The Germans probably would have had a name for it had their film production and criticism cultures not largely imploded in the postwar years, but it probably wouldn’t have been quite as lovely-sounding as the word “noir.” And noir of Gallic origin is once again the focus of this year’s installment of The French Had a Name for It, subtitled “Despair, Delirium, Destiny” and spanning 1935 to 1966.
Nearly half of the films are from the 1950s, including Georges Lampin’s 1956 Crime and Punishment, a loose adaptation of the Dostoyevsky novel that stars French noir mainstay Jean Gabin. Gilles Grangier’s 1958 The Night Affair also stars Gabin as a world-weary cop who gets involved with the wrong dame, as they so often will. There’s more Gabin-Grangier goodness in 1956’s Gas-Oil — also known as Hi-Jack Highway — as Gabin plays a trucker alongside Jeanne Moreau as his girlfriend, and faces off against a gangster’s widow determined to retrieve a suitcase of cash belonging to her dead hubby. Mademoiselle Moreau herself stars in the latest film, 1966’s Mademoiselle, directed by Tony Richardson. Yep, Look Back in Anger’s Tony Richardson — the auteur of the kitchen-sink school of British drama, arguably the stylistic opposite of noir. That’s art for ya: It never stays within the critics’ lines.
The French Had a Name For It 2017
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.