Thursday, June 18, 2009

Alliance Française schedule

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm


The Alliance Française concludes its series on Eric Rohmer this week.


At Alliance Française on Friday, June 19:  Le beau mariage / A Good Marriage (1982) by Eric Rohmer – 100 mins – France, Comedy/ Drama/ Romance. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 73 out of 100.


With Béatrice Romand, André Dussollier, Féodor Atkine, Arielle Dombasle.              


Sabine, whose family lives in Le Mans, studies Art in Paris. One evening, she breaks off with her lover who is already married and decides to find herself a husband…

– Alliance description

The second of six films in Eric Rohmer's Comedies and Proverbs series.


epinions, metalluk: We know from Rohmer’s general body of work that he is a moralist of traditional Catholic persuasion. He disapproves of young men and women, but especially women, sleeping around and engaging in meaningless sex. Considering that he lived in France, clearly his view is largely out of touch with his country's consensus approach to love and sex. In The Good Marriage, however, Rohmer dispenses with that theme early on, having his protagonist find her own dissatisfaction with the life of sleeping around with married men. This film tackles, instead, another kind of adverse male-female relationship, the gold-digger and the eligible bachelor. Here’s a category of male-female interactions that worse than meaningless – it’s downright predatory and exploitive. Having tired of giving away her physical beauty for sexual purposes and getting nothing substantive in return, Sabine has determined to market her physical beauty toward the purpose of securing a “good marriage.” Her ideal marriage, however, is not predicated in any way on love. It’s not even predicated on what she might have to offer to a husband – other than her youthful sexiness. A “good marriage,” in her mind, is one that will provide for her independence, idleness, and access to financial resources.

Although men are often victimized by their own libidos, most also exercise basic good sense in selecting their mates. In addition to a sex partner, a man might want a woman who is nurturing – if not for his own sake, that of his children. He might want a woman who is intelligent, accomplished, or personable. The relative importance of each of those items will of course vary from one man to another, but most men aren’t going to settle for nothing more than sexiness, especially a man as eligible as Edmund. He can afford to demand more. From my vantage point as a male viewer, I would have behaved like Edmund in this film, extracting myself as quickly and as efficiently as possible from Sabine’s clutches, despite her pleasing physical attributes. Sabine leaves a whole lot to be desired. Not only is she unintelligent in a bookish sense, more importantly, she is ignorant about human relationships. She is self-centered and full of pride despite having little in the way of qualities to justify such pride. She has no employment skills, she is disinclined to develop her artistic potential, she has no ambition, and she has no desire to give love. She merely wants to be idolized and kept.

Le Beau Marriage covers approximately the same thematic territory as Jane Austin’s great novel Emma and the film adaptations of that novel. Emma was the quintessential matchmaker whose aim was to provide her friend Harriet Smith with a “good marriage.” Emma had a distorted view of Harriet’s worth on the marriage market as we often do in relation to our good friends. Clarisse is equivalent to Emma and Sabine is equivalent to Harriet Smith, so one difference between the two stories is that Emma is told from the viewpoint of the matchmaker while Le Beau Marriage focuses on the woman who is to be matched. The comparison of the two stories reflects very adversely on Le Beau Marriage. It is deficient in every respect relative to Emma. The characters in Le Beau Marriage are relatively undeveloped and one-dimensional. Emma has seven or eight characters that are all better developed than any character in Le Beau Marriage. The moral issues are more complex in Emma because Harriet Smith herself is not really a gold-digger. Emma isn’t either except that she is a gold-digger of Harriet Smith’s behalf. Harriet, despite having dubious lineage and few accomplishments is at least a pleasant and selfless kind of woman. Sabine has nothing going for her but her looks. Rohmer is most admired for his witty, penetrating, and circumspect dialog, but even in his area of strength, Rohmer’s script can’t withstand comparison to Austin’s elevated language.

Besides the obvious "gold-digging is bad" theme, Rohmer scores some points in Le Beau Marriage, as in nearly all of his films, by illuminating the contrast between overt human communication and underlying intents. Rohmer develops double-speak and circumlocution about as well as any director. His work is psychologically penetrating, though even here, Austin does it better.


Available from

At Alliance Française on Friday, June 26:  Casque d'or / Golden Helmet / Golden Marie (1952) by Jacques Becker – 96 mins – France, Crime/ Drama/ Romance. B&W. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 84 out of 100.


With Simone Signoret, Claude Dauphin, Serge Reggiani, Raymond Bussieres, Gaston Modot, William Sabatier.              


1898. The magnificent love between Marie, nicknamed Casque d’Or, and a carpenter named Manda. Marie was the girlfriend of one of the hoodlums of Leca’s gang. Manda faces and defies the gang, kills Leca...

– Alliance description


Rotten Tomatoes:  Starring international sex symbol Simone Signoret, Casque d'or is often considered director Jacques Becker's masterpiece. Becker was an assistant to the legendary Jean Renoir, and Renoir's influence on Becker is readily apparent in this poetic, impressionist film. Signoret plays Marie, the girlfriend of a minor gangster, who falls in love with a working man. Their love affair leads to a power struggle within the gang and speeds everyone inexorably towards tragedy. Casque d'or features a diligent and careful production design that recreates Paris of the late 19th century, and was based on actual criminal cases from that era. Though dismissed on its initial release in 1952, aside from a BAFTA acting award for Signoret, the critical reputation of Casque d'orgrew in subsequent years and is now generally considered one of France's great artistic films



At Alliance Française on Friday, July 3:  La marche de l'empereur / March of the Penguins / The Emperor's Journey (2005) by Luc Jacquet – 85 mins – France, Documentary/ Family. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 79/78 out of 100. Note: This is the original French version, not the US release with Morgan Freeman narrating.


With Charles Berling, penguin father's voice; Romane Bohringer, penguin mother's voice; Jules Sitruk, penguin baby's voice.              


A film on the annual journey of Emperor penguins as they march, single file, to their traditional breeding ground in the Antarctic...

– Alliance description


Rotten Tomatoes: Coming from a French director, Luc Jacquet, the miraculous March of the Penguins would have to be a love story. And so it is. The film explores the mating rituals of the emperor penguin, one of the most resilient animals on earth. Each summer, after a nourishing period of deep-sea feeding, the penguins pop up onto the ice and begin their procession across the frozen tundra of Antarctica. Walking doggedly in single file, they are a sight to behold. Hundreds converge from every direction, moving instinctively toward their mating ground. Once there, they mingle and chatter until they find the perfect mate--a monogamous match that will last a year, through the brutal winter and into the spring. During that time, the mother will give birth to an egg and then leave for the ocean to feed again. The father will stay to protect the egg through the freezing blizzards and pure darkness of winter, which would be deadly to practically any other species. Finally, with spring, the egg hatches and the baby penguins are born. Mothers return from the sea to reunite with their families and feed the starving newborns, while the fathers are finally relieved of their protective duties after months without food. This remarkable story is narrated by Morgan Freeman [not in this version], whose dignified voice gives the penguins the grave admiration they deserve. But even more incredible is the photography, which shows the penguins hunting underwater, sliding on the ice, and even what definitely looks like kissing. At one point the camera even zooms inside the mouth of a penguin as it regurgitates food for its young. A story of love and, more strikingly, survival, March of the Penguins is a stirring, eye-opening, and educational experience. 


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