Repertory Picks

Melville’s Feature Debut in Minneapolis

This weekend, as part of a monthlong series devoted to Jean-Pierre Melville, the Trylon Cinema in Minneapolis will throw the spotlight on the earliest years of the director’s career, as his feature debut, Le silence de la mer (1949), screens alongside his very first film, the short 24 Hours in the Life of a Clown (1946). With Le silence, his first project following the comedic 24 Hours, Melville turned to the subject of the Nazi occupation—to which he would later return in Léon Morin, Priest (1961) and Army of Shadows (1969)—and began honing the minimalism that made him famous. Atmospherically shot by Henri Decaë and making striking use of voice-over, the movie takes place in a home outside Paris, where a German lieutenant has billeted and the occupants protest his presence by refusing to speak. Le silence “instills a powerful sense of the same nightly scene being repeated over and over,” writes critic Geoffrey O’Brien in our liner essay for the film, with Melville finding “new ways to film the unchanging standoff: glances and the avoidance of glances, extended hands and folded arms, the fire with its promise of an illusory warmth, faces separated by an abyss within the confines of a small room.”

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