The French Had a Name for It ’22

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November 13 only

The French Had a Name for It '22

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.

SUN, NOV 13 • MATINÉE

Homage to Françoise Arnoul (1931-2021)

Françoise Arnoul was so sexy that some folks continue to lust after her even in her obituary. What got lost in all that: she was a tremendous actress with as much range as anyone (when movie-makers would bother to get past her physical beauty and seemingly effortless sensuality). She deserves an entire festival devoted to her, but we can at least make a start at that here…

The Cat

12:30 PM

THE CAT / LA CHATTE

FRENCH ’22 keeps circling back to the Occupation period, with its incredibly fraught world of collaborators and resistance fighters. Henri Decoin, another undervalued director from the "cinema de papa" era, gets the jump on everyone with this dark tale of the Resistance, featuring Arnoul as a sexy operative who joins to avenge her husband’s death. Decoin’s popular success prompted other notable directors (Julien Duvivier, Jean-Pierre Melville) to develop their own films based on tales of the Resistance.
(1958, Henri Decoin)

Lucky Jo

2:15 PM

LUCKY JO

OK, we admit it: Ms. Arnoul’s rather brief presence in this film is partly an excuse to re-screen a film that was enormously popular with audiences at FRENCH 4. She plays the long-suffering girlfriend of Jo (Eddie Constantine, in a role delightfully unlike any he’d done to that point) who wishes only for him to give up his life of crime. Jo is not lucky at all, as the film demonstrates, but screenwriter Nina Companeez ensures that his often bumbling ways are endearingly human even as he faces "one thing after another" that leave him in constantly shifting states of peril throughout the film. A Bertrand Tavernier favorite. (1964, Michel Deville)

SUN, NOV 13 • EVENING

Can One Walk Upright While On The Run?

FEATURING JEAN GABIN AND ROBERT HOSSEIN

We conclude FRENCH ’22 with the two actors synonymous with an expanded understanding/appreciation of French noir—one incredibly well-known (Jean Gabin) and the other deserving of a place at the head of the table when it comes to actor/director achievement (Robert Hossein).

The Walls of Malapaga

5:00 PM

THE WALLS OF MALAPAGA / AU-DELA DES GRILLES

A film lauded when released, but wrongfully seen as "derivative" by more recent critics, THE WALLS OF MALAPAGA is noir meets rubble film meets neo-realism, complete with a man on the run (who else but Gabin) and a most unusual triangle (Isa Miranda, as the world-weary widow who falls in love with him; Vera Talchi, her spunky but conflicted daughter). But there is more…so much more in a film that actually melted the sneering critical chill of notorious curmudgeon Bosley Crowther even as it broke his heart. The "noir moment" in the late 1940s—a varied but worldwide phenomenon—is captured indelibly here by Clement, his writers (Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost, and Cesare Zavattini), and stalwart cinematographer Louis Page. (1949, René Clément)

Highway Pickup

6:45 PM

HIGHWAY PICKUP / CHAIR DE POULE

The genius of French noir is to redeem derivative source material and make it into something both poignant and damning. Leave it to Julien Duvivier, one of the inventors of film noir (even before PEPE LE MOKO!) to take the often-queasy pulp of James Hadley Chase’s COME EASY-GO EASY, add the deadpan desperation of Robert Hossein, ladle in a bitterweet score from Georges Delerue, shake vigorously, and pull from the oven ninety-nine minutes later the best French noir of the 1960s. With Catherine Rouvel as possibly the sexiest and most explosive femme fatale of all… (1963, Julien Duvivier)

MATINÉE 12:30/2:30 DOUBLE FEATURE PRICE: $16, SINGLE FEATURE PRICE: $13
EVENING 5:00/6:45 DOUBLE FEATURE PRICE: $18 —NO SINGLE TICKETS AVAILABLE

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