Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Killer French-Brit Noir Series Packs Heat Next Month at Belcourt

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2010 at 4:46 PM

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The best news we've heard all day: Starting Feb. 10, The Belcourt launches a follow-up to its smash 2008 film noir series, this one devoted to French and British crime thrillers. The lineup to this Chunnel of criminal cinema was announced this afternoon, and of the 16 films in the schedule, the highlights include...oh, about 16 films. Don't believe us? The series is bookended with a pair of Carol Reed classics, The Third Man and Odd Man Out (which closes the series March 11). In between, it hopscotches back and forth across the Channel from Michael Powell (the scandalous Peeping Tom) to Henri-Georges Clouzot (the proto-Psycho shocker Diabolique), with one director, Jules Dassin, represented in both French and English. Threading the series together are four films by the great Jean-Pierre Melville, a cigar-chomping, Stetson-wearing crime-drama specialist with a thing for American muscle cars: at least two of the Melville movies haven't been shown in Nashville, at least since their revival. The full schedule follows, copied from The Belcourt's site: THE THIRD MAN Wed-Thu & Sat, Feb 10-11, 13 Fittingly bookending our series are two films by the inimitable knighted British director Carol Reed, the first of which is the indispensable THE THIRD MAN, a film whose combination of sharp dialogue, mastery of light and shadow, and standout performances brilliantly encapsulate the genre. Set in a divided post-war Vienna, American novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) comes to the city at the behest of a work opportunity from Harry Lime (Orson Welles) only to find himself investigating his old friend's death. Welles' star entrance is movie history alone, but THE THIRD MAN is simply one of the greatest films ever made. Dir. Carol Reed, UK, 1949, b&w, 104min, 35mm "The joy this film provides is so magnified when it's projected in a movie theater that seeing it on the big screen is like watching it for the first time." - Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times BOB LE FLAMBEUR Thu, Sat-Sun, Feb 11, 13-14 Played by Roger Duchesne, Bob is French Noir cool-incarnate: slick, zen, dignified...an aging Montmarte gambler from some bygone era navigating the seedy elements of all-night Paris while plotting one last big heist - the Deauville casino. One of the greatest capers films in any language, BOB LE FLAMBEUR is the first of four films from fiercely independent French director Jean-Pierre Melville that form a weekly focal point for this series, a go-to guy for a reliable dose of style, intelligence, and plenty of hat-and-gun fetish to go around. Dir. Jean-Pierre Melville, France, 1956, b&w, 98min "THE CINEMATIC BIRTH OF THE COOL! Melville's drollest, most likable gangster movie. A superb riff with a boffo finale." - J. Hoberman, The Village Voice FOOTSTEPS IN THE FOG new 35mm print! Sun-Tue, Feb 14-16 After poisoning his wife, a Victorian London man considers a second murder when his housemaid Lily blackmails him with the truth. Played by then husband-and-wife Stewart Granger and Jean Simmon, FOOTSTEPS is a menacing class-conscious melodrama wrapped in a dank Technicolor blanket, courtesy of cinematographer Christopher Challis (whose work was recently seen here in Powell & Pressberger's THE RED SHOES). Unavailable on DVD, it is presented here in a beautiful archival print. Dir. Arthur Lubin, UK, 1955, color, 90min "Granger and Simmons, husband-and-wife team of the time, are well matched in this florid Edwardian thriller. The film's gusto is infectious." - Time Out (London) QUAI DES ORFEVRES Mon-Wed, Feb 15-17 Curvy singer Jenny (Suzy Delair) has been making eyes at a lecherous older businessman in order to further her career, much to the consternation, and threats, of her mild-mannered accompanist and husband Maurice (Bernard Blier). When the old man turns up dead, Maurice becomes the prime suspect. The first of two films from Henri-Georges Clouzot, QUAI preceded his bigger hit DIABOLIQUE by seven years though was respectively received in its time and won the big Best Director prize at Venice. Rarely seen in the US prior to its recent re-release, this restoration is a must-see tour-de-force from a true master of suspense. Dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot, France, 1947, b&w, 106min "A stunningly well-made entertainment" - Pauline Kael, New Yorker DIABOLIQUE Wed-Fri, Feb 17-19 The ailing spouse (Véra Clouzot) and manhandled mistress (Simone Signoret) of a sadistic boarding school headmaster (Paul Meurisse) plan and execute the man's murder -- but their plan goes haywire when the corpse vanishes. Henri-Georges Clouzot directs his real-life wife in this icy, black-and-white masterwork of homicide and Grand Guignol suspense. Dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot, France, 1955, b&w, 116min "Beneath the surface of Clouzot's elegantly perverse thriller lie bottomless reserves of malice and kinky intrigue. The very sight of the victim's dainty wife and his tough, steely mistress, is enough to suggest all manner of forbidden possibilities." - Janet Maslin, The New York Times IT ALWAYS RAINS ON SUNDAY new 35mm print! Fri-Sun, Feb 19-21 Unfolding in the pubs, homes and markets of London's East End on a wet and dreary Sunday, a bossy housewife married to an older man finds herself with a choice to make when a former lover, just escaped from prison, turns up at her door looking to hide until the heat is off. Ripe for rediscovery, Robert Hamer's predecessor to his better-known KIND HEARTS & CORONETS is an underrated gem of post WWII: expertly photographed and crackling with erotic energy and emotional brutality. Dir. Robert Hamer, UK, 1947, b&w, 92min "A fascinating noirish look at life in London's East End... the scenes between Withers and McCallum are stunningly erotic, and the movie ends with a spectacular chase through the London streets and rail yards. It was shot by Douglas Slocombe, whose use of lighting deep within the frame may prefigure Robert Krasker's work in The Third Man." - David Denby, The New Yorker LE DOULOS Sat-Sun, Feb 20-21 French New Wave icon Jean-Paul Belmondo stars as Silien, a poker-faced crook who may or may not have squealed on newly sprung gangster Maurice Faugel (Serge Reggiani) in this ice-cool noir from Jean-Pierre Melville. Fedoras, trench coats, dark alleys and jazz pervade this intricate crime drama, which features a virtuoso eight-minute interrogation scene done in a single take. Dir. Jean-Pierre Melville, France, 1962, b&w, 108min "Underscores why the French put the name to film noir." - Manohla Dargis, The New York Times NIGHT AND THE CITY Mon-Tue, Feb 22-23 Directed by blacklisted American ex-pat Jules Dassin, at work here in London, centers on grifter Harry (Richard Widmark), who schemes to take over wrestling promoter Kristo's (Herbert Lom) racket. Harry pits Kristo's father, Gregorius, against his own son and convinces nightclub owner Phil (Francis L. Sullivan) to invest in his scheme, but there is no easy money in the shifty underworld...Dir. Jules Dassin, UK, 1950, b&w, 101min "Like The Third Man, made in Vienna the previous year, Night and the City maps the downward journey of an unabashedly American adventurer against a prime locus of European destruction, yielding the specter of the "secret" city to which all film noir, regardless of actual setting, pays unspoken tribute." - Paul Arthur RIFIFI Mon-Tue, Feb 22-23 Now at work in Paris, Jules Dassin won the Best Director award at Cannes for the classic one-last-heist setup. Recently released from prison, icy cool Tony le Stephanois is a shady cat with a quick backhand who recruits a team of criminal for said heist: a near-silent centerpiece of nail-knawing intensity. When a rival gangster tries to snatch the loot, Tony's refusal prompts a turn of events which climax in a delirious edge-of-seat finale. An American remake is reportedly in the works...Dir. Jules Dassin, France, 1955, b&w, 122min "THE BEST FILM NOIR I'VE EVER SEEN! A marvel of skill and inventiveness!" - François Truffaut LE SAMOURAI Wed, Feb 24, Sat-Sun, Feb 27-28 This 1960s French masterpiece from Jean-Pierre Melville introduces the memorable anti-hero Jef Costello (Alain Delon in a career-defining performance), a killer-for-hire with the instincts of a Japanese warrior and the features of Adonis. After offing a nightclub owner, Costello has two big problems: his double-crossing employer, who now wants him dead, and the dogged police investigator who's determined to rein him in. Dir. Jean-Pierre Melville, France, 1967, color, 105min "Jean-Pierre Melville's great film flirts with that macho extremism and slips over into dream and poetry just as we grow most alarmed." - David Thomson on LE SAMOURAI, Criterion.com PEPE LE MOKO Fri-Sun, Feb 26-28 The notorious Pépé le moko (Jean Gabin, in a truly iconic performance) is a wanted man: women long for him, rivals hope to destroy him, and the law is breathing down his neck at every turn. On the lam in the labyrinthine Casbah of Algiers, Pépé is safe from the clutches of the police--until a Parisian playgirl compels him to risk his life and leave its confines once and for all. One of the most influential films of the 20th century and a landmark of French poetic realism, Julien Duvivier's Pépé le moko is presented here in its full-length version. Dir. Julien Duvivier, France, 1937, b&w, 94min "Before Casablanca, there was Pépé. One of the most exciting and moving films I can remember seeing...Raises the thriller to a poetic level." - Graham Greene TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI Sun-Tue, Feb 28-Mar 2 Jean Gabin again is here as Max, an aging, gentlemanly mobster who thinks he's about to retire after a massively successful heist. But he soon discovers that someone else has his eye on the loot: a brutal crime boss named Angelo (Lino Ventura), who heard about the jackpot from his girlfriend (Jeanne Moreau). Angelo gives Max a choice to give up the cash or sacrifice himself, and what ensues is a tense game of cat and mouse. TOUCHEZ is a superb representation of the films of Jacque Becker: evocative, understated and elegant. Dir. Jacques Becker, France, 1954, b&w, 96min "SET THE STANDARD FOR THE FRENCH UNDERWORLD CRIME CAPERS...Overflows with comic, melancholy ruminations on mortality and sexual fatigue.... The action is just as vicious as it has to be, and Becker pulls off one tough-guy surprise after another with masterly soft-shoe storytelling. Best of all, Gabin's performance is more than a star turn." - Michael Sragow, The New Yorker PEEPING TOM Wed-Fri, Mar 3-5 A disturbed filmmaker (Carl Boehm) literally kills with his camera in this ahead-of-its-time shocker from revered British director Michael Powell. Like the same year's PSYCHO, this film's combination of voyeurism, eroticism and horror repelled some 1960 critics, but its cult reputation soared in later years and has since been hailed a masterpiece. Moira Shearer (star of Powell's THE RED SHOES) makes an appearance, as does Powell himself (as Boehm's father in flashback). Dir. Michael Powell, UK, 1960, color, 101min "An undeniable - if unsavory - classic, Released in Britain barely a month before Psycho had its American premiere, Powell's serial-killer saga is no less perverse and perhaps even more disturbing...This is the movie that puts the sin in cinephilia." - J. Hoberman, Village Voice LE CERCLE ROUGE Fri-Sat & Mon, Mar 5-6, 8 Master thief Corey (Alain Delon) is fresh out of prison. But instead of toeing the line of law-abiding freedom, he finds his steps leading back to the shadowy world of crime, crossing those of a notorious escapee (Gian Maria Volonté) and alcoholic ex-cop (Yves Montand). As the unlikely trio plots a heist against impossible odds, their trail is pursued by a relentless inspector (Bourvil), and fate seals their destinies. Jean-Pierre Melville's Le cercle rouge combines honorable anti-heroes, coolly atmospheric cinematography, and breathtaking set pieces to create a masterpiece of crime cinema. Note: A new adaptation by Hong Kong arthouse favorite Johnnie To is expected to hit theaters this year. Dir. Jean-Pierre Melville, France, 1970, color, 140min "A deluxe piece of heist film engineering. Melville provides a satisfying payoff for the audience... A virtuoso display of the geometry of movie action, from the red circle of chalk Delon uses on a pool cue to the slashing lines he cuts in his blocky American car."- The New Yorker GET CARTER (1971) Sat & Mon, Mar 6, 8 After learning that his brother has died under mysterious circumstances, London gangster Jack Carter (Michael Caine) heads to his hometown of Newcastle, England, in search of revenge. Once there, Carter tangles with the local mob boss, a porn star and various other colorful local characters. Directed by Mike Hodges (CROUPIER, I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD), this classic action-thriller depicts a swinging London underbelly of gritty hard-nosed locals. Dir. Mike Hodges, UK, 1971, color, 112min "A tense, hard-boiled crime movie...has the sure feel for the underbelly of society, like the good American detective novelists have always had." - Roger Ebert ODD MAN OUT new 35mm print! Tue-Thu, Mar 9-11 Closing out the series is this off-kilter portrait of the struggle between idealism and love from director Carol Reed, whose THE THIRD MAN starts this series. Set in the tumultuous city of Belfast, Northern Ireland, the film centers on Johnny McQueen (James Mason), a fresh-out-of-prison Irish nationalist whose newly united crew hatches a plan to knock off a payroll office to fund further resistance efforts. Things quickly go awry and Johnny is abandoned by his comrades, wounded and dying in the middle of the city, with a dead payroll officer and the entire police force nipping at his heels. Johnny's journey to rejoin with the group is highlighted by a delightfully strange mix of genuine sympathizers and greedy poseurs. Blending jet-black humor and phenomenally understated drama, Reed discusses in a very genuine way the plight of a terrorist coming to terms with his own innate humanity. This dark socio-political satire, the unique and oft-unseen predecessor to Reed's most revered works, sets the tone and establishes the aesthetic he eventually became known and loved for. Dir. Carol Reed, UK, 1947, b&w, 116min "Superior, I think, to The Third Man. What really grabbed me at sixteen was the heavy atmosphere that hangs over everybody in the town. I still consider it one of the best movies I've ever seen, and a film which made me want to pursue this career more than anything else. It's still fabulous, probably James Mason's best picture. No film made me happier than Odd Man Out." - Roman Polanski

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