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Maurice Pialat and the New French Realism

October-December 2019

A two-part exploration of an uncompromising director and the impact he’s made on recent French cinema and its actors.

Maurice Pialat Season

Maurice Pialat

Following the success of Loulou and À nos amours, Pialat received bigger budgets to direct four films on a grander scale, and was rewarded with major prizes at the Cannes Film Festival. Three of them starred the imposing figure of Gérard Depardieu, who was then at his peak and, in his unique combination of physical bulk and emotional tenderness, a kind of alter ego for the director. But even while Pialat appeared to make a police thriller, a literary adaptation and a biopic, all of these followed the uncompromising line of his earlier work, with a focus on emotional truth and a refusal to make the audience ever feel comfortable. His last film, with its fond portrayal of a little boy at the mercy of adult insecurities, harked back to his first (L’enfance nue) and brought the extraordinary career of one of France’s finest and most influential directors full circle.

David Thompson

  • Image from Passe ton bac d’abord

    Passe ton bac d’abord

    Pialat’s tender and droll look at teenagers becoming adults in provincial France.

  • Police


    Catherine Breillat provides an uncompromising screenplay for Pialat’s hard-edged crime thriller.

  • Sous le soleil de Satan

    Sous le soleil de Satan

    Gérard Depardieu joins Pialat again for an austere portrait of a priest seeking redemption for a murderess.

  • Van Gogh

    Van Gogh

    Regarded by many as the best cinematic portrait of the troubled artist, Pialat’s drama is dominated by an astonishing Jacques Dutronc.

  • Le Garçu

    Le Garçu

    Gérard Depardieu plays a wayward father seeking love in Pialat’s final film.

Sight & Sound Deep Focus: The New French Realism (Part 2)

This second part of our season celebrating the exciting new talents who made the 1990s such vital years for French cinema spotlights three films in which the hard truths of life are laid bare, and it features breakout performances from a handful of actors who have gone on to become staples of French cinema, including Roschdy Zem, Grégoire Colin and Elodie Bouchez.

James Bell

  • The Dreamlife of Angels

    The Dreamlife of Angels

    Eric Zonca’s unvarnished portrait of street life has lost none of its edge.

  • Don’t Forget You’re Going to Die

    Don’t Forget You’re Going to Die

    Xavier Beauvois works behind and in front of the camera with his account of a man tumbling headfirst into a world of chaos.

  • Ponette


    An extraordinary study in loss, featuring a spellbinding turn by four-year-old Victoire Thivisol.

Read related Sight & Sound features:
Deep focus: Maurice Pialat – the man who changed French cinema
After Pialat: the young realists of 1990s French cinema

Want more?

See our Big Screen Classics screenings.

The French Film Festival is back from 7 to 15 November at Ciné Lumière, presenting the best and newest of French Cinema.

Institut Francais

With special thanks to:

Afridiziak Theatre


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