Classic French Cinema

The NW Film Center’s series of French cinema arrives with the dog days of summer, meaning that between now and the end of August, there are some excellent alternatives to the late-summer multiplex doldrums. The series appears to be curated around French director Bertrand Tavernier’s new three-hour documentary My Journey Through French Cinema, a far from comprehensive but enjoyably heartfelt survey of his country’s film history. That means the series eschews obvious touchstones like Truffaut, Godard, Malle, and Chabrol. Rather, the maverick Jean-Pierre Melville is represented by two of his greatest films (1967’s grimly meditative, hugely influential Le Samouraï and 1969’s bleak French Resistance thriller Army of Shadows), as is poetic realist Marcel Carné, whose sweepingly tragic work, such as 1939’s Le jour se lève and 1945’s two-part epic Children of Paradise (both screening), was considered laughably outdated when the French New Wave rolled around. The Melville films, especially Le Samouraï, are must-sees for contemporary audiences, as is the tense, paranoid Classe tous risques, a 1960 thriller from director Claude Sautet that juxtaposes film-noir and gangster-film tropes onto a heartbreaking domestic story.


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