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Bruce Goldstein from Film Forum talks about the series "Les Durs" running July 17 - August 2

Bruce Goldstein, Director of Repertory Programming at Film Forum, talks about the series "Les Durs" featuring Jean Gabin, Lino Ventura and Jean-Paul Belmondo and about the characters and representation of a certain type of man they embody.


French Culture: You decided to have a series about three French Actors: Lino Ventura, Jean Paul Belmondo and Jean Gabin. Can you tell us a bit more about the three actors and why you decided to bring them together?  

Bruce Goldstein: I’ve always thought these three shared almost identical personas - though they’re each of a different generation.  I think of Gabin as the grandfather, Ventura (a former wrestler, who was actually discovered by Gabin and made his debut in Gabin’s Touchez pas au Grisbi) the father, and Belmondo (who made one of his earliest appearances in Ventura’s Classe tous risques) as the son.  They even look alike, each with a slightly smashed-nose, and they’re equally pugnacious, often itching for a fight.  But Gabin was the original archetype of this kind of tough guy - in movies dating back to the early 1930s - and he became internationally famous in films like Pépé Le Moko and Grand Illusion.  Ventura and Belmondo definitely followed in his footsteps - they were probably seen at one time as “the new Gabin” - and it’s no coincidence that producers often liked to team combinations of the three together.


FC: What do you think those three figures represent for the American audience?

BG: Cool. 

FC: Why have you decided to tackle the subject of the French male persona by the tough side?

BG: Because not-tough French guys are uninteresting.  Seriously, these three actors span three or four decades (and more, since Belmondo is still acting) of the French cinema’s greatest era, from the “poetic realism” of the 1930s to the New Wave of the 60s.  I love in particular how all three divided their careers between “art films” and more commercial movies.  Gabin made movies for Renoir and Carné at the same time he was France’s top box office attraction, while Belmondo was a star of the New Wave at the very same time he was France’s #1 action star.  

And they appeared in what is undoubtedly the French cinema’s richest vein of Film Noir, by directors like Melville, Verneuil, Duvivier, Sautet, de Broca, and Becker. 

FC: Do you think those films have played a part in the construction of the masculine identity for the young audiences of the times the films were released?

BG: I would think so. Hollywood even picked up on the Gabin persona with some homegrown imitations. 

Any film series, though, must feature great films and, again, the combined body of work of these three actors represents a wonderful era:   from La Bandera, Pépe Le Moko, Le Jour Se Léve, and Port of Shadows to Breathless, Mississippi Mermaid, Pierrot Le Fou,  and Army of Shadows.


> "Les Durs" Films series at Film Forum, July 17 - August 2