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 of 22 films 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, Irène Némirovsky, and Georges Simenon. This exhibition features rarities and revelations, as well as masterpieces starring the great actor Jean Gabin, including La Belle Équipe (1936)—at the time of press, we hope to present the US premiere of Duvivier’s preferred, darker version—Pépé le Moko (1937), and Deadlier than the Male (1956). It opens with Duvivier’s favorite among his films, Poil de carotte (1932), a heartbreaking chronicle of childhood. On May 14, the composer Stephen Sondheim will introduce Duvivier’s classic sketch film Un Carnet de bal (1937), which he once intended to adapt into a Broadway musical. All films are directed by Julien Duvivier and are in French with English subtitles, except where noted.
Organized by Joshua Siegel, Associate Curator, Department of Film, and Lenny Borger, film historian and translator. The exhibition is made possible, in part, by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, New York.