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April 17, 2007

The Game is Over

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La Curee
Roger Vadim - 1966
Wellspring Region 1 DVD

I'll never know how accurate Roger Vadim's vision of the future in Barbarella will be. But the first shot of Jane Fonda in The Game is Over, showing her exercise, seems prescient. Fonda is even wearing white leg warmers along with her t-shirt and panties. Almost twenty years after Fonda left Vadim, people were paying money for Fonda to excercise in front of a camera.

The Game is Over is essentially another Roger Vadim film that was sold on the basis of showing as much female skin as the censors of the time would allow. By taking a narrative from classic literature, be it Schnitzler, or in this case Zola, Vadim could allow audiences that wouldn't be caught dead at a "skin-flick" to justify that they were watching an art film. The first half of this film has brief glimpses of Fonda partially nude. A scene of her making love with Peter McEnery is made up of shots against a mirror that reduces the two bodies to abstract blobs. This was fairly hot stuff back in 1966 in the last years before the MPAA introduced a new rating code.

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I'm not sure which meaning was intended in the French title. According to one dictionary, curee translates as meaning "scramble for the spoils". The other translation is quarry, as in a stone pit. Both meaning are applicable for this narrative. Fonda plays the wife of a businessman, in a sexless marriage of convenience. Husband Michel Piccoli benefits more from this arrangement as Fonda's money supports his business. Fonda falls in love with stepson Peter McEnery, a college student dependent on his father's largesse. This being a story about love and money by Emile Zola means the conclusion is not unexpected.

What was unexpected was the second to last shot in The Game is Over. I don't know whether the credit goes to Vadim or to cinematographer Claude Renoir. The shot that I have attempted to convey with several screen grabs is a smash-zoom of Jane Fonda. A smash-zoom is a shot in which the camera simultaneously tracks out and zooms in on a character. The first and most famous example of this kind of shot is in Vertigo, shots from the point of view of James Stewart. I recall that Claude Chabrol used that shot at the end of La Femme Infidele, which excited several of my fellow film students at the time. 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.

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That could also be the way Vadim prefered to be remembered. The Game is Over is worth looking at for its images of swinging Parisians dancing to the tunes of Arthur Brown before he became the God of Hellfire. The film also suggests that Vadim as a filmmaker was a bit more than the sum of his leading ladies voluptuous parts. This quote from Vadim indicates an emphasize of his actresses over his filmmaking style: "One would not ask Rodin to make an ugly sculpture, nor with me to make a film with an ugly woman. It is my style, it is my nature."

Posted by peter at April 17, 2007 02:23 PM

Comments

I recently got a copy of this film but haven't had a chance to watch it yet. Your review's inspired me to give it a look soon.

Posted by: Kimberly at April 17, 2007 04:26 PM