Beginning with the Lumieres and the origins of motion pictures more than 130 years ago, France has remained one of the world’s leading contributors to the art of cinema. From January through April, the Cinematheque will present six French feature films, all shown in new digital restorations, that cover nearly sixty years of French cinema history, from the 1930s to the 1990s. The lineup begins with a weird and fascinating psychological thriller unknown to most American audiences, Paul Vecchiali’s The Strangler. Plus, Manon, an Henri-Georges Clouzot masterpiece made before the director’s The Wages of Fear and Diabolique; Jeunet and Caro’s cult classic, Delicatessen; Godard’s futuristic mind-melter Alphaville; and Lady Killer & The Strange Mr. Victor, two late 1930s gems by the great Jean Grémillon, subject of a 2015 Cinematheque series.

  • Sat., Jan. 27 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

Perrin stars as Émile, a handsome and disturbed young man targeting women he believes are too depressed to go on living. As multiple women fall to Émile’s suffocating white scarf, a police inspector (Guiomar) resorts to dangerous and unethical methods to track down the killer with the assistance of Anna (Simonet), who believes herself to be a potential victim. Filmmaker Vecchiali’s strange, hypnotic, and wildly stylish tale of murder was mostly unknown in the U.S. until this restored version screened to rapturously enthusiastic audiences at the 2023 New York Film Festival and Fantastic Fest.

  • Sat., Feb. 3 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

This adaptation of Prévost's 1731 novel Manon Lescaut (which also inspired Puccini’s opera) is an early masterpiece for Clouzot, best known for The Wages of Fear and Diabolique. Reset during WWII and a few years after the war, the story of obsessive love follows Manon (Aubry), a village girl accused of collaborating with the Nazis who is rescued from imminent execution by a former French Resistance fighter (Auclair). The couple move to Paris, but their relationship turns stormy as they struggle to survive, resorting to profiteering, prostitution, and even murder. The stunning conclusion finds the protagonists in Palestine during the establishment of the State of Israel. Winner, Golden Lion, 1949 Venice Film Festival.

  • Sat., Mar. 16 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

In post-apocalypse France, residents of a still-standing apartment building rely on their in-house butcher to capture and carve up what is now the most abundant source of food: people. Complications ensue when their latest meal-to-be, a former clown (rubber-faced Pinon) arrives on the scene and proves himself to be perhaps too handy to eat. Directing duo Jenuet & Caro arrived on the scene with this first feature as fully-formed stylists. The remarkable blend of pitch-black comedy, eye-popping color palettes, and melancholy-infused whimsy that informs their subsequent features, City of Lost Children and Amelie, are displayed in full-force throughout this cult classic. (BR)

  • Sat., Mar. 30 | 7:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

Phony Wars, Godard’s final work, represents the legendary filmmaker’s initial attempts at adapting a 1937 novel by Charles Pilsnier. The resulting 20-minute ‘trailer’ for a film that never was is a complex collage of history, politics, and cinema constructed of paper and glue, paintings and photographs, sound and silence.

  • Sat., Mar. 30 | 7:30 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

Godard's feverish, surreal and pulpy New Wave classic follows undercover agent Lemmy Caution (American expat actor Constantine) as he attempts to resist the Orwellian regime of supercomputer Alpha 60. Shot entirely on location in Paris without the use of special effects, Godard and cinematographer Raoul Coutard use their otherworldly imaginations to create an unforgettable low-budget sci-fi noir future. Presented in a new 4K DCP restoration by Rialto Pictures, Alphaville stands as a bizarre, fantastic entry in the canon of one of cinema's greatest auteurs.

  • Sat., Apr. 20 | 6:00 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

The first collaboration between filmmaker Grémillon and legendary leading man Gabin features the young actor as a Casanova of the French Foreign Legion– “lady killer” Lucien Bourrache – who meets his match in the mysterious seductress Madeleine (Balin).“Every frame of this exquisite masterpiece is beautifully shot, brimming with movement and life…Gremillon demonstrates his unsurpassed technical skill and humanity as one of France's greatest directors” (Philip Lopate).

  • Sat., Apr. 20 | 7:45 PM
    4070 Vilas Hall

Victor (Raimu), a seemingly respected citizen and shop owner in a small provincial community, is, in fact, a murderous underworld boss. When an innocent man (Blanchar) is blamed for one of Victor’s crimes, he escapes from prison and seeks shelter with the one person he knows he can trust, the “upstanding” Monsieur Victor! Filled with humor and suffused with a glowing humanism, Grémillon’s superb film is a surprising tale without traditional heroes and villains, a movie worth comparing to the best of Jean Renoir. A new 4K restoration will be screened.