In this enchanting classic—beloved by filmmakers like Agnès Varda, Elaine May, and Woody Allen and remade in Hollywood as Paris When It Sizzles (1964)—Duvivier and longtime writing partner Henri Jeanson send up the timeless clash between comedy and drama while also parodying their own screenwriting habits. Two scriptwriters argue about the fate of Henrietta, a charming and gamine shopgirl. One favors a comical path for their heroine, who is overcome with sentimental love for a young photographer on Bastille Day. The other has a more thrilling and dastardly fate in mind for her. Among the film’s irresistible conceits is Hildegarde Knef as an oversexed circus bareback rider. —BAM/PFA
Born in Lille in 1896, Julien Duvivier was a stage actor and then production assistant on André Antoine’s films before starting as a director in 1919. His prolific career – over 60 films – only ended on his death in 1967. After twenty or so silent movies inspired from many different sources, he attained international recognition in the 1930′s with movies which have become classics of “poetic realism”, notably the sound remake of Poil de carotte (1932), La Belle équipe (1936) and Pépé le Moko (1937).
After exile in Hollywood during the war, he returned to France in 1946 but failed to regain his former critical standing, despite such remarkable films as Panique (1947), Voici le temps des assassins (1956) and Pot Bouille (1957). He enjoyed international succes with The Little World of Don Camillo (1951). —Octuor de France