’S DAY—photographer Bert Stern’s indelible documentary of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival—could have been a different kind of film. Sonny Rollins, Mary Lou Williams, Duke Ellington, MaxRoach, and Miles Davis—with John Coltrane in his sextet—were also in Newport that year, but their performances didn’t make the final cut.
Yet the film remains one of the greatest jazz documentaries ever made, a picture of the art form at its peak just as rock and roll was about to replace it as the country’s most popular musical genre.
The performances of Dinah Washington and Anita O’Day alone are worth the price of admission, and Stern’s camera also captures the playing of Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong, Gerry Mulligan, Sonny Stitt, Chico Hamilton, Jimmy Guiffre, and Chuck Berry. The great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson closes the film.
JAZZ ON A SUMMER’S DAY is screening now on Kino Lorber’s Kino Marquee. See link below for details.
It’s great to be a provocateur. That’s what the world needs, this provocation. It stimulates thought and it stimulates ideas. It stimulates all kinds of conversations that don’t really have anything to do with the man himself. And who cares about the man himself? We’re looking at his art. — Charlotte Rampling
He was a little bit pervert, but so am I so it’s okay. — Grace Jones
I do consider myself a feminist, but I do consider the expression of machismo as an expression of a culture. Now, of course, Helmet wasn’t simply macho—it was more complicated than that—but he does look at a woman as a sexual object, and also an attraction and an anger toward her… It was actually extraordinary that Helmut was accepted by the industry because he was much more dangerous—much more ambiguous and frightening—than an Avedon or a Penn… Helmut photographed women the way Leni Riefenstahl photographed men. — Isabella Rossellini
Susan Sontag: As a woman, I find your photos very misogynist. For me it’s very unpleasant.
Bernard Pivot: You find him unpleasant?
Sontag: Yes. Not the man, the work… I never thought the man would look like the work. To the contrary. Even if you live through your work, you can be nice. I don’t expect a person to look like their work. Especially when it’s about fantasies and dreams.
Helmut Newton: I love women. There is nothing I love more.
Sontag: A lot of misogynist men say that. I am not impressed.
Newton: I swear—
Sontag: I’m sorry, I don’t think this is the truth. There’s an objective truth. The master adores his slave. The executioner loves his victim. A lot of misogynist men say they love women, but show them in a humiliating way.
Helmut actually loved strong women. — Nadja Auermann
When you’re 20 years old, 1.80 meters tall with blonde hair, you feel like a hunted deer. And HelmutNewton’s pictures made me stronger. I controlled the situation. I wasn’t the deer. I was equal to the hunter. I could decide what to do. I think a lot of people misunderstood that. — Sylvia Gobbel
I was very shy; I’d just turned 17. There was never a moment where I felt uncomfortable. I was just an amazing experience where I walked away saying, “This man is incredible.” He had a sort of twinkle in his eye—nothing serious, everything understated and very witty… Definitely, when I look at the pictures, it’s not me. It’s his imagination… I love the fact that I can be this different, through his lens.— Claudia Schiffer
I think he was Weimar. That’s how I think of him—connected to Brecht and Weill and George Grosz, that wonderful period of German Expressionism—that was Helmut. — Marianne Faithfull
Berlin for him was the very best of the Weimar Republic. Everything is possible, everything is allowed… What he liked about me was my guttersnipe style. I was not the usual elegant glamorous woman, but rather I had a portion of originality that comes from the lower classes of society. I suppose he also really like the eroticism of maids… It’s related to this Berlin period. — Hanna Schygulla
I loved my parents, they were great—very different influence on me. My mother was a very spoiled woman and quite hysterical in many ways, but pretty wonderful. And she encouraged me very much to become a photographer. My father was horrified by the idea. “You take pictures on the weekend for a hobby, my boy. You’ll end up in the gutter, my boy.” He was right, I did. But I had a good time in the gutter. — Helmut Newton*
The aesthetic of Helmut Newton—whose era is more distant from us now than the inspirational Weimar years were to Newton’s 1970s heyday—still provokes and intrigues, even in our less frivolous times.
In the excellent new documentary feature HELMUT NEWTON—THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL—now streaming on Kino Lorber’s Kino Marquee—filmmaker Gero von Boehm captures the great photographer’s obsession with the female form pushed to the edge of submission or absolute triumph.
*Quotations and dialog from Gero von Boehm, Helmut Newton—The Bad and the Beautiful, courtesy of the filmmaker, Kino Lorber, and Nadja Auermann, Marianne Faithfull, Sylvia Gobbel, Grace Jones, Charlotte Rampling, Isabella Rossellini, Claudia Schiffer, and Hanna Schygulla. Susan Sontag segment originally from Apostrophes, 1979.