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Celebrating National French Week

The following four French/Francophone films are sponsored by the Harvard University department of Romance Languages and Literatures (supported by a "Tournées" grant from The Society for French-American Cultural Services and Educational Aid) as part of National French Week, November 4–10, a celebration organized nationally by the American Association of Teachers of French. Presenting various aspects of French history and culture, the four titles included here offer a diverse representation of current French-language cinema.

All tickets for this series are $5 for the general public and $4 for students.

November 6 (Saturday) 3 pm


Directed by Patrice Leconte
France 1996 color, 35mm, 102 min.
French w/ English subtitles
With Fanny Ardant, Jean Rochefort, Charles Berling

In this fascinating glimpse of pre-revolutionary France, where power is defined not only by title but also by wit, Ponceludon de Malavoy visits Versailles to request the aid of King Louis XVI. Before he can see the King, he must prove to the courtesans that he’s capable of matching wits. He is befriended by the Marquis de Bellegarde, whose daughter, Mathilde, enchants Ponceludon by her refusal to participate in drawing room repartee. In a dramatic conclusion, Ponceludon must choose between Mathilde and the court. Fine performances are given in this unusual and original period piece.

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November 6 (Saturday) 9 pm

The Queen Margot (La Reine Margot)

Directed by Patrice Chereau
France 1994, color, 35mm, 143 min.
French with English subtitles
With Isabelle Adjani, Jean-Hugues Anglade, Daniel Auteuil

This lavish production based on Alexandre Dumas’ novel focuses on the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre, when 50,000 Protestants were murdered. Catholic Queen Margot is forced to marry the Protestant Henri de Navarre to end the religious war. Despising her husband, she takes a secret lover. Their liaison proves much more significant than either could have ever imagined. This excellent film boasts strong performances in every role, sumptuous decor, and surprisingly erotic love scenes.

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November 11 (Sunday) 7 pm

Life on Earth (La Vie Sur Terre)

Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako
Mali/France 1998, color, 35mm, 61 min.
French with English subtitles
With Sissako, Nana Baby, Mohamed Sissako

Life on Earth is a gorgeously conceived cinema-poem contemplating life at the end of the century in the first and third worlds—by a filmmaker with a foot planted in each. Sissako begins his autobiographical rumination in flashy Paris stores, then segues to Sokolo, a small village in Mali, where he rides about on a bicycle talking to various citizens and flirting with a local woman who might be the most beautiful and enchanting on all the earth. Cameraman Jacques Besse is a master of color and of observation: animals stroll across the frame, the men of the town sit for hours each day in the sun, the local radio show discusses issues of Negritude, and everything passes slowly. . . as the clock ticks toward New Year 2000.

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November 7 (Sunday) 8:30 pm

The Horseman on the Roof (Le Hussard Sur Le Toit)

Directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau
France 1995, color, 35mm, 135min.
French with English subtitles
With Olivier Martinez, Juliette Binoche, Gerard Depardieu

Angelo, a young 19th-century Italian revolutionary, flees from assassins through cholera-ridden southern France. He makes his way to Manosque to look for comrades but instead winds up accused by the townspeople of spreading the epidemic. Angelo escapes to the rooftops of the town, meeting Pauline (Juliette Binoche) on his way down, and the pair continue their dangerous voyage back to Italy. Exquisite Provence locations help boost this adventure saga, based on Jean Giono’s 1951 novel—a literary classic in France.

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