Suffused with wry humor, Jean-Pierre Melville’s Bob le flambeur melds the toughness of American gangster films with Gallic sophistication to lay the road map for the French New Wave. As the neon is extinguished for another dawn, an aging gambler navigates the treacherous world of pimps, moneymen, and naive associates while plotting one last score—the heist of the Deauville casino. This underworld comedy of manners is now playing on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck, with a radio interview with Jean-Pierre Melville, a video interview with actor Daniel Cauchy, and more.
Also up this week:
The gold standard of cinephile TV shows, Cinéastes de notre temps is a series of intimate profiles of legendary auteurs that emerged in the 1960s. One of the most captivating of the early episodes finds Jacques Rivette, fresh off his tenure as editor of Cahiers du cinéma, training his lens on Jean Renoir. Featuring footage of Renoir chatting with one of his most iconic collaborators, actor Michel Simon, and analyzing scenes from masterpieces like The Rules of the Game, this ninety-five-minute film is a magnificent portrait of an artist whom Orson Welles once called “very probably the greatest of all directors.” The program is accompanied by our full editions of La chienne and Boudu Saved from Drowning.
These haunting works of Chinese-language cinema take inspiration from real-life events. Set in an unnamed city, Qiu Yang’s 2017 A Gentle Night—the first Chinese production to win the Short Film Palme d’Or at Cannes—follows a mother’s desperate search for her missing teenage daughter. Set against a simmering backdrop of rock and roll and youthful rebellion, Edward Yang’s sprawling epic A Brighter Summer Day evokes the political unrest of 1960s Taiwan through the story of a teenager’s descent into delinquency.
When the great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman cast the twenty-six-year-old Norwegian actor Liv Ullmann in his 1966 film, Persona, he initiated one of the most remarkable collaborations in cinema history, a creative partnership that would last for four decades, well beyond the passionate, years-long affair that also blossomed between them. (“Liv, you are my Stradivarius,” Bergman once told Ullmann.) This new installment of the series Creative Marriages features Shame (1968) and The Passion of Anna (1969), two films shot on Fårö, a remote and windswept Swedish island where the two also lived together for a time. Critic Michael Sragow introduces the program, examining how Bergman and Ullmann’s legendary offscreen relationship intertwined with their work.
There’s no more fearsome opponent than the Grim Reaper, no matter what the game. In Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, one of the most iconic art-house films of the 1950s, a medieval knight (Max von Sydow) challenges the hooded figure of Death to a round of chess, setting off a profound inquiry into the nature of mortality and faith. Sending up Bergman’s film, Peter Hewitt’s 1991 comedy Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey—a sequel to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure—follows its two slacker protagonists (Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter) to hell, where they face off with Death in Battleship, Clue, and Twister, learning along the way that he’s a very sore loser. Check out our trailer for the double bill here.