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Thread: BEST MOVIES OF 2010 -- so far

  1. #61
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    Doillon blames his fringe status on his failing to graduate from high school. I think he means he was outside certain social circles by virtue of class and level of education. He is a kind of self-made director who is on the outside of France's mainstream film industry. Most of his films have only had limited distribution in France and they seldom feature actors of significant fame (his latest appears to be an exception). From my readings: there is a consensus that his main theme is familial discord, from a youth's perspective. I don't know his work to be able to comment. I have only seen Petit Freres, ponette, and Raja (and maybe The 15 year-old Girl, but not sure). I definitely want to see more.

  2. #62
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    Thanks. I'm not sure I'd put too much store by the idea that Doillon is somehow outside the mainstream. France is a little country kind to minor filmmakers. Doillon is of was married to Jane Birkin, a national figure, the famous wife of Serge Gainsbourg, and he is a professor at the prestigious film school Le Fémis, and you can't get much more insider than that. However, his new film was shown at MK2 Beaubourg, which is one of MK2's film buff venues in Paris like MK2 Hautfeuille, rather than one of the big ones like MK2 Monparnasse or MK2 Nation or St. Germain. But there was a big article about the new film in Le Monde.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-16-2010 at 02:04 PM.

  3. #63
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    Thanks. I'm not sure however that I'd put too much store by the idea that Doillon is somehow outside the mainstream. France is a little country kind to minor filmmakers. Doillon is the son of Jane Birkin, a national figure, the famous wife of Serge Gainsbourg, and he is a professor at the prestigious film school Le Fémis, and you can't get much more insider than that. However, his new film was shown at MK2 Beaubourg, which is one of MK2's film buff venues in Paris like MK2 Hautfeuille, rather than one of the big ones like MK2 Monparnasse or MK2 Nation or St. Germain. But there was a big article about the new film in Le Monde. Besides "familial discord, from a youth's perspective," he has done various films about adult love relationships. I have found a one-page discussion of him on a French film buff website, CinemaPassion. He must have finished high school since he was a philosophy student at the university but he "dropped out to enter the work force." Shortly thereafter he made a stream of films to order for government agencies. He is good, they say, as we might guess, at directing teenagers, but women are another of his big subjects. Far from only directing unknowns he has worked with Juliette Binoche, Isabelle Huppert, Béatrice Dalle, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin, Melvil Poupaud, Yvan Attal (Charlotte's husband)l, Jean-Louis Trintignant and André Dussollier, Sandrine Bonnaire, Michel Piccoli, Sabine Azéma, and Agnes Jaoui, besides recently Louis Garrel, Pascal Greggory and Julie Depardieu. Apparently his first big success was The Year 01 in 1973, which starred Gérard Depardieu, Thierry Lhermitte, and Patrice Leconte. I think he is significant, highly regarded, and hard to classify. But there is not enough information about him in either the English or French Wikipedias.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-16-2010 at 11:10 AM.

  4. #64
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    Doillon has not had the same exposure in France and here as other directors of comparable talent who emerged around the same time. I don't know why. In his Petit Freres review, The Chicago Reader's Fred Camper quotes Doillon as saying:"Because I failed high school, I have always been on the fringe". He was almost an unknown to the average film buff (like me) until Ponette. Of course, he was better known in France than abroad. But he had a status similar to Luc Moullet, who was at Cahiers in the 50s, started a career in filmmaking in the 60s but even folks who love the Nouevelle Vague have not seen his films. Obviously you proved Doillon's relative marginality is not related to the actors starring in his films.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 08-16-2010 at 11:51 AM.

  5. #65
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    Doillon has not had the same exposure in France and here as other directors of comparable talent who emerged around the same time.
    That is probably true, though of course "of comparable talent" is a rating open to different interpretations. I've proved Doillon's relative marginality is less marginal, because using a lot of famous actors shows Doillon is fully a member of the French filmmaking community. In what sense then is he marginal? Only in not being seen by a majority of French moviegoers. But that goes for many of the most importand French directors. Mollet, who is seven years older and was on the fringes of the Nouvelle Vague, seems more of a cult figure and a man who has by choice and sensibility worked more on is own.

    For details of a French director's life, like Doillon's educational history, The Chicago Reader may not be the best source of information. If Doillon dropped out of high school, as I say he evidently survived to drop out of university later on too, and whether that choice adversely affected his ability to make films seems uncertain. His being on the faculty of Le Fémis again shows him to be a member of the French cinema elite, and in a country where the filmmaking process works differently than in the US, "mainstream" status would mean something different, and perhaps is less important.

    But we can agree we need to know more about Doillon. Both directors are quite well known in France at least to people who care about film, and in France that's a relatively large slice of the population. Maybe some day we will be able to sample or watch all the films by all the known directors of the major filmmaking countries. Wouldn't that be nice? Meanwhile, a lot of French films by important directors remain accessible only if you go to Europe or order expensive DVDs not in the US region code and wade through them without subtitles in many cases.

  6. #66
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    There have been occasional, less than comprehensive Doillon retrospectives in the US. Here's a link the latest one: http://www.fiaf.org/french%20film/wi...-doillon.shtml

    "We had the misfortune to come after the New Wave, Because of the New Wave, we remained marginal."
    Jacques Doillon

    Here's a brief interview on the ocassion of the retrospective: The New Yorker

  7. #67
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    I wish you'd linked to the Richard Brody piece in the first place. I don't know why I missed it. So now we know that he declares to have been marginalized (though if that applies to any French director after the New Wave, it doesn't make much sense), and that he has had a hard time getting his films made, with great limitations, but within those, considerable freedom, but now, the TV producers rule, and he finds much less freedom.
    And so, between the Advance and Canal Plus, we were able to get some money. Say, 400,000 francs. And, with not enough money to make a film, we made a film.

    A certain kind of film, with two or three characters, a small crew. We were very limited. But within these limits, we had remarkable freedom.

    Today the system has become an obstacle. Now we’re isolated in a way that we weren’t in the eighties.

    It’s a little desperate. In the eighties I made ten films. Despite everything. It wasn’t comfortable, it wasn’t easy, I had to fight. Now the bosses are television, and they all want to make what will work in prime time.
    However, we have seen some nice films made in France in recent years for television. Or at least I think so.

  8. #68
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    I posted the link to Brody piece as soon as I found it. The mammoth sensesofcinema site doesn't have anything on him, which speaks of a certain marginality, at least in the English-language world. The text most widely used to teach French Cinema at American universities, Alan Williams' Republic of Images (Harvard U Press,1992) mentions Doillon in one short paragraph as a "specialist in intimate family dramas" often shown primarily on specialized TV channels. Williams praises him for his "consistent refusal to sensationalize his material".

  9. #69
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    As I said neither the US nor the French Wiképedia have much; their articles on Doillon are stubs. There is an English Facebook page being set up on him but it is sketchy so far. There are pages on him in French. Here is another at Ciné-Club here. Note that they list three interrelated areas his films focus on: "the drama of childhood, the drama of adolescenes, and the drama of sentiment." And the sentimental dramas are the most numerous. Here's the whole passage (NB: very roughly translated) surveying Doillon's work and method, in case it may be of some interest:
    In the sentimental drama, the most numerous category, jealousy and manipulation of feelings dominate. This is true among couples married to adulterers: THE WEEPING WOMAN (1979), THE PIRATE (1984), THE TEMPTATION OF ISABELLE (1985), COMEDY (1987), THE REVENGE OF A WOMAN (1990), A MAN OVERBOARD (1993), FROM THE HEART (1994), TOO (LITTLE) LOVE (1997). This is also true for romantic relationships at school, whether undertaken by young peolle -- THE LOVE (187), LOVE (1992), DOWNRIGHT WEST (2001), RAJA (2003), or the relationship of someone older -- MONSIEUR ABEL (1983). Chamber dramas set in hotel rooms are the major device of this genre in Doillon's work.

    The dramas of adolescents can be distinguished from the sentimental dramas by the fact that the love relationship is at the same time an initiation and a break with the past. In HANDS IN THE HEAD (1974), THE PRODIGAL DAUGHTER (1981), THE PURITAN (1986), THE GIRL OF FIFTEEN (1989) that often comes through a difficult relationship with the father. In YOUNG WERTHER (1993) and THE FIRST MAN (2007) all figures of authority have disappeared.

    In Jacques Doillon's dramas of childhood the family has often disappeared, dispersed by war in A BAG OF MARBLES (1975), or death in THE TREE (1982), PONETTE (1996), or social hardships in: THE HUSSY (1979), FAMIILY LOFE (1985), MANGUI (1985), THE LITTLE CRIMINAL (1990) OR LITTLE BROTHERS (1999).

    In all three genres dialogue abounds because it is a true means of expression favored by the camera and the concentration of effort into a short period of time. FOR A A YES OR A NO is a confrontation in one scene, with a text by Nathalie Sarraute, André Dusollier and Jean-Louis Trinntignant, which comes across as exemplary of Doillon's "method" as it is illustrated, with greater or lesser variations, in all his films.

    Dialogue does not explain the comportment of characters. It sometimes moves the action forward, but not the evolution of the characters. As in a cinema of behavior, it is through studying the characters' behavior that one learns about them. The behavior is not reaslitic….The characters do not talk face to face. Thus in THE LITTLE CRIMINAL his hand is on the wrist of Nathalie's mother, with downcast eyes.

    The filmmaker finds out this truth himself cutting his films in sequences of long takes that force his actors -- professional or not, children or adults -- to repeat their performances over multiple takes, to the point of fatigue:

    "Emotionally a first take is less interesting than a twelfth! Fatigue makes the guard drop away. I cannot work with an actor who is too guarded." (Positif, April 1998)

    This shooting method that often requires 20 or 30 takes but in which only two or three are developed is actually inexpensive. Involving a fixed head-on camera position close to the characters, it's a method that thus comes close to a state of theatrical or psychological confinement.. . .

  10. #70
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    Thanks, Chris. This is very helpful.

    I found the Variety Review of Le Mariage a Trois, which is unfavorable and likely to scare away potential US distributors. Any comments?

  11. #71
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    Thanks. I hope it is useful. I had not seen the Variety review of the new MARRIAGE A' TROIS. Since it's only two paragraphs I'll quote the main one.
    Vet cineaste Jacques Doillon's films ("Raja," "Ponette") have occasionally featured bizarre love triangles and sexual tensions, but his oeuvre reaches new heights of faux-kinky gobbledygook in the low-budget chamber piece "The Three-Way Wedding." With a pitch that could have provoked untold laughter in the hands of a Larry David, pic somberly reveals the ego-tripping, backstabbing and, well, butt-slapping that occurs when two thesps spend a day at the country home of a misanthropic playwright. What ensues is far from enjoyable, and adequate perfs won't carry Doillon's pretentious banter further than French ears.
    In truth I did not enjoy it. I was disappointed there wasn't more of Louis Garrel but there's even less of him than in MAKING PLANS FOR LENA (Honoré), which I do like. But the cast and the description made it seem obviously the "cinéma d'auteur" opening of the week, so I made an effort to go on my last day in Paris. I wanted to learn, and I still do, and a friend had said Doillon was important. And he still may be. Maybe as Jordan Mintzer of Variety says the "semi-realistic [sic] adolescent characters" are what make the filmmaker's work attractive and without them, we just have some well known actors talking. However, I don't entirely trust Mintzer, and did not feel I entirely caught the tone of this verbose flick. It did have Ibsenesque qualities...

  12. #72
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    The "Word a Day" mailings today chose this:

    auteur

    PRONUNCIATION:
    (O-tuhr)

    MEANING:
    noun: A filmmaker, such as a director, who has a distinct personal style and is involved in all aspects of movie-making, giving a film the unique imprint of the filmmaker.

    ETYMOLOGY:
    From French auteur (originator or author), from Latin auctor (originator), from augere (to originate, to increase). Some other words derived from the same root are auction, author, and inaugurate, and augment.

    USAGE:
    "Ang Lee, a Taiwanese director who'd been working as a kind of auteur-for-hire on the US indie circuit for several years suddenly found himself poised to become the next Kurosawa, but -- sad to say -- he blew it off to 'go Hollywood' and make the most regressive career move possible, a comic-book flick."
    Giovanni Fazio; Heros at Large; The Japan Times (Tokyo); Aug 13, 2003.

    "If we can discern anything from interviews with auteur Mel Gibson, however, The Passion looms as possibly one of the most presumptuous, intelligence-insulting biblical adaptations since The Ten Commandments, a film that managed to depict the exodus of the Jews without ever once referring to them as 'Jews'."
    Lynn Coady; The Dolorous Passion of Mad Max; Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada); Aug 19, 2003.

    Explore "auteur" in the Visual Thesaurus.

    Personally I eschew the recommended pronunciation of "oh-TOUR" and say it the French way, "oh-TERR." With a hint of a French R of course. I can't help myself.

  13. #73
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    Thanks for your auteur post and your comments about Doillon's latest. Perhaps it's better to search for his older titles. I wrote some comments about GREENBERG to which you replied. I have yet to write anything about WILD GRASS, which I watched on Sunday.

    For me, it's clearly one of my favorite movies of 2010. Perhaps my favorite even though it had less emotional impact on me than GREENBERG. I simply had a smile from ear to ear watching this delicious movie-movie. I just can't get over how a Master approaching 90 years of age keeps experimenting with the medium rather than attempting to repeat old successes. WILD GRASS may well be Resnais' most surrealist and playful film even though it is not his best. I love Dussolier and Azema together. I love their neurotic and erotic mania and how it contrasts with the passive enabling of the sedate secondary characters. This is so much fun to watch. I love the fake ending which uses the Warner Brothers fanfare, the non-sequitur real ending, the scene-within-a-scene device, the occasional use of an unreliable narrator,...I could keep going. I hope I find the time to rewatch it before it leaves town.

  14. #74
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    Thanks. Don't know; any of Doillon's films from any period might be of interest.

    Howard started a WILD GRASS thread here. I saw it in the NYFF 2009 (you commented that the slate included many of your favorite directors) and reviewed it here. He gave it a B+ but later commented, "Not the kind of film that really clicks with me though I can admire the artistry. ."

    My NYFF 2009 review from last year ends:
    The result is far more conventional than those Sixties films, and on the glossy and mainstream side, veering between farce and melodrama. Wild Grass is full of assurance, and engages from the start. It may disappoint viewers in search of something more profound, more meditative, or funnier, but it's still a work of considerable accomplishment and doubtless may reward repeat viewings by devotees.
    So there you are. You should see it again and I planned to do so, but I fear it vanished from the Bay Area before I got a chance .

    Nyff 2009 comments thread.

  15. #75
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    ANIMAL KINGDOM (David Michôd)

    New addition to the year's best list: the Australian David Michôd's debut story of a brutal coming of age amid a criminal family's violent meltdown: ANIMAL KINGDOM. It turned out to be much more subtle, contemporary, and suspenseful than the trailer suggested. Tense from the first few minutes. Review will follow shortly. (August 21, 2010.)

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