French Film Series - Spring 2018

Classics of French Film
Wednesdays | 7-9 PM | Camino 119 

  • French with English subtitles
  • Everyone is welcome
  • Supported by a grant from the Enhanced Student-Faculty Interaction Fund

February 21
1937: La grande illusion

Apart from its other achievements, this film influenced two famous later movie sequences. The digging of the escape tunnel in The Great Escape and the singing of the “Marseillaise” to enrage the Germans in Casablanca can first be observed in Renoir's 1937 masterpiece. But if Grand Illusion had been merely a source of later inspiration, it wouldn't be on so many lists of great films. It is not a movie about a prison escape, nor is it jingoistic in its politics; it is a meditation on the collapse of the old order of European civilization. Perhaps it was always a sentimental upper-class illusion, the notion that gentlemen on both sides subscribed to the same code of behavior. Whatever it was, it died in the trenches of World War I.

March 14
1946: La belle et la bête

A classic of French cinema directed by poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau, film critic Roger Ebert included La belle et la bête on his “The Great Movies” list in 1999.  He called it “one of the most magical of all films” and a “fantasy alive with trick shots and astonishing effects, giving us a Beast who is lonely like a man and misunderstood like an animal.”

April 11
1960: A bout de souffle

Modern movies begin with Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless. No debut film since Citizen Kane in 1942 has been as influential. It is dutifully repeated that Godard's technique of “jump cuts” is the great breakthrough, but startling as they were, they were actually an afterthought, and what is most revolutionary about the movie is its headlong pacing, its cool detachment, its dismissal of authority, and the way its narcissistic young heroes are obsessed with themselves and oblivious to the larger society.

May 9
1993: Les visiteurs

Jean-Marie Poiré directed is comedy about a 12th century knight and his servant who are accidentally sent forward in time to 1990s France by a muddled wizard. It was the Number 1 film in France is 1993.