THU—MON, MAR 19—23 ▪ ROXIE THEATER
Presented by Mid-Century Productions and I Wake Up Dreaming
(1961) 6:00, 10:15
*Note that all films will be shown with English subtitles.
THURSDAY, MAR 19 VIVE LA FRANCE!
A MAN ESCAPED / UN CONDAMNÉ À MORT S'EST ÉCHAPPÉ 7:00
Dir. Robert Bresson (1956) 99 min.
We begin where we left off, in the land that coined the term "film noir" and whose range of expression within that style is arguably more expansive than in America. Our two films from France admirably demonstrate that range.
A MAN ESCAPED is singularly revered French director Robert Bresson's first overt acknowledgment of film noir as a narrative/stylistic force. (He would follow up on this in 1959's PICKPOCKET.) This tense tale of a French political prisoner methodically planning his escape from a Nazi prison is justifiably considered a world classic, though its self-contained perfection seems to prevent it from being screened as regularly as it should be. Bresson's masterful use of non-actors reminds us of the intersection between noir and neo-realism; however, Bresson was using such techniques even before neo-realism first flourished in Italy immediately after WWII.
THERE'S ALWAYS A PRICE TAG / RETOUR DE MANIVELLE 9:00
Dir. Denys de la Patelliere (1957) 118 min.
A more conventional noir situation is found in RETOUR DE MANIVELLE, which features an icy twist on the "collect off the corpse" sub-genre. There's something quintessentially French about a cold-hearted wife attempting to make suicide look like murder—the exact opposite of so many of these schemes!
The luminous, almond-eyed Michele Morgan, remembered most by American noir aficionados for her selfless portrayal of the long-suffering wife of a semi-unhinged mob boss in Arthur Ripley's THE CHASE (1946), takes the temperature reading of frigidity down to absolute zero—despite her suggestive boudoir poses that capture the lower half of men's imaginations. In this case, that man is Daniel Gélin, France's composite "answer" to Marlon Brando, John Garfield and Dustin Hoffman, a down-on-his-luck artist who walks into a viper's nest when he rescues Morgan's suicidal lout of a husband (Peter Van Eyck) and lands a job as the doomed man's chauffeur.
Needless to say, Gélin (a man whose off-screen life was, if anything, messier than what his character endures here) is taken for a ride that he (and the audience) could never have anticipated. The alternate title for RETOUR DE MANIVELLE is THERE'S ALWAYS A PRICE TAG (taken from the source novel by James Hadley Chase, England's answer to James M. Cain…)—and truer words have never been spoken.