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Les Femmes Essentielles

Image: "César and Rosalie" directed by Claude Sautet

Les Femmes Essentielles is a special series of movie classics starring the most legendary actresses of French cinema. As part of this film series, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy is proud to present four feature films:

César and Rosalie by Claude Sautet
1972 – France – 110 min
June 11 | 7:00 p.m.

Viennese by birth, Romy Schneider (1938 - 1982) began acting in German films, but gained international stardom in such films as Orson Welles’ The Trial, Jacques Deray’s La Piscine, and Claude Sautet’s Les Choses de la vie. Tragically, she died of poor health at age 43. Almodóvar dedicated his film All About My Mother to Schneider’s memory.

In Sautet’s César and Rosalie, Schneider plays a recent divorcee who splits her time between family and the wealthy César (Yves Montand). When David (Sami Frey), an old flame of Rosalie’s, appears, the two men vie for her affections. 

Hiroshima Mon Amour by Alain Resnais
1959 – France – 91 min
June 25 | 7:00 p.m.

Emmanuelle Riva (1927 - 2017) epitomized a new kind of female star, more realistic and intellectual, as opposed to the "sex kitten" stereotype of Bardot. After her star-making turn in Hiroshima Mon Amour, Riva appeared opposite Jean-Paul Belmondo in Melville's Léon Morin, Priest. In 2012, Riva starred in Michael Haneke's Amour, with Jean-Louis Trintignant, a role for which Riva received a multitude of awards, including an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and César and BAFTA Awards for Best Actress.

In Alain Resnais' groundbreaking work of the New Wave, Riva portrays a French actress researching a role in post-war Hiroshima. She enters into an affair with a Japanese architect (Eiji Okada) while experiencing flashbacks of a doomed wartime tryst with a German soldier. Screenplay by Marguerite Duras (Academy Award nomination, 1959).

Entre Nous by Diane Kurys 
1983 –
France – 110 min
July 9 | 7:00 p.m.

Diane Kurys' biographical drama features two renowned actresses of contemporary French cinema. Isabelle Huppert is one of the most celebrated stars working today, with a career spanning over 45 years. Miou-Miou's best-known films include Bertrand Blier's Going PlacesJonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000, and Memoirs of a French Whore, for which she won the 1979 César Award.

In Entre Nous, a decade after escaping occupied France, housewife Lena (Huppert) becomes enamored of free spirited Madeleine (Miou-Miou) even as Madeleine is faced with her own challenges. Best Foreign Language Film nomination (Academy Awards, 1984). Best Film, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Original Screenplay nominations (César Awards, 1984).

Pierrot Le Fou by Jean-Luc Godard
1965 – France – 115 min
July 23 | 7:00 p.m.

Anna Karina left Denmark at age 18 to pursue a modeling career in Paris. She turned down a supporting role in Breathless, but accepted the lead in Godard's second feature, Le Petit Soldat. They married the following year and their cinematic collaboration continued with six more features. When not working with Godard, Karina appeared in a variety of other films, including Visconti's The Stranger, Vadim's La Ronde, and Jacques Rivette's controversial La Religieuse (now back in theatres in a new 4K restoration).

In Pierrot Le Fou, her sixth collaboration with Godard, she plays the femme fatale role to its Godardian extreme: murdering, luring, seducing, abandoning, and playing the damsel-in-distress, all contributing to the unraveling sanity of her partner on-the-run, played with effortless cool by Jean-Paul Belmondo.

Four other screenings part of this series will be presented at the AFI Silver Theatre: Contempt by Jean-Luc Godard, When You Read This letter by Jean-Pierre Melville, Diary of a Chambermaid by Luis Buñuel, and Le Sauvage by Jean-Paul Rappeneau.