Jeu De Massacre
Frey, Hugo, European Comic Art
Alain Jessua, dir., Jeu de massacre, DVD (Les films inclassables, Studio Canal distribution, 1967). French without subtitles. DVD extras include: photogallery, original trailer and printed script/English-language printed script.
Studio Canal have relatively recently released on DVD the Swiss director Alain Jessua's Jeu de massacre ['The Killing Game'] (1967). This long forgotten film from the 1960s recounts the story of an imaginary bande dessinée (BD) writer and artist team, Pierre (Jean-Pierre Cassel) and his wife Jacqueline (Claudine Auger). Without giving away too much of the plot, Jessua's film narrates the consequences of the writer's and the artist's decision to live with their greatest fan, a young man called Bob (Michel Duchaussoy). He is a mentally disturbed fantasist, who is incapable of living in the real world. At first the threesome enjoy each other's company and Pierre is inspired to write new adventure stories, based on Bob's rich fantasy life. Jacqueline - who is increasingly attracted to the handsome young fan - illustrates the new strip, which is entitled Le tueur de Neuchâtel ['The Killer of Neuchâtel']. Soon Bob's behaviour becomes erratic. He is unable to distinguish BD fiction from social reality. Chaos ensues when he starts to believe himself to be a character in the comic strip!
The film is a fascinating work and is well worth this new airing. It will be an essential addition to the DVD libraries of many ECA readers with a penchant for 1960s' cultural ephemera, as well as for those researchers who are studying the long history of BD encounters with the cinema. Jeu de massacre gains greatly from the innovative use of still photography of comic-strip illustrations, which are used to visualise Jacqueline's artwork and to present to the cinema audience the world of her creation - the comic-strip superhero, also of course called 'Bob'. It was the important underground pop artist, Guy Peellaert, who provided the original work for these sections of the film. They are a series of pastiches, which increasingly break up the live action, especially towards the end of the narrative, when Bob, the disturbed youth, descends into his madness. Peellaert worked in a style which resembles a blend of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. However, whereas Lichtenstein preferred very sharp, clear-line illustration and newsprint-style effects, Peellaert used a bolder, more free-flowing approach. His depiction of the comic strip superhero for the film is an exaggerated pastiche of Superman. The work is all very psychedelic, with lots of curves and colours, ranging from garish blues, to oranges and bright pinks. As many readers will know, Guy Peellaert is also the author of two comic-strips, Les adventures de Jodelle ['The Adventures of Jodelle']13 and Pravda, la survireuse ['Pravda - The Overdriver'], with Pascal Thomas, and published throughout 1967 in Hara-Kiri magazine.14 Like those BDs, Peellaert's work for the film tries to be erotic. …