François Truffaut – Tirez sur le pianiste AKA Shoot the Pianist (1960)

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A hapless pianist at a jazz club gets caught up with the mob, when his older brother who owes money to them comes to him for help. Eventually, the piano player and his girlfriend become pawns in middle of a dangerous game.

Truffaut first read David Goodis’s novel in the mid-1950s while shooting Les Mistons when his wife Madeleine Morgenstern read it and recommended it to him. He immediately loved the book’s dialogue and poetic tone and showed it to producer Pierre Braunberger, who bought the rights. Truffaut later met Goodis in New York City, where the novelist gave Truffaut a vintage viewfinder from his brief experience as a 2nd Unit Director on a U.S. film. Continue reading

Cheyenne Carron – Ne nous soumets pas à la tentation AKA Lead Us Not Into Temptation (2011)

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The best movie that I’ve seen so far at Cinequest is the French thriller Lead Us Not Into Temptation. A middle-aged married man does a good deed for a beautiful young woman and finds himself the pawn in a dangerous game. Inventively constructed, we see the story from the perspective of the guy, then from the young woman’s point of view and finally through the prism of another character. Unlike in Rashomon, we don’t see different realities, but, as secrets are revealed, we finally understand the whole picture. It’s a brilliant screenplay by writer-director-producer Cheyenne Carron. In the young woman, Carron has created a character who is both predatory and damaged but who can act charming, vulnerable and sexy. The story hinges on actress Agnes Delachair’s ability to play that complex role – and she delivers a captivating performance. Continue reading

André Heinrich & Alain Resnais – Le Mystère de l’atelier quinze (1957)

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The role of the doctor in a factory. The investigations he makes to discover the origin of ailments which attack the workers in a large chemical factory.

Commande de l’Institut National de la Recherche sur la Sécurité sur la prévention des maladies professionnelles. Tourné en 1957 dans l’usine Francolor d’Oissel, ce documentaire prend des airs d’enquête scientifique pour découvrir le mal mystérieux dont souffre un ouvrier. Le Mystère de l’atelier quinze est un film atypique sur le monde du travail. Il se présente en effet comme un “polar”, avec un “crime” à élucider sous forme d’enquête.
Dans une lettre à L’Avant-scène cinéma, André Heirich décrit la réalisation du film : Continue reading

François Truffaut – Domicile conjugal AKA Bed and Board (1970)

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So here he is for the last time, Antoine Doinel, who has grown up like the rest of us and has finally, apparently, found conjugal peace. He has changed a lot along the way. Francois Truffaut first introduced Antoine in “The 400 Blows” (1959), his first feature. The character was roughly based on Truffaut’s own youth and adolescence, when he was the next thing to a juvenile delinquent and prowled the streets of Paris.

“The 400 Blows,” with Godard’s “Breathless” (1960) and Chabrol’s “Le Beau Serge,” inaugurated the French New Wave and changed the face and style of filmmaking almost overnight. But we don’t remember “The 400 Blows” for historical reasons; we remember it because, for many of us, it was our first taste of personal, almost intimate, filmmaking. Continue reading

François Truffaut – Une belle fille comme moi AKA A Gorgeous Bird Like Me (1972)

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François Truffaut’s Une belle fille comme moi is a pitch-black comedy of sexual exploitation in which who’s doing the exploiting and who’s getting exploited is neatly reversed. Camille (Bernadette Lafont) is the subject of a “sociological thesis” on criminal women, being written by Stanislas Prévine (André Dussollier), a hapless professorial type who listens to Camille’s jailhouse confessions with great interest. Camille has had a tough life, it seems, always being desired and exploited by the men she meets, who only want her for sex. Camille, of course, relentlessly turns this state of affairs to her advantage, letting these men take her to bed and have their way with her, while ruthlessly exploiting them in turn, taking their money and plotting various criminal acts surrounding her multiple affairs. Camille is in jail, it seems, for the one crime she actually didn’t commit, but there’s no lack of criminality in this femme fatale. While Stanislas analyzes her in terms of her unhappy childhood and her bad luck in relationships, suggesting various repressed psychological reasons for her bad behavior, Stanislas’ good-girl secretary Hélène (Anne Kreis) asks him to consider the possibility that this girl is just a “tramp.” Continue reading

Eugène Green – Le pont des Arts AKA The Bridge of Art (2004)

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In the rarefied stratosphere of Eugene Green’s film “Le Pont des Arts,” music, literature, philosophy and aesthetics, and the characters’ engagement with them, are literally matters of life and death. Here and in his other films, Mr. Green, the American-born French filmmaker who founded the Theatre de la Sapience, a group dedicated to revitalizing 17th-century Baroque theater in modern productions, has invented a cinematic vocabulary that radically juxtaposes classical and contemporary themes and characters. … In “Le Pont des Arts,” Mr. Green’s propensity for throwing in academically heavyweight references and concepts may seem intimidating, but it is more than an exercise in name-dropping. The movie is an audacious, mythically slanted inquiry into the place of high art in today’s chaotic culture and an assertion of its primacy. … — NYTimes Continue reading

Ange Leccia – Nuit bleue AKA Blue Night (2010)

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Following a death, a young woman returns to her island of birth, Corsica. She finds herself in a nationalist male world in the impressive and desolate landscape around Cap Corse. The story in this film without dialogue by the artist Ange Leccia is driven by songs such as Ne dis rien by Serge Gainsbourg. A young woman, Antonia, returns to her island of birth, Corsica, after one of her relatives has disappeared at sea. She is torn back and forth between her old love Ettore and the dumb Alexander. The quest for Antonia’s place in the masculine environment of armed nationalism is an excuse for all kinds of peregrinations in the spectacular landscape of Cap Corse – a landscape that itself becomes a leading character. The plot of this fascinating film, entirely without dialogue, is told in songs such as Ne dis rien by Serge Gainsbourg. With the songs, the maker reveals the psychology of his characters, who seem to be in the grip of an age-old, atavistic melancholy. Continue reading