Saturday, June 5, 2010

Jean-Pierre Bastid's Salut les copines (via Cresse?) (1966)

According to its Amazon page, the Cinema Epoch DVD release of Little Girls (1966) is credited to a director named "Benjamin Andrews" and starring Michelle Angelo. Its DVD release date, also according to the same page, is July 8, 2008, and I purchased the release slightly after. According to its sleeve, the film is part of Cinema Epoch's "Grindhouse Sexploitation Collection," so I must have purchased it when still reeling from Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof (2007) (my favorite of the director's work), and this would be the type of obscure film that perhaps QT had watched and had been influenced by. I was under the impression that the film was American from, I suppose, the Anglicized name of the director (but I really don't know). In any case, I only watched the DVD recently and discovered that it is American...and a French film.

One of the interesting extras included on the DVD release of Little Girls is an essay by Bill Gibron which is also posted here and dated, according to that page, as July 6, 2008. The focus of the essay is the film's American distributor, Bob Cresse, a notorious figure whom I had known through his "collaboration" with French film maker, Jose Benazeraf and his 1960s films. Gibron's essay is a good introduction into Cresse's legacy/infamy and also into his raison d'etre toward his cinema distribution. His American cut of Le concerto de la peur (1963) radically changed the film, especially its tone, lyricism, and energy. Cresse upped the sex quotient with the addition of more nudity with primarily stripteases (scenes shot under the hand of Cresse) and added an English voice-over narration. The voice-over narration, by an unidentified speaker, takes a documentary-like/expose-style commentary towards the film's action; in other words, the narration adopts an objective, detached, or often condemning commentary upon the film's events. This narration perhaps allowed Cresse to sell the sex, violence, or whatever (even with scenes he created) to one culture (e.g. America), because the events belong to another country's culture (in Le concerto, Paris, France). Americans could take comfort that their ways weren't the ways of others and enjoy all the seedy action exposed and be educated at the same time (and maybe even, feel better about themselves). Cresse used this same style of voice-over narration for Little Girls (more didactic possibly) as in Le concerto. The motives of narrator in both films are totally transparent, and the substance of the commentary is often shit. Like poor English-dubbing in a fantastic Shaw Brothers film, the narration creates a nostalgia of another time, and there is some humor behind its inclusion. Unfortunately, a lot of the artistry is killed in Le Concerto with the Cresse cut. So the biggest question that I had after viewing Little Girls was: whose original film was it? Gibron's essay didn't answer my question, so took it upon myself to see if I could find out. Here is my virtual paper trail:

On the Amazon sales page (which is the first hyperlink in this entry) for the DVD of Little Girls, there is a link on that page which allows you to link to the IMDb and seek more information on the film. That link takes the browser here. Interestingly, that page credits the film to director, Gilbert Womack, and its cast listing identifies who Michelle Angelo and Bob Cresse are in the film (Gibron notes in his essay where the two appear). Under the trivia section of the page, a note indicates from which film the Cresse cut originates. A link to that page is included, identified as Salut les copines (1967), directed by Jean-Pierre Bastid. Now on this page, by clicking the trivia link on the left side, two notes are indicated which read: Banned by French censors. In the main title of the American version, Jean-Pierre Bastid is credited as Benjamin Andrews. So there are two IMDb pages for the same film in two different versions? While I believe The Internet Movie Database is a fantastic and often reliable resource, with the volume of information on the site, errors are bound to occur (two pages for two versions for one film?). So to corroborate the information on the IMDb, I did a Google search of "Jean-Pierre Bastid," which led me to this fantastic blog, and its entry dated March 11, 2010. This entry appears a playbill for an event in Paris at the French Cinematheque to take place March 2 until May 7 2010, "Carte blanche a Jean-Pierre Bastid." (It looks like a fantastic event with Bastid and Jean-Pierre Bouyxou in attendance, amongst others.) There is a listing of films to be shown along with a commentary, and for his films listed, Bastid provides his commentary. Under the film listing of Massacre pour une orgie, Bastid writes:

Un distributeur américain (Bob Cresse) ayant acheté un duplicata du négatif avant que la censure ne commît son forfait, il subsiste de ce film une version en langue anglaise. Il a en retiré des passages jugés odieusement outrageux et, pour compléter le massacre, ajouté des dialogues de son cru. Il a agi de même façon avec le film qui a suivi.

Same text in English via Google translate:

A U.S. distributor (Cresse Bob) bought a duplicate negative before the Censorship would commit his crime, he remains in the film version in English. He retired in passages deemed outrageous and heinous, to complete the massacre, added his own dialogues. He did the same thing with the film that followed.

While the translation is crude, Bastid's final sentence is fairly clear. On Bastid's IMDb page, Massacre pour une orgie is listed as his first directorial credit with his second film being Salut les copines. Here is the entire listing for the showing of Salut les copines from the event listing:

Salut les copines
de Jean-Loup Grosdard (alias Jean-Pierre Bastid)/Luxembourg/1966/50’/35mm

Co-sénariste Jean-Patrick Manchette sous le nom de Michelangelo Astruc.
Avec José Diaz, Hans Meyer, Dominique Erlanger, Pascale Cori-Deville, Joël Barbouth, Ghislaine Paulou, Valentine Pratz, Hamera, Ernst Mernzer, Jean Mazéas, Jean-Marie Estève.
Il s’agit d’une pochade-pochetronnade que j’avais tournée dans la foulée et qui, pour son salut, avait battu d’entrée pavillon luxembourgeois. Deux films livrés pour le prix d’un. Vous êtes condamné à les voir. (JPBd)

Here is the same text in English via Google translate:

Hello girlfriends
Jean-Loup Grosdard (aka Jean-Pierre Bastid) / Luxembourg/1966/50 '/ 35mm
Co-Senar Jean-Manchette under the name of Michelangelo Astruc.
With Jose Diaz, Hans Meyer, Dominique Erlanger, Pascale Cori-Deville, Joel Barbouth, Ghislaine Paulou Valentine Pratz, Hamera, Ernst Mernzer Jean Mazéas, Jean-Marie Esteve.
This is a sketch-pochetronnade I turned the heels and, for his hello, defeated input Luxembourg flag. Two films delivered for the price of one. You are condemned to see them. (JPBd)

Again, this translation is crude, but the cast of and co-screenwriter above match the cast and co-screenwriter on Salut's IMDb page. I also think Bastid's joke at the end of the entry: " Vous êtes condamné à les voir," is a joke on the film's original censorship, also corroborated via the trivia link on the same page.
So what's the point? 1) I enjoy sticking it to the "man" by spending worthwhile time on endeavors such as this; 2) I discovered Jean-Pierre Bastid, and if Little Girls contains his compositions, I hope to see his original and more of his work; and 3) I really enjoy writing on this blog. Perhaps after the retrospective, Bastid's films may get released on DVD.

As to the plot of Little Girls/Salut les copines, I refer you to Gibron's essay. Bastid is cryptic in his description of Salut les copines, so who knows what it's about. Possibly it doesn't matter. It does seem, however, that Bastid was being wilful and playful with Salut and almost certainly wilfully provocative. As to what energy was originally there, one can only look to its images which are often striking. It is highly probable that Cresse's voice-over narration made the goings-on in the film seedier than intended. Also, I have little doubt that his cut changed the tone: in the Cresse/Angelo sequence, which Gibron identifies in his essay, in Little Girls, it becomes the harshest juxtaposition in its short running time. Two lovers are cuddling and playing in a cinema while Cresse and Angelo's sequence plays on screen. The two lovers are oblivious to what is going on around them and quite oblivious to what's on screen. However, people in the theatre's hallways would have entered the auditorium after hearing the sounds emitted from the Cresse/Angelo sequence. More than likely, it would have killed any romantic mood for any pulsating-heart, breathing person.

In any case, here are some fantastic images culled from Cinema Epoch DVD, highly recommended.

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