“The most exciting movie programming we’ve seen in recent years has been coming from Don Malcolm, whose festivals of French film noir are not just entertaining. They’re transforming how we think about noir, in general… This is the movie event of the week… If you like noir, this is something not to miss.”—Mick LaSalle, SF Chronicle
See the dawn of film noir (1932’s NIGHT AT THE CROSSROADS) contrasted with Costa-Gavras’ mid-60s reinterpretation of the classic murder mystery (1965’s THE SLEEPING CAR MURDERS). See great stars—Jean Gabin (MAIGRET SETS A TRAP), Jeanne Moreau (THREE SINNERS), Michèle Morgan (OBSESSION), Arletty (PORTRAIT OF A MURDERER)—in films unscreened in America for more than half a century!
FRENCH 5½ is more evidence that French noir is second to none in its exploration of the dark side of humanity. Join us for four days this May and see just how wide-ranging noir filmmaking can really be!
Friday, May 10
THE SLEEPING CAR MURDERS / COMPARTIMENT TUEURS 7:15 PM
(1965, Costa-Gavras) A murder on a Paris train “goes viral” and police are baffled. With Simone Signoret, Yves Montand, Jean-Louis Trintingnant, Michel Piccoli.
THE FLYING WARDROBE / L’ARMOIRE VOLANTE 9:15 PM
(1948, Carlo Rim) A missing corpse creates a surreal nightmare for a henpecked nephew. With the great French comic Fernandel cast brilliantly against type.
Saturday Matinée, May 11
JEAN’S RETURN / RETOUR DE JEAN 1:00 PM
(1949, Henri-Georges Clouzot, from RETURN TO LIFE/RETOUR À LA VIE). A Frenchman in a post-WWII convalescent home discovers an escaped German prisoner in his bedroom. With the great Louis Jouvet.
STRANGERS IN THE HOUSE / LES INCONNUS DANS LA MAISON 1:45 PM
(1942, Henri Decoin, script by Henri-Georges Clouzot) A disgraced lawyer must overcome his personal demons to defend his niece when she is accused of murder. With Raimu.
THE QUEEN OF SPADES / LA DAME DE PIQUE 3:30 PM
(1965, Leonard Keigel) An indigent countess is given a dangerous secret that confers wealth, then death on those who use it. 30s icon Dita Parlo returns triumphantly to the screen as the countess.
Saturday Evening, May 11
OBSESSION 7:00 PM
(1954, Jean Delannoy) A circus couple finds itself embroiled in the unexpected aftermath of a murder. NOTE: rare color noir! With Michèle Morgan, Raf Vallone.
THREE SINNERS / MEURTRES 9:00 PM
(1950, Richard Pottier) A mercy killing turns into an all-out family feud: can the young niece set things straight? With Jeanne Moreau, Fernandel.
Sunday Matinée, May 12
NIGHT AT THE CROSSROADS / LA NUIT DU CARREFOUR 1:00 PM
(1932, Jean Renoir) Drugs, murder, and sex: film noir begins here as Inspector Maigret meets an opium-besotted femme fatale. With Pierre Renoir, Winna Winfried.
SIROCCO / LA MAISON DU MALTAIS 2:30 PM
(1938, Pierre Chenal) Romance and blackmail coil around a beautiful prostitute’s chances for respectability and happiness. With Viviane Romance, Louis Jouvet, Marcel Dalio, Jany Holt, Fréhel.
THE DESERTER / JE T’ATTENDRAI 4:15 PM
(1939, Leonid Moguy) A soldier leaves his troop train to discover that life in his native village has become fraught with peril. With Jean-Pierre Aumont, Corinne Luchaire.
Sunday Evening, May 12
WICKED CITY / HANS LE MARIN 7:15 PM
(1949, François Villiers) A sailor, a cabaret girl, a gypsy, and a murder in Marseille: amour fou meets poetic realism. With Jean-Pierre Aumont, Maria Montez (Cobra Woman!), Lilli Palmer.
PORTRAIT OF AN KILLER / PORTRAIT D’UN ASSASSIN 9:15
(1949, Bernard-Roland) A circus daredevil is caught up in the deadly machinations of a scheming woman. With Pierre Brasseur, Maria Montez, Arletty, Erich von Stroheim.
MAIGRET SETS A TRAP / MAIGRET TEND UN PIEGE 7:00 PM
(1958, Jean Delannoy) The venerable Inspector Maigret tracks a serial killer on the streets of Paris. With Jean Gabin, Annie Girardot, Lino Ventura, Jean Desailly.
THE HEAD OF A MAN / LA TÊTE D’UN HOMME 9:20 PM
(1933, Julien Duvivier) Early noir gets a great boost from Duvivier with this spooky tale of Maigret attempting to outmaneuver a deadly killer. With Harry Baur, Valery Inkijinoff.
FRENCH 5½ is augmented by “double exposure” art created by Don as a related project, which adds its own visual energy to this special collection of films. The sample illustration above (featuring the legendary actor Raimu, starring on May 11th in Henri Decoin’s STRANGERS IN THE HOUSE) will give you a taste: it’s titled “The Path to Oblivion”—a French noir concept if there ever was one!