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French Films Noirs in Santa Monica

All the films are co-presented by Midcentury Productions, with the support of the French Film & TV Office, French Consulate.

Thu, Oct 6, 2016 at 7:30pm 

Daybreak (Le jour se lève), Rialto Pictures, 93 min, Dir: Marcel Carné, 1939
Six years before they made film history with Children of paradise, writer Jacques Prévert and director Marcel Carné teamed up for this landmark of French cinema. Jean Gabin, in one of his best performances, plays a foundry employee driven to murder due to complicated romantic entanglements. With Arletty and Jules Berry. In French with English subtitles.

The Truth of our Marriage (La vérité sur Bébé Donge), Gaumont, 110 min, Dir: Henri Decoin, 1952
Jean Gabin after World War II became a much different figure in French cinema, more paternal than proletarian. His role in Bébé Donge, Decoin’s very dark melodrama about a marriage that has literally gone toxic, is one of his least likable roles – but is among his most fascinating performances. His delirious ruminations while lying flat on his back in a hospital bed as he attempts to recover from being poisoned by his wife (played with hauntingly cold precision by Danielle Darrieux) show us just how wrong things can go between man and wife. In French with English subtitles.

Fri, Oct 7, 2016 at 7:30pm 

Diabolique, Janus Films, 110 min, France, Dir: Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955

One of the greatest psychological thrillers ever made, Diabolique focuses on the browbeaten wife (Vera Clouzot) of a brutal schoolmaster and his tough-as-nails mistress (Simone Signoret) as they team up to murder their mutual tormentor. But that’s only the beginning of this edge-of-your-seat affair, a twisting, turning shocker that still holds up today as one of the all-time classics of suspense. Legend has it that Clouzot beat Hitchcock to the punch by only an hour in sewing up rights to the original novel by Pierre Boileau. With sardonic Charles Vanel as the poker-faced inspector. In French with English subtitles.

The Wanton (Manèges), Rialto Pictures, 91 min, Dir: Yves Allégret, 1950

We move from the bathtub to the stable as Simone Signoret plays the two-timing wife of a hopeless milquetoast (Bernard Blier, perfect as always), who is in cahoots with her venal, grasping mother (Jane Marken) to milk him of all his funds before moving on to higher game. Things don’t quite go as planned! Director Yves Allégret proved unfortunately prophetic with this nasty tale – a few months after completing the film, Signoret (who had been his girlfriend for five years) left him for Yves Montand. In French with English subtitles.

Sat, Oct 8, 2016 at 7:30pm

Joy House (Les félins), EuropaCorp, 97 min, Dir: René Clément, 1964
Handsome gigolo Alain Delon, on the run from murderous thugs hired by the husband of one of his conquests, flees to the Riviera, where he takes refuge in a religious shelter operated by a rich, mysterious widow (Lola Albright). She hides him in her Gothic mansion, where he suddenly finds himself in a strange love triangle featuring the widow’s sex-starved niece (Jane Fonda). The twists (and curves) just keep coming at Delon, who might be in more danger in his hiding place. René Clément returns to form with this terrific transitional noir with one foot in both the past and the future. With a fabulous ’60s score from Lalo Schifrin. In French with English subtitles.

Back to the Wall (Le dos au mur), Gaumont, 93 min, Dir: Edouard Molinaro, 1958
Before moving to comedies, director Édouard Molinaro began his career with several superb thrillers; this is his most auspicious debut. Gérard Oury is a cuckolded husband who devises an ingenious revenge against his cheating wife (Jeanne Moreau, looking just as luminous and sad-eyed as she did in Elevator to the Gallows) only to have it backfire, setting in motion his increasingly desperate efforts at a cover-up. Molinaro revels in the use of classic noir devices (flashbacks, voiceovers) to create a unique mood in a film that’s guaranteed to scratch your “noir itch.” With Philippe Nicaud. In French with English subtitles.

Sun, Oct 9, 2016 at 7:30pm 

Manon, 96 min, Dir: Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1949
One of director Henri-Georges Clouzot’s most neglected masterpieces and winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1949, Manon was his blistering response to the hypocritical reaction in France to Le Corbeau. Updating Abbe Prevost’s classic novel to postwar France, the film stars newcomer Cécile Aubrey (sex-kitten precursor to Brigitte Bardot) as a prostitute who is condemned as a collaborationist for sleeping with Germans during the war. She’s rescued from the noose by a smitten resistance fighter (Michel Auclair) – but once the couple flees from Normandy, Manon’s desire for the good things in life leads her directly to Parisian black markets and brothels, a debauched course that can result only in self-destruction. With Serge Reggiani. In French with English subtitles.

The damned/Les maudits (1947), Cohen Films, 105 min, Dir: René Clément
Claustrophobic action on the high seas has never been so packed with tension when a doctor (Henri Vidal) kidnapped by a group of desperate Nazis fleeing for South America in a submarine must keep the mistress of a general (Florence Marly) alive and somehow escape his own death at the hands of the absconding war criminals. René Clément brilliantly depicts a deadly cat-and-mouse game in the tightest of all possible spaces. The film was the recipient of the Grand Prix at Cannes in 1947. With Marcel Dalio, Anne Campion, Michel Auclair and Paul Bernard. In French with English subtitles.