Columbia University brings Film Noir to Paris

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This July, Columbia University brings film noir to life in Paris with an enticing film series hosted by professor Richard Peña that puts the spotlight on a genre that built creative pathways between France and the United States.

Film in France isn’t all about La Vie en Rose: with July comes a unique opportunity to learn more about film noir at Reid Hall, Columbia’s Global Center for Europe. From July 4th to 27th, screenings will be held for series of eight films belonging to the film noir genre, followed by conversations with French and American film experts. Reid Hall, a Columbia outpost for the past fifty years, is home to yearly programming including film, lectures, and concerts that are open to the public.

Richard Peña, former Director of the New York Film Festival and Professor of Film Studies at Columbia, hosts this summer’s film series, infusing a unique French-American tone to his introduction to film noir.

Novices may not be familiar with the genre, which Peña describes as a category born through critical commentary contrary to self-described genres such as westerns or musicals. “It’s a French term the French were applying to a group of American films, that influenced in return a number of French films… there’s a real transatlantic quality to it,” he explains. Film noir is a genre that applies to both French and American films from the World War II and post-war era and, as its name implies, paints a rather dark picture. Peña describes film noir as being dependent on social context, shedding doubt on America in a period of great power for the American-made films, and bringing up France’s insecurity about its position in the world after the war for its French counterparts.

Film noir’s complexity and difficult definition is what makes it such an enriching genre, and the French-American connection makes Paris just the right spot for such a series. A selection of both French and American films will be screened over the course of three weeks, each followed by a discussion with film critics, directors, and actors.
If sightseeing or balmy late-night dinners get in the way of attending all eight screenings, two of the films are must-sees: “Double Indemnity”, on July 6th, is what Peña refers to as a “watershed work” in American film noir. On the French side, the classic 1954 film “Touchez Pas au Grisbi” is a work that showcases the extent of American influence on French film noir.

Le Film Noir: A Transatlantic Genre will take you back in time, with the opportunity not only to delve deeper into the history of film, but also into the complex societal history of France, the United States, and their artistic influences on each other.

Full program is available on the Columbia Global Centers website:


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