I wanted to take a side-road away from music in this blog to talk about another love – cinema. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has a new film series starting tonight (July 6) and running on Fridays throughout the month of July that is a feast of film lovers, particularly those who are “amour fou” for French films.
Simply titled “French Film Fridays,” this series offers a hit list of some of the great film directors that France produced in the 20th Century, and they were the ones to come up with the concept of the director as the film auteur. Godard, Truffaut, Cocteau, Bresson and Bunuel are all represented in this quick 4-week program. It obviously isn’t a comprehensive series and it might not be the crème de la crème of French films, but it certainly offers a selection of superb movies.
The opening Friday pairs Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt with Truffaut’s Mississippi Mermaid. Neither are my favorite works by each director but still they are fascinating works. Contempt, starring Brigitte Bardot, Fritz Lang and Jack Palance, represents something of Godard’s transition from his earlier genre-based explorations and his later agitprop experimentations. Mississippi Mermaid, meanwhile, finds Francois Truffaut working more within a genre – the noir thriller. The movie is based on a Cornell Woolrich book and don’t forget that Truffaut did a whole book on Hitchcock (which makes me flashback to my Annette Insdorf film classes).
The second Friday double bill holds a more fanciful films: Jean Cocteau’s 1946 classic interpretation of Beauty and the Beast (far different from the more recent TV series) and La Nuit Fantastique, a film by Marcel L’Herbier that I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing yet.
On July 20 is the intriguing, and thought-provoking, pairing of The Devil, Probably and The Phantom of Liberty. The former is a latter day work (1977) from the masterful Robert Bresson, while the latter is a 1974 satire from the always-surreal Luis Bunuel. The series concludes with Remorgues, a film starring the great actor Jean Gabin (that I not familiar with) and Wages of Fear, one of the most nail-biting suspense films ever made (it was later remade in America as Sorcerer, but watch the original). This screening apparently is the longer, original French version and not the shorter U.S. release, but either way, it’s a tense, thrilling film.
So while there is no Renior, Resnais, Chabrol, Vigo, Lelouch, Pagnol, Ophuls, Rohmer, Tourneur or Tati, but the series still holds a wonderful lineup of movies… and maybe there will be a French Film Fridays, the Sequel.