Online Archive  
Issue 3 - March 1972
Germs Don't Molest Hungry People

A review of the film adaptation of Henry Miller's novel: Quiet Days in Clichy (Tyneside Film Theatre)

As yet the film has no certificate; people who saw it were asked to fill in a questionnaire which was intended to gauge audience response.

The film won an award at Cannes in 1970; it deserved it; it would be a crime if it were not given a certificate.

To quote the handout - "Henry Miller and his friend Carl starve and sex their way through young days in Paris. That's all, but it's a great deal". The film consists of a series of events, unco-ordinated with regard to plot, and sexual encounters in the lives of Jofy and Carl; many of these encounters are shown as flashbacks.

Editing is rapid; within a single episode the film cuts suddenly from one scene to the next; fantasy, stream of consciousness and flashbacks are all expertly knitted together with the present to form a combined whole.

The music is great; Country Joe on top form, Ben Webster providing backing for the hilarious night club scene. Who provides the acid rock music when Jofy is in bed and being harassed by an indignant whore (is it The Fish?). Anyway, these fantastic sounds provide the backing for Jofy's stream of consciousness - the café signs and street signs (Menilmontant) - he sees himself as a cripple in a wheelchair, there are images of a pram, a squat, bearded little man is seen propelling himself on a trolley and then is seen rolling himself along a pier until he falls in the water. Double exposure combines the fantasy with the actual events: the image of Jofy in his wheelchair together with a shot of the whores rushing about the flat. There is also some beautiful accordion playing which provides backing when young Colette disappears from the flat and wanders about the streets of Paris.

The photographic essays of Paris and Luxembourg are excellent, expressionistic use of still photographs. Particularly I like the live action shots of Paris at night when Jofy is roaming the streets and meets Mara. Shoals of car headlights surge across the frame like lost souls of 20th century men. (How's that for a poetic pun?)

Throughout the film there is a beautiful use of captions, often within voice bubbles containing thoughts passing through the head of Jofy, or simply making additional comment on the action of the film. All lettering is in white, usually appearing over the picture, very well laid out and easily read (which makes a nice nice change).

Yes folks; there are full close-ups of men's and ladies' genitals but I promise I didn't get a single erection, if that's what's meant by not having been corrupted (although one of the boys did have a very nice bum).

Quiet Days in Clichy seems to me to give an honest impression of the level on which the two main characters function. The film is far less damaging than many that never have anything like the same 'porn' content. What is noticeable about the film is a lack of aggression and violence. Jofy and Carl are likeable guys, not insensitive sexual tyrants. They are sentimental and weak. True, they regard women primarily as sexual objects ("come and see my new cunt!") But they also feel genuine affection for some of the women. They are exploited just as much as they exploit the women who pick them up. Most of the women are whores or lame ducks of one sort or another.

Basically the film is self-satirical, pricking a thousand insane 'romantic' bubbles.

If you're looking for rational social comments which will excuse the liberties the director has taken you won't find them. Perhaps the only faction that could have legitimate objections to the film is women's lib. I don't know the answer.