The lights may be out on our screens but we want to keep sharing the best international cinema with you. We've partnered with MUBI to offer our customers 90 days of movies for free, from arthouse classics to modern masterpieces. In the first of a series of new blogs, Paul MacDonald-Taylor recommends some films to look out for.
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Jean-Pierre Melville: The greatest French director?
Given the rich history of French cinema that might seem like a bit of an exclamatory statement. But without Jean-Pierre Melville it’s arguable that the last 60 years of cinema would be entirely different. He was called the ‘spiritual father to the French New Wave’, and a generation of crime film-makers have cited his influence on their films; Michael Mann, John Woo, Ringo Lam, Quentin Tarantino and William Friedkin amongst them.
Fabienne Dali and Jean Paul-Belmondo in Le Doulos (1962)
Whilst fighting with the French resistance during World War 2, Jean-Pierre Grumbach adopted the name ‘Melville’, after his favourite author Herman Melville. When the war was over the name stuck. Between 1946 and 1972 he made 14 features, the majority of which are breathtaking, unforgettable films. It’s a body of work that is arguably unmatched in world cinema, let alone just in France.
MUBI are running a season called ‘The Crimes of Jean-Pierre Melville’, which incorporates some of his best known works. The first of the season Bob le Flambeur was screened at Eden Court as a Mystery Movie pick last summer. Currently, you can still watch a Jean-Paul Belmondo double Léon Morin, Priest, about a priest in a small village during the war (also starring the wonderful Emmanuelle Riva) and Le Doulos which is an inspired Film Noir and one of the best examples of the ‘film policier’ genre (along with Kurosawa’s High and Low).
Cool cat Alain Delon in Le Cercle rouge (1970)
There are two films starring one of the coolest cats in French cinema, Alain Delon. In the films he made with Melville, he has lost some of the youthful beauty he showed in Plein Soleil. Both Le Circle Rouge and Un Flic are masterpieces of the crime genre, coolly detached heist films playing cat and mouse between the cops and robbers. Not currently available on MUBI but well worth seeking out is the first film with Melville starring Delon, the existential classic La Samouraï.
Jean-Pierre Cassel in Army of Shadows (1969)
It’s a hard choice to choose the best of Melville’s films, but Army of Shadows might get my vote. It’s his story of the French resistance, who he fought alongside during the war. Set in Marseille, it shows the resistance how it was - the fear of never knowing if a Nazi or an informant was just around the corner. It is film-making of the highest order; deeply personal and very political. MUBI calls it a ‘thrilling take of espionage, escape and betrayal with a deep, melancholy soul’.
I do hope that you can sign up to MUBI for the next couple of months. Eden Court Cinema may be sadly closed for the next little while, but we still want to play a role in bringing a world of amazing cinema to you. However you choose to watch your films I hope you enjoy them. I’m off to watch Army of Shadows, speak to you later.
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