The free film program celebrates French noir and ’40s film critics.
This summer’s screening calendar at UW Cinematheque, just announced this week, is divided into three series: “French Tough Guys,” “The Rhapsodes,” and “Summer Specials.”
The seven-film “French Tough Guys” series will highlight works starring Jean Gabin, Lino Ventura, and Jean-Paul Belmondo, a trifecta of legendary francophone leading men. The lead-off film, Any Number Can Win (June 22), sweetens the pot by casually tossing Alain Delon into the mix. Maybe it’s just me, but the fact that some of the prints come direct from the Cultural Services department of the French Embassy is a weirdly awesome little detail worth tossing out there. There’s not a clunker in the bunch, but two highlights are Jean Renoir’s proto noir examination of the working class, 1938’s La Bête Humaine (June 29), and the tough guy two-fer (Belmondo AND Ventura!) of Henri Verneuil’s gun-running thriller Greed In The Sun (July 27).
Of the three series this summer, “The Rhapsodes,” which ties into the release of UW-Madison film professor emeritus David Bordwell’s new book The Rhapsodes: How 1940s Critics Changed American Film Culture, is easily the most conceptually rigorous. This series will be as much about the work of critics James Agee, Parker Tyler, Otis Ferguson, and Manny Farber as it will be about the films themselves. Each screening will be presented alongside actual reviews from those writers, as well as in-person introductions by David Bordwell. The series begins with John Huston’s 1948 classic The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (July 7, preceded by a special hour-long talk from David Bordwell). Other films in the series are Zoltan Korda’s WWII thriller Counter-Attack (July 14), Albert Lewin’s Oscar Wilde adaptation The Picture Of Dorian Gray (July 27), and William Wyler’s turn-of-the-century Southern melodrama The Little Foxes (July 28). For the folks who get off on the explanatory one-sheets the Cinematheque kindly has on hand for their screenings, this series is for you!
Now we get to my perennial favorite series of the bunch, the “Summer Specials.” Just about every season there’s a ramshackle pile-up of random films that the programmers want to share but can’t quite find the right angle to link them all together, so they all end up under this hodgepodge umbrella. Everyone has that film they’re always pushing on their friends, and these are those, but from folks who made living movies their whole life. This time around we’ll get to see everything from an early Jonathan Demme film, 1980’s offbeat light-hearted comedy Melvin & Howard (June 23), an over-the-top gritty Japanese take on Dirty Harry from Takeshi Kitano (his first directorial foray) in 1989’s unhinged and aptly titled Violent Cop (June 30), a subtle jab at Trump’s ascendancy in the form of Elia Kazan’s still-prescient A Face In The Crowd (July 22), and Martin Scorsese’s wildly underrated pitch black satire, 1989’s The King Of Comedy (July 29), to name just a few.