The films' dates range from 1951 to 1980. Francois Truffaut directed the first four classics screening from July 14th through July 17th. The 1980 The Last Metro leads off, its drama unfolding within the Theatre Montmartre where the company produces a play, The Vanished Woman, during German occupation, 1942. Lucas Steiner, the Jewish theater owner, surreptitiously directs from his hiding place in the theater's cellar with Nazis increasingly suspicious. As Marion Steiner, wife and star of the play, a charismatic Catherine Deneuve shines, as does a young Gérard Depardieu as co-star of the play. Slowly paced at 2 hours plus, The Last Metro benefits from Nestor Almendros' cinematography and superb actors conveying the strain of daily life under constant surveillance. The title The Last Metro refers to the need for shows to end in time for patrons to catch the last train home before the Nazi-imposed curfew.
Mississippi Mermaid follows, a curious film that shifts tone halfway through. Catherine Deneuve again stars, here playing a mail- order bride who arrives by ocean liner at Reunion Island to meet her husband to be, the wealthy owner of a tobacco plantation played by Jean-Paul Belmondo. Zigzagging through a strange, fanciful story of obsessive love, screenwriter Truffaut overturns narrative and stylistic conventions.
Next up is Small Change, what should really be translated as Pocket Change. In it, Truffaut immerses the viewer in the world of children from two to 14 years of age. Shot in Thiers in South Central France over several months, humorous, quirky, and embarrassing childhood events make up the film as the children try adults' patience.
All films are in French with English subtitles and screen at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 p.m. The festival begins with The Last Metro on Thursday, July 14, followed by Mississippi Mermaid Friday, July 15th; Small Change on Saturday, July 16th; and Soft Skin, not available for preview, on Sunday, July 17th. For more information, you may call 314-968-7487 or you may go to the web at: Webster.edu/film series.