May 1 may be over and the Lily of the valley the bouquets are fading, but there’s a wealth of French art and culture to discover across the United States and online this month.

The Tragedy of King Christopher – Chicago, until May 29

In the turbulent aftermath of the Haitian Revolution of 1804, a general named Henri Christophe was elected president, but instead adopted a royal title. The tragedy of King Christopher, written in 1963 by Martinican poet, scholar, and activist Aimé Césaire, is a fictionalized version of the victory, collapse, and fall of Haiti’s first and only king. Chicago’s House Theater presents a new production of this rarely staged play, rich in traditional Haitian music and dance. Translated from French by Paul Breslin and Rachel Ney, and directed by Lanise Antoine Shelley. The tragedy of King Christopheruntil May 29.

On Saturday, May 7, from 2 p.m., a panel of performers and scholars will join the play’s translators and director for an in-depth discussion of Césaire’s work. It’s free to attend in person at the Poetry Foundation of Chicago, and a recording will be available online after the event.

Agnès Varda: God of Cinema – Minneapolis, May 2-31 & The Path of the Cat: Chris Marker’s Centennial – Los Angeles, May 1-26

Two authors from the French New Wave have retrospectives this month. Both have mined their own lives for an art that blends documentary, autobiography and fiction, with surprisingly different but equally intriguing results. In Minneapolis, at the Trylon Cinema, “Agnès Varda: God of Cinema”, takes its title from the description of the filmmaker by Martin Scorsese. The series features classics like Cleo from 5 to 7, Happiness and Vagabondas well as lesser-seen works from his California years: the documentary wall wallsan exuberant catalog of public art murals in Los Angeles, presented in conjunction with his 1970 short film, black panthers.

At the sprawling new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile, “The Path of the Cat” marks the centenary of Varda’s friend and contemporary, prolific filmmaker, journalist and essayist Chris Marker (a pseudonym of Christian Bouche-Villeneuve.) Best known for his iconic short film The PierOn view this month, Marker’s long and eclectic career is amply documented, including a collection of his animal shorts, and appropriately, The Pretty May, his freewheeling documentary from the spring of 1962, after the ceasefire with Algeria, which invites Parisians to reflect on contemporary life in a new climate of peace.

Cézanne – Chicago, from May 15 to September 5.

On May 15, the Art Institute of Chicago unveils the blockbuster of the summer: Cézanne. Amazingly, this is the beloved painter’s first retrospective in the United States in over 25 years, organized in conjunction with Tate Modern, with over 100 works on display. Among the famous landscapes, portraits and still lifes, visitors can discover a wealth of rarely seen and private preliminary works and drawings, and experience anew the artist’s revolutionary manipulation of perspective, color and light. . As befits an exhibition of this magnitude, there will be a series of scholarly lectures, a beautifully illustrated catalog of essays, and opportunities to participate in “plein air” painting sessions on Saturday afternoons with a local artist ( but not, unfortunately, in Provence. )

Who Killed My Dad – New York, May 18-June 5

He was not yet thirty years old, but Édouard Louis had already earned a reputation for fierce literary talent, renowned for his ruthless portraits of the working-class community in the north of France in which he grew up, where brutality, homophobia and right-wing extremism are the toxic consequences of state neglect. His third book, 2018 Who Killed My Father / Who Killed My Father, takes the form of a letter to his father, who died at fifty from a work accident and an addiction to painkillers, emblematic of how the French political establishment has failed its most vulnerable citizens. Louis’ stage adaptation of the book opens at St. Ann’s Warehouse Theater in Brooklyn this month. Directed by Thomas Ostermeier and starring the author, it’s a tough and moving story of alienation and careful reconciliation. In French, with English subtitles.

Night of Ideas — Various locations and dates, May 3-21

The quintessentially French philosophy and performance festival, Night of Ideas, is making a comeback after its pandemic hiatus, bringing together over 250 artists and thinkers to tackle the inescapable question of the moment: Where are we going? The global event will take place in 19 US cities this month, including Boston, San Francisco, Houston, Atlanta, Denver and New York, where punk icon Patti Smith and novelist Leïla Slimani are among the presenters. Each locality curates its own bespoke lineup – in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered in 2020, the night’s theme is the future of civil rights activism, while in Tucson, Arizona, events are will focus on climate change and environmental research. Wherever you are, a stimulating evening of social and intellectual exchange is guaranteed.

Joenna Scutts is the author of Hotbed: Bohemian Greenwich Village and the Secret Club that Sparked Modern Feminism (Seal Press, forthcoming June 2022) and The Extra Woman: How Marjorie Hillis Led a Generation of Women to Live Alone and Like It (Liveright, 2017)