Criminally Cool: The Films of Jean-Pierre Melville

featuring new digital restorations and a 35mm film print of ‘Le Samourai’

In celebration of Jean-Pierre Melville’s centennial, Cornell Cinema is thrilled to present six films from his body of work, which is synonymous with the birth of cool. Considered the Father of the French New Wave and one of the most distinctive voices of postwar French cinema, Melville was a cinephile, and so loved American films and style, he chose Melville as his nom de guerre after the American author. He in turn had a tremendous influence on other filmmakers, including French filmmakers of the 60s and contemporary American filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch, who paid homage to Melville’s Le Samourai with his Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samourai, and PT Anderson, who cites Bob le Flambeur (Bob the Gambler) as one of his favorites.

French director Bertrand Tavernier, who worked as an assistant to Melville, observed that he approached filmmaking like a jazz musician, reinterpreting and experimenting with the standards – the classic templates of film noir and the codes and conventions of cinematic gangsters. In Tavernier’s brilliant new documentary My Journey Through French Cinema (showing Oct 1 & 3), he highlights Melville’s films, including Léon Morin, Priest and Army of Shadows, which fall into a different category: films set during the French Occupation, products of Melville’s own wartime experiences, including his involvement with the Resistance. 

All of the films are being shown in recent digital restorations, with the exception of Le Samourai, which will be screened in a 35mm film print. Print courtesy of the Institut Français. Special thanks to the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.

The series will be introduced on August 24 by CU professor Jonathan Kirshner, who has written about Melville at brightlightsfilm.com and midcenturycinema.org. The series is cosponsored with the French Studies Program.