The French Had a Name for It ’22
November 12 only
THE FRENCH HAD A NAME FOR IT ’22
It all began in 2014 when Midcentury Productions screened twelve films that exposed a hidden underworld of film noir in France that had been swept under the rug for more than 50 years. Some thought it was a flash in the pan… Eight years later, in its ninth incarnation, THE FRENCH HAD A NAME FOR IT — the film noir festival like no other on earth (even in France!) — is well into its second hundred films as it continues to explore what defiant revisionist Don Malcolm calls “the lost continent of French noir” that flourished from 1932-1966.
“Brilliantly curated… Malcolm’s festivals have become an annual education for everybody, including film critics.” • Mick La Salle. SF Chronicle Datebook Pick
This year: 15 films over four days split across two weekends including four “festival favorites” to acquaint newcomers and please long-time attendees: Sunday, Nov 6, Monday, Nov 7, Saturday, Nov 12, and Sunday, Nov 13.
SAT, NOV 12 • MATINÉE
Edmond T. Gréville
Talented, wayward, mercurial director with a string of films made in France and the UK from the 30s until his untimely death in 1966, Gréville was intensely admired by the great director/film historian Bertrand Tavernier, who championed him in an episode of his highly recommended documentary MY JOURNEY THROUGH FRENCH FILM.
THREATS / MENACES
A singular film set in the early days of WWII that can be seen as the bridge between the strain of poetic realism represented by Marcel Carné’s HOTEL DU NORD and the “gothic” film that would relocate itself in ever-more remote provincial regions. Erich von Stroheim, Mireille Balin and Ginette Leclerc are the most prominent denizens of a hotel in Paris where each resident is trying to cope with the advance of the Nazis toward Paris. As with many other films made featuring von Stroheim (for example, Jean Delannoy’s MACAO, GAMBLING HELL), MENACES was suppressed by the Germans and only resurfaced after WWII with added footage. (1940, Edmond T. Gréville)
THE DEVIL’S BREATH / LE DIABLE SOUFFLE
Highly symbolic, elemental film, with several extended sections without dialogue—a parable of strange bedfellows and thwarted love during wartime. The film features Charles Vanel as a man living in a neutral zone between clashing armies who rescues a young woman (the oddly alluring Helena Bossis) and attempts to keep her with him in his self-imposed prison. Things shift fatefully when an escaped solider (Jean Chevrier) slips into Vanel’s home, changing the emotional and sexual dynamics. A truly one-of-a-kind film from a singular director. (1947, Edmond T. Gréville)
SAT, NOV 12 • EVENING
Is Possession Nine-Tenths of the Law?
French noir turns toward horror and the supernatural in these two highly unusual variants of the “provincial gothic.”
HAND OF THE DEVIL aka SINNER’S CARNIVAL / LA MAIN DU DIABLE
Pierre Fresnay plays a man ultinately cursed by his possession of a macabre artifact that brings malevolence and dread to a succession of “owners.” Produced at the Nazi-controlled Continental Films, and one of the productions that managed to telegraph a subversive allegorical subtext about the invading forces attempting to impose their will upon a conquered people. (1943, Maurice Tourneur)
SPELLS / SORTILÈGES
Jaque had produced what is considered to be the first of the “provincial gothics.” L’ASSASSINAT DU PÈRE NOËL / WHO KILLED SANTA CLAUS (1941), and he would return to a snowy, remote provincial village to tell a “folk noir” about a bellman (the brooding, volcanic Lucien Coedel) who goes mad with desire for a young woman in the village and unleashes an escalating reign of terror on its inhabitants. (One of four distinctive, highly unusual noir-inflected films made by Jaque during the Occupation period–we’ve previously screened the other three: PÈRE NOËL, VOYAGE SANS ESPOIR and UN REVENANT.) With Madeleine Robinson, Roger Pigaut and Renée Faure. (1945, Christian-Jaque)
MATINÉE 12:30 / 2:30 DOUBLE FEATURE PRICE: $16
EVENING 5:00 / 6:45 DOUBLE FEATURE PRICE: $16
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