Un témoin dans la ville (1959)
Directed by Édouard Molinaro
Molinaro is the epitome of French mainstream cinema. When he died at the age of 85 in 2013, President François Hollande confirmed his death. Known for broad comedies like the hit La cage aux folles (1978) and Oscar (1967), Molinaro directed a few crime films when he began his career. Based on Un témoin dans la ville, they’re ripe for rediscovery.
Un temoin features a large cast of characters populating a nocturnal Paris—switchboard operators, cab drivers, police officers, attorneys, café owners, prostitutes, Johns. At the center of this group is a stoic Lino Ventura, expressing so much with the slightest look. He stalks a cabbie (Franco Fabrizi) who saw him murder the man who murdered his wife.
Un temoin is a white-hot noir firing on all cylinders. The no-nonsense editing packs in enough narrative information to fill two or three films. Henri Decaë’s cinematographer transforms Paris into a shadow world. And Barney Wilen, still in his early twenties, composed the Jazz score. The prior year saw him working with Miles Davis on the iconic Elevator to the Gallows (1958) score. Wilen would later work on a Chris Marker doc and a few Philippe Garrel films. Tanner Tafelski (September 2, 7pm; September 6, 4pm at MoMA’s Gaumont series)