Why write your memoirs when you can just film them? With Ain’t Misbehavin, Marcel Ophuls (Academy Award winner and son of European cinematic royalty), makes a solid case for the camera instead of the pen, especially if you’re a filmmaker of Ophuls’ calibre.
Ophuls isn’t the serious figure the 85-year-old’s acclaimed documentaries – The Sorrow and the Pity (about the Nazi occupation of France) and the Academy Award winning film on Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie (Hotel Terminus) – suggest. Ophuls is cheeky, a flirt and takes delight in telling stories about the grand old days of Hollywood and European cinema when his father was a maverick director. He juxtaposes these entertaining stories with the dark history of his family. The Ophuls left Germany for France when he was a child (his father was on Goebbels’ death list) during the Third Reich, which subsequently led his family to Hollywood before returning to France. Ophuls spends a large part of the film reminiscing about his life before he was an acclaimed filmmaker in his own right. He doesn’t brag about his own work (he jokes that the critics only loved him because of his father), rather he prefers to talk about the American films he loved as a child and the work of his father and his contemporaries, which are shown to great effect throughout the film along with interviews with Ophuls across Europe. Unusually, for a filmmaker of Ophuls’ stature, he doesn’t really delve into the art of filmmaking, as such, but rather tells anecdotes of encounters and life-changing events. His entertaining encounters with actor and director Otto Preminger and Marlene Dietrich could best explain this lack of filmmaking insights. “We didn’t talk about the movies,” he delightfully explained about both occasions. While film is always present in Ain’t Misbehavin, it’s Ophuls’ stories about film industry legends away from the screen that fascinates. And what a fascinating life he’s lived. Ain’t Misbehavin screens on Wednesday, October 16 (2.45pm) at Palace Nova Cinema 7