Mention the name Melvin Van Peebles and the majority of people who know their Hitchcock from their Bong Joon-ho's would automatically think of his ground-breaking film Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971) - one of the most important films in African-American cinema, and of Peebles as the founding father of a popular contemporary Black American cinema.
They may be surprised to learn that his 1968 debut feature The Story of The Three-Pass was made in Paris adapted from his own French written/published novel. For someone so inextricably linked and identified with Black American popular cinema of the 1970s it is a revelation to discover that Peebles was part of cultural life of Paris in the 1960s.
Unable to break into a segregated Hollywood, Peebles went to Paris at the invitation of the legendary Cinémathèque française’s director Henri Langlois on the basis of his short films. Once there, Peebles realised that the French funding system allowed for authors to direct adaptations of their own novels. He started writing and then adapted one of his four novels La Permission for the screen inspired by his personal experiences in the United States Air Force.
By turns playful, sarcastic, and stingingly subversive, Van Peebles explored the psychology of an interracial relationship as well as commenting on France’s contradictory attitudes about race. 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?
The resulting film has all the energy of the Nouvelle Vague: exuberant, brash, confrontational and bursting with energy, a style that Peebles would incorporate so dramatically into Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. The Story of The Three-Day Pass screened at the 1967 San Francisco Film Festival as a French entry. An American producer asked to meet the film’s French director. The rest, as they say, is history!
New 4K restoration by IndieCollect in consultation with Mario Van Peebles, with support from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.