StudioCanal has one of the largest film libraries in the world. Situated in France, this production and distribution company’s catalogue offers a long list of critically acclaimed international features and box office hits. This year Memory! has the pleasure of offering a sample of such titles, a selection of signature works drawn from a variety of genres. The Third Man, Carol Reed’s 1949 film noir masterpiece starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli and Orson Welles, is among the first thrillers to reflect the early anxieties of the Cold War. In a similar vein, Eclipse (dir. Michelangelo Antonioni, 1962) measures its protagonists against the immensity of emotional, material, nuclear) catastrophe and, along with The Man Who Fell to Earth (dir. Nicolas Roeg, 1976, starring the late, great David Bowie) explores the changing attitudes of Western-European and North American audiences towards finance, technology, and society throughout the 60s and 70s. René Clément’s Purple Noon (Plein soleil, 1960) is a character study of class anxieties characteristic of the post-war years, based on Patricia Highsmith’s highly praised thriller “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” in which envy and ambition become the forces animating the modern world.
Two of the most compelling films ever made on the subject of war and its consequences on those who wage it are Apocalypse Now (dir. Francis Ford Coppola, 1979) and Ran (dir. Akira Kurosawa, 1985). These films peer into the darkness whence epic conflicts arise, only to suggest that, time and again, humankind’s greatest tragedy is its conditioning to accept suffering as a permanent fact and peace as but a fleeting illusion. At the other end of the thematic spectrum, Powell and Pressburger’s 1951 The Tales of Hoffmann is a musical extravaganza celebrating the delights of 19th century European cultural fluff, while Don’t Look Now, We’re Being Shot At! (La Grande vadrouille, dir. Gérard Oury, 1966) is one of the highest grossing and most popular French comedies ever made.
Completing the program are two versions of dystopic futures made 25 years apart. Reflecting the social and political unease of their respective historical contexts, these films continue to hold significance for today’s audiences, pointing to issues that are, and perhaps will continue to be, unresolved. Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville (1965) once again takes up the themes of technology’s mundane and unconcerned administration of bodies, while Total Recall (dir. Paul Verhoeven, 1990), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger at the peak of his form, explores the sordid connection between government and the mass media. The undercover protagonist and the corporate villain are archetypes common to both films, where the ideological work of resistance and the propaganda aims of oppression are both mediatized as Spectacle for a somnambulant public.