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Grand Illusions: French Cinema Classics, 1928–1960

Sunday, November 25, 2012
4:50 p.m. Such a Pretty Little Beach
Yves Allégret (France, 1949)

Imported 35mm Print!

(Une si jolie petite plage). Set within the confines of an off-season inn and a nearby beach, cut off from the world by rain and cold, Such a Pretty Little Beach is a masterwork in the best film noir tradition: it grips by the sheer cohesion of its construction. Gérard Philipe evokes a remarkable tension between suspicion and sympathy as a melancholy young man who becomes a curiosity to the inn’s residents and regular guests (characters who are curious enough in themselves). The narrative takes place in several time zones while never leaving the “present”; sans flashbacks or monologues, the story unfolds of the young man’s childhood as a public assistance ward at this very inn; of his mysterious involvement with a famous actress; and slowly, of the psychological implications of his return to the site of his youth. The Yves Allégret noirs recall the mood of poetic fatalism of the late thirties, but Allégret avoids all arty flourishes and eccentricities in pitilessly revealing the dark side of human behavior. Many critics consider this rarely shown film to be his best.

• Written by Jacques Sigurd. Photographed by Henri Alékan. With Gérard Philipe, Madeleine Robinson, Jean Servais, Jane Marken. (97 mins, In French with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From Institut Français, permission Pathé)