French Film Fridays @LACMA

On fridays this month LACMA are doing french film fridays: a double feature for a mere $10. A couple of friend’s and I went to see Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast and Marcel L’Herbier’s La Nuit Fantastique. Both were beautifully surreal pieces of French cinema.

Here’s the spec for Beauty and the Beast:

In Jean Cocteau’s exquisite adaptation of the eighteenth-century fairy tale La Belle et la Bête, Jean Marais stars as the prince transformed into a dignified but feral Beast who suffers rejection until he meets pure, self-sacrificing Beauty (Josette Day). Set during the Dutch Renaissance and lit like a Vermeer painting, Cocteau’s follow-up to the seminal Blood of a Poet is a landmark of motion picture magic: when Beauty weeps, her tears become diamonds; real arms emerge from the wall of the Beast’s castle to light Beauty’s way, and marble busts gaze with human eyes while exhaling white smoke. “When it comes to ‘fairy-tale movies’ there is Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast and then there is everything else. It is a safe bet that no one who surrenders to it at an impressionable age ever quite escapes the distinct and disturbing enchantments it sets in motion.”—Geoffrey O’Brien

There were several parts of this film that stuck out to me being a whore for the visuals these were the hands that served Belle in place of people, the Beast’s amazing costume (very expressive and sympathetic, I fell in love with him!) and the macabre ending, Belle’s lover was struck by a sword for breaking into the house of magic turning to Beast while Beast turned into a Prince with her lover’s face. CREEPY!

La Nuit Fantastique

For La Nuit Fantastique I was a little tired… It was freezing in the cinema which left me strugging to focus. The ex New York Times writer and curator told us it had been written during World War 2 and reflected the madness. Being a flower seller’s dream it was delightfully surreal. There was a point in the dream where the lading lady questions why he doesn’t believe she is real- she has a social security number and passport (both things the NAZI’s seized from their undesirables) and her repressive guardian/fake father lapses into german in one if the initial dinner sequences. Very intersting, here’s the website description:

Denis is a student working nights in the teeming and cavernous Les Halles marketplace. One evening when he falls asleep, a vision of a young woman in a gauzy white dress enters his mind. As he tries to pursue her through the mists and mirages of Paris after hours, he begins to lose sight of what is dream and what is reality. Featuring the first-ever screenplay by Louis Chavance (Le Corbeau), Marcel L’Herbier’s expressionistic nocturne was pure escapism for French audiences living under the Occupation while also paying tribute to the country’s legacy of cinematic magic from Méliès to Epstein to L’Herbier contemporary, Jean Cocteau. One of the most adventurous and avant-garde commercial filmmakers of the French silent era, L’Herbier is less known for his sound films though La Nuit Fantastique was a favorite of André Bazin.

The rarely shown film looked especially gorgeous, as it was shown on an imported 35mm print.

Despite having seen these films I have yet to explore the art side of the LACMA. I did wander around its exterior sculptures though. On Friday’s along with the films there are a variety of musical performances- we had Jazz- as well as pop up bars and the gallery is open till 8. So it’s well worth a summery trip.