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French Cinema showcases classics to contemporary of famous directors

A series of 26 French classics from 1930's, with inspiring brilliant works from influential directors including Abel Gance, Jean Vigo, Leos Carax, Jacques Demy, Jean-Pierre Melville, Claude Chabrol, Alain Corneau, and Andre Techine will be shown at the Cinema of the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) from January 7 to February 13.

Aiming to reflect the variety of French cinema, the "French Cinema: From Classic to Contemporary" will feature a wide selection of delightful classics including "A Man and a Woman", "Purple Noon", "Police Python 357", "Madame Bovary", "Pierrot Goes Wild", "Marius", "L'Atalante", "Napoleon Bonaparte", "A Day in the Country", "My Uncle", "The Samurai", "Van Gogh" and others.

Presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the "French Cinema: From Classic to Contemporary" is one of the programmes in the "Year of France in China" with the support of Cinematheque Francaise and the Consulate General of France in Hong Kong.

In 2003, the Archive was invited by the Cinematheque Francaise to participate in the "Year of China in France" film cultural exchange programme. A series of 12 Hong Kong films was shown in Paris. For the year of 2004 -2005, it is China's turn to host the "Year of France in China" with many French arts and cultural events including the presentation of a panorama of French films.

To supplement the programme, the Archive has invited friends who once loved French films and each with success in their respective fields to share the influence of French cinema on them. Experience of filmmakers Mary Stephen, Patrick Tam, Alex Cheung, Yonfan, artist Christopher Cheung, film cultural workers Wong Ainling, Freddie Wong, Jimmy Choi, and scholars Cheuk Pak-tong, Koo Siu-sun will be shown through video before certain screenings.

The opening film "A Man and a Woman" (1966), directed by Claude Lelouch, is one of the all time romantic favorites. The soundtrack by Francis Lai contributes to make it still as pleasing and engaging after 40 years. The film won the Best Foreign Language Film and Screenplay in Academy Awards.

A simple love story yet a timeless classic with heartfelt emotions, "Marius" (1931) is the first installment of "The Fanny Trilogy" wrote by Marcel Pagnol.

Among the early French masterpieces, "L'Atalante" (1934) is Jean Vigo's only full-length feature with a visual intoxication of eroticism, mistrust and love. His short feature "Zero for Conduct" (1933) depicts the dictatorial regime of a boarding school. Under Vigo, chaos becomes poetic and graceful, never before has disorder been orchestrated into such a stunning visual symphony.

Gangsters and thrillers genres were popular in 1960's to 1970's in French Cinema. Melville's "The Samurai" (1967) will always be remembered as the perfect one, with an expressionless hit man Alain Delon clad in a trench coat under a grey Parisian sky.

A classy film noir in dazzling colours set in the Italian Riveria, young Delon who played the American Tom Ripley in Rene Clement's "Purple Noon" (1959) made a splash into international stardom with his charisma and grace. Also played by Delon as the 1930s Marseillais gangster Siffredi, "Borsalino and Co" (1974) bears impressive production values with brilliant cinematography and music. It has influenced a whole series of Hong Kong movies about rivalry gang warfare.

"Pierrot Goes Wild" (1965), which is with all essence of nouvelle vague but with enough humour for a mainstream audience, will always occupy a unique place in Jean-Luc Godard's celebrated career.

Directed by Alain Corneau, the "Police Python 357" (1976) is one of Yves Montand's finest performances together with his wife Simone Signoret as one of the players in the film. Henri-Georges Clouzot made "The Raven" (1943) into the most classic of French thrillers. Visually striking for its German Expressionist style, it reflects on the conflict between good and evil. The film was re-made in 1951 by Otto Preminger as "The 13th Letter".

Part comedy of endless visual gags and part prophetic of a disappearing old world, Jacques Tati's masterpiece, "My Uncle" (1959) won the Jury Prize at Cannes and an Oscar for Foreign Language Film. In "Playtime" (1968), Tati continues with his discernment for the state of things.

"A Day in the Country" (1936) is considered as Jean Renoir's "unfinished masterpiece". With assistance from friends like Visconti, Jacques Becker, and Henri Cartier-Bresson, Renoir has filmed it like an impressionist painting with light and shadow and a long for the loss of innocence brutally devoured by the coming world war. His other film "The Golden Coach" (1952) is a perfect display of Renoir's intelligence and expansive humanity.

Not to be missed is Leos Carax's "Boy Meets Girl" (1984), which won the Youth Prize at the Cannes Film Festival 1984. With a crashing soundtrack that ranges from Benjamin Britten to David Bowie, his "Bad Blood" (1986) is a MTV era film noir rich in visual elements.

Claude Chabrol may the be last survivor of the New Wave, his "Madame Bovary" (1991) will always be remembered as one of Isabelle Huppert's best performances. Jacques Demy's "Bay of Angels " (1963) may not be as prominent as his other works, it is nonetheless breathtaking with its photography and one of Jeanne Moreau's most impressive roles.

Other films include Agnes Varda's "Vagabond" (1985), which won the Golden Lion Award in the Venice Film Festival 1985, the re-edited version of "Napoleon Bonaparte" (1934), "Paris 1900" (1947), which was awarded the Prix Louis-Delluc in 1947 and "The Wild Reeds" (1947), the winner of four 1994 Cesars Awards and the coverted Prix Delluc.

All films are in French with English subtitles, except "The Golden Coach", which is in English. "The Samurai" has additional Chinese subtitles.

Tickets priced at $40 are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. There will be a 10% discount for each purchase of six to 10 tickets and a 20% discount for each purchase of 11 or more tickets.

For programme information, call 2734 2900 or 2739 2139 or visit or . Reservations can be made by phone on 2734 9009 or on the Internet at .

Ends/Saturday, December 25, 2004.
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