The Germans probably would have had a name for it had their film production and criticism cultures not largely collapsed after the war, but it would surely be heavy on the glottal stops and nowhere near as easy on the ears or eyes as the word “noir.” And noir of Gallic origin is naturally the focus of this year’s installment of The French Had a Name for It, subtitled “The Frenetic Fifties” and spanning 1949 to 1959.
One of the more notable films selected by the “renegade programmer” — their phrase, our quotes — comes toward the end of the decade of freneticism: Argentine expatriate Luis Saslavsky’s 1957 Les Louves, starring Jeanne Moreau and adapted from a novel by Boileau-Narcejac, who wrote the source novel for Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques. (Boileau-Narcejac also wrote the book that Alfred Hitchcock turned into the perpetually overpraised Vertigo, but pobody’s nerfect.) Also relevant to our demon days is Jacqueline Audry’s Huis-Clos, an adaptation of the Jean-Paul Sartre play about three souls damned to spend eternity together in a locked room. Known on these shores as No Exit, it’s timely not only because we’ve been in Hell since November 2016, but because it was a strong influence on one of the best modern American television shows, The Good Place. Welcome! Everything is French.
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.