He is the Master of Mood. Once you’ve seen a few films by Jacques Tourneur, you see how meticulously this extraordinary filmmaker could create a sense of atmosphere, no matter the setting. The Film Society of Lincoln Center is now set to host the largest New York retrospective of the French-born genre director’s work in decades. The exhaustive program, titled “Jacques Tourneur, Fearmaker,” runs from December 14 to January 3 and includes nearly every film he ever made.
The lineup includes his extraordinary horror films for RKO produced by Val Lewton, to the creepy Gothic mystery “Experiment Perilous” and the all-time noir classic “Out of the Past” to later work such as the twisty British frightfest “Curse of the Demon” (sometimes titled “Night of the Demon”) and the unique crime thriller “Nightfall” which answers the question every cinephile didn’t even know they need to ask: What happens when you pair Aldo Ray and Anne Bancroft as doomed lovers?
There’s a feeling you get when you watch a Jacques Tourneur film: a shiver, definitely, but something deeper, more melancholic and lonely too. “It’s the mood that sticks with you,” Martin Scorsese narrated in his documentary series “A Personal Journey Through American Movies with Martin Scorsese” over a clip of “I Walked With a Zombie” of two women walking together at night through sea oats to visit a houngan.
And that mood is perfectly captured by an evocative trailer Film Society of Lincoln Center has cut together to promote their exhibition, which IndieWire is proud to debut exclusively here. It features clips from “Cat People” — apologies to Tomas Alfredson, but no filmmaker has ever realized the horror potential of a swimming pool like Tourneur — “The Leopard Man,” “Out of the Past,” and “I Walked With a Zombie,” and proves, with its stunning close-ups of Robert Mitchum and Hedy Lamarr, Tourneur’s painterly mastery of lighting and framing his actors.
The goosebumps you get while watching a Tourneur film are always earned, and so are the ones you’ll get in this trailer. Check it out below.