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Grand Illusions: French Cinema Classics, 1928–1960

Friday, October 26, 2012
8:45 p.m. Lumière d’été
Jean Grémillon (France, 1943)

(Summer Light). Although it was never released in this country, for many British and French critics Lumière d’été stands alongside Children of Paradise as a masterpiece of French cinema made during the German Occupation. A remote mountain inn is the setting for a class-crossed love affair, in a melodrama that climbs to a violent climax on tensions built into Jacques Prévert’s script and echoed in Grémillon’s charged imagery. Michèle (Madeleine Robinson), a beautiful innocent engaged to a dissolute artist (Pierre Brasseur), falls in love with a young construction worker from a nearby dam project (Georges Marchal); she is in turn pursued by an aging playboy (Paul Bernard). Lumière d’été is a study of two worlds: the working class, pictured as healthy and cohesive, and the rich—idle, self-pitying, and debauched. Its critique, reminiscent of Renoir’s Rules of the Game, did not escape the notice of Vichy censors, and the film was banned for the duration.

• Written by Jacques Prévert, Pierre Laroche. Photographed by Louis Page. With Paul Bernard, Pierre Brasseur, Madeleine Robinson, Madeleine Renaud. (112 mins, In French with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From Institut Français, permission Janus Films/Criterion Collection)