La curée – Fonda & Vadim

I enjoyed this film version of Zola’s novel, The Kill [see here and here] from 1966, released under the English title, The Game is Over.  It focuses on one part of the story, the love affair between Maxime Saccard and Renée, the young wife of his wheeler-dealer tycoon father, his stepmother.  In the book, part of Renée’s attraction to Maxime is her revelling in the crime of incest, but that’s dropped in the film – more modern times, the swingin’ 60s!

My only other knowledge of Roger Vadim is Barbarella, a thoroughly awful film, so I was prepared for the worst.  In fact, this film is quite restrained, and it closely follows the narrative of Zola’s story, while skillfully updating it.  Maxime’s and Renée’s characters, their total immersion in their affair, and their privleged place within the swirling realms of the super rich are very nicely shown.  Too late for me now to know if I would have dismissed it as a piece of junk, as this NYTimes reviewer did, or if it stands up on its own regardless of whether you have read the book.  Certainly, it’s pretty good if you read, then watch, as I did.

Dogs are everywhere – Jane does a video avant la lettre…

Two kids who like to play, sometimes with guns…

Mama and the boy get serious…

As in Zola, much of their affair is carried on in the huge hothouse of the mansion.

“He’s going away!  We can do what we want!”  “No – I can’t deceive him when he’s not in the house.”  Huh??

On a rural retreat, they get their car stuck in a pond.  To retrieve it, they seek help from a friend whose brother works in a factory.  Production actually happens here, unlike with Daddy’s financial chicanery.  Looks to me like a sulfur plant – the color is great, and all that brimstone!

She confesses her love, he plays with his favorite toy.  Meanwhile, at home, the dogs prowl.

Sometimes, I could just shoot that boy!

A tête-à-tête, and she decides to ask the Boss for a divorce.

Reality intrudes again.  “Sure thing, babe, do as you like.  Oh…what will you live on? ”

In the end, papa fixes up his son with a rich, pretty friend whose father is loaded.  That will tide the Boss over until his schemes pan out.  Renée is just darned inconvenient now.  She tries suicide, but changes her mind.  Back in the gym, during a costume ball, the Boss talks sense to her.

What follows is a “smash zoom” shot of her alone, a simultaneous dollying-back of the camera with a zoom-in, choreographed by cinematographer Claude Renoir, that is very unsettling to watch.  As one reviewer writes, “To the best of my knowledge, no one was aware that Vadim had employed the smash-zoom, indeed what little serious writing about Vadim is primarily about who he filmed, but not how he filmed.” Maybe he’s worth a closer look?

Game over.

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3 Responses to La curée – Fonda & Vadim

  1. I’m going to keep looking for this one…. Thanks

  2. You’ve got me very interested in this film.

  3. I did manage to find a very cheap copy of this on VHS, so I’ll get to it soon. I just finished Au Bonheur des Dames (the silent version of The Ladies’ Paradise). You could do an entire blog on Zola and Zola adaptations I think.

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