February 2020, arsenal cinema

Gaumont: Born with Cinema

LE GARÇU, 1995

Founded in 1895, Gaumont is the oldest film production company in the world. It also owns one of the biggest French film catalogues, which features over 1,500 titles. On the occasion of the exhibition “Gaumont: Seit es das Kino gibt” at the Institut français’ Maison de France, which runs until 29th February, Arsenal is showing a selection of classics from French film history, as well as lesser-known productions. Jean-Luc Godard and Maurice -Pialat are two important focus points of both the Arsenal program and the Gaumont catalogue.

UNE FEMME MARIÉE (A Married Woman, Jean-Luc Godard, F 1964, 1.2.) 24 hours in the life of a 27-year-old married woman (Macha Méril): Charlotte meets her lover, picks up her husband from the airport, spends the evening with him and finds out from the doctor that she is pregnant. “I have made a film in which individuals are considered as things, in which chases in a taxi alternate with ethnological interviews, in which the spectacle of life is intermingled with its analysis, in short, a film which as it unfolds is free and glad to be simply what it is.” (JLG)

NOUS NE VIEILLIRONS PAS ENSEMBLE (We Won't Grow Old Together, Maurice Pialat, F/I 1972, 1.2.) After six years, the relationship between a violent married man (Jean Yanne) in his 40s and his younger mistress (Marlène Jobert) breaks down. Pialat’s first success depicts the stations of a separation in long tracking shots, which do not necessarily hold what might be considered a “key moment”, eschewing a closed narrative in favor of a sequence of instants.

ELENA ET LES HOMMES (Elena and her Men, Jean Renoir, F/I 1956, 2.2.) Elena (Ingrid Bergman), the elegant widow of a Polish count, lives in fin-de-siècle Paris surrounded by several admirers, who include a general with political ambitions (Jean Marais) and an officer (Mel Ferrer), and eventually she herself becomes embroiled in a political intrigue. The third part of Renoir’s Technicolor trilogy is an opulent comedy that continues the directors’ reflection on the spectacle of acting and representation. “If Elena et les hommes is ‘the’ French film par excellence, it’s because it’s the most intelligent film in the world: Art simultaneous with a theory of art; beauty simultaneously with the secret of beauty; Cinema simultaneous with an explanation of cinema’.(Jean-Luc Godard)

LA BEAUTÉ DU DIABLE (Beauty and the Devil, René Clair, F/I 1947, 2.2.) Mephistopheles promises the ageing professor Faust eternal youth, knowledge and satisfaction if he sells his soul to the devil. To convince him of his power, he transforms Faust into a young student. For his humorous interpretation of the Faust myth, René Clair turned to two of the greatest French actors of his time, Gérard Philipe and Michel Simon.

LES MAUDITS (The Damned, René Clément, F 1947, 3.2.) As the Second World War comes to an end, a group of Nazi officers and collaborators, as well as a French doctor they force to accompany them, escape in a German U-boat from Norway in the hope of getting to Brazil. This psychological Kammerspiel depicts rivalries and conflicts in the claustrophobic atmosphere of the submarine. The film was censored in the British and US zones of occupied Germany and even banned in some parts.

LE PETIT PRINCE A DIT (Christine Pascal, F/CH 1992, 4.2., Introduction: Birgit Kohler) The penultimate film of the actress and filmmaker Christine Pascale (1953-1996) is a sensitive depiction of Violette, a 10-year-old who is diagnosed as having a brain tumor. She and her divorced father (Richard Berry) are precipitated into an emotional journey, on which they also encounter the mother.

LE FILS DU REQUIN (The Son of the Shark, Agnès Merlet, F/B/LUX 1993, 5.2.) This directorial debut, which premiered in Venice but never found a distributor in Germany, tells the story of two brothers, Simon and Martin, in a small coastal town in northern France who have to scrape by on their own after their mother leaves their alcoholic father. They take to the harsh and violent streets to escape the attempts of institutions to educate, but they also harbor poetic and romantic dreams.

UN CHAT UN CHAT (Pardon My French, Sophie Fillières, F 2009, 6.2.) Nathalie (Chiara Mastroianni), a writer going through a crisis, is stalked by Anaïs (Agathe Bonitzer), a young woman who impresses her so much that she gets her to attend her own birthday party in her stead and starts making important decisions under her influence. Sophie Fillière’s defiant comedy premiered in the Berlinale Forum of 2009.

REGARDE-MOI (Ain’t Scared, Audrey Estrougo, F 2007, 6.2.) This directorial debut, which was screened at the 2008 Berlinale Forum, examines the conventions of youth culture in the suburbs of Paris. The film relates 24 hours on a housing estate - twice. The first time from a male point of view and the second from a female perspective. It depicts social constraints and the fact that each deviation from gender patterns and stereotypes is registered and sanctioned.    

LE GARÇU (Maurice Pialat, F 1995, 7.2.) In Maurice Pialat’s last film, a man (Gérard Depardieu) reviews his relationship with his young son after his own father’s death. "The film is less a story than an interaction of movements, where death, age, mid-life disillusion, adolescent sexuality and the grace of childhood magically occur within one and the same organism. Few films by Pialat are so painfully loving, so insistent on the beauty of the moment." (Kent Jones)

LA GUEULE OUVERTE (The Mouth Agape, Maurice Pialat, F 1974, 7.2.) is about a woman dying of cancer in a small provincial town in Auvergne. She is discharged from hospital to live out her last days at home. She wrestles with death in a room on the first floor, above her unfaithful husband’s haberdashery store. Her son and daughter-in-law make half-hearted visits from time to time. The impact that waiting for death and dying gradually has on the family is depicted without judgment.

LA DRÔLESSE (The Hussy, Jacques Doillon, F 1979, 8.2.) Jacques Doillon made his film with children and amateur actors. François is a 20-year-old outsider who lives and quarrels with his mother and stepfather on their farm. Mado, who is 12, does not like her mother and there is no father. When François kidnaps her and brings her to his attic room, there is no act of violence. Instead the two are like two people drowning in loneliness who gradually teach each other to swim. A loving relationship, which increasingly resembles a marriage, develops.

PASSE TON BAC D’ABORD (Graduate First, Maurice Pialat, F 1978, 8.2.) This film set in the mining town of Lens in northern France was shot largely with amateur actors and without central protagonists. It is about a group of youths in their last year at school, who are not particularly motivated. Some get married, others escape by swapping lovers but in the end the routine and patterns that they accuse their parents of creep into their own lives. PASSE TON BAC D’ABORD is a sober appraisal of a life without prospects told in single episodes.

ANTOINE ET ANTOINETTE (Jacques Becker, F 1947, 9.2.) The typesetter Antoine and the saleswoman Antoinette live a modest life in Paris’ 18th arrondissement. A lost, yet apparently winning, lottery ticket brings some excitement into their recent marriage. Shot on location in the spirit of Becker’s mentor Jean Renoir, this comedy stands out with its nuanced depiction of its characters and a particular social class.

LE PLAISIR (House of Pleasure, Max Ophüls, F 1952, 9.2.) Employing masterful camera work and a subtle language of gestures, movements and allusions and precise dialogues, Ophüls adapted three short stories by Guy de Maupassant. In “Le Masque”, an old man gets his youth back for a short period when he wears a magic mask to a ball. “La Maison Tellier” follows a group of prostitutes on an excursion to the countryside. In “Le Modèle”, a jealous painter almost drives his model and lover to suicide.

LE DIABLE PROBABLEMENT (The Devil Probably, Robert Bresson, F 1977, 10.2.) Chronicle of a death foretold. Charles is 20 and suffering from the progressive destruction of the environment and the incapacity to love and communicate in consumer society. In contrast to his friend who is very much involved in the environmental movement and capable of arousing the interest of those around him, Charles just asks himself variations on the question: "Why live in the face of the destruction of life, the organization of violence, which seem both to be completely connected?”

LE GOÛT DE LA VIOLENCE (The Taste of Violence, Robert Hossein, I/F/FRG 1961, 11.2.) Set in an unnamed Latin American country the 19th century, guerillas kidnap the daughter of the president in order to exchange her for captured revolutionaries. Robert Hossein, a director and actor who has fallen into oblivion without justification, was able to move with ease between genres, and here he made a visually imposing revolutionary epic. Like for all his films, it was his father André Hossein who orchestrated the impressive soundtrack.

LA MENACE (The Menace, Gérard Oury, F/I 1961, 11.2.) Josépha is 18 and lives isolated with her uncle on the outskirts of the city. She borrows some money from the chemist Savary so that she can become part of a local moped gang. When a girl is found dead, she accuses Savary. Though he later became famous for his comedies with Louis de Funès and Pierre Richard, Gérard Oury chose the noir genre for his second feature - it is a remarkable crime film that explores the youth movement of the era. Robert Hossein played main role of Savary and his father created an excellent soundtrack once again.

VAN GOGH (Maurice Pialat, F 1991, 12.2., Introduction: Bert Rebhandl) relates the last months of the painter in the summer of 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise, in a very calm fashion – without a cut off ear, frenzied painting, raging against time. Instead there are expeditions, strolls along the river, hugs, cheerful Sunday lunches, village festivals. In this film, Van Gogh is as far away from madness as he is from happiness. This is not only a film against the myth of the wild genius but also (like most of Pialat’s films) against the conventions of cinema. Pialat refuses to develop the carefully staged details of a life into a whole that makes sense. The mysteries of the painter’s life are retained and accepted.

L’AMOUR D’UNE FEMME (The Love of a Woman, Jean Grémillon, F/I 1953, 13.2., Introduction: Peter Nau) Jean Grémillon’s last feature-length film depicts the dilemma of 35-year-old doctor Marie (Micheline Presle) who tries to fight against traditional patriarchal values on a Breton island. The engineer André (Massimo Girotti), in whom she falls in love, says he will marry her on condition that she gives up her job. In the middle of an argument on a stormy night, she is called to an operation at a lighthouse.

PLEINS FEUX SUR L’ASSASSIN (Spotlight on a Murderer, Georges Franju, F 1961, 14.2.) So long as the body of count de Kéraudren is not found, his seven nephews (incl. Jean-Louis Trintignant) and nieces will not be able to get their hands on the inheritance worth millions. They will have to wait five years at least.  When the heirs organize an event to raise money for the upkeep of the estate, a series of mysterious deaths begins.

LES YEUX SANS VISAGE (Eyes Without a Face, Georges Franju, F/I 1960, 14.2.) “is about a surgeon (Pierre Brasseur), a tragic Frankenstein revenant, who kidnaps young women to perform transplants to restore the face of his daughter (Édith Scob), who was disfigured in an accident that he caused. Franju’s interests in documentary and fantasy find a kindred spirit in Eugen Schüfftan’s exquisite black and white imagery. The emotional center of this cruel tale is the daughter who wanders through gleaming, empty rooms and and whose desperate eyes behind a rigid Kabuki mask testify to a gradual descent into insanity. An essential film about the poetry of terror.”  (Christoph Huber)

JUDEX (Louis Feuillade, F 1916, 15./16.2., on piano: Eunice Martins) Louis Feuillade (1873–1925), one of the most distinguished and productive personalities of early cinema - he made about 800 films between 1906 and 1924 - became famous predominantly because of his series. After Fantômas (1913) and Les Vampires (1915), which was criticized for its alleged glorification of crime, he created Judex, a law-abiding, disguised avenger who anticipated Batman and others. Starring alongside René Cresté in the main role was Musidora who had already played Irma Vep in Les Vampires. Franju made a remake of his film in 1963. We will show the original version, which is divided into 12 episodes and lasts almost six hours, on two evenings in four parts, with live piano accompaniment by Eunice Martins.
Jean-Luc Godard is the most represented director in Gaumont’s catalogue, which features over 30 of his films. Volker Pantenburg, chose chosen seven of the rarely-shown films that Godard made with Anne-Marie Miéville, and wrote the following text: As different and contradictory the contents and processes of Jean-Luc Godard’s films might be, they are always “Godard films”. Often, however, the collaborative nature of his films is forgotten. For over 45 years, the photographer, editor, auteur and director Anne-Marie Miéville has been a central ally of his. As the two edit opposite and with each other, to-and-fro between each other and engage simultaneously in a confrontation between cinema, video and TV, the clearly defined contours of authorship are suspended and re-negotiated. The idea of an “oeuvre” is thus both subverted and reinforced at the same time.

NUMÉRO DEUX (Jean-Luc Godard, F 1975, 17.2.) marked a new beginning after the films of the 60s and the militant 16-mm pamphlets of the “Groupe Dziga Vertov”. We watch three generations in a council flat as they go about their daily lives, which are shaped by education, work and sex. The lackluster video footage was re-shot with a 35-mm camera, two generations of image reflect one another. “The film’s images are unlike any we have seen before.” (Kaja Silverman)

SCÉNARIO DE SAUVE QUI PEUT (LA VIE) (F 1979) has Godard’s aversion to exposes, treatments and screenplays to thank. Instead of these, he does not present funding bodies with a filmed screenplay but with tentative and exploratory video images. Thoughts, fragments, pictures that show the direction a film, in this case Sauve qui peut (la vie) (Every Man for Himself), might take. In the case of SCÉNARIO DU FILM PASSION (F 1982), the reflective exploration of painting, light and shadows was made retrospectively, as an audiovisual continuation of the film Passion (18.2., Introduction: Volker Pantenburg)

PETITES NOTES À PROPOS DU FILM JE VOUS SALUE, MARIE (F 1983), LE LIVRE DE MARIE (F 1985, Anne-Marie Miéville) and SOFT AND HARD. SOFT TALK ON A HARD SUBJECT BETWEEN TWO FRIENDS (GB/F 1985) show Anne-Marie Miéville as a director, actress, friend, interlocutor. Between the editing table, tennis rackets and irons: Love - work - cinema. (18.2., Introduction: Volker Pantenburg)

MOMENTS CHOISIS DES HISTOIRE(S) DU CINÉMA (F 2004, 20.2.) Godard’s films provoke images and sounds well before they begin and do not end with last image. In this film, Godard re-formatted his four-part video collage for the cinema, releasing a compressed form for the silver screen. This is a work that goes beyond the difference between main and secondary works. (vp)

ABSENCES RÉPÉTÉES (Guy Gilles, F 1972, 19.2.) François is 22. He loses interest in his surroundings, stops going to work and withdraws more and more from his partner, his parents and friends as his heroin addiction develops. Guy Gilles’ (1938-1996) oeuvre - eight long feature films made between 1964 and 1995 - is almost unknown in Germany and needs to be discovered. ABSENCES RÉPÉTÉES is a dreamily dark film that makes various allusions to Louis Malle’s LE FEU FOLLET, which was made 10 years previously. Atmospherically dense and carried by the title song, sung by Jeanne Moreau, and François’ remark “I thought life was a poem” which runs through it like a leitmotif, the film is also an idiosyncratic and melancholy portrait of Paris in the early 1970s.

LE FEU FOLLET (The Fire Within, Louis Malle, F 1963, 19.2.) Alain Leroy (Maurice Ronet), a disillusioned 30-year-old, has just come out of rehab in Versailles. Looking for a reason not to take his life, he goes to Paris for 24 hours, going back to the places of his bygone youth and meeting old friends (Jeanne Moreau, Alexandra Stewart). The adaptation of Pierre Drieu’s 1931 novel is without a doubt Louis Malle’s masterpiece and features Maurice Ronet’s best performance. Erik Satie’s music underlines the film’s melancholy atmosphere in a tragically beautiful way. (hjf)

An event in cooperation with Gaumont. Kindly supported by the Institut français and the French embassy in Berlin.