Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Breaking News: Jean Gabin Book Wins First Place (Gold) in USA Book News National Book Awards

Woke up with some good news this morning:

My new book, WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN (Allenwood Press) has won First Place (Gold) in the USA Book News National Best Book Awards for 2009, in the category of Performing Arts.

The two-volume book is a complete biography and filmography of the legendary French movie star, who starred in such internationally recognized classic films as Pepe Le Moko, La Grande Illusion, Le Jour se leve, La Bete humaine, and Le Quai des brumes.

Gabin has always been considered to be France's #1 movie star of all time, and the goal of my book is for the actor to be as apreciated in the English-speaking world as he's always been in the France. To that end, the tone of the book is "fun" and "accessible," and each of the two volumes features more than 100 photographs.

Actresses Brigitte Bardot and Michele Morgan have written original forewords and David Mamet has contributed an appreciation.

Learn more about the book at:

To read about the 2009 USA Book News National Book Awards, go to:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

NYC's Julien Duvivier Festival Comes to Berkeley, Includes Four Julien Duvivier/Jean Gabin Collaborations

"This cous-cous needs more tumeric!"
French acting legend Jean Gabin as smooth criminal Pepe Le Moko in director Julien Duvivier's 1937 gangster classic. This film and four other Gabin/Duvivier collaborations, will be presented in October, at Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive, as part of the Archive's sixteen-film tribute to the legendary French director, Julien Duvivier.

West Coast Jean Gabin Fans who were unable to make it to New York City this past May -- those of us who missed the Museum of Modern Art's Twenty-Two Gun (Twenty-Two Film) Salute to the legendary French director Julien Duvivier -- will now have our own chance to see the same festival, presented here, on the 'left' coast: Throughout the month of October, Berkeley's Pacific Film Archives is showing a scaled-down sixteen-film version of MoMa's twenty-two film festival, including all four of the Duvivier/Gabin collaborations which MoMa presented in NYC earlier this year. (In all Julien Duvivier directed seven features which starred his good friend, Jean Gabin.)

All of director Duvivier's films are quite good (he's a genre filmmaker who subverts traditional genre filmmaking via the inclusion of often "trippy" proto-psychedelic sections), and the director's Gabin entries are some of his very strongest.

On Thursday October 8th (@ 6:30pm) and Friday October 9th (@ 8:30pm), you'll have your chance to see the most famous Duvivier/Gabin collaboration of all, 1937's Pepe Le Moko, in which Le Gabin plays the archetype for all film noir anti-heroes to come. In this seminal film, the charismatic criminal Pepe Le Moko hides out in the weird Dr. Seuss-via-Hieronymous Bosch Casbah region of Algiers, avoiding the police who are ever on his tail.

On Friday October 16th, La Bandera (1935) comes to Berkeley. In this outstanding adventure, Gabin's character, Pierre Gilieth, kills a pimp in Paris, high-tails it out of France, joins the Spanish Foreign Legion, and runs up against a crooked cop who's bent on capturing him. Of course, he'll fall in love with a mysterious dark beauty -- Arab girl Aischa, played by Annabella (a great French actress who was also the real-life wife of Tyrone Power).

On Sunday October 18th at 5:00pm, you'll get to see the jewel in the Gabin/Duvivier crown: It's the ultra-rare 1936 confection La Belle Equipe, a warm summer idyll which has been out of circulation of late, even in France, the country of its production. In La Belle equipe, a powerful comedy-drama which has not been seen in the U.S. since its initial release seventy-one years ago in 1938 (!), Gabin and four friends together win the lottery. They use their earnings to open up a countryside guinguette (combination hotel and dance hall), with results both amusing and tragic. Gabin even sings in this one, as he did in many of his other films. (You can hear the song in this warm summer idyll, "Quand on se promene au bord de l'eau." if you visit the website for my book about Jean Gabin, at www.jeangabinbook.com. La Belle equipe is one of the best movies ever about the ramifications of The Great Depression, its after-effects having spread to Europe.)

On Friday October 30th, at 8:25pm, it's the stark raving mad Voici le temps des Assassins (U.S. release title, Deadlier Than the Male) one of the most violent, loopy, weird film noir titles ever -- it's a Jim Thompson novel on meth! Gabin is a middle-aged chef with an overbearing mother who gets grifted by a team of mother-and-daughter prostitutes, and the film displays some jaw-dropping kinkiness that seems right out of a Russ Meyer movie. Voici le temps is one of those rare movies wherein, after it's over, you won't be able to get up. (After it's over, you'll turn to the person sitting next to you and ask, vis-a-vis the genuinely shocking and one-of-a-kind ending, "Did I see what I think I just saw?" Yes, you did.) It's appropriate that Pacific Film Archives is showing this film on Halloween weekend. It's as spooky as any horror film.

The Pacific Film Archives is located at 2575 Bancroft Way (between College and Telegraph) in Berkeley.

Here is a full-schedule of the entire series. Series coordinated at PFA by Susan Oxtoby. Program notes adapted from texts by Joshua Siegel, associate curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and by Lenny Borger.

“Genius is just a word; filmmaking is a craft.”—Julien Duvivier

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 (Julien) Duvivier above the entrance. . . . This great technician, this rigorist, was a poet.” The French director and screenwriter Julien Duvivier (1896–1967), whose astonishingly varied career spanned both Europe and Hollywood, was also championed by Orson Welles, Ingmar Bergman, and Graham Greene. This retrospective offers a rare chance to discover the work of this influential filmmaker.

Working in a darkly poetic realist style—Greene wrote admiringly that “his mood is violent, and belongs to the underside of the stone”—Duvivier made popular melodramas, thrillers, religious epics, comedies, wartime propaganda, musicals, and literary adaptations of novels by Émile Zola, Leo Tolstoy, and Georges Simenon. This exhibition features rarities and revelations, as well as masterpieces starring the great actor Jean Gabin, including La belle équipe (1936), Pépé le Moko (1937), and Deadlier Than the Male (1956). Also featured is Duvivier’s favorite among his films, Poil de Carotte (1932), a heartbreaking chronicle of childhood.

Joshua Siegel
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Friday, October 2, 2009
6:30 p.m. The Whirlwind of Paris (France, 1927). Judith Rosenberg on piano. This rare silent features Lil Dagover, a star of German Expressionist cinema, as an opera singer who becomes restless in her marriage and longs to return to the Parisian stage. (108 mins)

Friday, October 2, 2009
8:50 p.m. Poil de Carotte (France, 1932). Duvivier’s favorite among his own films is a poignant portrait of a lonely farm boy, a “classic chronicle of childhood.”— Lenny Borger (91 mins)

Sunday, October 4, 2009
4:00 p.m. La vie miraculeuse de Thérèse Martin France, 1929). Judith Rosenberg on piano. A stark and striking biography of sainted Carmelite nun Thérèse de Lisieux. (113 mins)

JEAN GABIN: Thursday, October 8, 2009 6:30 p.m. Pépé le Moko (France, 1937). Duvivier’s most influential film stars Jean Gabin as a suave Parisian jewel thief who eludes capture by taking refuge in the Casbah. “I cannot remember (a picture) which has succeeded so admirably in raising the thriller to a poetic level.”— Graham Greene (94 mins)

"Come with me to the Casbah... we will make ze beautiful muzeek togezaire, no?!" Jean Gabin didn't really say this in Pepe Le Moko (1937), but everybody thinks he did. (It's similar to how Cary Grant never really said, "Judy, Judy, Judy...")

Friday, October 9, 2009
6:30 p.m. Au bonheur des dames (France, 1930). Judith Rosenberg on piano. Depicting the life of a Parisian department store and a small shop trying to survive in its shadow, Duvivier’s final silent film is “an orgy of pure cinema (and an) alternately sincere and cynical hymn to capitalist endeavor.”—Village Voice (c. 85 mins)

JEAN GABIN: Friday, October 9, 2009 8:30 p.m. Pépé le Moko (France, 1937). See October 8. (94 mins)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009
7:00 p.m. Allo Berlin? Ici Paris! (France/Germany, 1932). Young switchboard operators in Paris and Berlin flirt across telephone lines, national borders, and romance languages in this celebration of continental cosmopolitanism between the wars. A major rediscovery that reveals Duvivier’s lighter, more experimental side. (89 mins)

JEAN GABIN: Friday, October 16, 2009 6:30 p.m. La Bandera (France, 1935). Duvivier’s sensuous and brooding Foreign Legion melodrama made Jean Gabin a star. “It looks like an exquisite newsreel taken away and baked brown to give you the feel of the air.”— Alistair Cooke (100 mins)

Aftermath of man stealing Jean Gabin's wallet in La Bandera (1935).

Saturday, October 17, 2009
5:15 p.m. The Great Waltz (France, 1938). Duvivier made his Hollywood debut with this opulent MGM musical, a symphony of lavish set pieces depicting the romantic early years of composer Johann Strauss. (103 mins)

Sunday, October 18, 2009
JEAN GABIN: 5:00 p.m. La belle équipe (France, 1936). Made in an era of political and social tumult, Duvivier’s film uses beautifully fluid camerawork, pastoral settings, and popular song to trace five workers’ efforts to rise out of poverty. Jean Gabin leads the ensemble cast. (101 mins)

Gabin and his friends decide what to do with their lottery winnings, in La Belle equipe (1936).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
7:00 p.m. La Fin du jour (France, 1938). One of French cinema’s most poignant, and caustic, portraits of the world of theater depicts an old-age home for destitute actors who wistfully relive their past triumphs and defeats. With Michel Simon, Louis Jouvet, Victor Francen, and other greats. (100 mins)

Saturday, October 24, 2009
6:30 p.m. La Tête d’un homme (France, 1933). Harry Baur stars in “one of the first great screen incarnations of Georges Simenon’s famous sleuth, Inspector Maigret. . . . Both a classic film noir and a seminal police procedural.”—Lenny Borger (98 mins)

Sunday, October 25, 2009
3:00 p.m. Anna Karenina (U.K., 1948). Vivien Leigh stars in Duvivier’s lavish adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel. This gorgeous print highlights Henri Alekan’s moodily atmospheric cinematography. (111 mins)

Thursday, October 29, 2009
6:30 p.m. Holiday for Henrietta (France, 1952). Two screenwriters dispute the fate of their charming heroine in this enchanting classic that sends up the clash between comedy and drama. (118 mins)

JEAN GABIN: Friday, October 30, 2009 8:25 p.m. Voici le temps des assassins (Deadlier Than the Male) (France, 1956). Danièle Delorme plays the quintessential femme fatale, hooking restaurateur Jean Gabin, in “Duvivier’s darkest study of moral depravity.”—Lenny Borger (114 mins)

Chef Gabin and his young protege are both in love with an inscrutable woman who plays them against each other (it's happened to the best of us!) with tragic results, in Voici le temps des assassins (1957).

Saturday, October 31, 2009
6:30 p.m. Pot-Bouille (France, 1957). Adapting a Zola novel, Duvivier creates a scintillating satire of the Second Empire bourgeoisie. The sterling cast is headed by Gérard Philipe and Danielle Darrieux. (115 mins)

Series coordinated at PFA by Susan Oxtoby. Program notes adapted by Oxtoby from texts by Joshua Siegel, associate curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and by Lenny Borger.

PFA wishes to thank the following individuals and institutions for their assistance with this retrospective: Joshua Siegel, The Museum of Modern Art; Éric Le Roy and Jean-Baptiste Garnero, CNC French Film Archives; Monique Faulhaber, Cinémathèque Française; Sandrine Butteau and Delphine Selles, Cultural Services of the French Embassy, New York; Christophe Musitelli and Cecile Hokes, French Consulate, San Francisco; Gilles Venhard, Gaumont; René Chateau, Edition René Chateau; Gyslaine Gracieux and Nils Offet, TF1 International; Nathalie Graumann, Société nouvelle de distribution; Archer Neilson; and Christian Duvivier for his support of this project.

Archival prints and musical accompaniment for silent films are presented with support from the Packard Humanities Institute.

Read: WORLD'S COOLEST MOVIE STAR: THE COMPLETE 95 FILMS (AND LEGEND) OF JEAN GABIN by Charles Zigman (www.jeangabinbook.com)