WEDNESDAY

When François Truffaut and his fellow Les Cahiers du Cinéma critics denounced the “cinéma du papa”—your father’s movies—one of the people they had in mind was Claude Autant-Lara. Like Merchant Ivory and their ilk today, ’50s French directors such as Autant-Lara often adapted established literary classics, which then—as now—often yielded stolid, respectable films. Stendhal’s The Red and the Black, however, is not just another overstuffed chair of a book. Although some of the novel’s concerns now seem dated—the title refers to the rivalry between the military and the church—Stendhal’s psychological portrait of ambitious provincial protagonist Julien Sorel (played in the film by Gerard Philipe) presages the modern novel. And if Autant-Lara’s style of filmmaking was sometimes stilted, his concerns were not. With a consciousness formed by Depression-era Marxism and the German occupation, the director explicitly addressed social issues in filming Stendhal’s tale of a young tutor who becomes the lover of his employer’s wife (Danielle Darrieux) and, later, a priest. Autant-Lara’s 1954 movie certainly doesn’t capture the nuance—or even the narrative—of Stendhal’s novel, and it lacks the edge of films such as The 400 Blows. But there’s plenty in it that might well make Papa nervous. The Red and the Black screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7, at The French Embassy’s La Maison Française, 4101 Reservoir Road NW. $5. (202) 944-6091. (Mark Jenkins)

More from WCP