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Grand Illusions: French Cinema Classics, 1928–1960

Sunday, December 9, 2012
3:00 p.m. Les orgueilleux
Yves Allégret (France/Mexico, 1953)

Les orgueilleux translates as “the proud ones,” an ironic setup for a film that practically revels in life’s humiliations, from the trivial to the metaphysical. Stranded in a Mexican seaside town, tourist Michèle Morgan endures a series of trials, beginning with her husband’s grisly death from meningitis, that gradually bring her closer to alcoholic expat Gérard Philipe. There are echoes of Buñuel in Allégret’s vivid yet tongue-in-cheek rendering of squalor; some of the film’s images—notably, a sequence in which Morgan’s naked back is punctured by a giant hypodermic needle—are startling even now. Morgan gives one of her most memorable performances as a person passing through existential absurdity toward a sort of redemption.

—Juliet Clark

• Written by Allégret, Jean Aurenche, Jean Clouzot, based on a story by Jean-Paul Sartre. Photographed by Alex Phillips. With Michèle Morgan, Gérard Philipe, Carlos López Moctezuma, Michèle Cordoue. (103 mins, In French with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, From the collection of George Eastman House)