Jacques Demy’s experimental musical in which the dialogue (all written by him) is sung, Les parapluies de Cherbourg invests the bittersweet with great power. The action itself, covering more than a decade, falls entirely within France’s delusional stand in defense of her colonialism in the Algerian War. Its constant singing expresses the lock that conventionalism […]

THE TRIAL OF JOAN OF ARC (Robert Bresson, 1962)

Basing his script on the fifteenth-century trial transcripts and, as is his wont, casting nonprofessionals, including in the central role, Robert Bresson’s spare, stunning Le procès de Jeanne d’Arc is modern, intellectual, existential. Cinema’s original minimalist stresses Joan’s solitude; defiant in court but really at a loss, Joan prays privately for the best answers to […]

THE SILENCE OF THE SEA (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1947)

Jean-Pierre Melville’s (Grumbach’s) stunning debut is an adaptation of the short story by Vercors, “Le silence de la mer.” Static shots and short pans of a countryside village appear under a motionless, silent sky punctuated by cirrus clouds—on one level, the eternal “sea” of the title. It is 1941, and this is Occupied France. A […]