Sunday, February 2, 2014

Here's FIAF's February CinéSalon calendar of French film classics, 3 in new digital restoration!

What a treasure trove is the current French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) program called CinéSalon! Last month's films were shown here, and I'll have next month's posted by March 1. Meanwhile four very special Tuesdays are headed your way in February. These include films by Renoir, Demy, Ophüls and Chabrol -- three (those by Demy, above and below, Renoir and Chabrol shown further below) to be screened in new digital restorations.

In the spirit of French ciné-clubs and literary salons, FIAF’s new CinéSalon pairs an engaging film with a post-screening wine reception. Films are shown Tuesdays at 4 and 7:30pm, and every screening is followed by a get-together with a complimentary glass of wine. And as a bonus, each 7:30 screening will be thoughtfully introduced by a high-profile personality in the arts.

Boudu Saved from Drowning 
(Boudu sauvé des eaux)
Tuesday, February 4 at 4 & 7:30pm
Free wine reception following each screening.
New Digital Restoration
Directed by Jean Renoir, 1932. B&W. 84 min.
With Michel Simon, Charles Granval, Marcelle Hainia, Séverine Lerczinska
In French with English subtitles

If you haven't seen this, one of the great and most humane of human comedies, by the incomparable Jean Renior and starring the great actor and comedian Michel Simon, here's your chance. And if you've seen the perfectly OK Paul Mazursky update, you still need to see the original. The story:. By rescuing Boudu, a tramp, from his deadly jump into the Seine, middle-class bookseller Lestingois (Granval) unwittingly invites chaos into his life, upending everything he holds dear.

The 7:30pm screening will be presented by award-winning author, director and screenwriter Henry Bean, who has worked in Hollywood for more than 30 years, writing, among other films, Internal Affairs, Deep Cover, and Basic Instinct 2. He also wrote and directed The Believer, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. Most recently, Bean worked on Chantal Akerman’s last film, Almayer’s Folly, nominated for four Magritte Awards, the Belgian equivalent to the Academy Awards.


Une chambre en ville
Tuesday, February 11 at 4 & 7:30pm
Free wine reception following each screening.
New Digital Restoration
Directed by Jacques Demy, 1982. Color. 90 min.
With Dominique Sanda, Danielle Darrieux, Richard Berry, Michel Piccoli
In French with English subtitles

"Late in his career," we are told in the FIAF press material, "Jacques Demy set out to dramatize the shipyard strikes that occurred in his hometown during the 50s. The result was Une chambre en ville, which pushes his trademark visual and musical styles into darker territory." Unfortunately, those styles do not survive the trip. TrustMovies had never seen this little movie until now, and he would not have missed it under any circumstance, being a huge Demy fan. If you're one, too, then grab this rare chance to see it. That said, what worked for this unique filmmaker in his earlier, lighter musicals such as Umbrellas and Young Girls, comes a cropper here, turning its tale of love-at-first-sight (with idiocy following fast after), class, politics, and demonstrators vs police into the kind of melodramatic gush that falls well over any conceivable boundary into the realm of camp.

The movie is all singing (but no dancing: come on, this is tragedy!), but its weakest link is the terrible score, composed by Michel Columbier. Whatever you might have thought of Michel Legrand's scores for the earlier films, they seem like high art compared with this one -- in which there resides not a hummable melody. Rather there's a kind of continual recitative with the occasional faux climax to make us think we've heard an actual "song." Still, that stellar cast almost makes the whole thing bearable (of them, only Ms Darrieux gets to sing her own numbers). As I say, I would not have missed the chance to see Une Chambre en ville (which translates as 'A Room in Town'), but that's not quite the same thing as telling you it's any good.

The 7:30pm screening will be presented by New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik, one of the preeminent interpreters of contemporary life writing today. He is also the author of Paris to the Moon (2000), a collection of essays about Paris hailed by The New York Times as “the finest book on France in recent years.” Gopnik has won the National Magazine Award for Essays and for Criticism three times, and also the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting. In March 2013, he was awarded the medal of Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters.


Lola Montès
Tuesday, February 18 at 4 & 7:30pm
Free wine reception following each screening.
Restored 35mm Print
Directed by Max Ophüls, 1955. Color. 115 min.
With Martine Carol, Peter Ustinov, Anton Walbrook, Oskar Werner
In English, German, and French with English subtitles

From FIAF's press release and very hard to disagree with: "Simply one of the most beautiful films ever made, Lola Montès was Ophüls’s first color film. As if to make up for lost time, the director saturates each scene with gorgeous technicolor tones as he relates the true story of a showgirl and an entertainer who was a paramour to men of renown.“ TrustMovies didn't always agree with late Andrew Sarris, but he certainly does regarding Lola Montès being one of the greatest films of all time. (My review of the film is here.) I've seen the film twice now and it's one of those I will want to view again in another couple of years. If you've never seen it, go for the big screen and this beautifully restored 35mm print.

The 7:30pm screening will be presented by painter Lola Montes Schnabel, who graduated with a BFA from the Cooper Union in 2008. She grew up experimenting with painting and film, as well as publishing a book with Artforum at the age of seven with her father, Julian Schnabel. Her work, which spans various media from film to painting, has been included in solo exhibitions at Tripoli Gallery, Southampton, NY; Ace Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; and The Hole, New York, NY. Ms Schnabel also serves on the board of advisors at Anthology Film Archives.


The Color of Lies 
(Au cœur du mensonge)
U.S. big-screen premiere, and digitally remastered
Tuesday, February 25, 4 & 7:30pm
Free wine reception following each screening.
Directed by Claude Chabrol, 1999. Color. 113 min.
With Sandrine Bonnaire, Jacques Gamblin, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, and Antoine de Caunes
In French with English subtitles

The surface plot: a discovery of a dead young girl, raped and abandoned, horrifies the town she lived in. Soon, the art teacher (Gamblin) who last saw her is accused and vilified. While his wife (recent FIAF honoree Bonnaire) stands by with support, she also must attend to her own priorities. As usual, Chabrol is onto the bourgeoisie, its pettiness and hypocrisy, but here he goes more deeply than usual into character and relationship. Why this one was never released in the states (it has been available here on DVD for some time) remains a mystery. It is one of this master's more subtle movies; maybe that's the reason. In any case it is definitely worth seeing.

The 7:30pm screening will be presented by the film's hugely talented and very attractive star, Jacques Gamblin (at left, in Chabnrol's Inspector Bellamy, and above in The Color of Lies), an award-winning French film and stage actor, as well as a playwright. M. Gamblin has worked with major French filmmakers including Bertrand Tavernier (Safe Conduct), Claude Lelouch (Tout ça…pour ça!) and Philippe Lioret (Mademoiselle) -- among many others.. In 2011, he was nominated for a César Award for his performance in Le nom des gens directed by Michel Leclerc. Currently, Gamblin is touring in a one-man show based on Romain Gary’s La nuit sera calme, which he will perform at FIAF on Thursday, February 27.

We'll have the remaining CinéSalon movies for March up at the end of the month. Meanwhile, for more info, simply visit

No comments: