2017 marked the 10th anniversary of Films on the Green, the free outdoor French film festival produced annually in New York City parks by the French Embassy, FACE Foundation and NYC Parks.
In its landmark 10th year, Films on the Green presented French cinema through the eyes of 10 guest curators and some of the most creative and compelling filmmakers, actors, and artists of our time: Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, James Ivory, Saul Williams, Isabella Rossellini, Wanda Sykes, Laurie Anderson, Matthew Weiner, Matías Piñeiro, and Amy Hargreaves.
Free and open to the public | Films in French with subtitles
Music by WNYU and WHCS DJs prior to the screenings!
POTICHE (Trophy Wife)
Directed by François Ozon, 2010, R, 1h43, France
“I love satire and stories with strong female leads. Catherine Deneuve goes from being a submissive trophy wife to a boss by taking over her cheating husband’s job of managing an umbrella factory. It’s a hilarious take on the old saying, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” It also touches on politics, class, and sexuality. There are a lot of big laughs delivered with this great ensemble cast too.” —Wanda Sykes
Directed by Alain Gomis, 2013, 1h26, France-Senegal
“I had just moved to Paris. Early one morning, exiting the metro on Champs-Élysées a kid ran up saying that his friend had written a movie for me and was on his way to NY to try to locate me.
That afternoon I get a call from a producer asking if I’d be free to receive a call from a director that evening. That evening I get a call from Alain Gomis. He’s in Senegal prepping for a film that he says he wrote with my picture hanging over his desk. He asks can he send the producer with the script in the morning.
The next morning two producers arrive at my house with a script and a story of how they had gotten the finances for the film green-lit partially by saying I was already attached.
It takes me two weeks and two dictionaries (French/Wolof) to read it.
TEY, for me, represents a turning point in my life, just as the story of the film is a turning point for the character, and so it is for all who see it.” —Saul Williams
LA TRAVERSEE DE PARIS
Directed by Claude Autant-Lara, 1956, 1h20, France
“I first saw this film, by Claude Autant-Lara, after I had come back to New York after my first visit to Paris. The opening credits end and we find a blind violinist courageously and defiantly playing the Marseillaise on the Paris metro steps during the occupation. Soon we are thrown into a buddy caper starring Jean Gabin and Bourvil as mismatched Frenchman schlepping 4 suitcases of black market pig parts across Paris under dark of night. As air raid sirens scream in the background, the two face stray dogs, collabo cops, a lady of the evening, and Nazi patrols in their quest to deliver their goods.
The film is at times hilarious and heartbreaking, and through the duo’s courage and cunning we find a window into the lives of two very different French worlds.
Jean Gabin’s Grandgil, a renowned artist, responds when asked why he embarked on the dangerous and unnecessary caper, “Curiosity- to see. That’s why I followed you my friend. To see how far we can go….” I love this attitude and approach to life- allowing curiosity and subsequent inventiveness to push the boundaries in our moment to moment existence. This message continues to inspire me in my life and in my work. As a bonus, this film was also my first exposure to the hilarious Louis de Funès!” —Amy Hargreaves
Directed by Jean Grémillon, 1943, 1h50, France
“Film director Jean Grémillon is hard to classified, a condition proven by the fact of how little we know of him in comparison to his contemporaries Jean Renoir, Marcel Carné and Henri-George Clouzot. Lumière d’été is my favorite of his film, next to Daïnah, la Métisse and La Petite Lisse, but there are many more deserving further viewings. Lumière d’été is in kinship to Renoir’s La règle du jeu, but it takes place in the world Renoir tried to warn us about. Produced in France in a time of war and Nazi occupation, Grémillon’s film doesn’t avoid composing a darker fantasy about the tensions between love and class. It is a bittersweet nightmare that criticizes the establishment and its abuse of power as a means to doom. Comedy and tragedy counterpoint each other in a tale destined to mirror our world in order to desperately produce a variation for a better future.
It is with great pleasure that I choose to screen Lumière d’été at Films on the Green. Once the summer lights of the city dim down, the park will set the most appropriate mood to enjoy Grémillon’s beautifully rarefied illumination.” —Matías Piñeiro
THE WILD CHILD (L’Enfant sauvage)
Directed by François Truffaut, 1970, PG, 1h23, France
“I chose Francois Truffaut’s ‘The Wild Child’ because that film is a favorite of mine, and its subject – the story of a wild child discovered in a forest, then coaxed out and ‘civilized’ – is a favorite in many cultures. The story is even a part of American folklore: a Native American child is lured away from its tribe – or captured – and reformed, starting at the very beginning of our history with the teen-age Princess Pocahontas, who was carried off to London from Virginia and transformed into a stylish young English lady, after which she contracted a White Man’s disease and soon died.
But one might think of how Post-War French cinema was perceived by Truffaut and his fellow directors of the Nouvelle Vague – the New Wave – as being a kind of Wild Child, out of control and disordered, and of Truffaut, playing the patient teacher as he did in his film, almost never raising his voice, who in time masters the Wild Child of French cinema in the nineteen sixties, and brings to it – or renews – all the classic values of the best French art.
I miss Truffaut – he would be eighty-four now. We all of us who so loved his films mourned his early death, and try to imagine what his later films might have been like if he had been able to keep going. He was once offered the chance of making Proust’s ‘Remembrance of Things Past’ but declined, saying that there was no French actress able to properly play Madame Verdurin. Perhaps if he had lived on he might have found such an actress.” —James Ivory
Directed by Leos Carax, 1986, 1h50, France
“I would put MAUVAIS SANG into the kind of category of artworks you define by the response the thing provokes rather than by the form or the method, and in this case the response is: hypnotised infatuation. Anyway, that was my reaction when I saw it in 1994. The movie cast a powerfully strong spell over me, and Leos Carax created a completely, spectacularly unexpected universe that was somehow exactly the place where I wanted to go.
I hope you will be as moved and dazzled as I was by this movie’s continuously inventive and ingenious cinematic methods which work like magic tricks; by the aura of its handful of musical themes and cues; by the sad poetry of its desperately romantic, unique, iconic characters; and by the images and atmospheres of Carax and his very gifted collaborator Jean-Yves Escoffier which have stuck vividly in my mind for twenty-something years.” —Wes Anderson
CONTEMPT (Le Mépris)
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, 1963, 1h43, France
“Godard’s big-budget contribution to one of my very favorite genres — films about the process of filmmaking. For me it’s one of the very greatest, along with Minnelli’s TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN, Fellini’s 8 1/2, and Fassbinder’s BEWARE OF A HOLY WHORE. With a mesmerizing cast and plot, in gorgeous technicolor and cinemascope.” —Jim Jarmusch
Directed by Claude Chabrol, 1995, 1h52, France
“The superb acting, directing, and exquisite score of La Ceremonie combine to create an unnerving mixture of kindness and evil. This masterpiece of storytelling seems more relevant than ever, elevating a classic noir mood to unforgettable social commentary.” —Matthew Weiner
PORT OF SHADOWS (Le Quai des brumes)
Directed by Marcel Carné, 1938, 1h31, France
“Amazing glistening cinematography and beautiful dialog!” —Laurie Anderson
ELENA AND HER MEN (Elena et les hommes)
Directed by Jean Renoir, 1956, 1h35, France
Preceded by THE TRIP TO THE MOON (Le Voyage dans la lune) by Georges Méliès, 1902, 14min
“Jean Renoir was a very good friend of my mother Ingrid Bergman. In this delightful film they did together, Jean’s capture an aspect of my mother I adored and often was not put forward in other films: her vivaciousness, the sparkle in her eye, her playfulness. Jean was an incredible kind and sensitive man. I never forget when we arrived in Paris accompanying mamma to shoot ELENA ET LES HOMMES. A crowd of fans was waiting for mamma at the train station and paparazzi were all over. Jean Renoir arrived at the train wagon as we stepped down with an enormous bouquet of flowers for mamma but also two small bouquets for my sister and me. I never forgot this gesture that made me feel grown up.” —Isabella Rossellini
THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP (La Ciencia del Sueño)
Directed by Michel Gondry, 2006, R, 1h45, France-Italy
Lead Sponsor Le Petit Marseillais™
Official Sponsor Air France, Atout France-France Tourism Development Agency, BNP Paribas, JC Decaux, and TV5 Monde.
Friends agnès b., Maman NYC, the Columbia Maison Française, WNYU, WHCS, the Mexican Cultural Institute of New York, Pommery, The Washington Square Park Conservancy, Nora Coblence and Frederic C. Weiss.
Thanks also to The Criterion Collection, Diptyque, Kusmi Tea, Cinémathèque Afrique – Institut français and The Sterling Pig Brewery for their in-kind support.