Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney
rozk

Our tastes change which is a good thing

I watched Judex this evening, a 1963 hommage by Franju to the Masked Avengers of French silent films - in particular to those created by Feuillade. I remember seeing it in 1972 with Rachel Pollack and Edie in an all-nighter at the Electric Cinema in Notting Hill, along with Valerie and her week of wonders which really is one of my favourite films of all time, Bunuel's The Exterminating Angel, an authentic masterpiece, and Goto, Isle of Love, which I remember as just odd.

I've always remembered Judex with considerable affection, though in fact the bits I remember were this amazing sequence near the start:



and a bit just before the end when the villainess falls to her death and a small boy who has helped the 'good' people keeps watch over her black-unitarded corpse, which is posed decoratively and remarkably unsmashed, among wild flowers, while a circus performer plays an elegy for her on a trumpet.

What I had forgotten is how very odd and creepy much of it is. The heroine is wooed by the Masked Avenger who has faked the death of her evil financier father, and abducted him in order to kill or imprison him. The Masked Avenger, Judex, has watched over her disguised as an elderly financial adviser - in one of the worst false beards in movie history - and can we say stalker? and groomer since he has been doing this for years? Her father kills himself rather than go back into captivity - but none of this seems to matter to her as, dressed in a cute sailor suit, she allows herself to be wooed with more magic tricks involving doves...

My fondness is all for the villainess, the financier's maid turned mistress, who sneaks around in burglar suits, and kidnaps the heroine disguised as a nun, and throws her into a river, merely reflecting when she fails to drown that 'We should have tied her to a stone.' At the end, she has a catfight with a woman acrobat, the former fiancee of the private eye who becomes Judex's ally, and who has not been mentioned much prior to the circus randomly turning up and helping the private eye rescue Judex from the baddies.

Sometimes, things get the reputation for being minor classics because they have a few stunning bits in them, rather than because they are actually all that good.
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