At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
At Alliance Française on Friday, March 6: Le Jour se lève / Daybreak (1939) by Marcel Carné and Jacques Prévert – 89 mins – France Crime/ Drama/ Romance/ Thriller. Black and white. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 82 out of 100.
With Jean Gabin, Arletty, Jacqueline Laurent, Bernard Blier.
Francois, a sympathetic factory worker, kills Valentin with a gun. He locked himself in his furnished room and starts remembering how he was led to murder. He met once Francoise, a young fleurist, and they fell in love. But Francoise was gotten round by Valentin, a dog trainer, a Machiavellian guy...
– Alliance description
A tough romantic has his love brutalized by the world and, after committing a crime of passion, barricades himself inside his apartment. It comes as no surprise that a film created in France during 1939, under the cloud of impending war, would be doom-laden and pessimistic in tone, but since it’s a film directed by Marcel Carné and written by Jacques Prévert, it's something of a certainty in any year.
Neil Young: Night in the city: factory-worker François (Jean Gabin) is a cornered man. He shot a person dead in his garret flat atop a multi-storey tenement, and the police are closing in fast. As he stoically awaits his fate, François ponders the circumstances which have led to his grim situation: romantic entanglements with youthful, teddybear-hugging gamine Françoise (Jacqueline Laurent) and jaded woman-of-the-world Clara (Arletty), both of them - in some way - involved with cruel, cynical vaudevillian (or should that be 'vaudevillain'?) Valentine (Jules Berry).
Director Carné and his four cinematographers (Philippe Agostini, Andre Bac, Albert Viguier and an uncredited Curt Courant) do their energetic utmost to distract us from the shortcomings of what's fundamentally a rather thin excuse for a plot. The lighting and camerawork are consistently striking - especially during the indoor sequences - and many of the techniques must have seemed groundbreaking back in 1939. Likewise much of the language is rather spicier than one might expect for the era, the gruffly amiable François's argot packed with harsh, colloquial swear-words such as cul and fout le camp (roughly "arse" and "fuck off", though these are left coyly untranslated in most English-language subtitles).
Gabin is typically engaging and sympathetic as the hapless François, with Arletty (particularly good in an underwritten role) and Laurent providing an effective study in contrasts as his paramours. But the film's love triangle - actually more of a 'quadrangle' - never really comes into proper focus, so episodic and halting is the flashback-heavy screenplay by Jacques Viot (story) and Jacques Prévert (dialogue). So while the film occasionally manages to evoke a potent atmosphere of moody, doomy fatalism, it doesn't really provide much substance to justify its surfeit of ever-so-Gallic style.
At Alliance Française on Friday, March 13: Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie / The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) by Luis Buñuel – 102 mins – France/ Italy/ Spain, Comedy/ Drama/ Fantasy. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 93/86 out of 100.
With Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Bulle Ogier, Michel Piccoli, Delphine Seyrig.
In typical Buñuel fashion The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie surrealistically skewers the conventions of society. The film depicts a series of profoundly frustrating dinner parties. The well-to-do guests gather for especially delectable dinners, but their host does not appear. Every time they are about to begin eating, some bizarre event prevents them. Adding to their tantalization is the dream state many of them enter, with each dream exploring some deeply symbolic or perverse aspect of their lives. Many of the dreams are also of interrupted dinners…
– Alliance description
Luis Buñuel's scathing and surrealistic political comedy masterpiece about a wealthy group of friends repeatedly prevented from beginning their elaborate dinner by increasingly strange events. No matter how hard they try to enjoy the meal and the privileges money affords, everything from closed restaurants to terrorists conspire to thwart their pleasures...and soon it seems that the violence is even pervading their dreams. Academy Award Nominations: 2, including Best (Original) Story and Screenplay. Academy Award: Best Foreign Language Film.
At Alliance Française on Friday, March 20: Pierrot Le Fou / Jenny Lamour (1965) by Jean-Luc Godard – 110 mins – France Crime/ Drama. English subtitles.
With Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anna Karina, Dirk Sanders, Raymond Devos.
Ferdinand meets an old love, Marianne. But at her place, they fall upon a cumbersome corpse. They then decide to flee the killers through France to an island where they might be safe… One of Jean-Paul Belmondo’s best roles in this “Nouvelle Vague” film.
– Alliance description