In these pages our norm is to give visitors reasons to escape urban life and immerse in nature, join conservation initiatives, support communities at home and in faraway places alike. When we need a brief getaway from all that, we occasionally do it in reverse. In places where we can be reminded of mankind’s occasional flashes of genius. One of my favorite critics has me thinking about being in a big, dark room in New York City in the coming days:
This is how you should attend the forthcoming retrospective of Jean-Pierre Melville movies at Film Forum: Tell nobody what you are doing. Even your loved ones—especially your loved ones—must be kept in the dark. If it comes to a choice between smoking and talking, smoke. Dress well but without ostentation. Wear a raincoat, buttoned and belted, regardless of whether there is rain. Any revolver should be kept, until you need it, in the pocket of the coat. Finally, before you leave home, put your hat on. If you don’t have a hat, you can’t go.
Melville was born almost a hundred years ago, on October 20, 1917. The centennial jamboree starts on April 28th and ends on May 11th, followed by a weeklong run of “Léon Morin, Priest” (1961), starring Jean-Paul Belmondo in the title role. (Thanks to Godard’s “Breathless,” released the year before, Belmondo was at the time the coolest Frenchman alive, so what did Melville do? Put him in a dog collar and a black soutane.) In all, the festival, which after New York will travel to other cities, comprises twelve features and one short. Only a single work is missing, a rarity entitled “Magnet of Doom” (1963). Continue reading