Films from the Father of Film Noir 1932-2017
Georges Simenon (1903-1989) wrote more than 200 crime novels and became world-famous for the ones that featured Inspector Jules Maigret, who was later played on screen by noted French actors such as Jean Gabin, Harry Baur, Pierre Renoir (the very first Maigret, in 1932), and Albert Préjean, and later on television by Jean Richard and Bruno Cremer (in immensely popular long-running series).
But Simenon was far more than just the writer of clever detective tales. There was a fascination with the dark side of human nature that he gave to Maigret that added depth to the stories, and eventually led him to write an entirely different type of novel–the psychological novels known as the romans durs. Here Simenon plumbed his own psyche and created characters with flaws that, as in the best noir tales, come back to haunt them at precisely the wrong moment.
SIMENON 2020, the series that plays monthly at the Roxie from February to October, samples films made from Simenon’s sleek but sinewy prose–both the Maigret novels and the romans durs. Don Malcolm, the architect of THE FRENCH HAD A NAME FOR IT series that has revolutionized our understanding of French film noir, has selected works spanning eighty years–from the first film noir in 1932 (Night at the Crossroads/La nuit du carrefour) to its most recent remake for television in 2017, and all points in-between. Films from France, England and the US are featured, along with selected TV episodes from various Maigret series, featuring Bruno Cremer (Don’s favorite Maigret—"even more than Jean Gabin!!") and British actor Rowan Atkinson.
*Those who attend each of the first six screenings will be entered into a contest to win one of two free festival passes to the 14-film festival THE FRENCH HAD A NAME FOR IT 2020, which will screen in the Big Roxie from November 5-8. Winners will be announced at our September "Special Simenon Surprise" screening in the Big Roxie (exact date and films TBA).
For contest details consult the email blast that will be published in early February. (If you’re not on the Midcentury Productions mailing list, please use this link to sign up and receive it and further updates during the year.)
Sunday, February 23 – Maigret!
CECILE IS DEAD / CÉCILE EST MORTE 12:00
(1944) Maigret (Albert Préjean) tries to solve the murder of a young woman whose fears for her safety he had dismissed.
TO ANY LENGTHS / SIGNÉ PICPUS 1:50
(2003) Maigret (Don Malcolm’s favorite Bruno Cremer) unravels an elaborate plot concealed within the seemingly random murder of a fortune-teller.
Sunday, March 22 – Romans durs!
THE ALL-SAINTS DAY TRAVELER / LE VOYAGEUR DE TOUSSAINT 12:00
(1943) Another "provincial gothic" from Simenon: a young man inherits a fortune, but finds peril in the small town he visits to collect it. With Jean Desailly and Serge Reggiani at the start of their careers!
TEMPTATION HARBOUR 1:55
(1947) British adaptation of Simenon’s The Man From London. A bargeman (Robert Newton) discovers that a large wad of cash he has stumbled upon is more trouble than it’s worth. With Simone Simon as the object of his pathetic affection.
Sunday, April 26 – Maigret!
THE MAN ON THE EIFFEL TOWER 12:00
(1949) Sous le ciel de Paris, Inspector Maigret must sift through conflicting clues to track down the murderer of a wealthy spinster. Charles Laughton as Maigret in a color remake of Duvivier’s La tete d’un homme (screened during French 5½).
MAIGRET IN MONTMARTRE / MAIGRET ET LES PLAISIRS DE LA NUIT 1:35
(1992) Maigret (Bruno Cremer again) haunts the seedy clubs in the Pigalle in search of the killer of a stripper.
Sunday, June 21- Romans durs filmed in America!
THE BROTHERS RICO 12:00
(1957) Underrated Phil Karlson noir! A retired mob accountant (Richard Conte) is forced back into "the organization" when his brothers pull a hit but go to the cops.
THE BOTTOM OF THE BOTTLE 1:45
(1956) From a novel written during Simenon’s time in the US. An escaped convict (Van Johnson) seeks the help of his reluctant brother (Joseph Cotten) to cross a flooded river into Mexico: complications ensue! Directed by Henry Hathaway.
Sunday, July 12 – Romans durs de l’Angleterre!
THE PARIS EXPRESS 12:00
(1952) A meek bookkeeper (Claude Rains) seizes an opportunity for the high life when he winds up with an unexpected windfall, but there are repercussions! Also known as The Man Who Watched Trains Go By.
MIDNIGHT EPISODE 1:45
(1950) Stanley Holloway channels Raimu in this remake of Monsieur La Souris (1942), where a bum’s discovery of a wallet puts him in danger from a ruthless criminal gang.
Sunday, August 23 – Romans durs français!
THE CLOCKMAKER OF ST. PAUL / L’HORLOGER DE SAINT-PAUL 12:00
(1974) Bertrand Tavernier’s debut film! A man (Philippe Noiret) struggles to understand why his son has committed murder and find increasingly unsettling answers.
(1992) Claude Chabrol uses flashbacks and the sad eyes of Marie Trintingant to tell the sad tale of an upper-class girl whose life takes a harrowing turn into the underbelly of society.
Sunday, October 11 – Maigret!
NIGHT AT THE CROSSROADS / LA NUIT DU CARREFOUR 12:00
(1932) Archetypal Maigret story "Night at the Crossroads" the atmospheric 1932 "birth of noir" at the hands of Jean Renoir.
NIGHT AT THE CROSSROADS / LA NUIT DU CARREFOUR 1:35
(2017) A more astringent (but no less lurid) version from recent times adapted by Stewart Harcourt and featuring Rowan Atkinson as Maigret.
*Start times for the second feature are approximate.