Filmmaker Alain Guiraudie made a splash in Cannes and the New York Film Festival with his latest, Stranger By the Lake, which opened at Alice Tully Hall to enthusiastic shouts and hollers for its U.S. Premiere. The French director will be feted with a weeklong retrospective of his little-seen early work next month, Alain Guiraudie: King of Escape, ahead of his latest film’s theatrical release at Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Coinciding with the January 24 theatrical debut of Stranger By the Lake, the weeklong series is a complete, two-decade-spanning survey of his rarely seen work, including his short, medium-length, and feature films. Guiraudie will be in attendance for Q&As on January 24, 25 and 26.

Openly gay, drawn to rural, working-class life who typically works in or near his home region of Aveyron in the south of France, Alain Guiraudie maintains a singular and unique voice in cinema. Many of his films, including his 2001 breakthrough That Old Dream That Moves, lauded by Jean-Luc Godard as the best film at Cannes that year, are shape-shifting tales, anchored equally in unknowable mysteries of desire and concrete facts of social life.

In 1990, Guiraudie directed his first short film, Heroes Never Die, which will screen during the series with his feature That Old Dream That Moves and another short film, Straight Ahead Until Morning. His first full-length feature No Rest for the Brave, which opens the series on January 24, remains one of his most adventurous attempts to conflate the extraordinary with the everyday. Convinced he’ll die if he sleeps another night, a teenager in rural France resolves to stay awake forever, in this playful film that exists in a fragile, perilous space between reality and dream. Also included in the lineup is one of Guiraudie’s warmest and funniest films, The King of Escape. When a gay, middle-aged tractor salesman rescues a 16-year old girl from bullies, she falls head over heels for her unlikely savior — and he decides to try his hand at a straight love affair.

“Alain Guiraudie is a true original, a sui generis voice in contemporary cinema who utterly defies categories,” said Dennis Lim, Film Society’s Director of Cinematheque Programming. “His films are, among other things, frank and surprising dissections of desire in all its forms, and they exist in fully imagined worlds, suspended between utopia and reality. We are delighted to have Alain back at the Film Society to present his rarely screened earlier work alongside the opening of his remarkable new film, Stranger by the Lake.”

Tickets for Stranger by the Lake and the Alain Guiraudie: King of Escape series are now on sale. See three films or more and save with a Discount Package. Alain Guiraudie: King of Escape is supported in part by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, NYC, The Institut Français, Paris and Unifrance Films.

Alain Guiraudie’s The King of Escape

Alain Guiraudie: King of Escape films, descriptions and schedule follow:

The King of Escape / Le roi de l’evasion
France, 2009, 35mm; 93m
Guiraudie’s tender road movie is one of the director’s warmest, funniest films. When a gay, middle-aged tractor salesman (Ludovic Berthillot) helps to rescue a 16-year old girl (The Secret of the Grain’s remarkable Hafsia Herzi) from bullies, she falls head over heels for her unlikely savior—and he decides to try his hand at a straight love affair. (“How hard can it be?”) When the couple are forced to go on the lam from her enraged dad, The King of Escape morphs into a freewheeling anti-chase-movie speckled with affectionate portraits and marked by a refreshingly tongue-in-cheek attitude toward the madness of love.
Friday, January 24 at 9:30pm
Sunday, January 26 at 7:00pm
Tuesday, January 28 at 9:00pm

Time Has Come / Voici venu le temps
France, 2005, 35mm; 92m
Guiraudie’s habit of transposing familiar kinds of political struggles and power conflicts onto fantastical settings reached its apex with this bitter, wildly imaginative sci-fi fable. In the fictional land of Obitania, under the shadow of the Purple Mountain, a bandit, a warrior, and a conflicted mercenary get caught up in the struggle between a wealthy shepherd and his oppressed underlings. The film moves with a hazy, dreamlike flow, but settles primarily on mercenary Fogo Lompola—who finds himself torn between political allegiances and distracted by his unreciprocated feelings for an older man. Time Has Come is at once a full-throttle excursion into fantasy, a harsh critique of fanciful escapism as a way of ignoring political injustice, and a statement of faith in the power of illusion to shed light on reality: “I dreamt of an impossible machine,” says one character, “which became possible as soon as I dreamt it.”
Saturday, January 25 at 7:00pm
Sunday, January 26 at 3:00pm + 9:00pm

No Rest for the Brave / Pas de repos pour les braves
France, 2003, 35mm; 107m
Basil (Thomas Suire), a teenager stuck in a listless corner of the French countryside, becomes convinced that he’ll die if he sleeps another night—and so resolves to stay awake forever. A massacre, a cross-generational love affair, a pool-hall dance, a gaggle of gangsters, a spell of identity-swapping: the rest of Guiraudie’s first full-length feature exists in a fragile, perilous space between reality and dream, at once firmly rooted in the flora, fauna and regional slang of working-class rural France and governed by a strange, magical logic all its own. No Rest for the Brave remains one of Guiraudie’s most adventurous attempts to conflate the extraordinary with the everyday.
Friday, January 24 at 7pm
Saturday, January 25 at 9pm
Wednesday, January 29 at 7pm

Alain Guiraudie’s Sunshine for the Scoundrels

That Old Dream That Moves / Ce vieux rêve qui bouge
France, 2001, 35mm; 51m
Guiraudie’s breakthrough film found many of the director’s signature habits in full bloom: his matter-of-fact treatment of gay sexuality, his patient, exacting eye for environmental detail, his fascination with cross-generational love, his commitment to documenting the economic realities of fading, struggling communities, his languid-yet-whittled-down pacing, and his interest in toeing the boundary lines between fantasy and reality. A young repairman arrives at a near-obsolete factory to fix a mysterious piece of machinery; as he devotes himself to the task, his burnt-out, aimless new coworkers find themselves nervously drawn to him. That Old Dream That Moves might be Guiraudie’s most melancholic film: a subtle look at a group of people caught between their own conflicting desires and lost helplessly in time.

Screening with:
Heroes NEVER DIE / Les héros sont immortels
France, 1990; 13m

Straight Ahead Until Morning / Tout droit jusqu’au matin
France, 1994; 11m
Saturday, January 25 at 5:00pm
Wednesday, January 29 at 9:15pm
Thursday, January 30 at 7:00pm

Sunshine for the Scoundrels / Du soleil pour les gueux
France, 2001, 35mm; 55m
In Guiraudie’s sun-drenched, ambling, gently philosophical walkabout, an out-of-work young hairdresser (Isabelle Girardet) makes a pilgrimage to the Causses plateau in search of the ounayes—a mysterious animal she remembers from childhood. Soon she meets a grizzled, slightly older shepherd (played by Guiraudie himself), and the pair set out in search of his missing flock. What follows is a suspended rural idyll punctuated by unexpected run-ins (an aimless, indecisive bandit; a threatening bounty hunter), mid-afternoon lovemaking, bursts of conversation and stretches of silence, all suffused with a sense of expectation and longing.

Screening with:
Force of Circumstance / La Force des choses
France, 1998, 16m
Sunday, January 26 at 5:00pm
Tuesday, January 28 at 7:00pm
Thursday, January 30 at 9:00pm