BLONDES: with Madeleine Sologne, Estella Blain, Danik Patisson…plus the ultimate non-blonde: Erich von Stroheim!
THE FRENCH HAD A NAME FOR IT began its run at the Roxie Theater in 2014 with a boatload of blonde actresses, and in 2023—our tenth festival—we celebrate five of them (keeping in mind that, for a few of her films at least, the great Simone Signoret was also a blonde).
The Devil & the Angel / La foire aux chimères
12:30 PM The Devil & the Angel introduces Madeleine Sologne, most famous for her co-starring role opposite Jean Marais in L’éternal retour (1943). Here she is a blind girl who has no fear in her work at the carnival, because she cannot see the hatchets being thrown at her by the strongman! Into this carny world the ultimate non-blonde, Erich von Stroheim, makes his way and falls in love with the blind blonde beauty, whisking her away, making her his wife, and (red alert!) buying her a home with counterfeit money. Real trouble comes calling, however, when it becomes clear that her sight can be restored by an operation… Pierre Chenal’s comeback film after six years in exile from France during WWII was a commercial disaster upon its release, but seventy-seven years later it is more than ready for its closeup so that it can be restored to its rightful place in the French noir pantheon. (1946, Pierre Chenal, 107m)
Secrets of a French Nurse / La bonne tisane
2:30 PM Secrets of a French Nurse features the stunning Estella Blain at her most beautiful, thanks in part to director Hervé Bromberger’s decision to make her nurse’s uniform a good bit more tight-fitting than might normally be the case. Blain’s young nurse begins her career in a hospital with many seen and unseen hazards–a lecherous doctor, played by Raymond Pellegrin (who else?) and a gangster on the lam (Bernard Blier, warming up for his more complex “bad guy” role in The Seventh Juror four years later) accompanied by his nasty, double-dealing moll (the incomparable Madeleine Robinson) and a loopy, hair-trigger henchman (Marcel Carné favorite Roland Lesaffre). Peril and pulchritude prevail in the shifting tonalities of this unique “hospital noir.” (1958, dir. Herve Bromberger, 101m)
The Accident / L’accident
4:30 PM The Accident brings us the last canny creation of Bertrand Tavernier’s favorite underappreciated director, Edmond T. Gréville, who stages a strange, twisty love triangle on a remote island where a young woman (Danik Pattison) is sent to be the new schoolteacher. She soon is embroiled in an affair with her headmaster (Georges Riviére), arousing the ire of his wife (Magali Noel, in deglamorized blonde mode), which leads irrevocably toward a reckoning. The underrated Patisson, last seen in our FRENCH series as the naïve young blonde wife in Sinners of Paris (1958), is not the blonde here—but we’re sure you won’t hold that against her. (1963, dir. Edmond T. Greville, 91m)