Meet Luc Moullet

Fifty years later, there's still more to learn about the French New Wave.

IS THIS TOURING retrospective an opportunity to discover a little-known director's important yet overlooked work? Or is it just another chance for film buffs and hipsters to feel self-important for sitting through it? The answer, surprisingly, is both.

Luc Moullet began writing for Cahiers du Cinéma in 1956 at age 18. While other critics from that magazine with names like Godard, Truffaut, and Chabrol went on to great international success in the nouvelle vague, Moullet remains largely unknown in the United States, where his films have hardly been seen in theaters or on video. Not even Scarecrow shows any trace of him, and that's saying something. So this seven-film package is a real gift for hard-core New Wave fans. Better still, for the rest of us, Moullet turns out to be a lot of fun.

The series begins with 1966's Brigitte and Brigitte (Friday through Sunday), a droll comedy about two young provincial women with the same name but very different personalities, who become roommates during their first months in Paris. The film revels in its low budget, a trait seen throughout Moullet's work. The good majority of scenes are shot in front of a blank background to create greater contrast with the Parisian exteriors. Brigitte operates according to its own peculiar, sight-gag-heavy logic, but is very funny and remarkably accessible.

Moullet is a director who can make 15 minutes of opening a large, pesky Coke bottle funny, as in his 1988 short Attempt at an Opening, which accompanies his 1987 employment-agency farce Comedy of Work (Wednesday and Thursday, not with Brigitte as originally announced). It's the kind of thing that would be a blockbuster viral video in today's wacky Internet e-mail attachment universe. I have no idea why Coke never picked it up for an ad campaign.

Moullet is still alive and directing today, bringing deadpan hilarity to the masses. This retrospective should finally earn him some American fans—even if you're not a film snob.

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