Thursday, March 12, 2009

Alliance Française schedule

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm

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., Jake Euker: From the moment his 16-minute Surrealist dirty bomb Un Chien andalou was dropped on an unsuspecting Paris in 1929 until the time of his death in Mexico in 1983, director Luis Buñuel patiently and gleefully held court as cinema’s most steadfast, outspoken, and off-handedly inflammatory enemy of “polite” society. He built a career on his contempt for unexamined social mores and the gluttonous, self-righteous civic and religious leaders who perpetuated them, and he wasn’t just fooling around. …

Buñuel’s cheerful blasphemy was, as you can imagine, shocking, but his commitment to relaying narrative through free-associative, non-linear images – his commitment, that is, to the Surrealist creed that raged among Parisian artists – was seen by many to be as grave an affront. Audiences grew hostile, it seems, when, in Buñuel’s films, livestock lounged about in the beds of debutantes or miffed gamekeepers shot and killed children to blow off steam. Buñuel, who was a Spaniard, suffered a more concrete hardship when Fascists took power in Madrid in 1938; he eventually settled in Mexico in 1946, returning to Spain in 1961 where General Franco banned his first new film, Viridiana, just as hurriedly as the jury at Cannes awarded it the Palme d'or. And so Buñuel relocated to France, now in his 60s, and at an age when most directors have retired or have long since begun recycling their own material, he entered one of the most fertile periods enjoyed by any filmmaker anywhere. There are masterpieces scattered among Buñuel’s French films like confetti, but in his 1972 comedy The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, one of cinema’s most brilliant directors made the most brilliant film of his career.

The Surrealism is present, but what once was aggressively confrontational has transformed, for the most part, into the hilariously inappropriate. The story, to the extent that one exists, deals with the attempts of three affluent Parisian couples to successfully take a meal together without tragedy, calamity, or emergency troop maneuvers interfering, which they invariably do. It’s a problem; without a meal in front of them this clique of glittering fashion plates and powerbrokers can’t think of a single thing to do. Between abortive dinner and lunch appointments, the men – one of whom (Fernando Rey) is ambassador to the fictional South American country of Miranda – smuggle substantial quantities of cocaine into France in diplomatic pouches and fire rifles out the embassy windows at an attractive young street vendor who may or may not be a spy. In the absence of the men, the women a) drink; b) have sex with one another’s husbands; and c) make a pretense of worrying that their Chanel gowns may not be nice enough to wear to a neighborhood inn. Buñuel shows sublime assurance in directing what amounts to a top-drawer ensemble – he elicits performances from them that blend artifice and desperation into a delicious, satiric aperitif, all within his usual businesslike, deadpan style – and his work here exhibits the kind of ease that perhaps only a master filmmaker of such advanced age could achieve. Alfred Hitchcock called Buñuel cinema’s greatest director; in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie evidence that this might be so glows serenely, frame by frame, on the screen.

The coup-de-grâce, though, is the lunatic nonchalance that Buñuel brings to the film’s structure. He violates narrative rules and convolutes the flow of his film as though he literally could not be made to care whether or not he brings his characters safely to a conclusion. (A recurring motif in the film – footage of the cast strolling without destination down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere – echoes this.) Dream sequences – sometimes achingly funny – punctuate the narrative with utter unpredictability. (Unpredictable, that is, unless Buñuel chooses to announce that he’s shutting the film down for that purpose; in one scene a soldier interrupts a dinner to request of his superior that he be allowed to relate an interesting dream he had the night before to a crowd of 30 or 40 strangers.) Mapping the dream-within-a-dream plot of the second half of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie would seem to indicate anarchy, as though Buñuel changed directions at his whim. In reality it's part of a casual formal genius that occurs only very rarely in films, blooming like magic amidst the rambling of The Bank Dick or the irrational velocity of Eraserhead.

As mentioned above, Buñuel, in his 80s, had softened his viciousness for his pet victims into a biting comic derision. But that's not to say that he lets them off the hook. His bishop in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie becomes a murderer (Buñuel has always maintained that the church kills), the military is shown to be under the command of a pot-smoking clown, and Buñuel aptly makes the point that the unconcern of the voracious, groomed monsters whose story he tells – these same people who become outraged when inconvenienced in their pursuit of roast duck or melon – results in death and horror for less privileged people throughout the world.

At Alliance Française on Friday, March 20: Pierrot le fou / Pierrot Goes Wild / Crazy Pete (1965) by Jean-Luc Godard – 110 mins – France/ Italy, Crime/ Drama. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 73 out of 100.

With Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anna Karina, Dirk Sanders, Graziella Galvani, 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

Pierrot (Jean-Paul Belmondo) escapes his boring society and travels from Paris to the Mediterranean Sea with Marianne, a girl chased by hit-men from Algeria. They lead an unorthodox life, always on the run.

TV Guide: Pierrot le fou was Godard's tenth film in six years (not including four sketches that he contributed to compilation films) and perhaps the first to contain all the elements that have been called "Godardian." He combined everything that came before--the romanticism of Breathless, the inner monologue externalized in Le Petit soldat, the structural division of My Life to Live, and the epic odyssey of Contempt--with the linguistic diary format that would overpower some of his later films.

Working from the outline provided by Lionel White's novel Obsession, Godard was able to proceed without a script and create what he called "a completely spontaneous film." Spontaneous or not, Pierrot le fou is arguably one of the few Godard pictures to have the desired balance of romance, adventure, violence, and humor on one side, and philosophy, literary and cinematic allusion, and Brechtian distancing on the other.

The film was lensed quickly in May, June, and July 1965 and then edited even more rapidly for a showing at the Venice Film Festival at the end of August.

At Alliance Française on Friday, March 27: 13 m² / 13m2 (2007) by Barthélémy Grossmann – 84 mins – France Crime/ Drama/ Thriller. Black and white. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 82 out of 100.

With Barthélémy Grossmann, Youssef Hajdi, Thierry Lhermitte, Lucien Jean-Baptiste.

Jose is looking for a way out of his small time banlieue deals. When he overhears a conversation between his girlfriend and his step-brother, he might just have found a very lucrative way. Together with his two best friends, he decides to attack an armored vehicle, full of cash. But everything goes wrong and they're forced into hiding, in a 13 square meters bunker. There, they will have to test their friend-ship, their motivations, as every move outside triggers even more paranoia...

Alliance description

A first-time directing effort by actor Barthélémy Grossmann, who also wrote the script. After the hold-up of an armored lorry, José, Farouk, and Réza take refuge in a hideout measuring 13m². Shut away with the money and a tarnished conscience, the relationships and personalities of the three friends are revealed with the passing lies and conflicts that this oppressive situation triggers. Each excursion into the real world from now on presents a threat. Will they manage to overcome their fate and make a fresh start?

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