Restrospective in black and white for filmmaker Henri Verneuil

He directed Fernandel, Delon, Françoise Arnoul, Belmondo, Gabin, Ventura, Anthony Quinn. He made French films and Hollywood movies, ranging from epics to the political and the intimate. In 2013, Lumière pays homage to Henri Verneuil.


The prolific Henri Verneuil devoted 50 of his years to cinema. This year the Lumière team has chosen to present eight films from his early period. Village Feud (A.K.A. The Hunting Ground, 1951) was his first feature film, starring Fernandel (the actor having incidentally already agreed to star in one of his short films, Escale au soleil in 1947). Verneuil’s first major success would come in 1955, with People of No Importance starring legendary actor Jean Gabin. Today, this melancholy tale of passion’s pain and destruction is considered among his best work, even if it was 1954’s The Sheep Has Five Legs, again with Fernandel at the height of his powers, that would catapault Verneuil into the Oscar race for best foreign film.

 He would work with Fernandel on a regular basis throughout his career, completing nearly a dozen films, culminating with 1959’s triumphant The Cow and I. With this work the director sealed his status as a key figure not only of French cinema, but also of the industry worldwide.

FERNANDEL / The Cow and I (La vache et le prisonnier, 1959) / Original Promo

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) was definitely on to something. In 1961 they approached Henri Verneuil with the extravagant commission of three films; the condition being that Jean Gabin take lead role and Michel Audiard the role of screenwriter in all three. So it was, thanks in a way to Hollywood, that great French films like The President in 1961, A Monkey in Winter in 1962, with Jean-Paul Belmondo, and Any Number Can Win in 1963 with Alain Delon, were created.

Any Number Can Win received the Golden Globe award for best foreign film, much to the chagrin of French critics, who at the time, had eyes only for the New Wave. Two years later, the official selection of Greed in the Sun for the Palme d’Or would create similar scandal. A real treat for those who’ve yet to see it, among the ranks of those who dream of rediscovering it for the first time.

Interview : Lino Ventura

A quick reminder that A Monkey in Winter will be screened in all its beautifully restored glory thanks to the support of the CNC while Greed in the Sun has also been impeccably restored in 2k format by Gaumont at the Éclair laboratories group.


Village Feud/ The Hunting Ground  Village Feud/ The Hunting Ground  (La Table-aux-Crevés, 1951, 1:32)

Old grudges resurface in a village when Urbain (Fernandel) finds his wife hanged. Sardonic humor, Provencal photography, and frustrated love paint a joyous illustration of rural France.
Cinéma Opéra Wed. 8:30 p.m. | Cinéma Opéra Thu. 5pm | Pathé Bellecour Fri. 9:30pm

Forbidden Fruit
  (Le Fruit défendu, 1952, 1:42)

A man is torn between his wife and his mistress. Masterfully staged, the drama of love and desire offers the actor Fernandel a role of real sensitivity beside a seductive and fragile Françoise Arnoul.
Cinéma St. Denis Tue. 8:30pm | Pathé Bellecour Wed. 7:15pm | Cinéma Opéra Fri. 10pm

The Lovers of Lisbon
  (Les Amants du Tage, 1954, 1:49)

A man acquitted of the murder of his wife retreats to Lisbon, where he meets a young widow. A story of tragic passion between the tormented character of Daniel Gelin and the  delectably enigmatic Françoise Arnoul.
Pathé Bellecour Tue. 10pm | Comœdia Wed. 2:15pm | Cinéma Opéra Sat. 8:15pm

People of No Importance 
(Des gens sans importance, 1955, 1:43)

A gruff truck driver with a soft heart (Jean Gabin) meets a young distraught servant (Françoise Arnoul). Verneuil is a master of the portrayal of routine jobs, loneliness, and vain hope. A film of sublime poetry.
Institut Lumière Tue. 11:30am | Pathé Bellecour Fri. 7pm | Cinéma Bellecombe Sat. 8:30pm | Comœdia Sun. 2:15pm

The President
  (Le Président, 1960, 1:48) 

Jean Gabin gives a magnificent performance as we delve into French parliamentary life and its tales of corruption. The story of a man on the threshold of death, looking back over the decisions of his political life.
Pathé Bellecour Tue. 7:30pm | Institut Lumière Theater 2 Fri. 2:45pm | CNP Sat. 5:30pm | Pathé Cordeliers Sun. 10:45am

A Monkey in Winter
  (Un singe en hiver, 1962, 1:43)

Two men who can hold their liquor, Belmondo and Gabin, pass two gloriously drunken days of escape and friendship. Dialogue by Audiard to be as savored  as a fine wine.
Halle Tony Garnier Mon. 7:45pm | UGC Confluence Tue. 8:30pm | Bron Fri. 8:30pm

Any Number Can Win
  (Mélodie en sous-sol, 1962, 2:01)

Charles, just out of prison, has a plan to organize a holdup at the casino in Cannes. The quintessential French thriller from the formidable Verneuil-Audiard-Gabin triumvirate, joined by the young Alain Delon.
Mions Tue. 8pm | Comœdia Fri 2:15pm | Pathé Bellecour Sat. 4:15pm | Pathé Vaise Sun. 2:30pm (screening open to the visually impaired)

Greed in the Sun (Cent mille dollars au soleil, 1963, 2:04)

The clash of two smuggling truckers. Audiard’s razor sharp dialogue for Belmondo, Ventura, and Blier sees humor and class played out in the middle of the Moroccan desert.
Vénissieux Wed. 8:30pm | Pathé Bellecour Sat. 4:45pm | UGC Cité Internationale Sun. 3:30pm


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