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Grand Illusions: French Cinema Classics, 1928–1960

Sunday, October 28, 2012
5:00 p.m. Le ciel est à vous
Jean Grémillon (France, 1944)

(The Sky Is Yours, a.k.a. The Woman Who Dared). Based on a 1937 news event, and released just before the Normandy invasion, Le ciel est à vous recalled for wartime France the potential for the average person to (a) have aspirations, and (b) realize them. And, in so doing, to achieve a kind of simple dignity, the reverberations of which were felt as highly political. It tells of a provincial couple (Charles Vanel and Madeleine Renaud) who are devoted to a joint goal: for the wife to break the world solo flying record for women. The regular existence of petit bourgeois individuals who take pride in their work is beautifully and realistically evoked in what is considered by many to be Jean Grémillon’s masterpiece. After its release, however, although clandestine press and audiences alike saw its hidden meaning and import, it became lost in the trauma that the film industry was undergoing along with the rest of the country in the spring of 1944.

• Written by Albert Valentin, Charles Spaak. Photographed by Louis Page. With Madeleine Renaud, Charles Vanel, Jean Debucourt, Raymonde Vernay. (105 mins, In French with English subtitles, B&W, 16mm, From Institut Français, permission Janus Films/Criterion Collection)