Category Archives: CLASSICS SELECTION

Chocolat


SYNOPSIS
With the release of her beautiful debut feature Chocolat in 1988, director Claire Denis appeared as a fully-formed, major talent who used stunningly composed wide shots, associative sequences of images, and an offbeat eye for detail to evoke the complex moods of Africa in the last decade of French colonial rule. Based on the director’s own childhood as the daughter of a French administrator in Africa, Chocolat is seen through the eyes of a French district officer’s little girl in a remote part of Cameroon. When a French plane crash-lands nearby, the district officer takes in its passengers, a group of colonial administrators and entrepreneurs who soon bring to light the many tensions underlying the family’s apparently sleepy existence, not least of which is the subtly conveyed but deeply sensual attraction between the mistress of the house and the handsome black houseboy Protée. While the film is as hushed and languid as the plains surrounding the district office, it is full of searing portraits of colonial life, with characters who appear for a single scene but whose memory hovers over the entire film like the implicit promise of the change to come. Shot entirely on location, Chocolat established Claire Denis as one of the least didactic yet most revealing chroniclers of the European presence on the continent, a reputation that would be confirmed by her later films Beau Travail and White Material.

DIRECTOR
Claire Denis

SCREENPLAY
Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau

CAST
François Cluzet
Isaach de Bankolé
Giulia Boschi

DETAILS
French
105 min.
France, 1988
35mm

DISTRIBUTOR
The Film Desk

PRICE RANGE
$400

L’armée des ombres / Army of Shadows


SYNOPSIS
In Army of Shadows (1969), Jean-Pierre Melville, master of the French noir, takes the atmospheric style and cool efficiency of his gangster classics Le Doulos and Le Samouraï and applies them to the French Resistance, following Resistance leader Philippe Gerbier (in a powerfully understated performance by the legendary Lino Ventura) as he escapes from the Gestapo and sets about rebuilding his network. As ever, the director excels at generating tension by quietly drawing out scenes, dwelling on the grim expectation in his characters’ faces rather than their actions and focusing on the moral impact of violence rather than its execution. The film’s distinctive blue-hued photography matches its sorrowful mood: it is as much a film about solitude, silence, and secrecy as about heroism, loyalty, and daring escapes. Here, the knowledge that the characters are loosely based on real Resistance figures makes for a unique blend of horror and excitement. But perhaps the greatest achievement of Army of Shadows is that it transcends its historical setting to provide a definitive portrait of twentieth-century man staring into the metaphysical abyss, only ever one step away from absurdity. As such, it is one of the most striking cinematic illustrations of the French Resistance as Existentialism’s moral litmus test.

DIRECTOR
Jean-Pierre Melville

SCREENPLAY
Jean-Pierre Melville

CAST
Lino Ventura
Simone Signoret
Paul Meurisse
Jean-Pierre Cassel

DETAILS
French
145 min.
France, 1969
Blu-ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Rialto Pictures

PRICE RANGE
$350 Blu-ray and DVD
$450 DCP

UN JOUR PINA M’A DEMANDE / ONE DAY PINA ASKED

SYNOPSIS
In her sublime 1983 documentary on Pina Bausch and her dancers,
Chantal Akerman followed the choreographer and her troupe for five
weeks in several cities throughout Europe. This hour-long film captures
the grace of bodies in motion both onstage and behind it, with dressing
rooms filled with lithe, sinewy men and women slicking back hair,
adjusting ties, reapplying makeup. Unlike Wim Wenders’s 3-D Pina from
2011, which also includes excerpts from live stagings of Bausch’s pieces,
One Day is not freighted with the burden of commemoration. (Bausch
died right before shooting on Pina was to begin in 2009.) Akerman’s
approach to the material is more idiosyncratic than Wenders’s: She films
one dancer backstage, a tall, blond man who explains that during the
rehearsal for 1982’s Carnations, Bausch asked her performers what they
were proud of; he shows off for Akerman the AS L he learned in the U.S.
by signing “The Man I Love” to a scratchy recording. The moment seems a
touching non sequitur. But later we see him sign the Gershwin standard
again, to the same beat-up 78, this time in costume onstage—a solemn
moment that enriches our earlier delight in what had appeared as a
loose, one-off performance.

“Akerman’s film is a work of modestly daring wonder, of exploration and inspiration.
With her audacious compositions, decisive cuts, and tightrope-tremulous sense of
time-and her stark simplicity-it shares, in a way that Wenders’s film doesn’t, the
immediate exhilaration of the moment of creation. Akerman’s film is of a piece with
Bausch’s dances.”
—Richard Brody, The New Yorker

DIRECTOR
Chantal Akerman

SCREENPLAY
Chantal Akerman

CAST
Raymond Bussières
Jean Martin
Pascal Mazzotti
Agnès Viala

GENRE Documentary
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 57’
PRODUCTION Belgium, France, 1983
FORMAT(S) Digibeta, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Icarus Films

LE ROI ET L’OISEAU / THE KING AND THE MOCKINGBIRD

SYNOPSIS
Paul Grimault has long been regarded as the greatest of French
animators; the marvelous The King and the Mockingbird (1980) is the
pinnacle of his five-decade career. The history behind the film has
contributed to its legendary status: Grimault, working with screenwriter
Jacques Prévert, began The King and the Mockingbird in 1948 as an
adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Shepherdess and the
Chimney Sweep”; it was released unfinished in the 1950s by the movie’s
producer, in a version Grimault decried as an “impostor.” Over the next
20-some years, Grimault was able to obtain the rights to the movie
and complete it as he had originally intended. The result is a wondrous
vision, dominated by soft reds, yellows, and blues, and filled with futurist
touches: Although set during medieval times in Tachycardia, the realm
of the vain and universally despised monarch Charles XVI, The King and
the Mockingbird
features not only rocket travel but also giant robots.
Charles is an avid huntsman but a terrible shot—incompetence that
invites further ridicule by the taunting, top-hatted bird of the title.
Hailed as an influence by the eminent Japanese animator Hayao
Miyazaki, Grimault’s film is a visual and aural delight.

“A lost-and-found delight!”
—The New York Times

DIRECTOR
Paul Grimault

SCREENPLAY
Paul Grimault

CAST
Raymond Bussières
Jean Martin
Pascal Mazzotti
Agnès Viala

GENRE Animated feature film
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 87’
PRODUCTION France, 1980
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Rialto Pictures

LEVEL FIVE / LEVEL FIVE

SYNOPSIS
As with nearly every film made by the incomparable Chris Marker, the
brilliant Level Five (1997) is unclassifiable. Equal parts essay, love story,
and sci-fi fantasy, Level Five is, in one sense, the “diary” of a woman
named Laura (Catherine Belkhodja), who recounts the completion of a
video game based on the Battle of Okinawa that was begun by her now
deceased lover. Incorporating footage of present-day Okinawa (and other
locations in Japan) along with faded, haunting archival material of the
ravaged city during World War II, the film is a piercing meditation on both
the historical recuperation of atrocities and what the mournful narrator
(Marker himself) calls “the ethics of imagery.” The computer terminals
that Laura—her moniker explicitly evoking Otto Preminger’s ghostly
1944 film noir of the same name—frequently addresses throughout the
film serve as passageways to both the past and the future, which jostle
uneasily with the present. Made in the final years of the millennium,
Level Five notably—and presciently—strikes a note of despair about
the uses and abuses of cyberspace, then still in its infancy.

“Passionate and cerebral; there is nothing else in theaters now that feels quite as
new.”

—A. O. Scott, The New York Times

DIRECTOR
Chris Marker

SCREENPLAY
Chris Marker

CAST
Catherine Belkhodja

GENRE Experimental
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 106’
PRODUCTION France, 1996
FORMAT(S) Digibeta, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Icarus Films

LE JOUR SE LEVE / LE JOUR SE LEVE

SYNOPSIS
This paragon of “poetic realist” cinema from 1939 was the fourth
collaboration between director Marcel Carné and screenwriter Jacques
Prévert, who enjoyed one of the most illustrious partnerships in movie
history. (They are the team responsible for 1945’s Children of Paradise,
perhaps the most beloved French film of all time.) Le jour se lève begins
with a jolt: An elegantly dressed gentleman, already dead from multiple
gunshots, tumbles down a flight of stairs in a Paris tenement. As the
police swarm the building, the man who pulled the trigger, François
(Jean Gabin), barricades himself in his garret. Through puffs of
countless cigarettes, François silently recalls what led to this violent act
via flashback. This gruff foundry worker, we learn, was in love with two
women: innocent florist Françoise (Jacqueline Laurent) and hardened
entertainer Clara (Arletty), both of whom were attached to the devious
Valentin (Jules Berry). The raging animosity between the two men led
to the fatal confrontation witnessed in the film’s beginning; by its end,
there will be another death. Suffused with despair, Le jour se lève, released
just a few months before France and the UK declared war on Germany,
uncannily anticipates the unrelenting real-life misery to come.

“A glorious restoration that invigorates the original! Restores several cuts demanded
by the Vichy regime [Its] extraordinary cinematography, replete with chiaroscuro
lighting and vertiginous shooting angles, Prefigures American Film Noir.”
—Anna King, Time Out New York

DIRECTOR
Marcel Carné

SCREENPLAY
Jacques Prévert and Jacques Viot

CAST
Arletty
Jules Berry
Jean Gabin

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 93’
PRODUCTION France, 1939
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Rialto Pictures

HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR / HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR

SYNOPSIS
One of the most influential movies ever made, Alain Resnais’s
masterwork from 1959 would not only shape the Nouvelle Vague
benchmarks made in its wake but also liberate filmmakers from linear
storytelling. “[I]n my film time is shattered,” Resnais once said; indeed,
Hiroshima Mon Amour, which was scripted by Marguerite Duras, consists
of multiple flashbacks, a device that destabilizes chronology. Spanning
approximately 36 hours, the movie centers around the time-toggling
conversations of two characters, identified only as She (Emmanuelle
Riva) and He (Eiji Okada). She is a French actress who has gone to
Hiroshima to take part in a film about peace; He is her married lover,
a Japanese architect who had served during World War II—and whose
family was in Hiroshima the day the US dropped an atomic bomb on the
city. While the two reflect on the horrors of wartime—She on living in a
Nazi-occupied country, He on the incineration of more than 100,000 of
his compatriots—they begin to debate the very unreliability of memory.
The past and the present commingle in Hiroshima Mon Amour, a film
that pointed the way to the future.

“Among the many masterpieces of the French New Wave, Resnais’s 1959 memory
drama is easily the most passionate: a cross-cultural romance tinged by shame and
regret.”
—Time Out New York

DIRECTOR
Alain Resnais

SCREENPLAY
Marguerite Duras

CAST
Pierre Barbaud
Stella Dassas
Eiji Okada
Emmanuelle Riva

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE English, French, Japanese
RUNNING TIME 90’
PRODUCTION France, Japan, Mexico, 1959
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Rialto Pictures

CONTE D’ETE / A SUMMER’S TALE

SYNOPSIS
Eric Rohmer may be cinema’s greatest chronicler of the summer
vacation; his richest movies explore the pleasures—and anguish—of
holidays during the hot months. Like his earlier films Pauline at the Beach
(1983) and Le Rayon Vert (1986), A Summer’s Tale (1996), is an exquisite
comedy of romantic manners. The third installment of Rohmer’s “Tales
of the Four Seasons” series, A Summer’s Tale takes place in the Breton
resort town of Dinard, where Gaspard (Melvil Poupaud), a recent math
graduate and amateur musician in his early twenties, plans to enjoy
three weeks of relaxation before starting a new job. While waiting
for Léna (Aurélia Nolin), his on-again, off-again girlfriend, to show
up, Gaspard becomes amorously entangled with two others: Margot
(Amanda Langlet, who played the title role in Pauline at the Beach) and
Solène (Gwenaëlle Simon). When Léna finally does arrive, the handsome
young mathematician finds himself in an impossible situation, all
of his own making: He has promised each woman an excursion to a
nearby island. As Gaspard flirts with, quarrels, and reconciles with his
equally voluble companions, Rohmer demonstrates why he remains the
unparalleled maestro at distilling the contradictions and calculations
of courtship.

“Like a forgotten gift we now get to unwrap with delight, Eric Rohmer’s 1996
“A Summer’s Tale,” never before released in this country, arrives just in time to add
a touch of delight to the contemporary landscape.”

—Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times

DIRECTOR
Eric Rohmer

SCREENPLAY
Eric Rohmer

CAST
Amanda Langlet
Aurélia Nolin
Melvil Poupaud
Gwenaëlle Simon

GENRE Romance
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 113’
PRODUCTION France, 1996
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Big World Pictures

ALPHAVILLE, UNE ETRANGE AVENTURE DE LEMMY CAUTION / ALPHAVILLE

SYNOPSIS
Jean-Luc Godard’s stunning eighth feature film, from 1965, is a dystopic
tale of the future told without special effects. The estranging structures
that figure so prominently in this nightmare vision of a city ruled by a
techno-fascist regime are, in fact, the modernist glass towers and
concrete buildings that were erected in Paris a few years before the
film was shot—edifices, such as the Esso Tower in La Défense, that the
director found appalling. The plot is set in motion when a secret agent
named Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine)—a trench-coat-wearing,
hard-bitten private eye from the “Outlands”—enters Alphaville on a twopart
mission: He is to assassinate the city’s creator, Professor von Braun
(Howard Vernon), and to destroy the sentient computer system, Alpha
60, that has banned free thought and made any display of emotion a
crime punishable by death. Joining forces with Caution is von Braun’s
daughter, Natasha (Anna Karina, Godard’s most celebrated muse),
a one-time programmer of Alpha 60 who soon finds herself utterly
destabilized by something she’s never experienced before: love, the only
force stronger than technological totalitarianism.

“One of Godard’s most sheerly enjoyable movies!”
—Tome Milne, Time Out London

DIRECTOR
Jean-Luc Godard

SCREENPLAY
Jean-Luc Godard

CAST
Eddie Constantine
Anna Karina
Akim Tamiroff
Howard Vernon

GENRE Science fiction
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 99’
PRODUCTION France, 1965
FORMAT(S) DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Rialto Pictures

LE JOLI MAI / THE LOVELY MONTH OF MAY

SYNOPSIS
This landmark documentary, co-directed by Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme, was filmed in May of 1962, just after the passage of the Évian Accords, which officially ended the Algerian War. During this “first springtime of peace”—the first time in 23 years that France was not involved in any war—the filmmakers interviewed a random assortment of people on the streets of Paris, an endeavor that was made possible by new technological advances, such as portable 16mm sync cameras. (An important predecessor for Marker and Lhomme’s project was Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin’s Chronicle of a Summer, a Paris portrait released in 1961.) Marker, unseen, prompts his interviewees—ranging from highbrow engineers to a destitute mother to an Algerian teenager to a West African student—with questions about their personal lives and their feelings about larger political and social matters. Giving shape to these candid responses is Simone Signoret’s piquant, poetic narration (co-written by Marker), which balances astringent assessments about Parisians’ disengagement with the world with an unequivocal empathy for many of the film’s interlocutors.

Chris Marker is an artist. He has something to say about the ‘other France,’ the France we don’t see on the Champs-Elysees, and he says it simply and movingly.
—Richard Roud, The Guardian

DIRECTOR
Chris Marker
Pierre Lhomme

SCREENPLAY
Catherine Varlin

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Pierre Lhomme

MUSIC
Michel Legrand

CAST
People of Paris
English narration: Simone Signoret

AWARDS
International Critics’ Prize – Cannes Film Festival (1963); “First Work” Prize – Venice Film Festival (1963)

GENRE Documentary
LANGUAGE English, French
RUNNING TIME 145 min
PRODUCTION France, 1963 & 2013
RATING Unrated
FORMAT(S)DCP, Blu-ray, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Icarus Films

PRICE RANGE*
$200 to $350, pending format.

*Fees for screening rights are negotiable and may depend on: format, size of screening room, whether admission will be charged, etc. Check with each distributor and make sure to mention your participation in Tournées in your negotiation.