Thursday, July 9, 2009

Alliance Française schedule

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm

At Alliance Française on Friday, July 10:  Le papillon / The Butterfly (2002) by Philippe Muyl – 85 mins – France, Comedy/ Drama. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 64/66 out of 100.


With Michel Serrault, Claire Bouanich, Nade Dieu, Françoise Michaud, Hélène Hily.              


Julien, an aging and cranky widower, collects butterflies. Isabelle and her eight-year-old daughter Elsa have just moved into his apartment building. The young mother is usually out, and lonely little Elsa starts visiting Julien. One day, Julien decides to go to the breathtaking Vercors plateau in search for a rare breed of butterfly, the Isabelle. He thinks he is alone, but young Elsa has managed to tag along on the trip. The little girl asks tons of questions, upsetting the tranquility that the old man longed for...

Alliance description


Tournees Festival: Eight-year-old Elsa and her mother Isabelle move in next door to Julien, a grumpy old entomologist with a vast butterfly collection in his apartment. Elsa’s mother is often absent, because she works. Elsa is left alone, and Julien does not know what to make of this little girl, who quickly becomes attached to him. Little by little, he too grows fond of her, until she commits the irreparable act of opening the door to his butterfly room. When Julien sets out on a weeklong hike in the Alps in search of a rare and beautiful butterfly, Elsa hides in his car. Although Julien is initially bothered, he begrudgingly accepts the situation and brings her along on his camping expedition for better or worse. The bond between the two grows stronger, and with him, Elsa learns many things about life and nature and begins to transform herself. The Butterfly is a charming film, directed with great sensitivity by Philippe Muyl

Rotten Tomatoes: Writer-director Philippe Muyl delivers this tender French family drama about an unlikely bond that forms between a young girl and her elderly neighbor. Michel Serrault (Le Cage aux folles) is Julien, an aging butterfly collector who leads a quiet life. But when Elsa (Claire Bouanich) moves into the apartment above him, Julien's life takes on a new trajectory. Neglected by her mother, the inquisitive eight-year-old attaches herself to Julien and convinces him to take her on a trip to the mountains to try to locate Isabelle, a beautiful but elusive butterfly. At first skeptical, Julien relents--thinking that Elsa's mother has left her alone in the apartment--and the pair embark on their journey. As the journey unfolds, Julien shows Elsa the attention that she's been craving, and Elsa gives Julien a new lease on life, helping him to see the world through more innocent eyes. Back at home, Elsa's mother Isabelle (Nade Dieu) is shocked to discover that her daughter has disappeared. A near-tragedy brings the situation to a head, teaching each of the characters a very valuable lesson about life and love. Directed with extreme sensitivity by Muyl, The Butterfly features standout performances from the always reliable Serrault and newcomer Bouanich.


Available on DVD from



At Alliance Française on Friday, July 17:  Touchez pas au grisbi / Don’t Touch the Dough / Grisbi / Hands Off the Loot (1954) by Jacques  Becker – 95 mins – France/ Italy, Action/ Crime/ Drama/ Thriller. B&W. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 85/88 out of 100.


With Jean Gabin, René Dary, Jeanne Moreau, Dora Doll, Gaby Basset, Denise Clair, Michel Jourdan, and Daniel Cauchy


“Don’t Touch the Dough” Jacques Becker’s 1954 farce starring Jean Gabin, Lino Ventura, and Jeanne Moreau visits the underworld of the Paris mafia and the two gangsters, now in their 50’s, who have decided to retire, just like everyone else...

Alliance description

An aging, world-weary gangster is double-crossed and forced out of retirement when his best friend is kidnapped and their stash of eight stolen gold bars demanded as ransom.


Film Forum: The granddaddy of the modern Gallic gangster movie, Touchez Pas Au Grisbi (translation: "Don't touch the loot!") immediately created a market for offspring like Dassin'sRififi and Melville's Bob Le Flambeur. Adapted from the seminal 1952 "Série Noire" novel by Albert Simonin, Grisbi took the gangster saga to new heights of realism by portraying the criminal class as a larcenous subbourgeoisie and introducing authentic underworld slang to screen dialogue.


From Philip Kemp's short essay on Jacques Becker and Grisbi, "A Neglected Master":

If Becker has received less than his due as a filmmaker, it may be partly because, like Franju, Melville, Clouzot, and Gremillon, he belongs to that intermediate, less celebrated generation of French directors who flourished in the years between the Golden Age of the 1930s and the rise of the Nouvelle Vague in the late 1950s. But it may also be because Becker is one of the great underactors among directors, with no interest in flashy technical devices or show-off camera moves: his dexterity, the unstressed elegance of his images, the wit and fluency of his narrative style have led some critics to write him off as a lightweight, lacking in seriousness. Also, Becker loved to explore fresh territory and different genres—no way to build a reputation as a respected auteur.

What sets Becker’s films apart above all is his highly personal approach to narrative. He was fascinated by what he liked to call temps mort—literally “dead time”—what goes on before, after, and around the necessary plot moves. Scenes that other directors would emphasize Becker compresses into a minimum or even skips entirely; scenes that advance the plot scarcely if at all he will linger over. Note how in Grisbi, when Max takes his partner in crime, Riton, to his secret apartment, Becker is just as concerned with the domestic routines of serving food and wine, of the donning of pajamas and the cleaning of teeth, as he is in the intrigues of the two gangsters planning their next moves. What he’s doing is inviting us, quietly but incisively, to watch his characters getting on with the business of living. His ambition, he once said—only partly tongue-in-cheek—was to make a film “with no beginning, no end, and virtually no story.”


Available on DVD from



At Alliance Française on Friday, July 24:  "Nouvelles de Henry James" Ce que savait Morgan (1974) by Luc Béraud – 52 mins – France, Drama. TV series episode, from Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française (ORTF). English subtitles. 


With Rufus (aka Rufus Narcy), Anouk Ferjac, André Falcon, Jean-PierreBisson.              


The Morren family hires Pemberton as a private tutor for their son Morgan. Pemberton is far from being wealthy and the social anticonformity of his employers makes them unable to pay him his wages. However, a strong relationship sets up between the teacher and the pupil…

Alliance description


This is from a series of Henry James adaptations that appeared on French TV between 1974 and 1976. (Among the other directors who did episodes in this series was Claude Chabrol.)Luc Béraud, the director of the well-received Plein Sud / Heat of Desire (1981) and one of the writers of L'accompagnatrice / The Accompanist (1992), seems mostly forgotten by American film buffs.




No comments: