Film Series: Paris, Art and Crime on Film

American artist Ellsworth Kelly found his creative voice while living in Paris in the late 1940s. This summer, the Museum takes a trip to Paris in its latest film series, Paris, Art and Crime on Film, organized by critic David Kipen. Sparkling with vintage Billy Wilder repartee, the series begins with Midnight, which unfolds on Paramount’s backlot Paris during Hollywood’s annus mirabilis, 1939. Three years later, the series travels to occupied Paris in The Murderer Lives at Number 21 (L’assassin habite au 21),cowritten and subversively directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. The series continues with Clouzot’s unique portrait of Picasso at work on a single painting (created and destroyed expressly for the film), photographed through a transparent canvas at the artist’s Art Deco studio, La Californie. And finally, viewers return to Hollywood’s idea of Paris, this time on location, for an underrated, sprightly caper film, How to Steal a Million.

Doors open at 5:00 p.m. Each film begins with an introduction by Kipen at 5:20 p.m.


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Midnight (1939)
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
Friday, July 6, 5:20–7:05 p.m.

When out-of-work showgirl Eve (Claudette Colbert) arrives in Paris with little prospects, she asks taxi driver Tibor (Don Ameche) to drive her from club to club. But the more time she spends with Tibor, the more Eve realizes that he is falling for her. Unwilling to accept his feelings, Eve escapes to a charity concert, meets the charming Georges (John Barrymore) and disguises herself as a Hungarian baroness. But love-struck Tibor is not willing to let Eve go without a fight.

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The Murderer Lives at Number 21 (L’assassin habite au 21) (1942)
Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
Friday, July 13, 5:20–6:55 p.m.

Several crimes are committed in Montmartre with a calling card left by a mysterious Monsieur Durand. Thanks to an informant, Detective Wens (Pierre Fresnay) discovers that the murderer lives in a boarding house at No. 21 Avenue Junot. Posed as a clergyman, Detective Wens searches for a serial killer among a motley band of residents.

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The Mystery of Picasso (1956)
Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
Friday, July 20, 5:20–6:50 p.m.

Director Henri-Georges Clouzot peers into the imagination of Pablo Picasso’s studio and emerges with a quiet documentary that captures the revolutionary painter’s creative process. Through a combination of stop-motion and time-lapse photography, Picasso’s cubist work comes to life on screen. Paint strokes and splashes of color appear as if by magic, as empty canvases become platforms for a series of daring and original drawings and paintings that exist only within the confines of this film.

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How to Steal a Million (1966)
Directed by William Wyler
Friday, July 27, 5:20–7:30 p.m.

Charles Bonnet (Hugh Griffith) expresses his passion for art by forging masterpieces—and selling them at a hefty profit. The trouble starts when his reproduction of a prized sculpture winds up in a famous Paris museum. If experts determine that it is inauthentic, Bonnet’s reputation will be tarnished. That’s why his fetching daughter, Nicole (Audrey Hepburn), hires cat burglar Simon Dermott (Peter O’Toole) to steal the sculpture back before it’s too late.



Photo credits: Midnight  (1939), Paramount Pictures / Photofest © Paramount Pictures; The Murderer Lives at Number 21 (L’assassin habite au 21), Mage Films/Photofest © Mage Films; The Mystery of Picasso (1956), courtesy of Milestone Films;  How to Steal a Million (1966), 20th Century Fox Film Corporation/Photofest © 20th Century Fox.