Film Reviews
"Les deux Anglaises et le continent"

The 13th Annual Classic French Film Festival concludes this weekend. Friday, Jean-Luc Godard’s 1962 “Vivre Sa Vie: Film en Douze tableau” screens at 7:30; with Jacques Deray’s 1963 “La piscine” at 7:30 Saturday; and Sunday at 7:00, Francois Truffaut’s 1971 “Two English Girls/Les deux Anglaises et le continent.” Film or French scholars will introduce programs, leading a discussion after screenings.

In beautiful black-and-white, Jean-Luc Godard interrogates existential philosophy and conventions of film itself in his 1962 “Vivre Sa Vie: Film en douze tableaux,” translated as “My Life to Live” or “Live Your Life.” Caught between freedom and constraints, Nana aspires to movie stardom but accepts work as a prostitute to pay bills. Through montages, unconventionally staged conversations, and numerous film homages, Godard explores and virtually reinvents female character study, thanks to his muse Anna Karina, as her world unfolds around her.

At a villa near St. Tropez, in and around the swimming pool of the 1969 film’s title, “La Piscine” Jean-Paul and Marianne welcome long-time friend Harry and his eighteen-year-old daughter Penelope. Slowly, deliberately, director Jacques Deray traps these four in an emotional collision of love, resentment, and self-indulgence. Harry advises Jean-Paul to “change your desires, not the world,” but these beautiful people (especially Alain Delon and Romy Schneider) in this gorgeous place can’t escape the claustrophobic intensity they experience. Relying on minimal dialogue, maximum use of close-ups and reaction shots, this pressure cooker explodes with astonishing developments.

The French Festival concludes with François Truffaut’s 1971 “Two English Girls/Les deux Anglaises et le continent.” Physically and emotionally fragile Muriel and Ann, the more stable Welsh sister, embrace friendship with Claude, both succumbing to an all-consuming love. Their interaction provides the intricate ingredients for a fascinating emotional study of restrained twentieth century manners and complex romantic maneuvers.

In French with English subtitles, all three films screen at Webster University’s Winifred Moore Auditorium with “Vivre Sa Vie: Film en Douze tableau” Friday, August 27, at 7:30; “La piscine” at 7:30 Saturday, August 28; and “Two English Girls/Les deux Anglaises et le continent” at 7:00 Sunday, August 29. You may find more information on the Cinema St. Louis and Webster University websites.

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