A Popular Front Film That Should Be More PopularJulien Duvivier’s La belle équipe — This Wednesday

The Portage Theater – 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave – 7:30 – $5.00 per ticket
For the full schedule of classic film screenings at the Portage, please click here.

July 25
Directed by Julien Duvivier • 1936
Five factory stiffs, led by Jean Gabin, win the national lottery and find themselves with 100,000 francs between them. They agree to put all the proceeds towards a workers’ open-air dance hall on the banks of the Marne. Made during the very brief moment when such a gesture sounded both guileless and politically-charged, La belle équipe exemplifies the cinema of the Popular Front, France’s short-lived, pan-leftist solution to mounting fascism. (It’s a tribute to the emotional and social complexity of La belle équipe that it records the optimism of the period while also acknowledging its mundane frailty.) Scripted by Charles Spaak, the French film industry’s most committed scenarist, La belle équipe was briefly eyed as a project by Jean Renoir, whose own collaborations with Spaak include Les bas-fonds and La grande illusion. Prolific director Julien Duvivier, a friend of Renoir’s, proved quite capable of helming the picture. Once a classic of college film societies under the generic and uninvolving title They Were Five, this is exceedingly rare and undervalued these days—a real missing link in ’30s French cinema. In French with English subtitles. (KW)
Co-presented with portoluz–WPA 2.0: A Brand New Deal
101 min. • Ciné-Arys • 16mm Print from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Cartoon: Popeye the Sailor in “We Aim to Please” (Dave Fleischer, 1934) – 16mm – 7 min

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