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MoMA Presents a 22-Film Retrospective of the French Director and Screenwriter Julien Duvivier
From Poil de carotte. 1932. France. Directed by Julien Duvivier. Pictured: Robert Lynen and Colette Segall. Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art Film Stills Archive.
NEW YORK, NY.- The widely varied and influential career of French director and screenwriter Julien Duvivier (1896-1967) is rediscovered in Julien Duvivier, a month-long, 22-film retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art, from May 1 through 28, 2009. Working consistently for four decades, both in Europe and Hollywood, in a darkly poetic realist style, Duvivier made popular melodramas, thrillers, religious epics, comedies, wartime propaganda, musicals, and literary adaptations of novels by Emile Zola, Leo Tolstoy, Irène Némirovsky, and Georges Simenon. This exhibition features the New York premieres of four films that have either been recently restored or are shown in Duvivier’s preferred versions, as well as new translations of 14 films.

The widely varied and influential career of French director and screenwriter Julien Duvivier (1896-1967) is rediscovered in Julien Duvivier, a month-long, 22-film retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art, from May 1 through 28, 2009. Working consistently for four decades, both in Europe and Hollywood, in a darkly poetic realist style, Duvivier made popular melodramas, thrillers, religious epics, comedies, wartime propaganda, musicals, and literary adaptations of novels by Emile Zola, Leo Tolstoy, Irène Némirovsky, and Georges Simenon. This exhibition features the New York premieres of four films that have either been recently restored or are shown in Duvivier’s preferred versions, as well as new translations of 14 films.

On May 14, at 8:00 p.m., the composer Stephen Sondheim will introduce Duvivier’s classic sketch film Un Carnet de bal (1937), which he once intended to adapt as a Broadway musical.

The retrospective Julien Duvivier is organized by Joshua Siegel, Associate Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, and Lenny Borger, film historian and translator.

Jean Renoir once proclaimed, “If I were an architect and I had to build a monument to the cinema, I would place a statue of Duvivier above the entrance… This great technician, this rigorist, was a poet.” Duvivier, who was also championed by other estimable filmmakers and writers, including Ingmar Bergman, Claude Chabrol, Graham Greene, Elaine May, Agnès Varda, and Orson Welles, is largely known for his collaborations with the great actor Jean Gabin in the 1930s. This exhibition features four of these classics of French cinema: the recently restored La Bandera (1935); the New York premiere of Duvivier’s preferred, darker ending to La Belle Équipe (1936); Pépé le Moko (1937); and Deadlier than the Male (1956).

The exhibition’s rare screenings include Duvivier’s adaptation of the Zola novel Au Bonheur des dames (1930), his adaptation of Simenon’s Inspector Maigret story A Man’s Neck (1933), the enchanting La Fête à Henriette (1952), and the silent and sound versions of Poil de carotte (1925 and 1932), a heartbreaking chronicle of childhood. The 1932 sound version of Poil de carotte—Duvivier’s favorite among his films—will be the opening night feature on Friday, May 1, at 7:00 p.m., introduced by co-curator Lenny Borger.

Also featured in the exhibition are the New York premieres of four films: the delightful and revelatory experimental comedy Allo Berlin? Ici Paris! (1932); the newly restored La Bandera (1935); La Belle Equipe (1936), with Duvivier’s preferred tragic ending; and the wartime propaganda film Untel Père et fils (Heart of a Nation) (1943) in its longer, French theatrical version. “Among the French directors of the classic period,” Claude Chabrol recently observed, “Julien Duvivier is my favorite, with Jean Renoir. He was an auteur who didn’t declare himself one.”





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