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May 19-31, 2006

Seven Comedies: The Films of Luc Moullet

While little-known in the US, Luc Moullet has been a key figure in French cinema for over forty years.  After getting his start at eighteen in the pages of Cahiers du Cinéma, he made his first short, Un Steack Trop Cuit, in 1960 and since then has directed thirty more films and produced important works by directors like Marguerite Duras and Jean Eustache. Despite a steadily growing filmography, the vagaries of distribution have kept these works from the exposure they deserve outside of France.  Given the quality of Moullet's films and the breadth of his influence, we feel a proper reckoning of his accomplishments is long overdue and hope the following series will constitute the first step in rectifying this situation.

This program was organized by the International House of Philadelphia and is co-presented with French Cultural Services. Program notes by Sam Dilorio and Michael Chaiken.


May 19 (Friday) 7 pm
May 28 (Sunday) 9 pm

Brigitte & Brigitte

Directed by Luc Moullet
France 1966, b/w, 71 min.
With Françoise Vatel, Colette Descombes, Claude Melki
French with English subtitles

Moullet's brilliant, sarcastic first feature stands as the finest period document of French cinephilia, and features cameos by Samuel Fuller, Claude Chabrol, André Téchiné, and Eric Rohmer. Two identically-named young students meet just after moving to Paris.  Over the course of the film they discover the city, rate its monuments, look for an apartment, eat at a restaurant, visit the country, and become involved in a wide variety of moviegoing-related shenanigans.

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May 19 (Friday) 9 pm
May 28 (Sunday) 7 pm

The Smugglers (Les Contrabandieres)

Directed by Luc Moullet
France 1967, b/w, 81 min.
With Françoise Vatel, Monique Thiriet, Johnny Monteilhet
French with English subtitles

The Smugglers is a defiantly amateurish non-adventure adventure film concerning three people off in the wilds with no skills whatsoever, made in advance of May ’68. In its terminally digressive, aggressively slapsticky way, the film manages to encapsulate an entire era. Called by Jean-Marie Straub “maybe the best film not made by Godard,” and by Moullet himself as, “the best film of Robbe-Grillet,” this movie about borders and barriers sports a cameo appearance by the director, who is listed in the credits as “pompous fool.”  

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May 26 (Friday) 7 pm
May 30 (Tuesday) 9 pm

A Girl is a Gun (Une Aventure de Billy le Kid)

Directed by Luc Moullet
France 1971, color, 100 min.
With Jean-Pierre Léaud, Rachel Kesterber, Jean Valmont
French with English subtitles

Jean-Pierre Léaud and Rachel Kesterber star in the greatest French western ever made. Never released in France but distributed in South America in an English-language version dubbed by Moullet himself, Billy’s dark tale of lust and revenge swings wildly between a slapstick insanity and a delirious experimentation that are kith and kin with Wellman's Yellow Sky, Vidor's Duel in the Sun, Godard's Week-end, and Garrel's La cicatrice interieure.  In rewriting an old saw (cinema and a girl is a gun, indeed), Moullet tackles favorite themes—time, landscape, exhaustion—with relish.

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May 26 (Friday) 9 pm
May 30 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Anatomy of a Relationship

Directed by Luc Moullet
France 1976, b/w, 82 min.
With Luc Moullet, Christine Hébert, Antonietta Pizzorno.
French with English subtitles

Co-directed with Antonietta Pizzorno, this "sex film" is a clinical exploration of a couple working through a series of problems (intimate and otherwise) which have arisen in
their relationship.  By turns funny and distressing, this is a brutally personal film that blurs the frontier separating fiction from autobiography.

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May 27 (Saturday) 7 pm
May 31 (Wednesday) 9 pm

Opening Tries (Essai D’overture)

Directed by Luc Moullet
France 1988, color, 15 min.
With Françoise Buraux, Richard Copans, Luc Moullet
French with English subtitles

This fifteen-minute film, a prime example of Moullet's short work, is a deadpan illustration of methodological persistence.  It's tempting to label it a documentary about problem solving, gender roles, and cultural relations, but it's mostly about
ways to open a bottle of Coca-Cola.  One of these requires welding goggles.

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The Comedy of Work

Directed by Luc Moullet
France 1987, color, 90 min.
With Roland Blanche, Sabine Haudepin, Henri Déus
French with English subtitles

Actually a comedy of unemployment, which is defined as possibly the worst, or maybe the best, thing that ever happened to this film's group of protagonists: a middle-aged loan
officer, his successful wife, a champion of professional joblessness (and mountain-climbing enthusiast), and the employment agency professional who falls passionately in love with him.  This film's honest work involves potatoes, ditch-diggers, a wheelbarrow, doomed love, jam in bed, and gunfire involving dueling employment agencies.

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May 27 (Saturday) 9 pm
May 31 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Shipwrecked on Route D 17

Directed by Luc Moullet
France 2002, color, 81 min.,
With Patrick Bouchitey, Iliana Lolitch, Sabine Haudepin
French with English subtitles

Moullet's most recent film, a Gulf War comedy, is a manifesto for a new free cinema.  A race-car driver and his partner are waylaid when he accidentally drives over a sink-hole
on a mountain path.  The process of digging out puts them in contact with a couple of astrophysicians on the outs, a goat-tending shepherd with mysterious sexual power, a broken-down film crew shooting a western in the mountains, and a lost military patrol hoping to capture Saddam Hussein in the Southern Alps. 

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