At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
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.
Slant, Fernando F. Croce: As he grew older, Alain Resnais [picture left] revealed the wistful sentimentalist behind the formalist pathfinder of Hiroshima Mon Amour and Muriel. Mélo is illustrative of the French filmmaker's autumnal mellowness, replacing the fragmentation of the earlier pictures with graceful long takes and a Minnelli-like attention to subtly emotive colors. Adapting an archaic play by Henri Bernstein, Resnais courts quaintness from the get-go: The dramaturgy of the film's romantic triangle—involving longtime friends and violinists Pierre (Pierre Arditi) and Marcel (André Dussollier) and Pierre's wife Romaine (Sabine Azéma)—and its fluttery drawing-room dialogue surely must have already been considered creaky when the play first came out in 1929. Yet the director is clearly moved by the characters and their "lost poetry and youth," and the rapt gaze of his camera extracts true feeling from their tragicomic convolutions. At first coming off as a step backward for Resnais, the theatricality of Mélo (complete with dissolves of red curtains announcing the end of an act) becomes a different sort of experimentalism, attuned more to the emotional wholeness of its protagonists than to the structural splintering of the narrative. Fans of Resnais the hardcore avant-gardist may reject the switch, but the fact is Dussollier's unbroken, six-minute monologue as his character serenely but achingly recalls his disillusionment with love is more affecting than the entirety of Last Year at Marienbad.
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: 93 out of 100.
With Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy, GuyDecomble.
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 François Truffaut'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.
At Alliance Française on Friday, September 11: Jules et Jim / Jules and Jim (1962) by François Truffaut – 110 mins – France, Drama/ Romance. English subtitles. B&W. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 89 out of 100.
With JeanneMoreau, Oscar Werner, Henri Serre, Marie Dubois.
Two young men, Jules and Jim, have been the best of friends for many years, and their friendship becomes even more closer the day they discover that they love the same woman and that she loves them both… A strange situation indeed, but even stranger is this young woman who, although her behaviour could seem paradoxical to others, keeps a surprising simplicity and purity in the relationship with her two lovers.
– Alliance description
Decades of a love triangle concerning two friends and an impulsive woman.
Amazon.com, Sean Axmaker: François Truffaut's third feature, though it's named for the two best friends who become virtually inseparable in pre-World War I Paris, is centered on Jeanne Moreau's Catherine, the most mysterious, enigmatic woman in his career-long gallery of rich female portraits. Adapted from the novel by Henri-Pierre Roché, Truffaut's picture explores the 30-year friendship between Austrian biologist Jules (Oskar Werner) and Parisian writer Jim (Henri Serre) and the love triangle formed when the alluring Catherine makes the duo a trio. Spontaneous and lively, a woman of intense but dynamic emotions, she becomes the axle on which their friendship turns as Jules woos her and they marry, only to find that no one man can hold her. Directed in bursts of concentrated scenes interspersed with montage sequences and pulled together by the commentary of an omniscient narrator, Truffaut layers his tragic drama with a wealth of detail. He draws on his bag of New Wave tricks for the carefree days of youth--zooms, flash cuts, freeze frames--that disappear as the marriage disintegrates during the gloom of the postwar years. Werner is excellent as Jules, a vibrant young man whose slow, melancholy slide into emotional compromise is charted in his increasingly sad eyes and resigned face, while Serre plays Jim as more of an enigma, guarded and introspective. But both are eclipsed in the glare of Moreau's radiant Catherine: impulsive, demanding, sensual, passionate, destructive, and ultimately unknowable. A masterpiece of the French New Wave and one of Truffaut's most confident and accomplished films.
DVD available from Amazon.com.