Thursday, January 2, 2014

For 2014 FIAF introduces a new French film initiative -- CinéSalon -- with great movies, wine receptions, and smart guest speakers

Remember CinemaTuesdays -- The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF)'s enduring program of French cinema that occurred with regularity almost every Tuesday for years now? Beginning January 14, FIAF will introduce a new Tuesday program featuring the same level of fine French cinema, this time titled CinéSalon, that sounds even more fun and engaging. As FIAF's Director of Public Relations, Natascha Bodeman, tells us, "In the spirit of French ciné-clubs and literary salons, CinéSalon pairs a French film classic with a post-screening wine reception." Films will be shown Tuesdays at 4 and 7:30pm, and every screening will be followed by a get-together with a complimentary glass of wine. And there's a bonus, too: Each 7:30 screening will be introduced by an interesting, high-profile personality in the arts.

For the inaugural season of CinéSalon, FIAF will be presenting remastered and restored: treasures of French cinema, with a special focus on new prints and digital restorations that pay tribute to the work of archivists and independent distributors dedicated to preserving great French films and ensuring that these masterpieces are available for generations to enjoy. From Max Ophüls and Jacques Demy to the New York premiere of a little-seen Jean-Pierre Melville film, the series features a selection of beloved classics as well as some rarely shown gems. Take a look at a rundown of the first ten films below, and you'll have to conclude that these movies represent an exceedingly diverse and high-level array -- in terms of both entertainment value and the art of cinema.

Purple Noon, directed by René Clément, Tuesday, January 14 • U.S. Premiere of the new Digital Restoration • @ 4pm and 7:30, with the latter screening introduced by author Marc Levy

If you've never seen this film (the French title of which, Plein soleil, actually translates closer to "broad daylight" than the more purple prose of the international English title), you simply must take a look at it -- if only to see perhaps the most beautiful man who ever graced the cinema: Alain Delon, shown in the photos above. It is also a nifty, stylish mystery adapted from the well-known novel by Patricia Highsmith that introduced us to one of history's most famous bad boys, a sociopath named Tom Ripley.

Tom has been brought to life again and again, most pleasurably by Matt Damon in Anthony Minghella's fine adaptation called The Talented Mr. Ripley, and by John Malkovich in Liliana Cavani's excellent Ripley's Game. Delon and Clément got there first, however, bringing along for the ride the luscious Marie Laforêt (two photos up) and sexy Maurice Ronet, so for many of us, Purple Noon remains the Ripley touchstone. It's a gorgeous film (with settings on the French Riviera and Taormina), impeccably cast and rendered, presenting us with one of the most creepily appealing and durable anti-heroes to be found in all cinema -- with this new digital restoration providing by far the most beautiful image of this 1960 classic that I've yet seen.

Summer (Le rayon vert), directed by Eric Rohmer, Tuesday, January 21 • New 35mm print • at 4pm and 7:30, with the latter screening introduced by New Yorker film critic Richard Brody

Some folk called Eric Rohmer an acquired taste. Once acquired, however, his work becomes something almost second nature, like breathing. I suspect the fellow's films are best appreciated by a more mature audience because, generally, they're all dialog, to which the visuals are subservient. But what dialog! Within it, Rohmner manages to show us everything from history and motivation to desire, self-delusion, hypocrisy, and all else that's part of the human comedy. In short, this dialog gives us everything that makes up character. Is Summer among his best? Hell, they all are. (Except his final oddity -- Romance of Astree & Celadon -- which I've seen twice and still can't figure out why he made it. Perhaps he was trying to do what he did modern-day in a medieval setting...?)

Cleo from 5 to 7, directed by Agnès Varda, U.S. Premiere of new digital restoration! Tuesday, January 28 at 4pm and 7:30, with the latter screening to be introduced by author Catherine Cusset

Ms Varda's movie grows richer every time I see it (which now totals four viewings). Stylistically ground-breaking (Ms Varda remains the least acknowledged member of the French New Wave), the movie stars the fabulous French chanteuse Corinne Marchand, who, in mid-movie sings a wonderful song of love and sorrow (by Michel Legrand, as I recall) that, once heard, will probably never be forgotten. (I'd see the movie again just to hear that song.)  This is early and very organic feminism, with no undue pushing. It brings the life of a singular woman to the fore and lets us better understand it. If you've never seen Cleo -- set in real time and also dealing in love, death and the Algerian War --
here's your chance.

That it for January's movies. There are seven more on tap through February and March. I'll have a post ready on February's film at the end of this month and those for March by the close of February. Meanwhile, to see the entire CinéSalon listing now, simply click here. This program, by the way, is free to FIAF Members, which should make joining the organization all that more enticing....

French Institute Alliance Francaise (FIAF) 22 East 60th Street New York, NY 10022  For more information on FIAF, click here.

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