The Baker’s Wife: Bread, Love, and a Trophy Wife
In his first major film to capture the Provençal setting that would come to define his work, Marcel Pagnol brilliantly combined comedy and emotion, theater and cinema.
La vérité: Women on Trial
Brigitte Bardot delivers her greatest performance in what would be Henri-Georges Clouzot’s final masterpiece, a stinging indictment of a justice system run by a moralistic patriarchy.
La chienne: He, She, and the Other Guy
Although afflicted by on-set drama and offscreen tragedy, Jean Renoir’s La Chienne shows the director’s early mastery of sound cinema and features the trademarks that would come to define his style.
La haine and after: Arts, Politics, and the Banlieue
To start on a personal note: I wrote a book about La haine that came out in November 2005, just as the Paris suburbs (banlieues) erupted in an unprecedented wave of violence. Every night, as in the Bob Marley song we hear over the credits, there was …
Black Moon: Louis in Wonderland
Black Moon may well deserve the title of Louis Malle’s film maudit. The release in September 1975 of what he called his “mythological fairy tale taking place in the near future” disconcerted many, especially as people had expected him to follow…
Zazie dans le métro: Girl Trouble
Raymond Queneau’s Zazie dans le métro is the funniest book ever written in, and about, the French language. When it came out in 1959, it “made the whole of France laugh,” Jean-Paul Rappeneau, who helped Louis Malle adapt it to the screen, reco…
Fat Girl: Sisters, Sex, and Sitcom
French auteur cinema has increasingly been exploring themes of sex through scenarios whose explicitness verges on the pornographic. Along with Patrice Chéreau (Intimacy, 2001), Léos Carax (Pola X, 1999), Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi (…
The Lovers: Succès de scandale
When it came out in November 1958, The Lovers scandalized conservative France, just as it had outraged Catholic Italy at the Venice Film Festival two months earlier. At the same time, the film solidified the reputations of director Louis Malle and st…
La Pointe Courte: How Agnès Varda “Invented” the New Wave
La Pointe Courte is a stunningly beautiful and accomplished first film. It has also, deservedly, achieved a cult status in film history as, in the words of historian Georges Sadoul, “truly the first film of the nouvelle vague.”
Eric Rohmer: Blueprints for a Brilliant Oeuvre
The Bakery Girl of Monceau and Suzanne's Career are not Eric Rohmer's first films. By 1963, he had made several shorts and one feature, Le signe du Lion, in 1959. Yet these two short works are an important blueprint for Rohmer's fantastically prolifi…