LACMA's ongoing French film series on Fridays this month is offering a notable slew of double features, comparing and contrasting rarely screened classics. Coming on July 20 are blistering social critiques from cinematic auteurs Robert Bresson — The Devil, Probably (1977) — and Luis Buñuel — The Phantom of Liberty (1974).
Penultimate films from then-septuagenarian masters, both have a late-period clarity that seems effortless. Their titles allude to cryptic forces that befuddle humanity, but the films register as tragic (Bresson) and comic (Buñuel) encapsulations of modern life.
Bresson's protagonist, a 20-something named Charles (Antoine Monnier), falls into sarcasm and resignation in the face of the political turmoil and ineffective religion that surrounds him. He scours Paris for meaning, but Bresson's exacting sights (shambling youth and urban dreariness) and sounds (honking traffic and inert pontifications) weigh Charles down at every turn.
Taking a more surrealist angle, Buñuel's film mashes together absurd characters and situations: A deviant lends schoolgirls "pornographic" photos of French architecture; a dinner party occurs on a ring of toilets (the guests politely excuse themselves to eat in private). While both films fear the destruction of the environment, it's Buñuel's that wonders what we'll do with all the excrement of a rapidly growing population.
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FRENCH FILM FRIDAYS | LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd. | Fri., July 20, 7:30 p.m. | lacma.org