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Saturday, 07 July 2012 14:33

Classic French Film Festival, part 2, includes masterpieces

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Written by Diane Carson
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The Fourth Annual Classic French Film Festival continues Thursday, July 19th and through Sunday, July 29th at Webster University with eight different programs. Directors range from silent film pioneer Georges Méliès to New Wave’s Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Rivette, Chris Marker and Henri-Georges Clouzot to Jean Renoir and Jean Vigo.

It’s difficult to pick favorites with such diversity of stories, styles and dates—the silent period to the 1970s and 80s. Highlights have to include the Georges Méliès evening with live musical accompaniment by the Rats and People Motion Picture Orchestra and the new 35mm print of Céline and Julie Go Boating, unavailable for years in its three hours plus form. There’s also the restored Jean Renoir classic Grand Illusion and the restored Henri-Georges Clouzot nail-biter The Wages of Fear, both of those films shown in new 35mm prints. 

First up is Chris Marker’s 1983 Sans Soleil, not available for preview, but Marker has repeatedly demonstrated a challenging and thrilling interrogation of time and memory, the subject here. That Sunday, July 22nd, Jean-Luc Godard’s renowned Weekend screens, boasting an iconic, roughly eight-minute tracking shot along a traffic jam that encapsulates Godard’s satiric critique of bourgeois civilization.

Other programs feature equally outstanding works. Among my favorite is The Wages of Fear starring Yves Montand as Mario, penniless and stuck in a South American oil town. With the promise of $2,000 each, he and three other desperate men endeavor to drive two trucks loaded with nitroglycerine vats over a dangerous mountain road to a ruptured oil well. The hour build up to this tense second hour establishes with precision a fascinating, social microcosm. I’ve seldom experienced the sustained suspense of Wages of Fear. For contrast, there’s the anarchic genius of Jean Vigo on display in Zero for Conduct, made in 1933 and banned in France until 1945. His poetic, lyrical L’Atalante joins Zero for Conduct on a double bill.

Different film experts will briefly introduce each film and then lead a discussion after each program. All films screen at Webster University’s Winifred Moore Auditorium, in French with English subtitles. For more information including complete program descriptions and ticket information, you may go to cinemastlouis.org or call 314-289-4150.
 

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