Film de Jo
My family has identified a film genre called “the Jo Page
Generally these movies feature someone like Mark Harmon playing
some sort of smooth-talking psychopath who charms the pants
off somebody like Madeleine Stowe playing the psychiatrist
who is helping the Mark Harmon character deal with issues
related to his recurring nightmare that he has killed his
The viewer doesn’t know whom to trust, but by the time the
Mark Harmon character and the Madeleine Stowe character have
had a few rolls in the hay and the psychopath has had some
strange visits from the dead wife’s creepy brother, played
by somebody like Peter Coyote who may or may not be real and
who may or may not be avenging his sister’s death, the viewer
figures out that Madeleine Stowe is in some pretty big danger.
Of course, Madeleine Stowe is also in love, which means that
she has lost her mind, too. She decides she can save Mark
Harmon, in spite of his diabolical eyebrows. So she goes on
a road trip with him to his dead wife’s hometown, filmed in
some place that’s supposed to look like Mackinaw Island, but
in the off season, when it’s easy to find yourself alone with
your psychopathic patient on the Mackinaw Bridge which is
mysteriously deserted and, unaccountably, open to pedestrians.
And we all know what’s going to happen now! Mark Harmon is
going to try to kill Madeleine Stowe on the Mackinaw Bridge!
And only Peter Coyote can save her! Except that Mark Harmon
has disabled Peter Coyote’s car at the entrance of the bridge
and Peter Coyote is running—very breathlessly—toward the spot
where Mark Harmon is choking Madeleine Stowe, dangling her
perilously over the mighty waters of Sault Ste. Marie, her
long hair a silken scarf in the wind.
And guess what? I won’t tell you what happens next!
Because this is not a real movie, but a composite of the kinds
of themes that comprise the genre of “the Jo Page Movie.”
Yes, I like lowbrow movies. B movies.
Most Jo Page movies don’t have Alfred Hitchcock and Ingmar
Berman for directors or feature Max Von Sydow in drag and
Gregory Peck as the psychopath. Mostly they are just pretty
awful. For years now I have been trying to wean myself of
this unhealthy attraction to shlockly, formulaic, low- budget,
badly-acted, utterly addictive movies.
So a few months ago I decided that French films were the answer
to my problems. Vadim, Varda, Vigo. Berri, Bresson, Becker.
Lecomte, Lelouche, Lumiere. The French invented movies, for
heaven’s sake. I’d be healed toute de suite.
haven’t been any good French films since Shoot the Piano
Player,” a friend told me, nose so high I thought it was
the altitude talking. “French cinema peaked with the New Wave.”
I went on with my quest.
And what I found out was this: There are some pretty highbrow
French movies out there, some so ponderous that I had to keep
eating popcorn just to stay awake.
The recent dud, Caché, is a good example. I think it’s
a dud, but critics loved it. It’s highbrow to the hilt, which
is to say that nothing whatsoever happens in it. Daniel Auteuil,
the French Aiden Quinn, plays the host of a smarty-pants book
talk show. He and his wife, Juliette Binoche, give all these
chi-chi little dinner parties in their monochromatically decorated
Parisian flat. A mystery sort of unfolds around all this.
You find quite a few movies like that. The loopy Julie Delpy
shows up in a lot of them. And there are plenty of movies
with High Moral Purpose, too. I like these. I especially like
reading about these.
On the other hand, it’s just not all Issues and Ambience.
In Graham Guit’s Le Pacte de Silence, Gerard Depardieu
plays a passionate priest—with a troubled past, of course—who
finds himself involved with beautiful troubled twins, one
a winsome nun, the other jailed for a murder she may or may
not have committed. Need I say more?
In The Tenant, Roman Polanski paints his fingernails,
pulls out his own teeth and jumps out of windows trying to
prove that he may or may not be the creepy suicidal previous
occupant of the flat he has rented. “I am not Simone Choule!”
he screams. Plus de creepy.
Diaboliques is delightful romp about a wife and mistress
who collude to murder their man, the harsh headmaster at the
school where they teach. They hide his body in a murky swimming
pool, but soon students start seeing him alive and in the
I think that with a little patience and a little luck, someday
I’ll discover a movie featuring Madeleine Stowe as the ex-model
spending an off-season vacation on Mackinaw Island where she
runs into her demented ex-lover, a former photographer, played
by Daniel Auteuil and his jealous wife, played by Catherine
Deneuve. There will be a tussle on the Mackinaw Bridge and
Madeleine Stowe will be dangling perilously over the waters
of Sault Ste. Marie—Deneuve’s hands around Stowe’s neck while
Auteuil wields his camera—when all of a sudden Peter Coyote
arrives on the scene, breathless, and just in time.