As you have probably figured out, the Saturday Film Forum is off and running and if you missed last Saturday’s screening of Charade, you missed a wonderful event. Some patrons have been a bit confused about the Cinema Français in the title of the program. Most think that the films are in the French but au contraire, mes amis! The films are all in English but they are all filmed/set in France! Of course, the HBPL Media department has some wonderful films in the French language that you can enjoy:
Amelie: Probably all of you have seen this film already. It came out in 2002 and charmed everyone that had the good fortune to discover it. And if you can’t get enough of the star, Audrey Tautou, try her 2005 film: A Very Long Engagement. This film is set against the backdrop of World War I. Mathilde (Tautou) doesn’t believe it when she is told her fiancée has been killed in battle so she heads out to find him. Adventure ensues!
Cyrano de Begerac:
Years ago, I worked at Disney Studios. When I was there, they were making the film Green Card and I heard horror stories about one of the stars, Gerard Depardieu. It almost put me off watching his films but I would have been the poorer for it. If you have not seen his version of Cyrano de Bergerac, have a look; it will break your heart! I have gone on to have a great appreciation for the work of this French actor.
Another oldie but goodie is Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion. It was released in 1937 and was the first foreign language film to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. At the time President Roosevelt said that “everyone who believes in democracy should see this film”. Hence Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels listed Grand Illusion as Cinematic Public Enemy #1. It was the film he wanted to destroy the most. When Germany moved into France during the war, they confiscated much of the film archives of Paris. The person in charge, Dr Frank Hensel, was a Nazi but he was also a huge film buff. Instead of destroying the films, he sent them to Berlin. The negative for Grand Illusion was thought to be destroyed in an air raid on Berlin. After the war, the sector where the film archive had been was in the Soviet sector. In the 1960’s, there was a film exchange between the Soviet (Film Archive) Gosfilmoford and the Cinematique Toulouse (France). Unfortunately, the archive in Toulouse didn’t look at all the material they had received very closely. In the 1990’s it was discovered that they had received in the exchange the ORIGINAL sound and picture negative for Grand Illusion! Unfortunately, the director, Jean Renoir died in 1979 and was never aware of this discovery (he died thinking his masterpiece was gone.). But fortunately for us, the original negative was restored and in 1999 was released as the inaugural DVD of the Criterion Collection. This is the version that is available at HBPL.