cinematheque summer program

Girls, Guns, and Godard at the Cinematheque

Some people treasure sitting on a patio on a warm summer day, while others appreciate a fine glass of wine. As for me, I look forward to finding a package from the Cinematheque on my doorstep, containing acclaimed cinematic works from all over the world.

The latest set was no exception, as Cinematheque Ontario wraps up its summer season this month with retrospectives showcasing Jean-Pierre Melville's elegant tough guy flicks and Jacques Tati's carefully crafted buffoon comedies.

The standout screening series this season is The French Connection: Jean-Pierre Melville, a retrospective on the filmmaker described by the Cinematheque as "the central nexus between American and French cinema".

In Melville's Army of Shadows (August 4th), a trenchcoat-wearing French Resistance group deals with betrayal in its ranks. A key figure in the organization is arrested and then escapes from a Nazi prison camp, prompting a round-up of suspected informants. Snitching is also a no-no in Le Doulos (The Informer, August 23rd), a whodunit that asks not who committed the crime, but who told the police. Jean-Paul Belmondo plays Silien - a thief, liar, and killer - but is he a friend or foe? The mystery holds throughout the story, so much so that apparently the actor did not know if he was the informant until he saw the finished film.

Tati's on-screen persona Mr. Hulot takes center stage in the Scatterbrained Angel: The Films of Jacques Tati programme. If you haven't seen any of his films, the easiest comparison is to Mr. Bean, but with slick art direction, critical of "modern" consumerism, and a pipe in hand.

In Mon Oncle (August 11th), Mr. Hulot's antics play out well in his sister's sterile suburban home. His young nephew lends a hand in making a mess of the perfectly manicured yard and causing many gadgets to malfunction. His sister and her husband, a plastic manufacturer, are not impressed. Tati orchestrates a whole new set of gags with Mr. Hulot's visit to a resort in Les Vacances De Monsieur Hulot (Mr. Hulot's Holiday, July 31st) and Mr. Hulot spends the day in the city in Playtime (August 2nd).

As if there wasn't already plenty to choose from, the summer-long French New Wave/Godard blitz continues, plus I got to preview the few remaining films running in the group's tribute to Italian bombshells; the series title Signore and Signore: Leading Ladies of the Italian Cinema says it all. Watch for Bread, Love And Dreams (Pane, Amore E Fantasia) a rom-com set in a peasant village and Fellini's master work Nights of Cabiria (Le Notti Di Cabiria) both screening on August 21st.

The Cinematheque Ontario summer programme runs until August 23rd at Jackman Hall, 317 Dundas Street West.

Still from Army Of Shadows courtesy of the Cinematheque.

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