Each year, the Doris Duke Theatre at Honolulu Museum of Art presents European cinema past and present. This year, the month kicks off with two weeks of French cinema. Spanning old and new, classic and quirky, introspective and animated, the lineup has something for everyone (as long as you don’t mind reading subtitles). Below we highlight five movies a la Français.
Complementing the museum’s collection, this 2016 film tells the story of the long and turbulent friendship of two 19th-century French impressionist painters, Paul Cézanne and Émile Zola, and includes cameos by Manet, Renoir, and Pissaro. (I, Claude Monet is another film in the festival that tells the tale of a famous impressionist who has a work featured in the museum. It is based on more than 2,500 letters. A still from the film is pictured at the top of this story.)
These films were created nearly half a century apart but feature the same actor, Jean-Pierre Léaud. In 400 Blows, a French New Wave classic filmed in 1959, he plays a mesmerizing, miserable boy. In The Death of Louis XIV, filmed in 2016, he plays the dying Sun King. Says Lesa Griffith, the museum’s director of communications, “It is amazing to see them back to back, and watch an actor go from a troubled 13-year-old Parisian boy to a 72-year-old monarch in his waning days.”
Though it was created in 1973, this Cannes-awarded animated film set on a distant planet called Ygam (where enslaved humans are the playthings of giant blue native inhabitants) has not been rendered irrelevant or amateurish. Instead, its psychedelic score, cutout animation, and trippy sci-fi aesthetic are just as striking—and strange—today. Its sociopolitical commentary and imaginative future got it looped into public programming for the upcoming installation at the Honolulu Museum of Art School, Contact 3017, for which artists imagined Hawaiʻi a thousand years from now.
A quirky comedy about black parents adopting a white son, this film touches on timely topics around the world—race, identity, microagressions, migration, culture—while keeping it light. The director, Lucien Jean-Baptiste, even plays the father.