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The Lifted Hem: Seduction and Betrayal at the Court of Versailles (film series)

Dates: Fridays and Saturdays, April 18 & 19 and 25 & 26, 2008
Location: Getty Center, Harold M. Williams Auditorium
Admission: Free; a separate reservation is required for each film.

Playful eroticism and courtly intrigue take center stage in this film series inspired by French artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard, whose paintings of romantic passion and sexual transport are on view in the current exhibition Consuming Passion: Fragonard's Allegories of Love.

The films in the series range from broad comedy to high melodrama and feature visions of of ancien régime France full of carefree voyeurism and unbridled carnal instincts.

This series is a co-presentation with the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Wine-Tasting and Hors d'Oeuvres
Enjoy French wines and finger bites on Saturday, April 26. more...

Madame DuBarry: Friday, April 18, 7:30 p.m

Marie Antoinette: Saturday, April 19, 4:00 p.m.

When a Man Loves: Saturday, April 19, 7:30 p.m.

Monsieur Beaucaire: Friday, April 25, 7:30 p.m.

Start the Revolution Without Me: Saturday, April 26, 4:00 p.m.

DuBarry Was a Lady: Saturday, April 26, 7:30 p.m.

Still from Start the Revolution without Me

Madame DuBarry (aka Passion)

(Germany, 1919, Ernst Lubitsch, 92 min., silent with English intertitles. Presented with live piano accompaniment by Michael Mortilla)

Friday, April 18, 7:30 p.m.

The vivacious Jeanne (Pola Negri), a milliner's apprentice, is in love with Armand. Her beauty, however, gets the attention of a marquis who takes her as his mistress. Sent to collect a debt from Louis XV, Jeanne sits on the king's lap to deliver her petition. Gaga for her, Louis takes her as his lover, but she remains loyal to her Armand, whom she insists on making a Royal Guard. In this way, Jeanne remains sympathetic, although the crowd outside the palace despises her and eventually has its way, throwing her into the Bastille. Lubitsch's joyful embracement of Negri's sexuality makes this film a perfect companion piece to Fragonard's playful eroticism.

Still from Madame DuBarry

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Marie Antoinette

(USA, 1938, W.S. Van Dyke, 157 min.)

Saturday, April 19, 4:00 p.m.

In this lavish MGM spectacle, Norma Shearer gives a fine, sympathetic, and exquisitely mannered performance as the young Marie Antoinette, whose arranged marriage to the equally immature Dauphin Louis XVI leads to the downfall of the French monarchy. Initially capricious and terribly bored, Marie makes bad choices but in the course of the film develops a degree of dignity. Marie and Louis eventually consummate their marriage and produce an heir. However, their extravagant lifestyle, the people's dislike of a foreign queen, and massive suffering in the streets of Paris feed the revolution that brings about their infamous deaths.

Still from Marie Antoinette

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When a Man Loves

(USA, 1927, Alan Crosland, 110 min., silent with English intertitles. Restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive and the George Eastman House)

Saturday, April 19, 7:30 p.m.

An aging John Barrymore chews the scenery with fiery abandon as a penniless seminary student who elopes with a young convent-bound beauty (Barrymore's future wife Dolores Costello). The briskly paced, beautifully restored Vitaphone film abounds in devastating melodrama, grand period costumes, and mind-boggling reversals of fortune. The film candidly suggests that true love can be driven equally by passion and financial exchange. Cat lovers will relish the stellar performance of Fifi, Manon's cat, who later accompanies Barrymore to a raucous tavern where he orders a bowl of milk for his dainty companion.

Still from When a Man Loves

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Monsieur Beaucaire

(USA, 1924, Sidney Olcott, 106 min., silent. Presented with live piano accompaniment by Michael Mortilla)

Friday, April 25, 7:30 p.m.

The Duke of Chartres (Rudolph Valentino) is the life of French court. Under the aegis of Louis XV and courtesan Madame Pompadour, he is informed that he must marry the lovely Princess Henriette, who has in fact spurned him. Fleeing France for England, the duke masquerades as the barber Monsieur Beaucaire and quests for true love. Later, forgiving his abrupt departure and in need of his sparkling wit and daring escapades, the court calls the duke home, and he eventually finds his true love. Besides featuring cinema's first sex symbol, the film is noteworthy for its painterly groupings of glittering court life influenced by Fragonard and Watteau.

Still from Monsieur Beaucaire

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Start the Revolution Without Me

(USA, 1970, Roy Del Ruth, 90 min.)

Saturday, April 26, 4:00 p.m.

Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland display their full comic prowess as two pairs of mismatched twins—the aristocratic Dukes de Sisi and their oafish peasant doubles, Charles and Claude Coupé—who face off outrageously on opposite sides of the French Revolution. A precursor to the anarchic Wilder-Brooks comedies to follow, Start the Revolution Without Me is a seriously mad, sharp, and loving send-up of the costume dramas that make up the rest of our series, but the film also offers a timely comment on the turbulent status of class and gender in post-1960s America.

Wine-Tasting and Hors d'Oeuvres
Sample four French wines and enjoy sweet and savory finger foods beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 26, on the auditorium terrace. See films before and after! Only $15. Reservations required; call (310) 440-7300 to sign up.

Still from Start the Revolution Without Me

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DuBarry Was a Lady

(USA, 1943, Roy Del Ruth, 96 min.)

Saturday, April 26, 7:30 p.m.

Headline singer May Daly (Lucille Ball) falls for the dashing but poor budding composer Alec Howe (Gene Kelly), who sings and tap-dances like an angel. Following various rococo complications, including Zero Mostel as a turbaned mind reader and Red Skelton as the hatcheck boy who wins the lottery, the whole cast is suddenly transported to ancien régime France. Ball is reincarnated as Madame Du Barry, Skelton plays Louis XV, and, as the revolutionary "Black Arrow," Gene Kelly sneaks into the palace to steal Du Barry's heart. Shot in lavish Technicolor, the film is so tremendously entertaining that it seems practically scandalous that it has not been recognized as a classic.

Still from DuBarry Was a Lady

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How to Get Here
The Getty Center is located at 1200 Getty Center Drive in Los Angeles, California, approximately 12 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. See Hours, Directions, Parking for maps and driving directions.

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Film stills are courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Stills from Start the Revolution Without Me are courtesy of Warner Bros./Photofest.

Text adapted from program notes by Andrea Alsberg and Theresa Schwartzman of the UCLA Film and Television Archive