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	Image: Danton (1982) Gérard Depardieu as Danton. Courtesy Gaumont, French Embassy & Cultures France

David to Cézanne film series: romance and revolution

A cinematic history of France through the late 18th and into the 19th centuries.

The French Revolution of 1789 was the defining event of the Romantic period. It unsettled the structure of society, all the social codes, and affected thought and feeling. It set the agenda for French culture and politics for the decades to come.

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) was the pre-eminent painter of the day and the exemplar of Neoclassicism. In the 1780s, in keeping with the cultural climate of the last years of the ancien régime, his cerebral style of history painting veered away from the frivolity of the Rococo toward a new austerity, extolling the virtues of stoicism, masculinity, self-sacrifice and patriotism. David was an unconditional supporter of the French Revolution and befriended Robespierre. Following the uprising he became a Deputy and voted for the execution of Louis XVI. His position as the painter of the Revolution was unchallenged until his imprisonment after Robespierre’s fall from power.

This series presents a cinematic history of France through the late 18th and into the 19th centuries. It portrays the dramatic events and major characters of the French Revolution and subsequent decades, as well as presenting smaller figures who flesh out the story. It introduces places, characters and atmospheres that strike a chord with the works of art in the exhibition.

Image: Danton (1982) Gérard Depardieu as Danton. Courtesy Gaumont, French Embassy & Cultures France

Wednesday 22 September - Sunday 31 October 2010.
See listing for specific dates and times.


For Wednesday night and Sunday screenings, tickets are issued at the Domain Theatre 1 hour prior to commencement. Arriving early is recommended as seating is limited to 320 and cannot be guaranteed. This is a specialist program designed for mature audiences and is generally not suitable for children under the age of 15. Babes-in-arms not permitted in screenings. We cannot admit anyone under the age of 18 to films with an R classification or without classification. It is a condition of entry to these screenings that behaviour does not disturb other audience members. All pagers and mobile phones must be switched off during screenings.

Location: Domain Theatre

Related exhibition: David to Cézanne

Beaumarchais, the scoundrel

Dir: Edouard Molinaro 1996 (Fr) 116 mins 35mm Colour
Starring Fabrice Luchini, Manuel Blanc
French with English subtitles
Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-99) was a musician, a judge, a merchant, an inventor, an architect, a pretend aristocrat, a humorist, a shallow womanizer, a revolutionary, a secret agent, a gun runner and author of two of the great plays of world literature – The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville. The plays were considered so bold that he spent months, on several occasions, in the French prisons. This sumptuous, light-hearted period piece is a portrait of the complex life of this 18th century gadfly, focusing on 10 years of the artist’s life as he works as a secret agent for the French king, runs guns to the American revolutionaries, and along the way finds himself on a collision course with the Chevalier d’Eon, France’s notorious cross-dressing spy. The themes and the ideas in Beaumarchais’ writings were an inspiration for many of the prominent figures of the French Revolution.


Wednesday 22 September 2010 2pm – 3:56pm

Wednesday 22 September 2010 7:15pm – 9:11pm

Sunday 26 September 2010 2pm – 3:56pm


Dir: Andrzej Wajda 1982 (Fr/Pol) 136 mins 35mm Colour
Starring Gérard Depardieu, Wojciech Pszoniak
French with English subtitles
Wajda’s masterpiece is set in the second year of the French Republic, which was formed after the execution of Louis XVI. It portrays the power struggles between revolutionary leaders, Danton and Robespierre, during the “Reign of Terror” which saw the execution of thousands of citizens by the guillotine. Brilliantly illuminating one of the most fascinating periods of the French Revolution – the early months in 1794 when Danton, having been in self-imposed retirement in the country, returned to Paris to attempt to stop the Terror – the film is played out in a series of mostly small, intimate, beautifully defined confrontations between the commonsensical Danton and the steely Robespierre. Print courtesy French Embassy and Cultures France.


Wednesday 29 September 2010 2pm – 4:16pm

Wednesday 29 September 2010 7:15pm – 9:31pm

Sunday 3 October 2010 2pm – 4:16pm

Marie Antoinette

Dir: Sophia Coppola 2006 (US) 123 mins 35mm Colour Rated PG
Starring Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis
Originally marketed to a teen audience, Sophia Coppola’s film is an impressionistic retelling of Marie Antoinette’s life as a young queen in the opulent and eccentric court at Versailles in the years leading up to the French Revolution. Coppola has taken artistic liberties with the source material (the novel by Antonia Fraser) and the film does not focus simply on historical facts – “It is not a lesson of history. It is an interpretation documented, but carried by my desire for covering the subject differently,” said Coppola at the time of release. American film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four stars out of four stating that, “every criticism I have read of this film would alter its fragile magic and reduce its romantic and tragic poignancy to the level of an instructional film. This is Sofia Coppola’s third film centering on the loneliness of being female and surrounded by a world that knows how to use you but not how to value and understand you.” The film won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design.


Wednesday 6 October 2010 2pm – 4:03pm

Wednesday 6 October 2010 7:15pm – 9:18pm

Sunday 10 October 2010 2pm – 4:03pm

Le rideau cramoisi (The crimson curtain)

Dir: Alexandre Astruc 1952 (Fr) 43 mins 35mm B&W Rated PG
Starring Anouk Aimée, Jean-Claude Pascal
French with English subtitles
Jules-Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly (1808–89) was a French novelist who specialised in mystery tales that explored hidden motivation and hinted at moral corruption. Based on Barbey’s short story, Astruc’s atmospheric featurette depicts a strange liaison sparked by the boredom of middle-class, provincial life in the Second French Republic. A young officer is billeted with a bourgeois couple and their beautiful daughter. To his astonishment, the girl makes advances to him and they commence secretive nocturnal meetings.


Wednesday 13 October 2010 2pm – 2:43pm

Wednesday 13 October 2010 7:15pm – 7:58pm

Sunday 17 October 2010 2pm – 2:43pm

Les enfants du paradis (Children of paradise)

Dir: Marcel Carné 1945 (Fr)
190 mins 35mm B&W Rated PG
Starring Pierre Brasseur, Arletty
French with English subtitles
The Boulevard du Crime was the home of Parisian popular theatre in the early 19th century. Inspired by the great French painters and novelists of that era, Marcel Carné’s classic film evokes this theatrical world, revealing the complex relationship between life and art. The film follows the beautiful and charismatic courtesan, Garance (Arletty) and four men in her life: moonstruck street mime, Baptiste; philandering thespian, Frederic Lemaitre; conniving thief and dandy, Lacenaire and the wealthy Count Edouard of Monteray. The story of love, destiny and heartbreak is set in motion when Baptiste helps Garance clear her name after she is falsely accused of stealing a man’s watch. Made under difficult circumstances towards the end of the German occupation during World War II, Garance, the central figure of the film, became a symbol of a liberated France, a woman who would never be dominated.


Saturday 16 October 2010 1:30pm – 4:40pm

Saturday 23 October 2010 1:30pm – 4:40pm

Ne touchez pas la hache (Don’t touch the axe)

Dir: Jacques Rivette 2007 (Fr)
137 mins 35mm Colour Rated MA15+
Jeanne Balibar, Guillaume Depardieu
French with English subtitles
Based on Honoré de Balzac’s novel La Duchesse du Langeais, the story takes place during the Restoration, a period when the dominant values are hypocrisy, social climbing and keeping up appearances. Antoinette, the Duchess of Langeais, is a married coquette who frequents the most extravagant balls in 1820s Paris. She encounters General Armand de Montriveau, an intriguing figure who has just returned from Africa and has little interest in Parisian society. The handsome general is smitten, but the Duchess, whilst flattered by his attentions, is bound by rules of society and will not endanger her reputation and status. Rivette’s film is a faithful adaptation retaining crucial elements of the original novel.


Wednesday 20 October 2010 2pm – 4:17pm

Wednesday 20 October 2010 7:15pm – 9:32pm

Sunday 24 October 2010 2pm – 4:17pm

Le Diable boiteux (The devil on two sticks)

Dir: Sacha Guitry 1948 (Fr)
138 mins 35mm B&W
Starring Sacha Guitry, Lana Marconi
French with English subtitles
Director Sacha Guitry’s ironic, witty film adaptation of the short novel of 1840 by Alain René Le Sage, presents an episode in the life of infamous statesman Charles-Maurice, Prince de Talleyrand. From his election to the General and Constituent Assembly in 1789 through his support for Napoleon and ending with his allegiance to the monarchy of Louis Philippe, Talleyrand was a statesman of outstanding ability and extraordinary contradictions. A well-known opportunist and a notorious bribe taker, he was a rogue serving many masters, holding high office in five successive regimes.


Wednesday 27 October 2010 2pm – 4:18pm

Wednesday 27 October 2010 7:15pm – 9:33pm

Sunday 31 October 2010 2pm – 4:18pm

Les Misérables

Dir: Raymond Bernard 1933 (Fr)
192 mins 35mm B&W
Starring Harry Baur, Charles Vanel
French with English subtitles
Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables, widely considered to be one of the most significant literary works from France, was the source of numerous cinematic and theatrical adaptations. One of the most ambitious is Raymond Bernard’s 1933 film, a monumental work conveying the scale of Hugo’s epic novel, as well as its intimacy and unfaltering humanity. The story concerns a petty thief and his attempts to escape his past after reforming his life, only to be hounded by a relentless police inspector. This production boasts an impressive cast with some of the biggest names in French cinema of the early 1930s including Harry Baur playing the definitive Jean Valjean.


Saturday 30 October 2010 1pm – 4:12pm

Wednesday 3 November 2010 1pm – 4:12pm

Sunday 7 November 2010 1pm – 4:12pm