Neglected gems of French Cinema - Part One
Feb 05, 2013
"There's more to French films than the New Wave and 'Cinéma de papa'" says our resident film buff Arjun Chauhan:
Nous Ne Vieillirons Pas Ensemble (1972) (We Won't Grow Old Together) - Maurice Pialat
Pialat's slow-burn, heart-wrenching showing of how an insecure man loses his girl, bit by bit by bit, as she finally sets free. And then you almost feel sorry for the monster. 70's realism and nothing theatrical about this drama. Don't watch if you've just broken up. Starring ‘furry' Jean Yanne and the beautiful Marlène Jobert. You watch this intimate study of a relationship in decline and think, ‘Man, things sure were different in the 70’s’. Well, no. They weren’t. Things have always been the same; just that the cinema depicting these things became plastic. For the real stuff, go back and see Pialat and you can start with this.
Les Aventuriers (1967) (The Last Adventure) - Robert Enrico
A pilot, a mechanic and an artist get together for a treasure hunt. This is Gallic cool, and the approach is almost as if from a world where Hollywood never existed. It really is, because you think it’s going the same old formulaic way and it doesn’t. It shifts between drama, comedy and adventure effortlessly and organically and has a whole different vibe from your usual Anglo-American fair. Robert Enrico superbly directs Alain Delon, Lino Ventura and the sexy Joanna Shimkus in the tropics.Trust me when I say that the last 30 minutes is some of the best piece of cinema ever accomplished by the raw camera. And it also has the greatest funeral scene ever. Great, great score by Francois de Roubaix.
L'Argent de Poche (1976) (Small Change) - Francois Truffaut
Francois Truffaut knew how to portray two kinds of people best: Lovers, and Kids. After 400 Blows, this might be Truffaut's most endearing film about adolescence and the joy of being a child. This honest, non-sentimental comedy is an album of small vignettes of children as REAL human beings, with their own set of ordeals and moments, and all the good and the bad parceled together as it is in REAL life. Poignant, charming and never boring. Don't expect any major filmmaker in 2013 to make a film like this for you and your kids.
Classe Tous Risques (1960) (The Big Risk) - Claude Sautet
A voice over narration from the film goes: "Between the Saint Denis and Saint Martin gates, there were 50 men called Riton, but there was only one 'Riton of the Gates'". Claude Sautet, who later became famous for his popular 1970s' bourgeois love-tragedies starring Romy Schneider, made his debut with this superb study of a gangster on the run. Thieves have their own world and honour codes, but in the end a thief is also a human facing everyday problems and relationships and friendships. And this film is ultimately about real friendship. While it wonderfully de-glamourizes the whole cops and robbers genre, in ways it is also a wonderful tribute to the old American noirs and French capers and thus maintains the cool.
Le Caporal Épinglé (1962) (The Elusive Corporal) - Jean Renoir
A POW tries in vain to escape from a German war camp. Renoir's 'La Grande Illusion' is often cited by critics as the greatest film ever made. Including by Orson Welles himself. The Elusive Corporal, while not as perfect as the Grand illusion, has a similar humanist streak running through it and could very well be the last masterpiece Renoir was able to make. A man's comical efforts to escape also give him (and us) a sharp glimpse at the futility of war and a belief that no gigantic political mechanism will ever be able to squash the small, but ever-present and everyday goodness of man. If you ever become a disbeliever, go watch Jean Renoir, the man who "understood human beings more than any other artist".
More from Arjun soon.