Thursday, July 16, 2009

Alliance Française schedule

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm


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.


Combustible Celluloid: The very nearly forgotten Jacques Becker usually earns a footnote in history books as a former assistant to Jean Renoir, but the small handful of films he completed -- including the magnificent Le Trou (1960) -- show an understated, masterful skill. In the 1954 Touchez pas au grisbi, Jean Gabin plays Max, an aging gangster who tries to keep his latest score -- a trunkful of gold bars -- safe from the competition. But his rivals have other plans and kidnap Max's partner Riton (Rene Dary). Becker shows the kidnapping and its resolution almost as an afterthought. He's more interested in establishing the day-to-day life patterns that these characters leave behind like sludgy trails. He loads Grisbi with seedy nightclubs, after-hours restaurants, and bachelor apartments where the only on-hand food consists of stale biscuits.


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's Rififi 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.”


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At Alliance Française on Friday, July 24:  "Nouvellesde 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-Pierre Bisson.              


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.



At Alliance Française on Friday, July 31:  Trafic / Traffic (1971) by JacquesTati – 96 mins – France/ Italy, Comedy. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 81 out of 100. 


With Jacques Tati, Maria Kimberly,Marcel Fraval.              


Mr. Hulot drives a recreational vehicle from Paris to Amsterdam in his usual comic, disastrous style.

Alliance description


Rotten Tomatoes: JacquesTati's beleaguered and oblivious alter ego Mr. Hulot returns for his fourth screen appearance in this ridiculous and sublime automobile-focused film. Cars and drivers, present as subplots in Tati's previous comedies, take center stage in Traffic. In his latest incarnation, Hulot is a vehicle designer at the Parisian firm Altra. Having recently completed the prototype for a Rube Goldberg mousetrap-like ultra convenient camper van, Hulot and Altra's pesky public relations girl, Maria (Maria Kimberly), embark to bring their newest creation to an auto show in Holland. The eagle eye of Tati's airtight humor follows Hulot on his doomed path to Amsterdam; he runs out of gas, has various accidents and engine difficulties, and invokes the wrath of both the police and customs officers. Interspersed between gags are seemingly documentary visions of French motorists picking their noses, being mimicked by their own windshield wipers, and generally causing trouble. Minimal dialogue, spectacular visual puns, and an awe-inspiring ballet-like car crash complete the Tati take on car-and-driver culture. 


Available on DVD from

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