Dudley Andrew, Professor of Film and Comparative Literature, Yale University will give a talk on French cinema of the 1930s and 40s leading to the New Wave a decade later as an instance of the collaboration between artistic creation and political movements. In speaking to our theme for the year: “Sites of Creativity,” he will describe the collaboration between filmmakers, their sense of the people, the popular, and everyday life that led to the socially committed work of the New Wave Cinema. We will screen A Day in the Country, Zéro de Conduite, and The Lower Depths. These three films are representative of the Poetic Realist movement of the 1930s in France. The depiction of the proletariat, the tensions between the upper and the lower classes, or the education system show how these directors are fully engaged as a group in the contemporary social issues. See complete schedule below.
Tuesday, February 16, Harris Center Cinema, 7:00 p.m.
A Day in the Country
This film is an adaptation of a short story by Guy de Maupassant, it depicts a brief and passionate love affair between Henriette, the daughter of a Parisian ironmonger, and Henri, an unoccupied boater. In many ways, this film is an homage to Renoir’s father, Auguste Renoir, and to Impressionism. One scene, of Henriette standing on a swing, is a direct cinematographic quote of Renoir father’s painting La Balançoire. Everywhere else, Impressionist themes or images are omnipresent: the play of light on water, the lunch on the grass, or the rowboat gliding on the river. Director, Jean Renoir, France, 1936, 41 minutes, black & white.
Zéro de Conduite
Vigo’s film describes the daily routine and the revolt of students living at a boarding school under repressive rules. Despite its short length, about 40 minutes, it is one of the most influential film in cinema history, a precursor to the French New Wave. It is also a perfect example of the poetic realism movement in the sense that the plot is grounded in social reality, but at the same time the revolutionary moment is aesthetic, particularly the film’s most epic scene, when insurrectionist students in pajamas engage in an epic slow motion pillow fight. Director, Jean Vigo, France, 1933, 44 minutes, black & white.
Wednesday, February 17, Harris Center Cinema, 7:00 p.m.
The Lower Depths
Voted 1936's best picture by a circle of prestigious French critics, Jean Renoir's The Lower Depths (Les Bas-Fonds) is based on the gutter play by Russian author Maxim Gorky. Louis Jouvet plays The Baron, forced by circumstance to give up his life of luxury and to set up residence in the slums of Paris. As Jouvet observes the passing parade, he bears witness to the frustrated romance between Jean Gabin and Junie Astor, the thwarted dreams of actor Robert Le Vigan, and the oppressive cruelties of landlord Vladimir Sokoloff. The Lower Depths surprised Renoir's admirers, who weren't used to seeing the director involve himself in so sordid and depressing a tale. Actually, the project was brought to Renoir by a producer friend of his, who secured the director's services by promising to provide Louis Jouvet and Jean Gabin as the leading actors. Director, Jean Renoir, France, 1936, 90 minutes, black & white.
Festival Keynote speaker: Dudley Andrew, Professor of Film and Comparative Literature, Yale University
Thursday, February 18, JRC 101, 7:30 p.m.
From Ciné-Liberté (1936) to Film Maudit (1949): Fever, Contagion, and Caution in the Avant-Garde
Dudley Andrew is Professor of Film and Comparative Literature at Yale. Biographer of André Bazin, he extends Bazin’s thought in What Cinema Is! (2011) in the edited volume, Opening Bazin (2012), and in his translation of a new collection, André Bazin’ New Media. Working in aesthetics, hermeneutics and cultural history, he published Film in the Aura of Art in 1984, then turned to French film with Mists of Regret (1995) and Popular Front Paris. He co-edited The Companion to Francois Truffaut (2013). For these publications, he was named Officier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.
All events are free and open to the public. French pastries will be served at the film showings.