FRENCH CLASSICS OF THE 1930s-40s
January 23 – February 2
This series shines a spotlight on the commercial French cinema of the 1930s and 40s, focusing on acknowledged classics that are, nevertheless, relatively little-seen today. The period was one of remarkable invention, impeccable craftsmanship, and increasing refinement, and it saw the emergence not only of numerous gifted directors but also of some of the finest screenwriters, cinematographers, production designers, and other film artists in the medium’s history. Many of the filmmakers featured here were loudly disparaged by the French New Wavers beginning in the late 1950s – labeled as staid, middle-brow technicians whose films were stiflingly formulaic and stylistically inert – an attitude that may have been psychologically and artistically productive for Godard, Truffaut, Rivette, et al, but that ultimately qualifies as a bum rap. These films are studded with great performances, feature unparalleled cinematography, and – especially with the development of the style known as poetic realism – are possessed of a style that’s both deeply intoxicating and intimately tied to this particular era. That this was a period of great historical upheaval, culminating in world war (three of the movies included here were produced during the German occupation), renders the films as politically and sociologically revealing as they are artistically accomplished, and makes them all the more ripe for reevaluation.
This series is presented with invaluable support from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.
Special thanks to Amélie Garin-Davet & Mathieu Fournet (Cultural Services of the French Embassy), as well as to Brian Belovarac & Laura Coxson (Janus Films), Eric Di Bernardo (Rialto Pictures), Nicolas Pagnol, and Gary Palmucci (Kino Lorber).