FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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FRENCH CINEMA ICONS ALAIN DELON, JEAN-PAUL BELMONDO CATHERINE DENEUVE AND HARDBOILED FRENCH CRIME WRITER, JOS GIOVANNI HIGHLIGHT THE AMERICAN CINEMATHEQUE’S TRIBUTE TO JEAN-PIERRE MELVILLE AND THE FRENCH CRIME FILM

Weekends June 12 - July 11, 1998

Presented in association with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and French Cultural Service

Sponsored by Air France

 

HOLLYWOOD – The American Cinematheque presents a five weekend (June 12 - July 11) tribute to JEAN-PIERRE MELVILLE AND THE FRENCH CRIME FILM featuring the work of acclaimed French directors Jacques Becker, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Sautet, Alain Corneau and of course, Jean-Pierre Melville. A lover of all things American (including guns, flashy cars and Stetson hats), our six film tribute subject Jean-Pierre Melville (who died in 1973) is widely regarded as one of the post-modern masters of film noir and an inspiration for filmmakers from Jean-Luc Godard to Quentin Tarantino and John Woo. Like the West Coast jazz scene of the early '50s, the French crime film was the very definition of cool -- a quicksilver world of silent killers and speeding Citrens. So grab your Gitanes and join us for five weeks of sex, murder, and espionage en franais with French stars Catherine Deneuve, Alain Delon, Jean-Paul Belmondo, Eddie Constantine and Jeanne Moreau! Legendary French crime author and screenwriter, Jos Giovanni, will appear in-person for the opening weekend of the series (June 12 and 13) to present ultra-rare screenings of his two classic films, LE TROU and CLASSE TOUT RISQUE. Other highlights of the series include a rare screening of Jacques Becker's exquisite noir, TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI starring Jean Gabin, Lino Ventura and Jeanne Moreau; an archival 35 mm print of Louis Malle's ASCENSEUR POUR L'ECHAFAUD (ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS) starring Jeanne Moreau with a sublime jazz score by Miles Davis; a new 35 mm print of the complete European version of Franois Truffaut's rarely-seen MISSISSIPPI MERMAID, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve; Melville classic LE DOULOS (THE FINGERMAN) with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Serge Reggiani; a new 35 mm print of the X-rated version of Jacques Deray's UN HOMME EST MORT (THE OUTSIDE MAN) with Jean-Louis Trintignant, Roy Scheider and Ann-Margret; and revival screenings of Jean-Luc Godard's BREATHLESS and ALPHAVILLE, Melville's LE SAMOURA and BOB LE FLAMBEUR, and Claude

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Chabrol's LE BOUCHER (THE BUTCHER). All films in French with English subtitles, unless noted. All screenings are at the Raleigh Studios Charlie Chaplin Theater (5300 Melrose Avenue between Bronson & Van Ness) in Hollywood.

 

TRIBUTE TO JEAN-PIERRE MELVILLE

Jean-Pierre Melville, who died in 1973, was one of film's true iconoclasts. A Frenchman who rejected most of French cinema, Melville (who renamed himself after the author of MOBY DICK) made his first feature LA SILENCE DE LA MER, based on an enormously popular novel, without the permission of the author and in defiance of the French film unions. He pursued this same obstinate independence throughout his career returning time and time again to themes of betrayal and depictions of "Melvillian" characters: beautiful loners willing to die for a gesture, "to preserve a sort of purity."

According to filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, "Melville did for the crime film what Leone did for the western." And in the words of director John Woo (FACE-OFF), "Jean-Pierre Melville has always been my spiritual idol. Maybe we both are the same as the sleeping tiger. Nobody knows what is beating inside his heart but when he awakens with a roar, he will make you feel something. A chivalrous man lives in his own world while he answers his calling. He does what he believes is right and will do it even though the world misunderstands or does not accept him. He does it because he must. Melville's silent and cool images always pull at your heart and bring you into the character." Melville, a master of film noir, is often referred to as the spiritual father of the French New Wave -- he even makes an appearance in Godard's BREATHLESS. The Cinematheque's sold-out tribute to Melville in May of 1996 launched a North American tour of his films and the upcoming re-release of both BOB LE FLAMBEUR and LE CERCLE ROUGE.

During the 1950's and 60's, the American gangster movie was the most popular film genre in France. Heavily influenced by these stylish noir films, as well as publisher Marcel Duhamel's Serie Noire novels written by American Jim Thompson and homegrown, hardboiled French crime fiction writers Jos Giovanni (LE TROU, CLASSE TOUT RISQUE), Albert Simonin (TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI) and Auguste Le Breton (BOB LE FLAMBEUR), young, up-and-coming French directors like Jacques Becker, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Sautet, and of course, Jean-Pierre Melville worked mostly in this genre that they termed, the policier. While these films, filled with images of American iconography such as trench coats, fedora hats and guns carried by tall and muscular heavies, paid distinct homage to the Hollywood crime flick, they also built on specifically French film and literary traditions creating a richly textured style of filmmaking that was uniquely French. This series brings back six of Melville's finest films - along with 17 other rare and wonderful French crime movies.

 

Weekend 1: Friday, June 12th & Saturday, June 13th, 1998

The Friday, June 12th program begins at 7:15 PM with the first of two ultra-rare screenings of Claude Sautet's CLASSE TOUT RISQUE (1959, 110 min.). Virtually unknown in the United States (until it was screened

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last year at the Telluride Film Festival), CLASSE TOUT RISQUE is a major rediscovery. Lino Ventura delivers an awesome performance (quite possibly his best) as a professional gangster at the end of his rope. It is the twilight of his career and he is on the run from the Mob with his wife and family. Jean-Paul Belmondo co-stars as the young hood who comes to Ventura's aid. Brilliantly written by author Jos Giovanni (based on a story he heard in prison), CLASSE TOUT RISQUE was also one of the first films from the much underrated director Claude Sautet. With music by famed composer Georges Delerue. Author/Screenwriter Jos Giovanni is scheduled to appear in-person for discussion following the screening. Following at 9:45PM is a screening of BOB LE FLAMBEUR (1955, Rialto Releasing, 97 min.), the opening film in our six film tribute to director Jean-Pierre Melville. Inspired by John Huston's THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, Melville's most renowned film (about to be re-released commercially in the US) is less a true noir than (in Melville's words) "a comedy of manners:" a romantic meditation on Montmartre, faithless women, old pros and casinos waiting to be knocked over. Suffused with an overwhelming sense of nostalgia, BOB was "a letter to a Paris which no longer existed."

The Saturday, June 13th program begins at 7:15 PM with a screening of Jacques Becker’s last film, LE TROU (THE HOLE) (1960, Kit Parker, 115 min), one of the great prison escape films in history. LE TROU is a meticulous suspense thriller and a profound meditation on freedom and confinement. Four hardened crooks are planning a break from the notorious La Sant prison, when a fifth jailbird (baby-faced Mark Michel) is thrown into their cell, upsetting their plans. Writer Jos Giovanni was an actual ex-con, who participated in an escape attempt from La Sant in 1947 and one of his cellmates, Jean Keraudy, the infamous "King of Escapes," stars as himself in the film. "There is only one goal for those five characters and only one way to reach it -- they walk towards freedom as Becker walks towards poetry" -- Francois Truffaut. Author/Screenwriter Jos Giovanni is scheduled to appear in-person for discussion following the screening. Following at 9:45 PM is a repeat screening of Claude Sautet's CLASSE TOUT RISQUE (1959, 110 min.). See the Friday June 12th, 7:15PM program for more details.

 

Weekend 2: Friday, June 19 th & Saturday, June 20th, 1998

The Friday, June 19th program begins at 7:15 PM with the first of two screenings of Jacques Becker's TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI (1954, 88 min.). A drama full of underworld violence, the film is an exquisite noir about aging gangster Jean Gabin who is sitting on a fortune in gold from a perfect heist, until sleazeball Lino Ventura (with the help of double-crossing chorus girl Jeanne Moreau) decides he wants in on the action. Passed over by the Cannes Film Festival because "it gave the wrong idea of French cinema" -- TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI went on to become a huge hit, inspiring a wave of crack crime films like BOB LE FLAMBEUR and RIFIFI. "Before us, the only person who really tried to see France was Jacques Becker, and he did so by filming fashion houses and gangsters." -- Jean-Luc Godard. Following at 9:30 PM, is a screening of an archival 35 mm print of Louis Malle's first feature, ASCENSEUR POUR L'ECHAFAUD (ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS)

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(1957, New Yorker, 90 min.). "I knew I loved you, but I thought only of myself," murmurs gorgeous Jeanne Moreau -- after setting in motion a murderous plot involving her fat-cat husband, a young intelligence officer (Maurice Ronet), and some of the darkest twists and turns in French cinema. Made when Malle was only 25 years old, ASCENSEUR POUR L'ECHAFAUD helped jump-start the French New Wave as one of the first films to represent the new young voice in French Cinema. The dazzling cinematography is by Henri Decae who also shot THE 400 BLOWS and the sublime jazz score is by Miles Davis.

The Saturday June 20th program begins at 7:15 PM with Melville's LE DEUXIEME SOUFFLE (SECOND BREATH) (1966, 150 min.), which is based on the Srie noire novel by Jos Giovanni, tells the story of a middle-aged hood (Lino Ventura, once again) who breaks out of jail and organizes a new gang, determined to prove he still has the juice. Melville’s brutal, crackling noir contrasts Ventura’s "old-world craftsmanship" against the younger generation of Nouvelle Vague crooks. According to critic Tom Milne, the film "…established Melville’s reputation as a brilliant refurbisher of the immemorial imagery of the genre -- gleaming night streets, gunmen prowling in deserted stairways." Following at 9:30 PM is a repeat screening of Jacques Becker's TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI (1954, 88 min.) Please see the Friday June 19th, 7:15 PM program for additional details.

 

Weekend 3: Friday, June 26 and Saturday, June 27, 1998

The Friday June 26th program begins at 7:15 PM with a screening of Jean-Pierre Melville's classic film, LE DOULOS (THE FINGERMAN) (1962, Interama, 108 min.). Melville met Jean-Paul Belmondo during a brief cameo in Godard's BREATHLESS -- here, he gives Belmondo one of his best roles, that of a two-faced informer caught between the police and his "old pal," played by doom-faced Serge Reggiani. "It was only when LE DOULOS was finished and Belmondo saw himself on the screen that he realized, with great astonishment, ‘Christ! The stoolie is me!’ " -- Melville. Following at 9:30 PM is a screening of one of Claude Chabrol's acknowledged masterpieces, LE BOUCHER (THE BUTCHER) (1970, Artedis, 94 min.). This gripping and compassionate film stars Chabrol's then-wife Stephane Audran as a provincial schoolteacher involved in a platonic courtship with a warm, slightly awkward butcher Jean Yanne -- a man who may also be responsible for a terrifying series of serial killings in the area. "Yanne’s eloquent, haunting, heartbreaking work as the butcher is one of the high points of modern screen acting" -- John Powers, L.A. Weekly.

The Saturday, June 27th program begins at 7:15 PM with a screening of Jean-Luc Godard's revolutionary film, A BOUT DE SOUFFLE (BREATHLESS) (1959, New Yorker, 89 min.) starring Jean-Paul Belmondo as a small-time hood who falls for a free-spirited American girl (Jean Seberg) living in Paris. A seminal film in terms of the French New Wave, A BOUT DE SOUFFLE's innovation lies both in its form (jump cutting, spontaneous camera handling, and untraditional narrative convention) and function (the film is about the connection between the roles played on film and roles played on the street). "I decided that my avowed ambition

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was to make an ordinary gangster film" -- Godard. Following at 9:30 PM is a Jacques Deray double feature beginning with a screening of a new 35 mm print of the X-Rated version of UN HOMME EST MORT (THE OUTSIDE MAN) (1973, MGM/UA, 132 min.). This Melville-inspired thriller (sort of a LE SAMOURA in Los Angeles) stars Jean-Louis Trintignant as a French hit man sent to Los Angeles to whack a mob kingpin. Once the job is finished, though, he finds himself trapped in an early-70’s nightmare of strip clubs, Jesus freaks and "STAR TREK" re-runs. He is chased by muscle-car driving assassin Roy Scheider and helped by friendly go-go girl Ann-Margret. The film also stars Angie Dickinson. "L.A. was a dream for me -- a French man shooting in America!" -- Jacques Deray. (Originally filmed in English) Next, on the same bill, is RIFIFI IN TOKYO (1961, Roissy Films, 100 min.), the rarely-seen sequel to Jules Dassin’s original RIFIFI (currently unavailable due to rights problems). Directed by Jacques Deray and co-written by Auguste Le Breton (BOB LE FLAMBEUR) and Jos Giovanni (LE TROU), the film centers around an elaborate scheme, staked out with mechanical precision by jewel-thieves Michel Vitold and Karlheinz Boehm to break into a seemingly impenetrable high-tech bank vault in Tokyo. (English-dubbed version.)

 

Weekend 4: Friday, July 3 & Saturday, July 4, 1998

The Friday July 3rd program begins at 7:15 PM with a back by popular demand screening of Melville's L’ARMEE DES OMBRES (ARMY OF SHADOWS) (1969, 140 min.) with Simone Signoret and Paul Meurisse. Arguably Melville's most personal film (he fought in the French underground during World War II), this shattering portrait of the early days of the French Resistance is not so much a crime film as it is a fascinating companion to the director’s more-famous thrillers. The dark, fatalistic tone and the themes are all there from Melville’s noirs: betrayal, the loss of honor and the mechanics of brutality. Legendary tough-guy Lino Ventura also stars in what Melville called, "a nostalgic pilgrimage back to a certain period which profoundly marked my generation." Following at 9:45 PM is an Eddie Constantine double feature beginning with Godard's ALPHAVILLE (1965, Kit Parker, 98 min.) in which trenchcoat-wearing agent Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) crosses interstellar space in his Ford Galaxie to take on the computerized bad-guys at Alpha 60. Guess who wins? Half science fiction, half spy thriller, Godard’s genre-hopping classic is littered with references to pulp thrillers old and new, from The Big Sleep to Dick Tracy’s 2-way wrist radio. Next, on the same bill, is a super-rare screening of Raoul J. Levy's JE VOUS SALUE MAFIA (HAIL! MAFIA) (1965, 89 min.) with Eddie Constantine as a mob witness who is chased across half of France by American hit men Jack Klugman and Henry Silva. This taut little programmer was one of the few films directed by noted French producer Raoul J. Levy (who financed most of Brigitte Bardot's films including AND GOD CREATED WOMAN, and sadly committed suicide in 1966). The crisp black-and-white cinematography is by everyone’s favorite cameraman, Raoul Coutard (BREATHLESS, ALPHAVILLE, etc.). (Originally filmed in English.)

 

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The Saturday, July 4th program begins at 7:15 PM with the Los Angeles Premiere of Claude Sautet's MAX ET LES FERRAILLEURS (1970, 115 min.), a dark portrait of a fanatical cop (Michel Piccoli) who helps engineer a crime so he can catch the crooks red-handed. The lovely Romy Schneider also stars as a prostitute who gets caught up in Piccoli’s twisted game with veteran character actor Georges Wilson in a fine supporting role as a grizzled police commissioner. "A minor Sautet gem ... Piccoli stalks the picture like an avenging undertaker" -- critic Derek Elley. Following at 9:30 PM, is an Alain Delon double bill, beginning with a screening of a mondo-rare 35 mm print of Henri Verneuil's MELODIE EN SOUS-SOL (ANY NUMBER CAN WIN) (1962, 117 min.) in which hotheaded punk Alain Delon hooks up with smooth, career-criminal Jean Gabin to knock over a gambling casino in Cannes with a cool billion francs in the vault. The tense scenes of Delon creeping like a cat through the casino’s ventilation system are almost as good as those in RIFIFI -- and Gabin brings a beautifully weary finesse to his role as the mastermind of the heist. (English-dubbed version.) Next, on the same bill, is LES FELINS (JOY HOUSE) (1964, Roissy Films, 98 min.), directed by Rene Clement (PURPLE NOON). This offbeat tale of murder, jealousy and revenge stars Delon as a callous young card-shark on the run from some New York gangsters. Forced to flee to Europe, he gets a job as a chauffeur in the French countryside for a rich American widow and her love-sick niece, played by the stunning Jane Fonda. Shot in stunning black-and-white Scope photography by Henri Decae, with music by Lalo Schifrin. (Originally shot in English.)

 

Weekend 5: Friday, July 10 & Saturday, July 11, 1998

The Friday, July 10th program begins at 7:15 PM with a screening of a new 35 mm print of the uncut European version of MISSISSIPPI MERMAID (1969, MGM/UA, 123 min.). One of Francois Truffaut’s least-known films, MISSISSIPPI MERMAID stars Jean-Paul Belmondo as a wealthy industrialist living on a remote island in the Indian Ocean who orders a mail-order bride and gets the lovely, double-crossing Catherine Deneuve. When Deneuve empties his bank account and disappears, Belmondo follows her back to Europe and straight into a whirlpool of murder and deceit. The film is based on the novel Waltz Into Darkness by Cornell Woolrich and dedicated to Truffaut idol, Jean Renoir. Critic James Monaco said of MISSISSIPPI MERMAID, it "investigates the bond between man and woman against the background of the full range of human experience." This is the complete European version of the film and runs 10 minutes longer than the U.S. release. Following at 9:30 PM, is a Jean-Pierre Melville double feature, beginning with a screening of LE SAMOURA (1967, Artificial Eye, 109 min.). Since the Cinematheque first brought the restored version to the U.S. in 1996, LE SAMOURA has quickly become Melville’s best-known film -- and for good reason. Alain Delon stars as ber-cool assassin Jeff Costello, roaming the nasty streets of Paris looking for the slugs who betrayed him. PULP FICTION, HEAT, THE KILLER -- this is where neo-noir truly begins, in the film’s steely, artificial blues and grays, in the alien beauty of Delon’s hitman. "A prose poem of silences and gestures interrupted by the

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occasional crack of a gun and a whispery sigh" -- Manohla Dargis, L.A. Weekly. Next, on the same bill, is UN FLIC (DIRTY MONEY aka A COP) (1972, Canal +, 105 min.) which stars Catherine Deneuve at her ravishing best as a mistress caught between two opposing lovers -- Alain Delon as a moody vice-cop and Richard Crenna as a methodical crook. Melville’s last film, UN FLIC is a hypnotic summation of the director’s world: seedy clubs, rain-slicked streets, one more heist to pull…

The Saturday, July 11th program begins at 7:15 PM with Bertrand Tavernier's COUP DE TORCHON (CLEAN SLATE) (1981, Kit Parker, 128 min.). Adapted from Jim Thompson’s blacker-than-black novel Pop. 1280, the film is a darkly outrageous, savagely-warped portrait of a genial sheriff (Philippe Noiret) in a small colonial town in Africa. After he is humiliated once too often by his cheating wife (Stephane Audran) and his smug superiors, Noiret goes on a ruthless murder spree, using his power and influence to avenge his grudges and destroy everyone in his path. The film also stars Isabelle Huppert as Noiret's sexed-up mistress, whose husband is one of the sheriff's victims "A devastating picture, supremely intelligent yet easygoing, both horrifying and hilarious" -- F.X. Feeney, L.A. Weekly. Following at 9:30 PM is a double feature of two films directed by Alain Corneau, beginning with SERIE NOIRE (1979, Canal +, 110 min.). Based on yet another Jim Thompson novel, A Hell Of A Woman, and set in "one of those Paris suburbs where life flushes its human waste," SERIE NOIRE stars Patrick Dewaere as Frank Poupart, a human ferret scurrying around the bleak edges of Nowhere, trying to sell cheap trinkets door-to-door and collect on small mob debts. When he stumbles across a gorgeous teenager (Marie Trintignant) with a rich and repulsive aunt, Dewaere gets sucked into a dark palpitating void with no visible means of escape or redemption. "Definitely the best movie made from a Jim Thompson novel to date ... Patrick Dewaere as a demented thief/murderer/child molester is as close to a real Jim Thompson character as an actor could get." -- writer Barry Gifford (Wild At Heart). Next, on the same bill, is the last film in our tribute to the French crime film, a brand new 35 mm print of the aptly titled POLICE PYTHON .357 (1975, 125 min.), Alain Corneau's tough, violent policier. The film stars Yves Montand as a middle-aged cop who falls for a young and mysterious photographer, femme fatale Stefania Sandrelli, without realizing that she’s already the mistress of his unstable boss. An icy calm Simone Signoret also stars as the emotionally and physically crippled wife of Montand's boss. The film "contains two murders, one suicide, one supermarket hold-up, a number of muggings and a lot of mail-order psychoanalysis." -- Vincent Canby, N.Y. Times. (English-dubbed version.)

A complete calendar/flyer listing of these films has been mailed to you.

BLACK & WHITE PHOTOS AND PRESS KITS

AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

 

PRESS PASSES ARE NOT LIKELY TO BE AVAILABLE DURING THE FESTIVAL AS MOST SCREENINGS WILL BE SOLD OUT. IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT YOU TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE ADVANCE PRESS SCREENINGS.

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At the American Cinematheque: At Jerry's Video (Los Feliz):

LE BOUCHER (THE BUTCHER) MISSISSIPPI MERMAID BOB LE FLAMBEUR

SERIE NOIRE LE SAMOURAI

LES FELINS (JOY HOUSE) A BOUT DE SOUFFLE (BREATHLESS)

MAX ET LES FERRAILLEURS (w/o subtitles) ALPHAVILLE

TOUCHEZ PAS AU GRISBI (w/o subtitles) ASCENSEUR POUR L'ECHAFAUD (ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS)

MISSISSIPPI MERMAID (w/o subtitles) MELODIE EN SOUS-SOL (ANY NUMBER CAN WIN)

LE TROU (THE HOLE) (w/o subtitles) COUP DE TORCHON (CLEAN SLATE)

 

 

v Members may purchase tickets over the phone by calling 213.466.3456, ext. 3. Non-members may purchase tickets at the door the night of the event or in advance any time that the Cinematheque box office is open. The box office is open one hour prior to the first screening of the evening on Friday and Saturday nights and on Thursdays when the Alternative Screen has events. Tickets are $7 General Admission and $4 for members. Ticket pricesEstablished in 1984, the American Cinematheque, is a non-profit, viewer-supported film exhibition and cultural organization dedicated to the celebration of the Moving Picture in all its forms. The Cinematheque presents weekly film and video programming which ranges from the classics and world cinemas to the outer frontiers of the art form at the Raleigh Studios Charlie Chaplin Theater and other Los Angeles venues. Exhibition of rare works, special prints within our series, etc., combined with fascinating post-screening discussions with the filmmakers who created the work, are a Cinematheque tradition that keep audiences coming back for once-in-a-lifetime cinema experiences.

The American Cinematheque is currently renovating the historic Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, which, when open in 1998, will become the American Cinematheque's permanent home and offer daily, year-round programming.

For information about this film program call 213/466-FILM. THE PROGRAM IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE.

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