MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: 2014 COLCOA Film Festival — Truffaut, Lelouch




Francois Truffaut


Here’s the bill of fare. The COLCOA Film Festival, a fixture in Los Angeles for 18 years, shows new and classic French films in two  American movie theaters at the Directors’ Guild complex: plush theaters named for legendary French filmmakers, François Truffaut and Jean Renoir. They mean a lot to me — the filmmakers, the films, and especially those two directors (or cineastes), Renoir and Truffaut.

Here’s the backstory. The City of Light, City of Angels Film Festival — or COLCOA for short — was born 18 years ago: progeny of a cinematic marriage between Paris (The City of Lights) and Los Angeles (The City of Angels), and of orgnizations like the DGA, The Writers‘ Guild West, The MPAA, the French Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers, Unifrance and the French Embassy of Los Angeles. The idea: To show new (and classic old) French films, in a city and venue (The Directors’ Guild of American complex on 7920 Sunset Blvd.), more often devoted to the prime fruits of Hollywood and American cinema. The two DGA theaters in which the movies are shown — the Truffaut and the Renoir — are symbols of that marriage, that cross-pollination, And this year’s COLCOA Fest offers another prime schedule of French motion pictures

Now: une memoire.

For me, one of the great dates in my movie going life came in 1956 in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, when I saw, for the first time, a French movie in an American movie house. It was the masterly heist thriller and film noir Rififi, starring the gloomy-mugged Jean Servais, and directed by the blacklisted American expatriate Jules Dassin, with the tale of robbery, betrayal and murder  transpiring in a Paris that was gray and drizzly and seething with menace,  full of Frenchmen with somber faces  dressed in raincoats and fedoras, with guns in their pockets.

But perhaps I shouldn’t count that picture. It was dubbed. My first French film with French-speaking actors was — what was it? — Breathless, I believe (or, to be French about it, A Bout de Souffle). I saw it in my first semester of college (The University of Wisconsin), a time when I also saw  Grand Illusion and Judex and Jules and Jim. And they affected me strongly, because I had grown up in a little Wisconsin village, Williams Bay, where they didn’t show French films with film actors, where I could only read about them from afar, in magazines like Esquire or Time, a village where, the only theater was an outdoor drive-in in a huge field on the outskirts of town, that occasionally showed the kind of movies (by Hitchcock, Hawks, Ford and Wilder) that, I later discovered, were beloved by some of the more notable French cineastes of the ‘50s — such as Jean-Luc Godard, who wrote and directed Breathless, and Francois Truffaut, who wrote and directed Jules and Jim.

It was paradise to me to see those movies in the UW Memorial Union Play Circle (now the Fredric March Play Circle, renamed after a notable UW cinematic alum. And it would have been better than paradise to see something like the COLCOA festival, which, over the past two decades, has shown, in los Angeles, 298 French-speaking features, 179 French-speaking shorts, and served  lots of champagne and chardonnay  and French finger food (or hors d’ourves, to be French about it),  and brought plenty of French-speaking film-makers and critics and historians to talk about them — in English.

This year’s COLCOA festival opens on Monday, April 21, with We Love You, You Bastard, (Or Salaud, on t’aime, to be French about it) the latest film by Claude Lelouch, a French write-director (or auteur) who was active in the ‘60s along with Truffaut and Godard and their New Wave friends — when Lelouch won the Palme d’Or of the Cannes Film Festival with his 1966 A Man and a Woman (or Une Homme et un Femme: to be…), and conquered the movie art-houses of America and London and Berlin and elsewhere, and has been active ever since. This new Lelouch movie stars two venerable Frnehc rock stars Johnny Hallyday and Eddy Mitchell, in a story about sowing wild oats and dealing with the results — four daughters from four different mothers and a girlfriend, played by Sandrine Bonnaire, Irene Jacob and others.

What else is showing at the Renoir and  the Truffaut? Well, 1960s’ Purple Noon, one of the great film noirs, starring Alain Delon and Maurice Ronet,  directed by Rene Clement, based on a novel by the American expatriate genius crime writer Patricia Highsmith, and dazzlingly shot in Italian pleasure ports by Henri Decae —  will screen at 1: 45 p.m., on Tuesday, April 22. Later that day, Daniel Auteuil, who owes his early (French) acting stardom to his role in producer-director Claude Berri’s hugely popular films of the great French auteur Marcel Pagnol’s novels Jean de Florette and Manon of the Sources, and who later wrote, directed and starred in a new film of Pagnol’s The Well-Digger’s Daughter, is here with more of Pagnol: two thirds of  Auteuil’s remake of the “Marcel Pagnol Trilogy” of the ’30s, Marius and Fanny (Cesar is the third) — with Auteuil playing Cesar, the role originated (wonderfully) by Raimu.

On Wednesday, April 23, you can watch a restored print of the 1984 Cannes Festival hit, The Favorites of the Moon, by the Georgian émigré cineaste Otar Iosseliani, starring the very young Mathieu Amalric in a sprightly little jeu d’esprit (to be French about it) about treasures passing from hand to hand. It may remind you a bit of the current Wes Anderson indie hit The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Thursday brings two films by Cedric Klapisch, who, back in 2002, for his film L’Auberge Espagnol, assembled a very talented, very sexy young French cast, including Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou and Cecile de France, for a sexy and very amusing comedy about a young student (Duris) living it up in Spain, having sex and (to be French about it), laughing about it as well. L’auberge screens at 1:30 p.m. Two years later, Klapisch reunited Duris and the others for a sequel, Russian Dolls, which is not showing at COLCOA this year. But the latest episode of the threesome, Chinese Puzzle will screen at 8:30 p.m., and Klapisch will talk with us  at 4 p.m.

Friday, the brilliant, massively influential but too mortal (and gone too soon) French auteur Truffaut (see above) will be remembered at a 1:30 p.m. screening of his very personal 1977 tale of a femme-chaser The Man Who Loved Women, starring Charles Denner as the Man, and Brigitte Fossey, Nathalie Baye and the supremely piquant Leslie Caron as some of the Women, followed by a talk on Truffaut.

At 8:30 p.m.,  that brilliant but elusive Polish-American -French cineaste on the lam, Roman Polanski, an artist well-loved by the French (and others), will be represented by his latest film Venus in Fur, based on the masochistic novel by Leopold Sacher-Masoch and David Ives’ play from it, and starring Polanski‘s muse-mate Emmanuelle  Seigner, as an extroverted actress who shows up after hours to read for a part in the play “Venus in Fur.” Two brand new film noirs, Eric Barbier’s heist thriller The Last Diamond, and the Larriere Brothers (Arnaud’s  and  Jean Marie‘s ) crime drama Perfect Crime, costarring Mathieu Amalric, will screen at 7:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.

Now comes Saturday, and, at 11 a.m.,  the one French film of this year‘s glittering COLCOA menu that  you absolutely don’t want to miss: that 1946 treasure of a  Jean Cocteau-written and directed  fairytale (from Mme. la Prince) Beauty and the  Beast,  starring Josette Day as Belle and Jean Marais as Bete, photographed (lustrously) by Henri Alekan, scored (hauntingly) by Georges Auric) and technically advised by no less  splendid a collaborator than Purple Noon’s director Rene Clement, whom we suspect, had more to do with the film‘s impeccable, fantastic technique than just advice. Beauty and the Beast is a true French film classic, a major addition to French culture by a major (and confoundingly versatile) French artiste, writer-painter-poet-playwright-director Cocteau, and if you refuse to see it, in this newly restored print, you’re  being, well, you’re being too American about it. (The Disney feature cartoon Beauty and the Beast, by the way, was obviously inspired by Cocteau’s film.)

If fairytales aren’t your tray of gateaux and mousse, however, there’s always, at 7:45 p.m., a brutally real  alternative:  Abuse of Weakness, a fierce semiautobiographical  drama by auteur Catherine Breillat, who spins us  une histoire inspired by her own life (with the Breillat surrogate played by the nonpareil Isabelle Huppert) and her own fleecing by a famous conman, Christophe Rocancourt (Kool Shen) with merciless candor. We Love You, You Bastard, also reappears at 1:15 p.m.

Sunday brings us the closing session of the competition (at 4:45 p.m.), Quantum Love, written and directed by Lisa Azuelos, and starring Sophie Marceau and the inevitable Mathieu Amalric in a romance with stingers. But there are two more major French classics on Monday, April 28. At 2 p.m., you can see the finest work of the great director of stage, screen and opera (and other dark places) Patrice Chereau: his sumptuous Claude Berri-produced adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ breathless historical novel, Queen Margot  (or, to be French about it, La Reine Margot), starring Isabelle Adjani and notre vieux ami Daniel Auteuil,  And there’s another film noir, a black-and-white ‘40s classic this time, Henri-Georges Clouzot’s dark, dark The Murderer Lives at No. 21, starring that supreme French screen actor Pierre Fresnay (of Grand Illusion) as the relentless detective Wens and Suzy Delair as his aspiring actress sidekick Mila — in both a true noir and a un vrai film maudit. (To be…)

Well, more is gone than Truffaut. We  can’t repeat the joys and joyous discoveries of our youth. Sadly, I’ll probably never again experience the pure cool piercing thrill of that first screening of Breathless — or of The Rules of the Game (La Regle du Jeu), The Earrings of Madame de…PickpocketClaire‘s Knee, La Salaire de Peur, Mon Oncle, Lola Montes, Lola, or all the rest. But we can, at this marvelous festival,  renew the treasures of the past, and pass on the delights of  film history, and maybe experience some new ones, and sip a little vin blanc, munch a little fromage and remember Jean-Luc, Francois, Claude, Eric, Jacques and Andre, and how much we all loved, and love, the cinema — to be French about it.

Claude Lelouch

The COLCOA screenings are at The Directors’ Guild theater Complex at 7920 Sunset Blvd. For further information on the COLCOA Festival, and a complete schedule. link to





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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon