• In this week’s festival of free films on Hulu, we look at the work of the iconic French actor Yves Montand. A music-hall crooner who was discovered by Edith Piaf, he became a movie star in the second half of the forties. Throughout a forty-five-year career in cinema, he starred in both popular movies and cerebral art films, action films and romantic dramas, many of them featuring his also immensely popular wife, Simone Signoret. The films featured here are all in their way deeply political works: Henri-Georges Clouzot’s masterpiece of high tension and class exploitation The Wages of Fear; Costa-Gavras’s gripping thrillers Z and The Confession; William Klein’s colorful superhero satire Mr. Freedom, to which Montand contributed a memorable cameo; and Jean-Luc Godard’s take on a factory strike, Tout va bien.

    We’re also featuring a rarely shown title: Marcel Carné’s Les portes de la nuit. This 1946 film, shot in immediate postwar France, was among Montand’s very first screen appearances. In it, the twenty-five-year-old plays a member of the French Resistance struggling to emerge from the psychological terrors of war. The film was written by the legendary screenwriter Jacques Prévert, and features a brief scene of Montand singing “Les feuilles mortes” (also known as “Autumn Leaves”), which he would eventually record as a hit single. Watch the film, unavailable in the U.S. on disc, below or at Hulu. And remember, if you sign up for Hulu Plus for just $7.99 a month, you can see these and hundreds of other Criterion films commercial-free, anytime.

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