Saturday, October 13, 2012

Rene Clair Films
Part of PFA French Series

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of catching up with Rene Clair's silent French classic comedy "The Italian Straw Hat" over at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. It's been on my must-see list of films to watch in a theatre before kicking the bucket, and it's as fabulous and funny as everyone has said.

The pianist with talent and creativity to spare, Judith Rosenberg, pictured, who has crafted beautiful scores for many silent films shown over the years at the PFA, performed exquisitely on the piano Tuesday night.  She found just the right blend of music, far from the roller-rink organ grinding of too many silents, that put just the right touch on the action up on the silver screen.

Needless to say, Judith received wild applause from the appreciative audience at the end of "The Italian Straw Hat", and before the film began was lauded in the introductory remarks made by PFA director and programmer Susan Oxtoby. Judith more than deserves such accolades.

Tuesday's film was one of five Clair works (and I intend to see them all), that are being screened as part of the encompassing Grand Illusions: French Cinema Classics series continuing until December 9. All films were made prior to 1960 and the New Wave. Click here for more info on the series and how to purchase tickets.

Tonight's program consists of the one Clair film I have previously had the pleasure of seeing, "Under the Roofs of Paris". I don't recall much of a plot, and the dialogue and soundtrack intentionally didn't always match or sync with the story playing out on the screen, but I fondly remember leaving the screening with a smile having experienced cinematic satisfaction.

Playing with it is "Les Grande Manoeuvres" from 1955, described in the program notes as,"René Clair’s first color film is set in a provincial garrison just before World War I. Gérard Philipe plays a cavalry officer and self-styled Don Juan who wagers that he can seduce any woman in town, chosen at random."

This cineaste thanks the PFA for giving him the chance to catch up with the films of Clair and other classics from France before the New Wave turned movie-making upside down and sideways.

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