Retrospective of French master of film noir coming to Seoul

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Retrospective of French master of film noir coming to Seoul

Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs,” John Woo’s “The Killer” and Steven Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s Eleven” share two things in common. First, they’re stylish films noirs that were popular as well as critically acclaimed. The other is that they were all conceived under the influence of French director Jean-Pierre Melville.
A self-described Melville enthusiast, Tarantino confessed to the influence from Melville’s 1967 film “The Samurai” on his 1992 work, “Reservoir Dogs.” The same 1967 film also played a fatherly role to Woo’s “The Killer,” and the Hong Kong director is paying a tribute to the French director again by remaking 1972’s “The Red Circle,” scheduled for release in 2006.
Seoul Art Cinema is offering a chance to get to know the world of Melville. Starting tomorrow and running through Dec. 30, this arthouse theater near Insa-dong, central Seoul, is offering a retrospective of 10 films by Melville. Except for “Dirty Money” (1972), all presented films, spanning the director’s whole career, are accompanied by English subtitles.
Born Jean-Pierre Grumbach in 1917 in Paris, the director took his nom de guerre during World War II as a fighter in the Resistance army, after the American author he respected, Herman Melville, who wrote “Moby-Dick.” Debuting in 1947, Melville made 13 stylish as well as melancholic films noirs until he died in 1973. None of them, by the way, were related to the tale of devastating conflict between a white whale and a man.
His output may not have been prolific, yet his productions yielded a crucial influence on the next generations of directors, organizers say. Melville especially played a key role in the formation of La Nouvelle Vogue, or the French New Wave, and was later dubbed “the director’s director.” Jean-Luc Godard, who spearheaded the Nouvelle Vogue movement, paid his homage to Melville by having the senior director appear in his own debut film in 1960, “Breathless.”
This retrospective begins with Melville’s feature film debut, “The Silence of the Sea” (1947) and includes what’s known as the Alain Delon trilogy, “The Samurai” (1969), “The Red Circle” (1970) and “Dirty Money” (1972), in which Melville used the star French actor as the persona for his stylish films noirs. Must-see screenings recommended by the organizers include the now legendary “The Strange Ones” (1950), which presents a relationship that verges on the incestuous, and “Leon Morin, Priest” (1961), which tells the exquisite tale of a relationship between a priest and an atheist widow.
The Seoul Art Cinema is also offering a special screening of nine films ― including works by self-defined Melville followers ― such as “Les Diaboliques” by Henri-Georges Clouzot, “Branded to Kill” by Seijun Suzuki and “Assassin” by Lee Man-hee. Among the nine films are other notable French films noirs, like “Who Killed Santa Claus?” (1941), a timely showing indeed. All these films have English subtitles, except for “Branded to Kill” and “Assassin.” Korean directors, such as Kim Ji-woon of “A Tale of Two Sisters,” will appear on Sunday to give an introductory speech on the world of Melville’s films; the theater’s programmer, Kim Seong-uk, will speak on Saturday.

by Chun Su-jin

Each screening costs 6,000 won ($5). Seoul Art Cinema is near Anguk station, subway line No. 3. Take exit 1 and walk in the direction of Jeongdok Library. Call (02) 720-9782 or visit
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