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:: Spotlight :: 2017 Alliance Française Classic Film Festival

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

A selection of New Wave and film noir hits, starring the one and only ‘Bébel’ - Jean-Paul Belmondo - will be showcased at the 2017 Alliance Française Classic Film Festival which in Melbourne will take place from 12 to 15 October at The Astor Theatre.

Held across Australia in collaboration with STUDIOCANAL and in association with Palace Cinemas, Hayden Orpheum Cremorne and the Backlot Studios, this year’s programme pays homage to Jean-Paul Belmondo, the most iconic French actor of the 60s and 70s. Each of the event’s lovingly selected 6 films will be screened once over one weekend in each city, thereby transporting audiences to an era during which ‘Bébel’s’ talent, charisma and undeniable screen presence dominated French cinema.

Witness him as a tormented cleric in Léon Morin, Priest. Savour the irresistible essence of film noir with Doulos: the Finger Man directed by one of its finest exponents, Jean-Pierre Melville. Embark upon an adventure with Belmondo and the enchanting Francoise Dorléac in That Man from Rio. Experience a seminal moment in WW2 history in Weekend at Dunkirk, follow two free spirits who renounce society in Pierrot le Fou starring Belmondo and Anna Karina and enjoy Belmondo in the company of Gérard Depardieu and Charles Boyer in the crime thriller Stavisky.

As part of this Festival and for the first time in Australia, STUDIOCANAL is also proud to present 4K restorations of Léon Morin, Priest, Doulos: the Finger Man and Weekend at Dunkirk. The Restoration Department of STUDIOCANAL is responsible for the preservation and enrichment of a library containing over 5,000 European and American films. They also manage DVD and Blu-disc releases as well as archival titles from the STUDIOCANAL catalogue, many of which they restore to digital or high-definition quality. Each year, 5% of STUDIOCANAL investment goes to the conservation of this priceless cinematic heritage. As part of this heritage policy, STUDIOCANAL collaborates with institutions such as the Cinémathèque Française (French film institute), Archives Françaises du film (French film archive) in France and the BFI in London, UK.

So admire these selected classics for the first time, or indulge in them again, as they were meant to be seen…on the big screen!
Full programme details:

LÉON MORIN, PRIEST (Léon Morin, prêtre) – 1961 (Drama) RESTORED VERSION
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
Cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Emmanuelle Riva, Irène Tunc, Nicole Mirel, Gisèle Grimm & Marco Behar
Directed and scripted by the great Jean-Pierre Melville, Léon Morin, Priest is based on the 1952 Prix Goncourt-winning novel The Passionate Heart by Béatrix Beck. The film stars the couple Jean-Paul Belmondo and Emmanuelle Riva as Léon Morin and Barny.

In a Nazi-occupied small village in France, Barny is a young and frustrated widow. Wayward and faithless, she decides to enter a church and tries to provokes the handsome priest Léon Morin (Jean-Paul Belmondo) during confession. To her surprise, he turns out to be bright, open-minded and ready to discuss anything without taking offense. They develop a chaste yet deep relationship outside of the confessional. Slowly, Barny seems to turn towards God. Or, is it really just towards the handsome Priest?

Well received by both audiences and critics, Léon Morin, Priest was nominated for the Venice International Film Festival in 1961 and Belmondo was also nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor

DOULOS: THE FINGER MAN (Le Doulos) – 1963 (Crime, Thriller) RESTORED VERSION
Director: Jean-Pierre Melville
Cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Serge Reggiani, Jean Desailly, René Lefèvre & Marcel Cuvelier
Doulos: the Finger Man (slang for “informant”) by Jean-Pierre Melville is adapted from the eponymous novel by Pierre Lesou. In addition to Belmondo, this stylish thriller also stars Serge Reggiani, both of whom were frequently cast as anti-heros.

Freshly released from prison, Maurice (Reggiani) decides to avenge the murder of his wife by a former friend. He then plans a heist of a rich man’s estate with two accomplices, including Silien (Belmondo). The burglary goes awry as the police arrived halfway through. Maurice had always refused to believe the rumours that his long-time friend Silien was a police informer. Wounded and seeking revenge, Maurice has no choice but to retaliate. But he will soon to discover that the appearances can be deceitful.

Nominated for the Mar Del Plata Film Festival in 1963, Doulos: the Finger Man is the second highest-grossing film in Melville's directing career. The film ranked in the 500 greatest movies of all time by Empire magazine in 2008.

THAT MAN FROM RIO (L’homme de Rio) – 1964 (Action, Adventure, Comedy)
Director: Philippe de Broca
Cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Françoise Dorléac, Jean Servais, Simone Renant & Roger Dumas
Philippe de Broca's That Man From Rio is a globe-trotting treasure hunt, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, Françoise Dorléac and Jean Servais.

Two South Americans steal an Amazon statuette from a Parisian museum and kidnap its curator, Professor Catalan (Servais), in broad daylight. Agnès (Dorléac) whose late father was Catalan’s companion on an Amazon expedition is the only one who knows the location of the other statuettes, making her an invaluable asset. They end up abducting her, right in front of her fiancé Adrien Dufourquet (Belmondo), an airman on an 8-day leave. In order to save his beloved, he starts chasing them all the way to Brazil. And in doing so, he embarks on an adventurous journey.

Nominated at the 37th Academy Award for the Oscar for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay, the film also proved to be a huge success in France, ranking fourth place out of the 1964 French box office. Influenced by Tintin’s adventures, That Man from Rio inspired many directors such as Steven Spielberg for Raiders of the Lost Ark and his other Indiana Jones films, as well as Michel Hazanavicius for OSS 117: Lost In Rio.

WEEKEND AT DUNKIRK (Week-end à Zuydcoote) – 1964 (Drama, War) RESTORED VERSION
Director: Henri Verneuil
Cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Catherine Spaak, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Pierre Mondy & François Périer
Directed by Henri Verneuil, Weekend at Dunkirk stars Jean-Paul Belmondo and the stunning Catherine Spaak in a feature based on the 1949 Prix Goncourt-winning novel Weekend à Zuydcoote by Robert Merle.

Set over a weekend in June during World War II, the film follows the footsteps of French Sergeant Julien Maillet (Jean-Paul Belmondo) trapped on the beaches near Dunkirk, who tries to get to England by boat with the English Army. Despite his countless attempts, nothing seems to go as planned. The situation on the beach becomes more and more difficult as German troops are shelling them, as many characters cross Maillet’s path, including Jeanne (Catherine Spaak), a stubborn woman who refuses to run away. This feature is no typical war as it pictures the fears, frustration, anger and boredom of ordinary people during war times.

Weekend at Dunkirk was the ninth most popular film at the French box office in 1964. This historical weekend left a mark on people’s minds and inspired many artists such as Christopher Nolan, who recently chose to revisit that event with his latest picture Dunkirk.

PIERROT LE FOU (Pierrot le fou) – 1965 (Thriller, Romance, Drama)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anna Karina, Graziella Galvani, Samuel Fuller & Raymond Devos
Pierrot le Fou is Jean-Luc Godard's tenth feature film, starring his former wife and muse Anna Karina and Jean-Paul Belmondo. The film is based on the 1962 novel Obsession by Lionel White.

Ferdinand Griffon (Belmondo) is leading a boring yet comfortable life in Paris amongst the bourgeois elite. After another mindless cocktail party, he decides to leave everything behind and run away with the babysitter Marianne (Karina), who happens to be his ex-girlfriend. Their adventure takes a different turn when they discover Marianne is being chased by Algerian gangsters, whom they have a hard time escaping from. From Paris to the French Riviera, continuously on the run, they begin an unorthodox life. Their world is again turned upside down when the restless Marianne decides to go look for her brother, an arms trafficker.

Pierrot le Fou was the 15th most successful film of the year in France when released. Among several nominations, including a BAFTA for Jean-Paul Belmondo, the film won the Venice International Film Festival Critics Award and the British Film Institute Sutherland Trophy in 1965.

STAVISKY – 1974 (Crime, Thriller, Drama)
Director: Alain Resnais
Cast: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anny Duperey, Charles Boyer, Gérard Depardieu, Claude Rich & Michael Lonsdale
Based on a true story, Alain Resnais‘s film Stavisky follows Serge Alexandre’s life, played by Jean-Paul Belmondo, accompanied on screen by Anny Duperey and Charles Boyer.

In early 1930’s France, Serge Alexandre is a theatre impresario and financier and one of the most glamorous figures of his time. Living in a luxury hotel with his beautiful wife, he leads an extravagant lifestyle, surrounded by the French industrial and political elite, including Baron Raoul (Charles Boyer). Serge Alexandre seems to have it all, but behind his flamboyant lifestyle lies corruption and fraud on a massive scale. Through glimpses of his various illegal activities, it becomes clear that Serge Alexandre is, in fact, Serge Stavisky, a man with numerous skeletons in his closet. Little does he know, he is being watched by enemy spies. From that moment on, it is just a matter of time before the whole ‘house of cards’ falls down.

Upon its release in 1974, Stavisky was praised by the audience and critics. Among several nominations at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, Charles Boyer won the Best Actor Award. The film’s also achieved great success outside of France, winning awards from the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review in the U.S.A.

Dates and venues for the 2017 Alliance Française Classic Film Festival are:

SYDNEY
24–27 August
Palace Norton Street

24–27 August
Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace

CANBERRA
31 August – 3 September
Palace Electric Cinema

PERTH
1–3 September
Backlot Perth

MELBOURNE
12-15 October
The Astor Theatre

Festival schedule and tickets available here