The Wishlist Collection Returns!

by Mark Steiner and Bryan Theiss

Several years ago, an anonymous donor contacted Scarecrow and asked if we could use funding for specific rental items that might be too costly for Scarecrow’s budget. Out of that came the first iteration of our Wish List Collection, and accordingly, a bunch of upgraded titles previously only on DVD, as well as some higher priced, English-friendly, Blu-rays and DVDs imported from France. More recently, a different anonymous donor came forward and asked the same question, and again, we were able to bring in another generous helping of French imports to add to our collection. Over the next month, we’ll be introducing these to you via our blog and newsletter.

3 Seats For The 26th / Trois places pour le 26 (Jacques Demy, 1988 — All-region Blu-ray)

It would be nearly impossible (and a lot less fun) to try and unpack all the levels of self-reflexiveness necessary to describe, in words, the brilliance of Jacques Demy’s last film. In it, Yves Montand, playing a semi-fictional version of himself, returns to the seaside town where he got his start, to stage a musical about the seaside town where he got his start. While there, he seeks to reconnect with an old love, whose daughter has separately connected with Montand and landed herself a role in the musical – as the love interest! With references to the director’s previous musicals The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg & The Young Girls Of Rochefort, as well as 42nd Street and a host of other winks to the past, Demy (with musical collaborator Michel Legrand along for the ride) creates a wistful, audacious, candy-colored look back at both Montand’s career as well as his own. 

The Prize of Peril aka Le Prix du Danger (1983, Yves Boisset — PAL / Region 2 DVD)

A 1983 French dystopian satire about a near future society where contestants are hunted live on TV in hopes of winning a cash prize. Writer/director Yves Boisset (Dog Day) adapted the idea from a short story of the same title that predates Stephen King’s novella The Running Man by a few decades, and the studio audience portions of that film’s adaptation are similar enough to this that the producers successfully sued for plagiarism. Here the contestants are desperate volunteers instead of convicts, and though there’s a good chase and a fiery explosion or two the emphasis is less on action theatrics than the cold-hearted corporate mindset that would create such a show. We get to see the producers auditioning contestants and cynically debating their potential appeal to different demographics. The protagonist, François Jacquemard (Gérard Lanvin), attempts to defy the odds not only by surviving, but by uncovering and exposing the producers’ methods of rigging the game.

A Monkey In Winter/Un Singe En Hiver (Henri Verneuil, 1962 — All-region Blu-ray)

Henri Verneuil, Jean Gabin, and Jean-Paul Belmondo made so many mid-century French crime classics that it’s almost odd to see the three of them collaborate in a gentle meditation on masculinity and friendship, but they do it so well that this breezily unambitious film, set in a small, always rainy, seaside town, secretly enchants you before you realize that the slight narrative is just an excuse to explore these two characters. The premise – during a Nazi air-raid, an alcoholic Gabin pledges to go cold turkey if he survives the bombing. Enter Belmondo, who, 15 years later, visits the town to reunite with the daughter he’s too scared to meet again. The self-pitying Belmondo and the cynical and now-teetotalling Gabin meet, eventually go on a bender to end all benders, and the sparks fly – literally.

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