The High Museum of Art
will present the tenth annual “French Film Yesterday and Today” film series from April 10 through April 18, 2009. The series will feature five French films including the critically acclaimed “The Grocer’s Son,” “A Secret” and the children’s film “The Red Balloon.” This annual program is made possible with support from the Embassy of France Cultural Services department and the Consulate of France in Atlanta .
“When American audiences seek out foreign films, most often they turn to French cinema,” observes Linda Dubler , the High’s Curator of Media Arts. “With its long and storied history and its continuing vitality, French film sets the bar in terms of both artistic achievement and entertainment. This year’s series showcases the work of acclaimed masters like Claude Lelouche (who made the mega-hit “A Man and A Woman”), as well as emerging directors like Eric Guirado, who moves from documentary to feature filmmaking with “The Grocer’s Son.”
The series opens on Friday, April 10, with director Eric Guirado’s “The Grocer’s Son.” Praised as “a small gem” by the New York Times’s Stephen Holden, it is the story of Antoine, a young man who reluctantly leaves Paris for Provence to help run the family grocery after his fiercely judgmental father has a heart attack. Along with a shop in the village, the business includes a grocery van that serves as a small, mobile store. For Antoine, driving the van along rural roads and making stops for elderly customers is a chore. But Claire, his friend from Paris , comes to visit and helps him find his inner salesman. As friendship evolves into attraction, Antoine must confront his feelings for Claire, as well as the resentment he shares with his father. This film is in French with subtitles.
On Saturday, April 11, the series continues with Claude Miller’s haunting film, “A Secret.” The film explores the uncomfortable truth that some family secrets, though long-buried, are ultimately irrepressible as it uncovers the hidden history of a Jewish family living a middle-class life in Paris in the 1950s. At its center is François Grimbert, the sickly son of athletic parents who invents an older brother to compensate for his own shortcomings. Based on a French psychiatrist’s family history, the film’s cast includes Mathieu Amalric (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”) and Ludivine Sagnier (“Swimming Pool”). New York Times writer A. O. Scott praised Miller for endowing his characters with “a dense and exquisite humanity.” He wrote, “What is most impressive about ‘A Secret’ is the way Miller gestures towards such enormous themes without spelling them out.” This film is in French, Yiddish and German with subtitles.
On Friday, April 17, is Claude Lelouch’s comedic thriller “Crossed Tracks/Roman de Gare.” The film finds both threat and allure in the possibilities of personal reinvention. The film’s plot, reminiscent of Hitchcock, centers on two characters who meet at a highway rest stop. The woman (played by Fanny Ardant) is a celebrity-worshipper working as either a hairdresser or a hooker who’s been dumped by her doctor fiancée en route to a first meeting with her folks. The man is even more mysterious—an escaped serial killer, a ghost-writer for a famous novelist or just a suburban teacher on the run from his wife and kids. When he offers her a lift they end up at her parent’s farm, where she passes him off as her betrothed. Village Voice writer Ella Taylor called the film “a goofy tale of self-emancipation, a love story made by a mature man wise to the possibilities of the improbable.” This film is in French with subtitles.
The series closes on Saturday, April 18, with a double-feature presentation of “The Red Balloon” and “White Mane.” Albert Lamorisse directed this classic pair of poetic shorts that appeal to both children and adults. “The Red Balloon” is a film without dialogue and centers on a small boy (played by Lamorisse’s son) who wanders through the streets of Paris trailed by an ever-present red balloon. Critic Pauline Kael describes it as “an allegory of innocence and evil, set in a child’s dream world.” “White Mane” was shot in the Camargue— France ’s wildest, loneliest region—and is the story of a boy’s love for a horse he alone is able to tame. Kael called it “One of the most beautiful films ever made.” The film narrations are done by James Agee.