The Gene Siskel Film Center’s monthlong retrospective on French director Luc Moullet peaks this week with screenings of some of Moullet’s best work. Both parts of his career are represented–his neoprimitive beginnings, when he shamelessly flaunted his lack of money and technique while alluding to Hollywood genres (The Smugglers, A Girl Is a Gun), and his mature mastery as a comic performer and a director, when he pushed situations to hilarious extremes (The Comedy of Work, Opening Tries).
Shot in black and white, The Smugglers (1967, 81 min.) is the closest thing to a testament in Moullet’s oeuvre; despite some derisive allusions to adventure thrillers, the tone is closer to sweet-tempered absurdism, with throwaway gags about backpackers and imaginary borders in the French Alps. It screens with the miniature epic Opening Tries (1988, 15 min.), which shows Moullet’s baroque ingenuity at trying to remove a twist-off cap from a large bottle of Coke. (Sat 4/15, 5 PM, and Mon 4/17, 6 PM) The delirious and erotic color “western” A Girl Is a Gun (1971, 77 min.) is Moullet’s feature Une Aventure de Billy le Kid with funny English dubbing. Jean-Pierre Leaud and Rachel Kesterber costar with some scene-stealing landscapes. (Sat 4/15, 3 PM, and Wed 4/19, 6 PM)
The Comedy of Work (1987, 90 min.) looks at the bureaucratic contradictions of the French labor exchange and at various characters who pass through it. As critic Jill Forbes once remarked, Moullet seems characteristically amused “that an organization dedicated to keeping people in work should in fact turn out to keep them out of work in order to keep itself in work.” (Fri 4/14, 8:15 PM, and Sun 4/16, 3:15 PM)