At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
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: François Truffaut, 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'sThe 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, AndréDussollier.
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 are also heard.) Each of these meanings is germane to the subtly multifaceted film.
September features François Truffaut at Alliance Française.
At Alliance Française on Friday, September 4: Les quatre cents coups / The 400 Blows (1959) by François Truffaut – 96 mins – France, Drama/ Crime. English subtitles. B&W. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 88 out of 100.
With Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy, Guy Decomble.
Antoine Doinel is 14 year old. His parents do not show much interest in him. He skips school to go to the movies and play with his friends. He discovers his mother has a lover. Antoine steals a typewriter, which leads to his suspension from school...
– Alliance description
Intensely touching story of a misunderstood young adolescent who left without attention, delves into a life of petty crime. A seminal French New Wave film that offers an honest, sympathetic, and wholly heartbreaking observation of adolescence without trite nostalgia.
A young Parisian boy, Antoine Doinel, neglected by his derelict parents, skips school, sneaks into movies, runs away from home, steals things, and tries (disastrously) to return them. Like most kids, he gets into more trouble for things he thinks are right than for his actual trespasses. Unlike most kids, he gets whacked with the big stick. He inhabits a Paris of dingy flats, seedy arcades, abandoned factories, and workaday streets, a city that seems big and full of possibilities only to a child's eye.
Rotten Tomatoes: Director FrançoisTruffaut's first feature film, The 400 Blows, is a landmark in French cinema. Antoine Doinel (Jean-PierreLéaud) is a 13-year-old boy who can't seem to do anything right. His parents yell at him and then bribe him for his love and his promises to work harder in school. Meanwhile, his schoolteacher is out to get him and blames Antoine for everything--turning him into the class clown. As a result, Antoine runs away from school and his difficult family, living on the streets of Paris and committing petty crimes. While his life on the street is tough, it's much better than dealing with his preoccupied parents and his accusatory teacher. Nonetheless, things only go downhill for Antoine, descending to a simultaneously painful and beautiful conclusion. A truly impressive film, The 400 Blows is raw, honest, and intensely emotional. Imbued with a strong and complex personality, Antoine maintains his poise and self-confidence, even as he endures abusive treatment from every adult he encounters. René Simonet (Patrick Auffray) is Antoine's one pal, and the unspoken dialogues between the boys, depicted by Truffaut through the boys' facial expressions and with masterful roving photography, allow the viewer to see through Antoine's eyes and understand his unflinching tenacity. Few films have captured the difficulties of childhood as well as this acclaimed French masterpiece. Essentially the start of the French New Wave movement, The 400 Blows is also the beginning of Truffaut'sAntoine Doinel cycle, which follows Léaud as Antoine in five additional films over the course of 20 years.