HOMCIDE & L’HOMME: Gems from the “last wave” of classic French noir featuring Lino Ventura & 100 taxicabs, Bernard Blier & 1000 cuts
We begin FRENCH 23’s closing night at the Big Roxie with a pre-show passholder book signing at 6:15 PM for Don Malcolm’s unique combination of artbook/autobiography—Instagrammatology, in which he explores the intersection of his later FRENCH festivals with an unexpected excursion into the netherworld of “double exposure art.” Over a hundred color illustrations appear in a volume that his friend, film historian Foster Hirsch, has called “blindingly colorful.”
Witness in the City / Un temoin dans la ville
7:15 PM: Just before his breakout into 60s superstardom, Lino Ventura stars as a man looking for vengeance for the death of his wife. But after he lies in wait and kills her murderer, he is plagued by a witness—a cab driver capable of placing him at the scene. The film then turns into an escalating cat-and-mouse game, kinetically filmed at night on the streets of Paris, and building to a thrilling climax.
Witness in the City is one of four noirs made in 1958-1961 by Edouard Molinaro, a key figure in re-energizing the “non-heist” category as French noir reached its astonishing crescendo in the 1960s (overlooked and forgotten, however, due to the advent of the Nouvelle Vague). (1959, dir. Edouard Molinaro, 88m)
The Seventh Juror / Le septième juré
9:00 PM: Perhaps Bernard Blier’s greatest role, in The Seventh Juror he plays a man who murders a young woman but is plagued by guilt when he discovers that her lover is being accused of the murder. In true noir fashion, he does not turn himself in but instead gets himself placed on the jury (yes, juror #7) and works assiduosly to ensure that the man is acquitted. When that happens, however, things take a deeper noir twist…
In terms of French noir, it simply doesn’t get any better than these two sensational tales of men whose “noir moment” creates a slow, agonizing, but fatefully beautiful train wreck. If you only see one FRENCH 23 double bill this year, make it this one! (1962, dir. Georges Lautner, 90m)