The 2020 Lumiere Festival includes a centennial tribute to Michel Audiard, celebrated screenwriter whose snarky dialogue helped him to bypass the derision that many of his collaborating directors suffered during the advent of the New Wave.
The full 18-film schedule for the Audiard tribute can be found at the Lumiere Festival web site: it is dominated by his work from the 50s and 60s, including five films in which he collaborated with the legendary Jean Gabin and his favorite director in the 50s/60s, Gilles Grangier.
The VARIETY author has chosen to lead with LE DESORDRE ET LA NUIT (aka THE NIGHT AFFAIR), which we've been fortunate enough to screen in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. Gabin is a cop--his new role of choice in 1958, as he also portrays Commissioner Maigret in Jean Delannoy's masterful MAIGRET TEND UN PIEGE--who has another curious May-December dalliance (as he also did in 1958 in EN CAS DE MALHEUR aka LOVE IS MY PROFESSION with Brigitte Bardot), only here his young love interest (Nadja Tiller) is a junkie whose nightclub owner boyfriend (Roger Hanin) has been killed.
DESORDRE is a solid film, but Audiard was clearly getting tired of the standard noir story, and his work here is spottier than in his Simenon adaptations for Gabin (1956's LE SANG A LA TETE and the two Delannoy MAIGRET films, the screenplays for which have just been published in France with an afterword from Bertrand Tavernier). The Lumiere Festival was savvy enough to select Audiard's more inspired adaptation of James Hadley Chase's "There's Always A Price Tag," which resulted in the icy, nasty RETOUR DE MANIVELLE (1957), with Michele Morgan, Daniel Gelin, Peter Van Eyck and a very young Michele Mercier, which we hope to put back on the big screen next year.
Another interesting aspect of the tribute is to see Audiard's transition from more standard noir/crime stories to social dramas (LES GRANDES FAMILLES and LE PRESIDENT, both with Gabin) and then onto more overtly comic films (LE SIGNE DU HIVER aka A MONKEY IN WINTER, with the fortuitous "stunt casting" of Gabin and Belmondo) and finally into comic crime thrillers, first with Gabin (LE CAVE SE REBIFFE) and later with Lino Ventura (CLOPORTES, LE TONTONS FLINGEURS, NE NOUS FACHONS PAS).
There's also a new documentary about Audiard, which we hope will eventually make its way to the USA with subtitles, as it can only help to further familiarize fans of French noir and its transitional variants with one of the movement's prime movers. Audiard did not particularly distinguish himself as a director, but he had a few moments that we hope may be included in the documentary, which is advertised as "Gaumont opening up its vaults." The "Audiard touch" continued into subsequent generations, of course--his son, Jacques, has had a long and successful career as a director; and grandson Stephane is a well-known novelist.
So lots to celebrate, and it's a shame we can't follow suit over here in 2020 to do something similar in Audiard's actual centennial year--c'est la vie...