Alain Delon, Charles Aznavour, Jane Fonda, Jean-Luc Godard, Joy House, Le Petit Soldat, Lola Albright, Objective 500 Million, One Does Not Bury Sunday, The Fabiani Affair, The French Had a Name for It
When Charles Aznavour died just over a year ago in October 2018, it brought the end of not just one of the world’s great singers but also an actor of considerable charisma. That quality is on full display in The Fabiani Affair (1962), a tense crime drama that is one of 15 1960s Gallic film noirs screening at The French Had a Name For It 6, Thursday, Nov. 14-Monday, Nov. 18 at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater.
Made two years after Aznavour starred as Charlie, the musician swept up in his brothers’ criminal activities, in François Truffaut’s sublime thriller Shoot the Piano Player, The Fabiani Affair once more casts the actor as a man entangled with his siblings in a violent clash. Aznavour plays Horace Fabiani, one of three Corsican brothers living in Paris and the latest generation to become enmeshed in a feud with the rival Colonna family that dates back to the old country. Horace is reluctant to join in; he has a family and among the opposing set of brothers the Fabianis will battle is their sister’s husband Noel (Raymond Pellegrin). But with the Fabianis’ father (Nerio Bernardi) spoiling for war, Horace really has no choice.
The directing debut of actor André Versini, The Fabiani Affair builds suspense over a long night in Paris as the two sets of brothers alternately hunt for one another. None of them really seem to have their hearts into the fight, but their clash is a matter of family honor and destiny, so they drive on. Versini displays a gift for setting atmosphere with Marcel Grignon’s striking cinematography and Paul Mauriat’s evocative jazz score. Aznavour further amps the tension through his performance as a man increasingly giving himself over to the despair of an untenable situation in a film that is as downbeat as it is suspenseful.
Among other highlight of The French Had a Name for it 6:
Joy House (1964): One of the biggest, sexiest French stars of the 1960s, Alain Delon (Purple Noon, Le Samouraï) stars alongside Americans Lola Albright and Jane Fonda in René Clement’s sly thriller. On the run from gangsters who mean him harm, Delon’s Marc thinks he has found the perfect hideout and a sweet situation when he signs on as chauffer to rich widow Barbara (Albright) and her pretty young cousin Melinda (Fonda). Perhaps Melinda’s obsessive attentions and Barbara’s one-sided dialogue with her dead husband should clue Marc into the idea that his refuge isn’t the oasis from danger it seems. But beauty doesn’t always equate with brains, and certainly not in this delicious little drama.
Le Petit Soldat (1963): Originally shot in 1960 as Jean-Luc Godard’s follow-up to his immortal Breathless, this war drama was banned by French authorities for three years. The director’s sin? Depicting torture and other war crimes in context of the then raging Algerian War. Michel Subor is a photographer in Geneva, Switzerland, who comes to grief at his other job working against the Algerians. Godard’s future wife Anna Karina is the model the photographer falls for in a film as stylistically dazzling as the director’s storied feature debut.
One Does Not Bury Sunday (1960): An interracial romantic triangle is at the heart of this downbeat noir in which Gabonese writer Philippe Valence (Philippe Mory) becomes involved with both an au pair (Margaretha Lundal) and a rich married woman (Hella Petri). Sex and murder interrupt an artist’s brilliant future in a drama that grows ever bleaker as the police (and the walls) close in on Philippe.
Objective 500 Million (1966): Pierre Schoendoerffer’s nifty thriller stars Bruno Cremer as Jean, a disgraced former air force captain sucked into a caper that involves both a beautiful femme fatale (Marisa Mell) and the man (Jean-Claude Rolland) responsible for his disgrace and imprisonment during the Algerian War. His share in the heist of millions could go along way toward fixing what’s wrong with Jean’s life but the possibility of revenge motivates him more in a tense crime drama with an arresting climax that alternates between the Paris-to-Bordeaux flight that is ferrying the cash and confederates on the ground awaiting a big payoff. –Pam Grady
The French Had a Name For It 6, Nov. 14-18, Roxie Theater, 3117 16th Street, San Francisco, $12-$14. http://midcenturyproductions.com