To purchase tickets in advance, go to www.High.org, visit the Woodruff Arts Center Box Office or call (404) 733-5000. Tickets for all shows are $7 general admission and $6 for students, seniors and Museum members. Patron-level members enter free. Tickets may also be purchased at the door on the night of the screening.
“Devotees of French film admire its sophistication, stylishness and the complexity of character that typifies the nation’s cinema. And this year’s ‘French Film Yesterday and Today’ has those qualities in spades,” says Linda Dubler, curator of media arts for the High Museum of Art. “Few thrillers are as stylish as ‘Diabolique’; the subtle, multi-dimensional characters in ‘Summer Hours’ and ‘Angel of Mine’ make for engrossing, poignant and suspenseful viewing; and Agnès Varda is a sophisticated visionary whose dramatic and documentary films have broken ground for generations of female artists.”
The festival begins Feb. 6, with Henri-Georges Clouzot’s “Diabolique,” the suspense film credited with having a strong influence on the thriller genre, often noted as one of the greatest films of the 1950s. Set in a French boarding school, “Diabolique” follows Christina, the frail wife of a tyrannical headmaster, and his mistress Nicole as they are driven to commit murder. It seems that their plot is successful until the headmaster’s body goes missing and his spirit begins to haunt the two women.
On Saturday, Feb. 13, the series continues with “Summer Hours” from director Olivier Assayas, which centers on three siblings. Jérémie (Jérémie Renier) works for an international company in China, Adrienne (Juliette Binoche) is a designer based in New York, and Frédéric (Charles Berling) is an economist and academic who remained in France. The three have gathered with their children to celebrate their self-possessed and still vigorous mother’s 75th birthday. On this festive occasion, she chooses to announce that the house and its contents must be disposed of after her death. Jérémie and Adrienne readily agree, but Frédéric resists, holding tightly to his roots and to all the family history contained within the house. New York Times critic A. O. Scott notes one of the central themes of this 2008 family drama as being “the way that inanimate things accrue value, sentimental and otherwise—the curious alchemy that transforms certain objects into art.”
Safy Nebbou’s “Angel of Mine” weighs the price of maternal love on Saturday, Feb. 20. Reviewed by Jennie Kermode as being “a character-based thriller in the manner of Hitchcock classics ‘Marnie’ and ‘Vertigo,’” and “a fine example of two great actresses getting to show what they’re made of,” the film centers on Elsa (Catherine Frot), a distraught mother struggling to accept the death of her infant daughter. On the brink of losing custody of her son in her divorce, she encounters Lola, the younger sister of her son’s friend, and immediately becomes convinced that Lola is, in fact, her daughter. Elsa is soon following Lola’s mother Claire (Sandrine Bonnaire) and inventing reasons to get inside their house. Is Elsa deluded, or simply attuned to her most primal instincts?
The series closes on Saturday, Feb. 27, with Agnès Varda’s “The Beaches of Agnès.” The writer and director’s most recent work is an autobiographical documentary about memory, love, friendship and art-making. Varda juxtaposes visits to her childhood home in Belgium and the Parisian courtyard that housed her first film studio with clips from many of her films, including “Cleo From 5 to 7” and “Vagabond.” Friends and lovers make their appearances, some disguised—filmmaker Chris Marker is represented by his trademark cartoon cat—and some revealed, as is her husband and greatest love, Jacques Demy, the director most famous for “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.” Her continual fascination is evidence of Agnès’s gift for finding the language of love in the humblest places, and the gift of beauty wherever she turns her antic vision.