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"The Leading Men of French Cinema" - the BAMcinematek’s survey of some of the greatest leading men and character actors in French film history - could easily go on a lot longer than the mere three-and-a-half weeks in August allotted to it, but we’ll have to make do with what we get.

Included are the usual suspects: Jean Gabin in Jean Renoir’s anti-war masterpiece, 1937’s "Grand Illusion" (Aug. 5); Michel Simon as a tramp nudging his way into a bourgeois couple’s very lifestyle in Renoir’s 1932 "Boudu Saved from Drowning" (Aug. 6); and Yves Montand and Charles Vanel portraying the most memorable anti-heroes ever seen on the big screen in Henri-Georges Clouzot’s epic thriller, 1953’s "The Wages of Fear." Alain Delon, whose 1960 film "Purple Noon" will be screened Aug. 13, is pictured.

But it’s those expert actors in underrated films that are the real raison d’etre for this series. Philippe Noiret - one of French cinema’s most reliable leading men - plays a father who cannot fathom why his son turned to murder in Bertrand Tavernier’s classic debut, 1974’s "The Clockmaker" (Aug. 25). Heartthrob Gerard Depardieu ravages unhappily married Isabelle Huppert in Maurice Pialat’s devastating 1980 film, "Loulou" (Aug. 26).

And, closing out a retrospective that begins Aug. 3 with the immortal Raimu as a cuckold in Marcel Pagnol’s "The Baker’s Wife" (1938), is Jean Eustache’s remarkably ageless three-hour 1973 character study of a menage a trois from hell, "The Mother and the Whore," starring Jean-Pierre Leaud at his best as the man in the middle.

"The Leading Men of French Cinema" plays Aug. 3-27 at BAMcinematek (30 Lafayette Ave. at Ashland Place in Fort Greene). Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for students and seniors. For a complete film schedule, call (718) 636-4100 or visit the web site, www.bam.org.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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