At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
At Alliance Française on Friday, January 30: La Grande vadrouille / Don't Look Now - We're Being Shot at (1966) by Gérard Oury – 132 mins – France/ UK Comedy. No English subtitles.
With Bourvil, Louis de Funès, Terry Thomas, Claudio Brook, Andréa Parisy, Colette Brosset.
Augustin Bouvet, painter and Stanislas Lefort, conductor at the Paris Opera, were leading a quiet life in wartime Paris. Until the day they take charge of three British airmen shot down over the city.
A British bomber is shot down over Paris by the Germans. Its crew (Terry Thomas as a flight captain) land there by parachute. With the help of some French civilians (Louis de Funès in the role of a conductor and Bourvil as a house painter) they try to escape over the demarcation line into the southern part of France, still not occupied by the Germans.
– Alliance description
Paris 1943. Three Allied parachutists land unexpectedly and turn upside-down the peaceful lives of Stanislas, a conductor, and Augustin, a decorator. The only way to get rid of their unwanted guests is to lead them to the free zone. This was the highest-grossing film in France for more than thirty years!
IMDb viewer: One of the most popular French movies of all time! Starring the famous Bourvil/Louis de Funes tandem it is a highly entertaining caper set in WWII German-occupied France, where these two unlikely heroes reluctantly must help some downed British airmen to escape.
A perennial favorite on French TV during the Christmas or Easter holidays it is one of those rare movies you can watch over and over again without getting tired of it. It runs more than two hours but moves along at an incredible pace. Movie relies big time on the clash of character between de Funes as the self-important musical director of the Opéra de Paris and Bourvil as the simple housepainter. But also the hilarious script, some spectacular set pieces (including a spielbergesque chase by German sidecars) and a surprising finale all add up to making Vadrouille one of the best and most entertaining French movies ever.
Made on a lavish budget by Gerard Oury who would go on to make some other highly successful comedies, mostly starring big French stars as de Funes and Bourvil, but also Jean-Paul Belmondo, Pierre Richard and Christian Clavier. Up to that time movies made in France took war rather seriously, but La Grande vadrouille sparked of an endless string of farces set in WWII which almost invariably depicted the French as very clever and cunning, always outwitting the Germans in the end.
At Alliance Française on Friday, February 6: La Grande illusion / The Grand Illusion (1937) by Jean Renoir – 114 mins – France Drama/ War. Black and white. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 92 out of 100.
With Jean Gabin, Erich von Stroheim, Pierre Fresnay.
During 1st WW, two French officers are captured. Captain de Boeldieu is an aristocrat while Lieutenant Maréchal was a mechanic in civilian life. They meet other prisoners from various backgrounds, as Rosenthal, son of wealthy Jewish bankers. They are separated from Rosenthal before managing to escape. A few months later, they meet again in a fortress commanded by the aristocrat Van Rauffenstein. De Boeldieu strikes up a friendship with him but Maréchal and Rosenthal still want to escape.
– Alliance description
Calling on his own experiences as an aviator in WWI as well as those of his comrades, this is Jean Renoir's antiwar masterpiece.
Roger Ebert: It's a meditation on the collapse of the old order of European civilization. Perhaps that was always a sentimental upper-class illusion, the notion that gentlemen on both sides of the lines subscribed to the same code of behavior. Whatever it was, it died in the trenches of World War I.
Ozu’s World, Dennis Schwartz: Jean Renoir's subdued masterpiece is perhaps the greatest anti-war film ever made (some might prefer All Quiet on the Western Front). Uncannily, "Illusion" never showed one battle scene as it reflects on the first Great War in Europe. The first foreign film to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar is framed around a simple WWI POW escape narrative, but it suggests a more careful look – it's also a pointed study of how upper class backgrounds, even in warring armies, offers a stronger bond of sympathy than even nationality. This is brought out through the deep regard the German commandant, Captain von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim), had for his captive, the senior French officer, Captain de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay), also an aristocrat and career professional military man.
The film offers a call for universal brotherhood and a plea for sanity in a world that doesn't know how to settle things without going to war. There never has been a time of a lasting peace. The Grand Illusion title, one that can mean many things, most likely is derived from the illusionary nature of the war's slogan that this was "The War to End All Wars." It's based on a true story of men Renoir knew when he was in the French Resistance, who told him of their escapes.
Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels considered this film cinematic enemy number one, and tried to destroy all copies. Fortunately he didn't succeed. The negative was taken during the German occupation of France in WWII and retaken when the Red Army seized Berlin. The Reds stored it in a hidden archive; several prints over the years were released. But it wasn't until recently that it was put together as it was originally intended by Michel Rocher and Brigitte Dutray, who upgraded it through use of modern technology.
At Alliance Française on Friday, February 13: Le Quai des brumes / Port of Shadows (1938) by Marcel Carné – 91 mins – France Crime/ Drama/ Romance. Black and white. Generally favorable reviews: 79 out of 100.
With Jean Gabin, Michel Simon, Michèle Morgan, Pierre Brasseur.
A deserter encounters in a harbour a poor girl. They fall in love but he kills his girl-friend's tutor who wanted to rape her. At last he's killed himself by a hooligan and the ship he wanted to go aboard to escape goes away without him...
– Alliance description
TV Guide: This marvelous distillation of the prevailing mood in prewar France was the first feature to win critical acclaim for the directing-writing team of Marcel Carne and Jacques Prévert (who had collaborated on Jenny and Bizarre, Bizarre, and who would later create the beloved Children Of Paradise). Gabin plays a deserter who comes to the port of Le Havre looking for passage to a distant country. In a local dive he becomes attracted to Morgan, ward of the owner of a shop that is a front for illicit dealing. When Gabin comes to Simon's shop to buy a gift for Morgan, the evil Simon promises Gabin a passport and money if he will kill one of Simon's enemies. Gabin refuses. But hope for Gabin's escape comes when visionary artist Le Vigan gives the deserter his own passport before walking out on the quay and drowning himself.
A classic of French poetic realism, Port Of Shadows conveys a deeply fatalistic belief that humankind is at the mercy of malevolent fate, a message that is communicated both through the simple story line and through the superb fog-shrouded sets (the work of Alexander Trauner) and forbidding locations. Ironically, Port Of Shadows was originally to have been a German production. Carne was introduced to the Mac Orlan novel on which the picture is loosely based by Raoul Ploquin, then head of French productions at UFA in Berlin. Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels turned thumbs down on the project, however; he considered this story of a deserter to be decadent. The rights were sold to French producer Gregor Rabinovitch, who envisioned a lighter, happier film, and so quarreled constantly with Carne. Carne also had political problems within his own country, primarily with the French minister of war, who would not permit the word "deserter" to be used and insisted that Gabin's soldier's uniform be treated respectfully. As a result, writer Prévert was forced to deviate from the novel in almost every respect. Notably, in the book, Morgan's heroine is no tempest-tossed innocent; she is a prostitute who murders her pimp and ends up wealthy. Banned from being shown during the Nazi occupation of France.