Sunday, January 4, 2009

Alliance Française schedule

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm

At Alliance Française on Friday, January 9: Arsène Lupin (2004) by Jean-Paul Salomé – 131 mins – France/ Italy/ Spain/ UK Action/ Adventure/ Crime/ Mystery/ Romance. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 80 out of 100.

With Romain Duris, Kristin Scott Thomas, Marie Bunel, Francoise Lépine, Guillaume Huet, Gerard Chaillou, Eva Green, Pascal Greggory, Robin Renucci.

Based on the early years of the French classy [sic] hero, this movie provides all the fun you can expect from a classical adventure movie. Fights, stunts, exotic places, wicked villains, and characters you will love to hate or chill for...

Alliance description

Variety: A thoroughly entertaining period romp bursting with intrigue, Arsene Lupin is a keenly crafted take on the gentleman burglar whose adventures in fin de siecle Paris are immortalized in 18 popular novels by Maurice Leblanc (1864-1941). Elaborate treasure hunt has visual sweep and a terrific cast of scheming characters who range from merely craven to genuinely evil. [There is] much to enjoy. In 1882, future nimble-fingered master of disguise Arsene Lupin is a boy (Guillaume Huet) living in Normandy with his mother (Marie Bunel) and father Jean (Aurelien Wilk) -- a rumored thief. Jean is teaching his son to box when government officials arrive to arrest him. Dad's advice prior to making a daring escape will serve the lad well: "Distract your prey -- that's the key. Remember that and you'll never get caught." For those who do not know him, Monsieur Lupin is a gentleman burglar. He is a son of a criminal and has been educated by his father, though he differs in one respect: he has vowed not to kill anyone, however dire the circumstances. Arsène’s universe is much akin to anything written by Alexandre Dumas, with the difference that Arsène lives in the fin-de-siècle, though the problems he faces remain the same: the royalists trying to re-establish the French Monarchy while rich aristocrats scheming to relieve people of their treasures. Arsène also has the problem -- or pleasure depending on your point of view -- much like James Bond, of falling in love with every lovely lady that passes within ten miles of his sight. Thus romance and intrigue, hidden treasures and multiple identities (Arsène is obviously also a master of disguise) are at the heart of any Lupin story.

The 2004 film adaptation from director and co-screenwriter Jean-Paul Salomé is simply titled Arsène Lupin, and is based on the 1924 novel “The Countess of Cagliostro.” It is high on atmosphere and production values (the reported budget being 23 million Euros), though it treats its narrative only as a necessity to get the audience from one skirmish to the other, from one lady’s bed to the other and from one flaming explosion to the next.

At Alliance Française on Friday, January 16: Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot / Mr. Hulot's Holiday (1953) by Jacques Tati – 114 mins – France Comedy. In Black and White. No English subtitles, but you don’t really need them. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 90 out of 100.

With Jacques Tati, Nathalie Pascaud, Michèle Rolla, Valentine Camax, Louis Perrault.

Mr. Hulot goes on a holiday to a seaside resort, but accidents and misunderstandings follow him wherever he goes. The peace and quiet of the hotel guests don't last very long with Hulot around, because although his intentions are good, they always turn out catastrophically...

Alliance description

Monsieur Hulot comes to a beachside hotel for a vacation, where he accidentally (but good-naturedly) causes havoc.

Variety: Tati is the semi-articulate, blundering, but well-meaning clown, reminiscent of the early Mack Sennett types. Whether he is being chased by dogs, setting off a cabin full of fireworks, or blundering into a staid funeral, he is a very funny man.

Roger Ebert: The first time I saw Jacques Tati's Mr. Hulot's Holiday, I didn't laugh as much as I thought I was supposed to. But I didn't forget the film, and I saw it again in a film class, and then bought the laserdisc and saw it a third and fourth time, and by then it had become part of my treasure. But I still didn't laugh as much as I thought I was supposed to, and now I think I understand why.

It is not a comedy of hilarity but a comedy of memory, nostalgia, fondness, and good cheer. There are some real laughs in it, but Mr. Hulot's Holiday gives us something rarer, an amused affection for human nature--so odd, so valuable, so particular.

The movie was released in 1953, and played for months, even years, in art cinemas. It was a small film that people recommend to each other. There was a time when any art theater could do a week's good business just by booking Hulot. Jacques Tati (1908-1982) made only four more features in the next 20 years, much labored over, much admired, but this is the film for which he'll be remembered.

At Alliance Française on Friday, January 23: Trafic / Traffic (1971) by Jacques Tati – 96 mins – Italy/ France Comedy. No English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 81 out of 100.

With Jacques Tati, Maria Kimberly, Marcel Fraval.

French comedian/director Jacques Tati once again assumes his "M. Hulot" characterization. This time, the ever-bemused Hulot is assigned to deliver an all-purpose recreational vehicle to an Amsterdam auto show. As Hulot, his driver and the auto company's PR woman set out for the France-to-Holland motor trip, they encounter just about every sort of car-related misadventure known to man, from a slapsticky traffic jam to a malfunctioning service station. Upon arriving in Amsterdam, they learn that the auto show has ended, and now they've got to take the same perilous trip back!

Though not Jacques Tati's best effort, Traffic contains some wonderful sight gags tied in with the theme of modern man's subservience to Technology.

Alliance description

Chicago Reader: Traffic is a masterpiece in its own right--not only for the sharp picture of the frenetic and gimmick-crazy civilization that worships cars, but also for many remarkable formal qualities: an extraordinary use of sound (always one of Tati's strong points), a complex interplay of chance and control in the observations of everyday behavior, and, in some spots, a development of the use of multiple focal points to articulate some of the funniest gags.

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