At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
At Alliance Française on Friday, August 14: Pépé le Moko (1937) by Julien Duvivier – 94 mins – France, Crime/ Drama/ Romance. English subtitles. B&W. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 86 out of 100.
With Jean Gabin, Mireille Balin, Gabriel Gabrio, Marcel Dalio,Fernand Charpin, Line Noro.
“Pépé le Moko”, a famous gangster chased by the police of Algiers hides in the Kasbah… One night, after a fight between his men and the police, Pépé, slightly injured takes refuge in a house where he meets a young woman, Gasy…
– Alliance description
A notorious gangster hides out in the Casbah for safety and soon realizes he's a prisoner, unable to ever leave its confines. He becomes obsessed with a beautiful outsider, and this attachment ultimately leads to his doom. Based on D'Ashelbe's novel and remade in America as "Algiers."
San Diego Metropolitan: It's not just an important film; it's also great entertainment, a compelling screen romance -- and one of the best places to see hunky Jean Gabin at the height of his career.
Terence Clarke: Gabin simply fills the role of Pépé le Moko, an intrepid thief who has had to leave his beloved Paris under trying circumstances, and is now hiding from the French police in the complicated, turbulent warren of The Casbah in Algiers. He is the personification of Ernest Hemingway’s famous definition of courage, that it is “grace under pressure”. He also has a very humorous glint in his eye, especially when he’s engaged in slang badinage with his pals or with the police inspector Slimane who, although Pépé’s pursuer, also thinks of him as a friend, a man to be respected. Pépé is as well a great lover. One of the Arab men in the quarter says of him that the day Pépé le Moko dies, there will be five thousand widows in The Casbah.
TV Guide: Based on the life of a real criminal who hid in the Casbah under the protection of his pals, Pépé le Moko stars Jean Gabin as the title thief, brigand, and charmer, who has surrounded himself with loyal gang members and keeps them in line through the sheer force of his personality, never resorting to violence. Tired of life with his moll, Ines (Line Noro), and of being on the run, Pepe yearns for his old days in Paris. He falls in love with a gorgeous tourist, Gaby Gould (Mireille Balin), but in the process lets his guard down and gives Algerian police inspector Slimane (Lucas Gridoux) the opportunity to finally nab him.
Pépé le Moko owes a thematic and stylistic debt to the early Hollywood gangster films, most notably Howard Hawks' Scarface, but director Julien Duvivier took the conventional mix of love and bullets and made it into dark poetry. Indeed this film is cited as a prime example of the Poetic Realism movement in France. The camera undulates through dingy realistic sets cloaked in deep shadow. The performances are so naturalistic that the actors don't seem to be acting, and the lack of sentimentality deserves special praise.
The film's success and the universality of its themes can be attested to by the fact that a Hollywood version, Algiers, was made immediately after Pépé le Moko and released in the States before the original could be imported. Charles Boyer turned the part of Pepe down when it was offered by Duvivier, then starred in the US version when Gabin refused to make the trip to Hollywood, explaining that he, like French wine, "didn't travel well." When WW II started, the French government banned the film as too depressing and demoralizing, especially since the news from the front was also bleak. The Germans took over and their puppet government retained the ban, but the moment the war ended, Pépé le Moko was again shown and hailed as a classic.
At Alliance Française on Friday, August 21: Le dernier métro / The Last Metro (1980) by François Truffaut – 131 mins – France, Drama/ Romance. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 74 out of 100.
With Gérard Dépardieu, Catherine Deneuve, Jean Poiret,Heinz Bennent.
Lucas, a German-Jewish refugee, wants people to believe he went into exile leaving the management of the famous “Théâtre de Montmartre” to his wife, Marion. Actually, he is hiding in the basement. Daxiat, a theatre critic and a pro-nazi journalist, suspects something…
– Alliance description
Rotten Tomatoes: FrançoisTruffaut, whose "Day for Night" explored the world of filmmaking, turns to the stage in this story of a small theater company during the German occupation of France. Marion Steiner, the theater's owner, is desperately trying to keep both the troupe and Lucas, her Jewish husband, alive. To do this, she's staging a new play, which must be successful if she is to maintain the theater. Not only is this an artistic imperative -- the building also serves as a refuge for Lucas, who's hiding from the Nazis. But just as the actors begin their rehearsals, an anti-semitic journalist ensconces himself in the theater, creating an atmosphere of fear and insecurity. Will he discover Lucas's hideaway... or the truth about the political affiliations of the group's lead actor?
NY Times, Vincent Canby:FrançoisTruffaut's The Last Metro is a dazzlingly subversive work. The film has the form of a more or less conventional melodrama, about a small Parisian theater company during the 1942-44 Nazi occupation, though the film's methods are so systematically unconventional that it becomes a gently comic, romantic meditation on love, loyalty, heroism, and history.
The Last Metro is about the manner in which the Theatre Montmartre actors approach their work, their shifting relations with each other, and the way in which each responds to the condition of being "occupied."
The Last Metro doesn't dwell on the horrors of Nazi-encouraged, French anti-Semitism, which flourished during the occupation, but it is haunted by those horrors. They are there in the sorrowful love scenes of Marion and Lucas Steiner, which are among the loveliest moments in all of Mr. Truffaut's works, and in what seem to be throwaway scenes, as in a chance encounter Marion has at Gestapo headquarters with a young French woman who has been playing both sides to go on living.
At Alliance Française on Friday, August 28: Mélo (1986) by Alain Resnais – 112 mins – France, Drama. English subtitles.
With Sabine Azéma, Fanny Ardant, Pierre Arditi, André Dussollier.
Two violonist, Pierre and Marcel have met at the Academy of Music. During a friendly meal, Marcel makes the acquaintance of Pierre’s wife. They become lovers but Romaine can’t answer Marcel’s demand: he wants her to leave her husband…
– Alliance description
Rotten Tomatoes: Known for stylistically adventurous films like Last Year At Marienbad, French director Alain Resnais transitions to a self-consciously subdued form in Mélo. Adapted from the 1929 play by Henri Bernstein, the film follows the evolving love triangle between a violinist's wife and his best friend. "Melo" is short for melodrama, and the film offers an intriguing exercise in that tried-and-true form.
Cineaste, David Sterritt: Mélo, a 1986 release, reflects Resnais’s career-long interest in blurring the boundaries between cinema and theater, life and performance. The screenplay is taken directly from an eponymous stage play by Henry Bernstein, first produced in 1929. Arditi and Dusollier play classical musicians who are close friends despite their different lifestyles—one is a single-minded careerist, the other is a mellow suburbanite who loves married life as much as music. Little does the suburbanite know that his old pal and his pretty young wife are sliding into a passionate affair that will have grim consequences. Filmed entirely on theatrical sets, Mélo is lushly artificial in everything but its emotions, and the artifice actually enhances the feelings it conveys. One example is a scene where a grieving man recites a letter from a dead woman he loved; the camera moves tactfully away from him and the image fades to darkness while his voice continues to read, as if the film itself were journeying to the underworld at this moment.
Mélo is a more complicated title than it seems—derived from the Greek for “music,” it’s a French colloquialism for “weepy” and “schmaltzy,” and it’s also a term for “melodrama,” which originally meant “drama with music.” (M. Philippe-Gérard composed the movie score, but Brahms and J.S. Bach—another Bergman connection – are also heard.) Each of these meanings is germane to the subtly multifaceted film.