There’s not much that pioneering filmmaker Nelly Kaplan couldn’t do: a former economics student who dabbled in journalism and film criticism, surrealist fiction and film theory, and even documentary and narrative filmmaking, Kaplan was already hard at work crafting her rich resume and unique tastes when the French New Wave hit. Kaplan’s films fit comfortably inside the expectations and confines of the New Wave — they’re funny, sexy, and political in tone — but Kaplan always added a pop of surrealism that made them uniquely her own.
In celebration of her oeuvre, still a blind spot even for some hardened film fans — hell, even her long-time mentor and sometimes partner Abel Gance supposedly never even told her that he saw and adored her most famous film — New York City’s Quad Cinema is launching a retrospective of her work later this month. The series begins with the U.S. premiere engagement of a new 2K restoration of Kaplan’s breakout film “A Very Curious Girl,” a satirical and sexually subversive revenge tale starring New Wave superstar Bernadette Lafont. The film was nearly banned from theaters because the main character — an empowered sex worker — isn’t ultimately punished for her choices. Kaplan herself fought the censors, and eventually accepted an 18+ rating that allowed the film to be released.
“A Very Curious Girl” will be followed by a series of other world premiere 2K restorations of some of Kaplan’s best films, including “Charles et Lucie,” “Velvet Paws,” “The Pleasure of Love,” and “Papa, the Lil’s Boats.” Also of major interest to cinephiles: Kaplan’s documentary “Abel Gance and His Napoléon,” in which the filmmaker used rare and unseen material to craft a doc about the quest of her mentor Gance to make his 1927 epic “Napoléon.” The Quad’s screening of the film will be preceded by three of Kaplan’s documentary shorts: “A la source, La Femme Aimée” (1966), “Les années 25” (1965), and “Gustave Moreau” (1961).
“Wild Things: The Ferocious Films of Nelly Kaplan” is NYC’s first-ever retrospective of Kaplan’s still-overlooked body of work. The 50th anniversary restoration of “A Very Curious Girl” opens at the Quad on Friday, April 12, and the rest of the Kaplan retrospective runs from April 19 – 25.
Check out the full program right here, and watch IndieWire’s exclusive trailer below, cut by Tair Shachar.