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Culture ... ...
    French film festival
Xiao Changyan
2005-03-14 09:39

“A Retrospective of French Movies: From Classic to Modern,” the biggest French film festival of this century organized by the China and French Film Archive, raised its curtain in Beijing last Friday. As part of the French Cultural Year in China, the festival will screen 41 French cinematic masterpieces made between 1895 and 2003 by 25 directors to the enjoyment of Beijing audiences. The films represent the top achievements of the French film industry and also give local audiences a rare chance to experience French culture close up.

It is the second time such large-scale French film retrospective exhibition has been held in China. In 1985 a similar exhibition was held by the China Film Archive, during which 40 French movies were shown in five Chinese cities.

The 41 movies to be screened during this festival will be presented in five categories.

Eternal Classics

All of the 10 films in this section were made before 1953 and are divided into two parts: silent films and sound films.

Films in this section bring people back to the first days of the film industry. There is a short film collection of Lumière, who made the world’s first film on December 28, 1895; and representative works by famous French directors Jean Renoir, René Clair and Marcel Papnol in the 1930s and 1950s.

Mother of the New Wave

This section was set up to pay special respect to Agnès Varda, a legendary director known as the Mother of New Wave. In the 1950s, Varda’s films, film philosophy and sensitive skill inspired other filmmakers to also explore the medium. Thousands of unknown artists were encouraged by the movement in Europe and brought fresh vitality into the film industry as a whole. The movement became known as New Wave as it swept across the world. Many New Wave directors have become true masters and many newcomers today are still affected by the trend.

Agnès Varda’s nine movies, including “Sans toit ni loi” (1985) and “Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse” (2000), will be screened in this section. The festival is a great chance to study the philosophy of her films and to explore what drove the New Wave movement to such creative success.

Fruits of the New Wave

The French New Wave was the biggest, and most influential movement in the history of the film industry. From 1959 to 1962, more than 100 directors made their debut, many of whom achieved international recognition. The New Wave movement has left us with many priceless treasures and influenced the film industry worldwide. Their influence can also be seen in the achievements of the fifth generation of China’s filmmakers. This movement rewrote the rules of the traditional film industry and started a new age of the modern industry.

This section features seven films from New Wave masters such as Jacques Demy, Jean-Luc Godard and Maurice Pialat.

Wild Youth

A rebellious spirit is one of the moving forces in the development of human society. Rebelling against traditional rules has led to progress in art, science and culture. The seven films in this section are presented to highlight the views of four directors on the spirit of rebellion. “Zéro de conduit” (1933), directed by Jean Vigo was banned in France until 1946, because middle-class audiences saw it as “an attack against France”. “Zero de conduit” was a pioneer of film about the rebellious spirit of youth. Its influence can be seen not only in New Wave movie “Les Quatre cents coups” (1959) by Francois Truffat and “If” (1969), directed by Lindsay Anderson, but also in US movies such as “Rebel Without A Cause” (1955), directed by Nicholas Hytner and “Dead Poets Society” (1989), directed by Peter Weir.

Comedies and others

It would not be a French film exhibition if it did not include French comedy. Comedy films date back to the first days of film, in short works by the Lumière brothers, working for a laugh from audiences.

In this section Chinese audiences will have a chance to watch films made by Jacques Tati, a remarkable comedy director and the greatest French comedy actor since the end of the silent era. Three of Jacques Tati’s films will be screened at the exhibition, focusing on satirizing middle class life and modernization.

Another six films of a different styles are also included in this section. “Police Python 357” (1976), from director Alain Corneau, is a suspense story with an unexpected finale. “Tchao Pantin” (1983) and “Jean de Florette” (1986) from director Claude Berri will also be screened. Based on Marcel Pagnol’s famous novel “L’eau des Colline,” the film was so successful throughout Europe that the French minister of culture declared the French film industry would be saved if they could make just six movies like “Jean de Florett” every year.“Borsalino and Co” (1974) directed by Jacques Deray, is the sequel to the 1970 film “Borsalino,” a gangster comedy-drama. “Paris 1900” (1946) is an important and well-known documentary that will also be shown. Director Nicole Vedres used hundreds of documentary movies made from 1900 to 1914 to show the structure of upper-class society and life in Paris before the First World War. “Récréation” (1992) is the most famous of Claire Simon’s documentary films, exploring break time in kindergartens and will offer Beijing audiences a glimpse of French childhood.

The festival is another one of the many activities of cultural co-operation created by France and China for this year of exchange, but unlike many of the other activities planned, this event offers Chinese viewers a look at more active and modern French art forms and will surely keep them coming back for more French films.

(China Daily 03/11/2005 page7)


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