Whenever either one of us go overseas on vacation, we pay particular attention to what’s playing at the occasional local revival houses. There are not many left, though, with a large part of the revival function shifting to official museums and Cinematheques.
A recent trip to Nice on the Cote d’Azur in France sud — not far from Cannes, glitzy home to the big annual movie blowout — was revealing.
Not only do we have a fair amount of readers in France, but we are also eternally grateful for how French critics for decades have extolled American movies — in many cases even more perceptively, say, that members of the Academy Awards. What would film noir be without the prodding of French movie critics?
Nice, the fifth largest city in France, which is located along the border with Italy, enjoys a lively arts center. (It has a terrific opera house.) So what was playing at the Cinematheque de Nice situated in the downtown area right next to a forbidding structure referred to as the “Acropolis?”
When we checked in the program consisted of a section devoted to French director Henri-Georges Clouzot, who masterminded the original pre-William Friedkin version of classic action vehicle Wages of Fear or “Le Salaire de la Peur”.
Not only was the Clouzot’s original with Yves Montand being screened but Friedkin’s 1977 adaptation, Sorcerer with Roy Scheider, was as well. What a great double bill, a rare opportunity to compare a French action/suspense masterpiece with its more fulsome Hollywood version. (Our money is on Clouzot.)
But what really caught our eye was the offerings in the “Classiques Restaures” section, a potpourri of classic Hollywood titles, including:
— 1937’s The Awful Truth, the clever romantic comedy that won Oscars for director Leo McCarey and actress Irene Dunne. Cary Grant and Ralph Bellamy were somehow overlooked. The picture is a true classic.(above)
— 1949’s The Heiress, William Wyler’s superb drama which won Olivia de Havilland a best actress Oscar for her indelible interpretation of a shy society woman courted by a handsome cad (Montgomery Clift). Great programming choice.
— 1943’s Hangmen Also Die, director Fritz Lang’s saga based on the actual assassination of a Nazi official in Eastern Europe during World War II. Cast features Brian Donlevy, Walter Brennan, Anna Lee and Dennis O’Keefe. The script was penned by Bertolt Brecht, no less.
— 1952’s Monkey Business, Howard Hawk’s comedy about a confused research chemist who misplaces a rejuvenation pill promising the “fountain of youth.” Cary Grant is on hand along with Ginger Rogers, Charles Coburn and — Marilyn Monroe.
Also being screened were 1958’s Bell, Book and Candle with James Stewart, Kim Novak and Jack Lemmon; and George Cukor’s 1964 big screen adaptation of My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. All this was just a small portion of one month’s Cinematheque program. Impressive.