Thursday, April 1, 2010

Alliance Française schedule

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm


The Alliance Française shows its series of French films in a small room in their building at 138 Charoen Prathet Road. The building is directly opposite Wat Chaimongkhon, near the Chedi Hotel. Tell your taxi "Samakhom Frangset" and/or "Wat Chaimongkhon."A contribution of 30 baht is requested; you pay outside at the information desk of the Alliance Française proper.


At Alliance Française on Friday, April 2, 8 pm:  L'armée des ombres / Army of Shadows (1969) written and directed by Jean-Pierre Melville – 150 mins – France/ Italy, Drama/ War. English subtitles.


With Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Simone Signoret, Serge Reggiani.


In 1942 during World War II, a few men and women risked their lives to liberate France. The “Shadows Army” is an evocation of an important period of the “Resistance” such as J.P. Melville experienced himself.

– Alliance description


Well-known for his influential crime films (Le Samourai, Le Cercle Rouge), director Jean-Pierre Melville explores the lives of French Resistance fighters in his moody World War II masterpiece, Army of Shadows. Restrained and controlled, the film follows Philippe Gerbier (Lino Ventura) and other members of the underground as they carry out clandestine missions against Nazi occupiers. And while there are some exciting scenes (air drops, escape attempts), the film largely avoids action-film histrionics. Its tone is a subdued one and tension results from its quiet moments, interrupted by brief, jarring violence. This is appropriate, given the film's subject matter. Silence is the guiding principle of espionage and the film's look--bruised and penumbral--reflects the tenuous position of its characters, who live divided, imperiled existences. There is no glib heroism in Army of Shadows; there are only people living through untenable situations, acting as is necessary and sacrificing, perhaps, everything.
18693_Armee-Des-Ombres-3, James Travers: In this film, director Jean-Pierre Melville draws on his own war-time experiences to paint a vivid and realistic picture of life in the French Resistance during the Second World War. The film has more of the feel of a documentary than a traditional action movie. As a result, the central characters have great depth and their heroism lies not in fool-hardy acts of bravado but in their dogged determination (a) to oppose the Nazi occupiers and (b) just simply to survive.

Melville’s style fits the film well. Better known for his gangster films, the same sense of a clandestine underworld is entirely appropriate for depicting the activities of the French Resistance. However, unlike in Melville’s other films, there is no sense of moral ambiguity. The Nazis are clearly the villains of the piece; the Resistance are the heroes. Even when the Resistance members are having to dispose of their own kind, they are shown in a positive light, clearly tormented by the action they have to take.

The central characters are well drawn and would stand up well, even if they were not portrayed by some of France’s great acting talents. Lino Ventura dominates the film as Gerbier, with a performance that is alternately severe and warm, reflecting possibly a character who is naturally warm but who has become cold and severe through his Resistance work. With the incomparable Simone Signoret and Paul Merisse also prominent in his line-up, Melville reinforces a winning hand, and is amply rewarded. This is a film about individuals, about their personal quandaries and agonies during a period of crises. With such a strong cast, Melville could hardly have failed.

By avoiding spectacle and concentrating on small, individual acts of heroism, Melville’s portrayal of life in the French Resistance is perhaps one of the most accurate depicted in film to date. Melville’s attention to detail is often quite staggering – whether it be in the emotional responses of characters to their predicament, or in the faultless photography and set design. The whole film has a feeling of genuineness that is pretty rare in films of this genre, and the film is all the better for that.


At Alliance Française on Friday, April 9, 8 pm:  Une vie / End of Desire (1958) written and directed by Alexandre Astruc – 86 mins – France/ Italy, Drama. English subtitles.


With Maria Shell, Christian Marquand, Antonella Lualdi, Pascale Petit.


«End of desire» is based on a novel by Guy De Mauppasant. Maria Schell plays Jeanne, who enters into a loveless marriage with impoverished Julien. Having married Jeanne only for her money, Julien has no qualms about carrying on an affair with Gilberte, the family maid. Even after Gilberte gives birth to Julien's child, Jeanne forgives her husband, but he fails to learn his lesson and as a result deeply suffers. The physical and psychological isolation of the long-suffering heroine is emphasized by director Alexandre Astruc's decision to film «End of desire» almost exclusively in a remote country mansion.

– Alliance description, James Travers: Maria Schell stars in this respectable adaptation of a great Guy de Maupassant novel. As in René Clément’s Gervaise (1956), she plays a young woman who is unlucky in love and driven by cruel fate to endure a life of pain and tragedy.  The bleak Normandy setting, beautifully shot by Claude Renoir, conveys the barren futility of Jeanne’s hopeless love but also gives the film a cold feel that plays against its emotional potency.   The characterless, slightly wooden performances from Christian Marquand and the supporting cast further weaken the film’s dramatic impact, almost to the point that Maria Schell resembles a star actress single-handedly trying to lift a faltering amateur stage production.  For all its faults, Une vie is an alluring, well-crafted film with a strange appeal, suffused with a bleak Brontë-style poetry and surprisingly brutal in its depiction of an unrequited love.


Synopsis: In the late 19th century, Jeanne Dandieu lives with her parents in an isolated country house in Normandy.  Her only companion is her childhood friend, Gilberte, who is now her servant.  One fateful day, Jeanne drifts out to sea in a rowing boat.  Soon after she is rescued by fisherman, she meets a young man, Julien, with whom she falls instantly in love.  They marry, but it soon becomes apparent that Julien has no love for Jeanne.  He insists on having a separate room where, unbeknown to Jeanne, he takes Gilberte as his mistress…

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