Dir: Melvin Van Peebles
Cast: Harry Baird, Nicole Berger
USA 1967, 87mins, 15
Unable to break into a segregated Hollywood, Melvin Van Peebles decamped to France, taught himself the language, and wrote a number of books in French, one of which, La Permission, would become the basis for his stylistically innovative feature debut.
Turner (Harry Baird), an African American soldier stationed in France, is granted a promotion and a three-day leave from base by his casually racist commanding officer and heads to Paris, where he finds whirlwind romance with a white woman (Nicole Berger)—but what happens to their love when his furlough is over?
Melvin Van Peebles’s edgy, angsty, romantic first feature could never have been made in America. Channelling the brash exuberance of the French New Wave, Van Peebles creates an exploration of the psychology of an interracial relationship as well as a commentary on France’s contradictory attitudes about race that is playful, sarcastic, and stingingly subversive by turns; and that laid the foundation for the scorched-earth cinematic revolution he would unleash just a few years later with Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.
Presented as part of Cinema Rediscovered on Tour, a Watershed project with support from BFI awarding funds from The National Lottery and MUBI.