Grand Illusions: French Cinema Classics, 1928–1960

9/14/12 to 12/9/12

Spanning four months and dozens of films-many in imported 35mm prints-Grand Illusions showcases the work of French directors such as René Clair, Marcel Carné, Jean Grémillon, Max Ophuls, Jean Renoir, Marcel Pagnol, Jean Vigo, Jean Cocteau, and Georges Franju. Classic performances by Jean Gabin, Michèle Morgan, Gérard Philipe, Raimu, Simone Signoret, and others will light up the screen through mid-December.

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Past Films

  • Les orgueilleux

    • Sunday, December 9 3 pm

    Yves Allégret (France/Mexico, 1953). Stranded in a Mexican seaside town, tourist Michèle Morgan endures a series of trials, beginning with her husband's grisly death from meningitis, that gradually bring her closer to an alcoholic expat. Full of Buñuelian satire and existential absurdity, with images that are startling even now. (103 mins)

  • Carnival in Flanders

    • Sunday, December 9 5 pm

    Jacques Feyder (France, 1935). Imported 35mm print! In 1616, a Spanish regiment arrives in a Flemish town, and are challenged not by the men, but by the women, in Feyder's comic gem. “One of the rare, perfect works of the screen, this comedy masterpiece suggests a fusion of Breughel and Boccaccio” (Pauline Kael). (90 mins)

  • Port of Shadows

    • Friday, December 7 7 pm

  • Eyes Without a Face

    • Friday, December 7 8:50 pm

    Georges Franju (France, 1960). A brilliant plastic surgeon lures unsuspecting women into his lab in order to find a face for his disfigured daughter in Franju's shimmering fantasy, part horror film, part poetry. With Franju's powerful slaughterhouse documentary, Blood of the Beasts. (108 mins)

  • Crime and Punishment

    • Thursday, December 6 7 pm

  • L'Atalante

    • Sunday, December 2 2:30 pm

    Jean Vigo (France, 1934). Imported 35mm print! Vigo's only full-length feature is a poetic masterpiece on the theme of passionate love, employing fantastic set pieces and bizarre juxtapositions to tell of a young barge captain and his peasant bride in their first days together. With Vigo's infamous boarding-school riot of a film, Zero for Conduct. (141 mins)

  • Orpheus

    • Tuesday, November 27 7 pm

    Jean Cocteau (France, 1949). In Cocteau's dreamlike, terminally mod interpretation of the Orpheus myth, Orphée is a Left Bank poet, and the Princess of Death travels in a Rolls Royce, escorted by leather-clad living dead. (91 mins)

  • Douce

    • Sunday, November 25 3 pm

    Claude Autant-Lara (France, 1943). Imported 35mm print! "If ever there was a buried treasure, the delectable Douce is it. Considered Autant-Lara's masterpiece, it is set in Belle Époque Paris and charts the decline of an aristocratic family to symbolize the end of an era and of a moral order" (Cinematheque Ontario). (90 mins)

  • Such a Pretty Little Beach

    • Sunday, November 25 4:50 pm

    Yves Allégret (France, 1949). Imported 35mm print! At a seaside inn, off-season, a melancholy young man becomes a curiosity to both residents and guests in this poetic, fatalistic noir. (97 mins)

  • César

    • Saturday, November 24 5 pm

    Marcel Pagnol (France, 1936). The conclusion of the trilogy poignantly evokes remembrances and regrets as the cycle of life and love begins again. "Today the modest charms and graces of the Pagnol trilogy seem more precious than ever" (Time Out). (116 mins)

  • Beauty and the Beast

    • Saturday, November 24 7:20 pm

    Jean Cocteau (France, 1946). Jean Cocteau's classic tale of love and transformation remains one of the cinema's most enchanting and sensuous excursions into the realm of poetic fantasy. “One of the most magical of all films” (Roger Ebert). (93 mins)

  • Fanny

    • Friday, November 23 7 pm

    Marc Allégret (France, 1932). The continuation of the trilogy is Fanny's tragedy but César's story: he is played by the incomparable Raimu. (122 mins)

  • Marius

    • Friday, November 23 4 pm

    Alexander Korda (France, 1931). The first installment in the beloved Fanny Trilogy introduces César, boisterous proprietor of a Marseilles bar; his son Marius, drawn by the call of the sea; and Fanny the fishmonger, the apex of a triangle between Marius and widower Panisse. "These films display such old-fashioned virtues as truth to life and boundless humanity" (Time Out). (122 mins)

  • The Rules of the Game

    • Saturday, November 17 6:30 pm

    Jean Renoir (France, 1939). Made just before the outbreak of WWII, Jean Renoir's masterpiece of ruthless grace uses a gathering in a country house as setting for a tragicomic study of polite society on the brink of collapse. Named fourth best film of all time in a 2012 Sight and Sound Poll. (106 mins)

  • Toni

    • Sunday, November 11 2 pm

    Jean Renoir (France, 1934). Imported 35mm prints! Two Renoir classics: in Toni, an immigrant Spanish farmworker is involved with two women, one who loves him, one whom he loves. “What is striking about Toni is its dreamlike quality” (François Truffaut). Followed by A Day in the Country, based on a story by Guy de Maupassant. (127 mins)

  • Grand Illusion

    • Saturday, November 10 6:30 pm

    Jean Renoir (France, 1937). New 35mm Print! Jean Renoir's deeply humane portrait of World War I POWs, “one of the most haunting of all war films” (NY Times). Starring Jean Gabin and Erich von Stroheim. (117 mins)

  • The Story of a Cheat

    • Saturday, November 10 8:45 pm

    Sacha Guitry (France, 1936). Imported 35mm print! It's not the story, but the telling of it in Sacha Guitry's elegant, hilarious masterpiece of an adventurer and cardsharp who knows that crime indeed pays. (83 mins)

  • Children of Paradise

    • Friday, November 9 7 pm

    Marcel Carné (France, 1945). "This lushly romantic creation, directed by Marcel Carné and written by Jacques Prévert, is a one-of-a-kind film, a sumptuous epic about the relations between theater and life . . . and a film poem on the nature and varieties of love” (Pauline Kael). (182 mins)

  • La bête humaine

    • Sunday, November 4 2 pm

    Jean Renoir (France, 1938). Imported 35mm print! Jean Gabin delivers a tragically human performance as a locomotive engineer in Jean Renoir's poetic, pessimistic adaptation of Zola's novel. (105 mins)

  • L'étrange Monsieur Victor

    • Saturday, November 3 6 pm

    Jean Grémillon (France, 1938). Imported 35mm print! This rarely screened Grémillon gem is a mordant and morally ambiguous tale of bourgeois hypocrisy, crime, and comeuppance involving Victor, a respectable shopkeeper by day, fence by night. (97 mins)

  • Le ciel est à vous

    • Sunday, October 28 5 pm

    Jean Grémillon (France, 1944). Based on a 1937 news event, and released just before the Normandy invasion, Le ciel est à vous tells of a provincial couple who are devoted to a joint goal: for the wife to break the world solo flying record for women. (105 mins)

  • Remorques

    • Friday, October 26 7 pm

    Jean Grémillon (France, 1941). Cowritten by Jacques Prévert, Remorques stars Jean Gabin as a tugboat captain working the storm-battered coast of Brittany, where the moody Michèle Morgan soon washes into his life and he begins to become unmoored from his marriage to fragile Madeleine Renaud. (85 mins)

  • Lumière d'été

    • Friday, October 26 8:45 pm

    Jean Grémillon (France, 1943). Although it was never released in this country, for many British and French critics Lumière d'été stands alongside Children of Paradise as a masterpiece of French cinema made during the German Occupation. A remote mountain inn is the setting for a class-crossed love affair. (112 mins)

  • À nous la liberté

    • Friday, October 19 7 pm

    René Clair (France, 1931). Clair combines fantasy with irony, whimsy with wistful pessimism, musical comedy with fine-tuned slapstick to create a satire of the highest order in this tale of two ex-cons, one now the owner of a large phonograph company, the other a freedom-loving vagabond. (82 mins)

  • Le million

    • Tuesday, October 16 7 pm

    René Clair (France, 1931). A search for a winning lottery ticket spurs René Clair's unique blend of music and romance, a screen operetta by way of the Marx Brothers and Salvador Dali. (80 mins)

  • Under the Roofs of Paris

    • Saturday, October 13 6:30pm

    René Clair (France, 1930). René Clair's first sound film involves entanglements among a comely immigrant (Pola Illéry), a street singer (Albert Préjean), a petty criminal (Gaston Modot), and the singer's best friend (Edmond Gréville); the film's creativity and wit lie not in the plot but in Clair's inventive technique. (82 mins)

  • Les grandes manoeuvres

    • Saturday, October 13 8:15 pm

    René Clair (France, 1955). René Clair's first color film is set in a provincial garrison just before World War I. Gérard Philipe plays a cavalry officer and self-styled Don Juan who wagers that he can seduce any woman in town, chosen at random. (106 mins)

  • The Italian Straw Hat

    • Tuesday, October 9 7 pm

    René Clair (France, 1928). Judith Rosenberg on piano. A masterpiece of silent comedy, The Italian Straw Hat is a tribute by René Clair to the early French pioneer filmmakers, but one that moves with a rhythm and tempo unseen before its time. “One of the funniest films ever made, and one of the most elegant as well” (Pauline Kael). (84 mins)

  • Le bonheur

    • Saturday, September 29 6:30 pm

    Marcel L'Herbier (France, 1934). Anarchist attempts to assassinate queen, queen protects anarchist, queen loves anarchist, anarchist loves queen. Or does she . . . and does he? Here the palace is a film studio, the royalty are movie stars, and the fairy tale survives even L'Herbier's ironic analysis. With Charles Boyer and Gaby Morlay. (105 mins)

  • Lola Montes

    • Saturday, September 29 8:35 pm

    Max Ophuls (France/Germany, 1955). Restored 35mm print of the French version! In Max Ophuls's audacious final film, a life of passion becomes the stuff of carnival. “The ultimate cinephilic object: a color-and-CinemaScope dream” (Boston Phoenix ).(110 mins) NOTE: This replaces the originally scheduled screening of Panique.

  • The Earrings of Madame de . . .

    • Sunday, September 23 7 pm

    Max Ophuls (France/Italy, 1953). Following a pair of earrings, Ophuls's fluid camerawork tracks the course of love and the character of a class. "Perfection” (Pauline Kael). With Danielle Darrieux, Charles Boyer, and Vittorio De Sica. (105 mins)

  • La ronde

    • Friday, September 21 7 pm

    Max Ophuls (France, 1950). A prostitute (Simone Signoret) loves a soldier (Serge Reggiani), who leaves her for a chambermaid (Simone Simon), who . . . etc., etc., until the story returns to the prostitute. “Ophuls displays dazzling technical virtuosity and cinematic elegance” (Chicago Reader). (97 mins)

  • Le plaisir

    • Friday, September 21 8:55 pm

    Max Ophuls (France, 1952). In adapting three de Maupassant stories, Ophuls sardonically explores the distinctions between pleasure and happiness. "Illustrates not merely Ophuls's unparalleled sense of flow and texture, but also his proto-feminism” (Slant). Starring Gaby Morlay, Simone Simon, Jean Gabin, and Danielle Darrieux. (95 mins)

  • Hôtel du Nord

    • Saturday, September 15 8:20 pm

    Marcel Carné (France, 1938). Two doomed lovers swear upon a suicide pact, but one loses the plot in Carné's atmospheric, fatalistic melodrama. “A stimulating reminder of the great days of French cinema” (William K. Everson). (100 mins)

  • Le jour se lève

    • Friday, September 14 7 pm

    Marcel Carné (France, 1939). Gabin gives one of his greatest performances in this Marcel Carné/Jacques Prévert collaboration, “perhaps the finest of the French poetic melodramas” (Pauline Kael). (87 mins)

  • Casque d'or

    • Friday, September 14 8:50 pm

    Jacques Becker (France, 1952). With a fluidity that almost defies narrative plotting, Jacques Becker unfolds a tale of love doomed by its setting, the Paris demimonde at the turn of the century. A young Simone Signoret is sensual and sassy as a gigolette who abandons her gangster mec for an honest carpenter. (94 mins)