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Thread: Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center 2015

  1. #16
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    Thomas Cailley: LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT (2014)

    THOMAS CAILLEY: LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT/LES COMBATTANTS (2014)


    KEVIN ANAÏS AND ADÈLE HAENEL IN LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT

    Boy meets tomboy

    Love at First Fight, actual French title Les combattants ("Fighters") is a charmer that has nothing terribly unusual about it except that you never quite know where it is headed. Arnaud (the handsome and appealing Kevin Azaïs) and his brother are carrying on their father's carpentry business. He enters an impromptu military demonstration where he is knocked down by a young woman, Madeleine (the excellent Adèle Haenel of Céline Sciamma's Water Lilies). But he throws her off and wins by biting her. When he and his brother show up to build a cabin by a pool, who should be there but Madeleine.

    The boys are invited to dinner there, and Madeleine turns out to full of apocalyptic ideas, a survivalist bent on entering an ultra-intense branch of the French army, or at least taking a two-week free training camp that prepares you to enlist in the program. Madeleine is crazy. But she's also exciting and different. And Arnaud, who's unformed and open to attractions, signs up for the camp and follows Madeleine. There is a fine line here between testing, competing, showing off, and courting that is deceptively smart and appealing.

    Thomas Cailley films the camp so it's on a cutting edge between hard core and silly. Madeleine's extremism leads her into trouble -- more than once. When things get out of hand, she and Arnaud wind up together. The great thing about this movie is that even in the last shot, we don't know if this relationship is for a little while, or for life, or ends tomorrow -- but they're both smiling, and so are we. All along the scenes are intelligent and original. If this is even a rom-com, it's far enough from cliché for us not to think about that. Cailley has a knack for taking familiar ingredients and making them feel fresh. Images from the film are likely to stick in the mind, notably including a sequence shot during an actual disaster, a summer forest fire, where Arnaud behaves heroically.

    Love at First Fight/Les combattants, 98 mins., first feature by Thomas Cailley. He studied script writing at the elite French film school La Fémis (Paris) and in 2010 directed Paris Shanghai, a short film that won a raft of international festival awards. Les combattants debuted May 2014 as part of Directors Fortnight at Cannes, showing in over 18 other international festivals. French release was 20 August 2014 to rave reviews; AlloCiné press rating 4.1. (A Variety review by Peter Debruge is somewhat tongue-in-cheek.) Shown as part of the FSLC/uniFrance-sponsored Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at the Walter Reade Theater and the IFC Center in New York in March 2015, its North American premiere, where it was screened for this review. Beautiful outdoor cinematography by David Cailley (the director’s brother). A Strand Releasing release. Opened in New York on Friday, May 22, 2015 at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Opened in Los Angeles on Friday, June 12, 2015 at Laemmle Theaters. Metacritic rating 63%. New on DVD in the US from Strand September 8th 2015. Recommended.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-25-2015 at 12:02 PM.

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    Cyprien Vial: YOUNG TIGER

    CYPRIEN VIAL: YOUNG TIGER/BÉBÉ TIGRE (2014)


    HARMANDEEP PALMINDER IN YOUNG TIGER: MANY WITH HIS FRENCH SCHOOLMATES

    A young Punjabi striver at risk in Paris

    Young Tiger marks the inaugural feature of Cyprien Vial, who previously wrote and directed four shorts, one the Cannes prizewinner In Range. Here he relates the problems and accomplishments of the colorful Many (Harmandeep Palminder), a Punjabi boy arrived in France at fifteen without documents (and under French law, because under 18, due state protection). In the role Palminder, long-faced, tall, with big almond eyes, full lips, and a ready smile, becomes a most appealing vehicle for a "social survival thriller" (as the filmmaker calls it) cum coming of age tale. Under the protection of an older Indian, the sub-rosa entrepreneur Kamal (Vikram Sharma), who finds him a foster family and puts him into school and then to work, Many in two years, at 17, is popular in his multi-cultural class, with an African-French girlfriend called Elisabeth (Elisabeth Lando). He talks to his family on the phone all the time and they expect him to send back 500 euros a month when it's only by taking great risks that he can send back 80. The French are indulgent, but also strict. He has opportunities that his obvious energies and talents may allow him to fulfill. But if he works illegally, he'll never get papers. And if he doesn't keep up with his studies, he cannot advance in school. He is given hope he may be able to study engineering. In fact he may be lucky to go to a trade school. (His local family member is a train conductor.) And if he succumbs to pressure from his clandestine employer and his family back home, he may just be expelled from the country.

    Vial provides a string of events that keep the film chugging along and the life of its bright and shining protagonist in a state of constant manic intensity: Many is always on the run. He does well in school and seems to perform enormous skillful feats of multitasking. But the illegal jobs are a dangerous pull that leads him to lie constantly, to his somewhat bland foster parents, his flickering by teachers, and his unseen mother. The stress Many's in undermines his relations with his otherwise adoring girlfriend and he will eventually be pressured by the system to betray the one to whom he owes the most, and contend with a nasty competitor, Sony (Amandeep Singh). The jobs and contacts with similar workers occur at a Sikh temple. At school, his closest classmates seem authentic and appealing. At this semi-documentary local color Vian excels. Nonetheless, partly out of too great an eagerness to represent collective experience and partly because the world has itself become more generic, this film lacks the deeply lived-in specificity and sense of place of a movie like Ken Loach's 1969 classic Kes. PartlyYoung Tiger is appealing and reads like a Young Adult novel, with the plusses and minuses of the genre, and is a convincing performance by Palminder and a promising beginning by Vial. But as Vial points out in a Variety interview, he's seeking to show the French system's contradictions in dealing with young immigrants, particularly the smartest ones.

    Céline Sciamma was a storyline consultant.

    Young Tiger/Bébé tigre, 87 mins., debuted at Namur, Bordeau, and Saint-Jean-de-Luz Octo ber 2014, French theatrical release 14 January 2015 to good reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.8). Shown as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center-UniFrance cosponsored series Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at the Walter Reade Theater and the IFC Center in New York in March 2015 (this film's North American premiere), where it awas screened for this review.


    HARMANDEEP PALMINDER: MANY NETWORKS AT THE SIKH TEMPLE
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-25-2015 at 09:23 PM.

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    Lucie Borleteau: FIDELIO, ALICE'S ODYSSEY 92014)

    LUCIE BORLETEAU: FIDELIO, ALICE'S ODYSSEY/FIDELIO, L'ODYSSÉE D'ALICE (2014)


    MEVIL POUPAUD, ARIANE LABED IN FIDELIO, ALICE'S ODYSSEY

    The film Fidelio: Alice's Odyssey is the debut of woman director Lucie Borleteau, and it has in Alice (Greek-born French-educated Ariane Labed of Attenberg ) a woman protagonist liberated in more ways than one. She not only does a man's job in a man's world, serving in an all-male crew as a ship's engineer. She's also a sexual free-thinker, making the rust-bucket Fidelio's name sound ironic by almost immediately being unfaithful to her macho-cool, highly sexed graphic novel artist partner Felix (the excellent Anders Danielsen Lie of Reverso and Oslo: August 31) with the captain, Gaël (Melvil Poupaud of Rohmer's Summer's Tale and many other roles). One can sense a woman's good taste in men in Borleteau's choice of these two male actors. No dobut the soulful and fluid Labed is a careful choice. Whether the director does all she could with this setup and these choices is another question.

    Gaël's presence on board the ship as captain comes as a surprise to Alice, but when they go to bed they're renewing ann old affair. Gaël indicates that though married and with children now, he still carries the flame for her and always will. Here is the stuff of romance. But there is something more coolly free-thinking and maybe reckless about Alice's outlook. For some, it's hinted, life on board ship is more exciting and richer than on land. Alice adheres to the rule that "what happens at sea stays at sea," a viewpoint guaranteed to ruin any relations with a landlocked partner. Later on she kicks one man out of her bunk. But later still after a brief reunion on land with Felix and a promotion to chief engineer, Alice welcomes still another man into her bunk, slighting and wounding Gaël. Is this an odyssey, declaring her independence as a woman, or just meandering and burning her bridges? Felix too has been wounded, perhaps irreparably.

    Action in the bunk seems to take center stage and worsen troubles that develop with the declining ship. There is even a corpse on board; it seems Alice's predecessor died, and his diary of loneliness and austerity, which Alice reads, represents a contrasting thread carried through the film, though perhaps a bit of a red herring; it's not always clear what Borleteau is getting at, though clearly she is striving for novelistic complexity. In cinematic terms the local color is often good: a multi-cultural Christmas on board, a wild ceremonial crossing of the Equator, and Filipino crew members' ardent Christianity and animistic ceremonies for the engine, which they call "Demonia," are all flavorful details. The specific seagoing atmosphere adds a lot, other characters on board emerge distinctly enough even as confidants for Alice, and one can be glad for the absence of the endless and numbing sort of catastrophes encountered in the recent watery adventure Black Sea. But not only does Alice's busy sex life get in the way of the proper performance of her on board duties. It tends to strain our sense that we are observing an actual picture of life on a ship, even of one not long away from being scuttled.

    Fidelio, Alice’s Odyssey/Fidelio, l’odyssée d’Alice, 97 mins., debuted at Locarno 9 August 2014, where Labed won Best Actress, showing at a half-dozen other festivals. French theatrical release took place 24 December 2014, to very good reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.8). Screened for this review as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center-UniFrance series Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at the Walter Reade Theater and the IFC Center in New York in March 2015, where the film had its North American premiere.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-24-2015 at 11:46 PM.

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    Cédric Anger: NEXT TIME I'LL AIM FOR THE HEART (2014)

    CÉDRIC ANGER: NEXT TIME I'LL AIM FOR THE HEART/LA PROCHAINE FOIS JE VISERAI LE COEUR (2014)


    GUILLAUME CANET IN NEXT TIME I'LL AIM FOR THE HEART

    The banality of evil seen through a French serial killer

    In his third feature Cédric Anger is working freely from a true story from the late Seventies about serial killer Alain Lamare (here called Franck Neuhart) who was a respected officer of the gendarmes involved in the search for -- himself. Shooting in drab sepias and grays, Anger slowly establishes an atmosphere of glacial chill. Staying close to the superficially bland split personality, played by the studiously innocent and blank-looking Guillaume Canet, Anger is understated, holding back the thrills even in murder sequences. Franck never has sex with his pretty victims: he mostly shoots them and tosses them out of a rental car, apparently repelled by the blood and mess killing them has made. The eventful yet numb first half hour almost bores us to death.

    But gradually our closeness to the killer and the creepiness of his double or triple life -- besides gendarming and killing he's halfheartedly wooing his pretty cleaning lady (Ana Girardot) -- gets a grip on us and sends the chill down our spines. Franck is a strange individual, though the screenplay fails to convey fully the depth of the insanity that led to his lifelong confinement to a mental institution after apprehension. He mortifies his flesh with ice baths, whips, and barbed wire, disciplines that pay off when he has to hide for hours under water breathing through a reed. He takes a boy hunting and "donates" to him the forest where when the chase is getting near, he shows his teammates a parade of deer at dawn. Its' made clear he might have killed his girlfriend, his boss, or himself, had circumstances been right.

    Is he gay as the police begin to think? He doesn't seem to like women. If his madness is under-shown, perhaps that's because he knew how to hide it. Anger's film, considered his best so far, might seem to offer little in the way of excitement, but its blend of realism and poetry is not far from the work of Jean-Pierre Melville, or one of Georges Simenon's "romans durs," this psychopath without any of the charm or panache of a Tom Ripley. Anger's focus on the criminal and those seeking him in the same person is unique.

    A former Cahiers du Cinéma critic, Anger previously directed two other genre pieces (The Killer, The Lawyer), more recently scripting André Téchiné’s true-story drama, In the Name of My Daughter (also in R-V 2015). Ten years ago he collaborated in the development of Xavier Beauvois' touching police movie Le Petit Lieutenant.

    Next Time I'll Aim for the Heart/La prochaine fois je viserai le coeur, 111 mins., debuted an Angoulême in August 2014, showing at other festivals, including Rome, Hong Kong, and Rotterdam. French and Belgian releases November 2014, to good reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.7). Shown as part of the FSLC/uniFrance-sponsored Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at the Walter Reade Theater and the IFC Center in New York in March 2015, its North American premiere, where it was screened for this review. This is one of two serial-killer films in the 2015 Rendez-Vous, the other being L'Affaire SK1. A review of Anger's film by Jordan Mintzer will be found in Hollywood Reporter.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-25-2015 at 11:33 PM.

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    André Téchiné: IN THE NAME OF MY DAUGHTER (2014)

    ANDRÉ TÉCHINÉ: IN THE NAME OF MY DAUGHTER/L'HOMME QU'ON AIMAIT TROP (2014)


    ADÈLE HAEMEL AND GUILLAUME CANET, IN THE NAME OF MY DAUGHTER

    A crooked business takeover and a murder, ceremonially reenacted

    André Téchiné is a grand director who makes grand films and American critics seem to cut him some slack even when recent efforts have failed to achieve what he did at his best in films like I Don't Kiss, My Favorite Season, Wild Reeds, or the wonderful Les Voleurs. And as recently as The Witnesses, about the AIDS crisis, he has made a film that matters. This one, based on real event of the 1970's (and on the memoir, Une femme face à la Mafia by Renée Le Roux and her son Jean-Charles Le Roux), fails to move. It has the glitter and sunshine of a Riviera casino, the Palais de la Méditerranée. It has a regal Catherine Deneuve as Renée Le Roux, the casino's owner, Adèle Haenel as Agnès Le Roux, her headstrong daughter, and Guillaume Canet as Maurice Agnelet, the odd, questionable lawyer. Slow destruction of wealth and order: Agnelet first steals Agnès' heart, then her money. He destroys the casino by by turning it over to an Italian mobster, Fratoni (Jean Corso, a nobody). Fratoni completes a hostile takeover of all the casinos. Whereupon Agnelet moves to Panama and Agnès disappears permanently. All this surely is material for an exciting graft and gangster film. But the excitement is off-screen. And as Téchiné presents it, none of it seems to matter.

    Everything in In the Name of My Daughter (bad English title in place of a somewhat pointless French one, L'Homme qu'on aimait trop, The Man Who was Loved Too much) is presented by Téchiné in a way that is full-on haute bourgeoisie French traditional cinema. Andin general, despite Haenel's edge (and a wild African drum dance), it feels consistently more ceremonial than fresh and dramatic. Everything comes across as cold and bloodless, even when emotions are high and tears are shed. That generic quality Canet has, which made him so effectively creepy as the gendarme serial killer in the recent Next Time I'll Aim for the Heart (also R-V 2015), here just leaves a blank space. There is zero chemistry between him and Haenel, so her suicidal passion for him is inexplicable (and reading from her diary doesn't help make her telegraphed-in emotions seem any more real). It makes sense that Peter Debruge in his Variety review calls this film "a waxworks re-creation of the Nice casino wars." The thirty-years-later segment at the end fails to move us. Again Canet, as Agnelet, is stiff, and the always-elegant Deneuve's suffering (with dark gray hair instead of the earlier satin white to show she's aged, which makes little sense) is seen from a distance and has no effect.

    There are a few early scenes between Canet and Haenel, before their relationship has become unconvincing, when Haenel's aggressiveness strikes sparks even off him a bit. Later, when the casino is being dismantled and Renée is losing everything, there's a good scene or two between her and her loyal chauffeur. Téchiné has carried over the Italian actor Mauro Conte from his previous Unforgivable, where he had a more important role as Jérémie. Now he is Mario, the loyal chauffeur, and there's a memorable, because odd, moment where Mario drives Renée home in her Mercedes sitting next to him and they sing an Italian pop song together. He then has lunch with her and they converse in Italian: again surprising, off-program, therefore memorable. We know Téchiné is capable of many things like this, but he has become involved in this inexplicable project that allows hardly any breathing room.

    In the Name of My Daughter/L'Homme qu'on aimait trop, 116 mins., debuted at Cannes in competition; ten or twelve other festival showings. French theatrical release 16 July 2014, to mediocre reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.1; but Unforgivable's was worse, 2.6). Screened for this review as part of the March 2015 FSLC-UniFrance Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, March 2015, showing at Lincoln Center and IFC. US release coming by Cohen Media Group 8 May 2015; Landmark Cinemas San Francisco Bay Area 22 May.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-15-2015 at 07:27 PM.

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    Armel Hostiou: STUBBORN (2015)

    ARMEL HOSTIOU: STUBBORN/UNE HISTOIRE AMÉRICAINE (2015)


    VINCENT MACAIGNE AND KATE MORAN IN STUBBORN

    Lonely French guy in New York

    In this movie Vincent Macaigne, who has become a regular of little French films, plays "Vincent," a stubborn (maybe just stupid) Frenchman who goes to New York in pursuit of a certain Barbara, a French-speaking American woman (played by Kate Moran) whom he had a brief affair with in Paris and thinks he is madly in love with. She is done with him and lives with a new tall muscular together American boyfriend (daytime soap veteran Murray Bartlett) who is in stark contrast to the stumpy, frumpy Vincent. Soulful and innocent in manner, Macaigne is markedly balding on top and front, with long drooping hair on the sides and a perpetual two-day beard. He has big eyebrows and sweet, moony eyes. He has already played a professional Lonely Guy in the films of Guillaume Brac, and can be seen in the so-so 2 Autumns, 3 Winters by Sébastien Betbeder and Brac's Tonnerre. This time, collaborating with Arme Hostiou on a short called Kingston Avenue and this expansion of it, to whose writing and improvisation he contributes, Macaigne settles down into the Lonely Guy role, getting some laughs by exhibiting with everyone but the French-speaking Barbara his near-complete inability to communicate in English.

    Barbara tells Vincent to go away and buys him a return plane ticket. Instead he hangs around, trying various futile gestures to get Barbara's attention and, absurdly, accept his proposal of marriage. Drowning his sorrows at a bar he meets Sophie (Sofie Rimestad), who goes around with him, including a late night visit to Coney Island. Sophie obviously has taken to him, but he dismisses her rather cruelly after another rejection from Barbara. Time goes by and Vincent is still in New York, working in a fish factory, and even when his younger sister and father come to visit, also with a return ticket for him, he refuses to go back, a lost expatriate for love. A comic meander full of gags and improvisation turns into a sad story -- and also an expression of the French fascination with the potent energy of New York City, whose beauties sometimes come through in the garish but underlit cinematography.

    But the trouble with this film is how lame and limp its improvisation by Macaigne is. He literally just seems to be occupying space. Despite a few charming or appealing moments, the ridiculous morphs eventually into the merely tiresome.

    Stubborn/Une histoire américaine, 85 mins., had its French theatrical release 11 February 2015 to mediocre reviews (AlloCiné press rating 2.8).Screened for this review as part of the FSLC/UniFrance-sponsored Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at the Walter Reade Theater and the IFC Center in New York in March 2015, its North American premiere.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-26-2015 at 09:21 PM.

  7. #22
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    Shorts Program

    SHORTS PROGRAM


    EXTRASYSTOLE

    Blurb descriptions in italics are followed by my comments.

    The Smallest Apartment in Paris / Le Plus petit appartement de Paris
    Hélèna Villovitch, France, 2014, 15m

    French with English subtitles
    Carla and François are forced to share a 16 square meter studio in this whimsical sketch addressing the housing crisis that all urban dwellers are sure to identify with. North American Premiere. This is an amusing and great-looking bright pastel sci-fi fantasy full of satire and humor. A tiny film about a tiny space -- it's very witty. I hope she can sustain such skill and amusement over a longer span.

    Back Alley / Le Contre-allée
    Cécile Ducrocq, France, 2014, DCP, 29m

    French with English subtitles
    A streetwalker since the age of 15, Suzanne finds her livelihood threatened by the arrival of African prostitutes on her turf in this heartbreaking winner of the Small Golden Rail prize at Cannes. Ducrocq gets into a vérité feel of her milieu but the storytelling isn't as strong as the atmosphere. Maybe that doesn't matter because we learn more about the life of prostitution than we normally do.

    The Space / Espace
    Eléonor Gilbert, France, 2014, 14m

    French with English subtitles
    A young girl wants to play soccer at recess but schoolyard sexism prevents it. So, with pencil and paper, she charts her grievances, urging her peers to take back the playground. U.S. Premiere. Well, this is just a document of a very talky schoolgirl, perhaps a future social activist. It's interesting to observe how she thinks and expresses herself, but it goes on too long.

    Extrasystole
    Alice Douard, France, 2013, 35m

    French with English subtitles
    When student Raphaëlle, subject to cardiac contractions, meets enigmatic teacher Adèle, it’s not just her condition that makes her heart skip a beat. From the prestigious French film school La Femis, this is an excellent depiction of the excitement and elitism that surround French university or Grande École education and the snobbism, the sudden attractions, the class infighting. The rumors and mystery surrounding teachers are well portrayed in Adèle and the student Raphaëlle's short period of connection with her and then rejection of her. I was reminded of the hothouse atmosphere depicted (in fuller detail) in Emmanuel Bourdieu's 2006 Poison Friends/Les amitiés maléfiques (NYFF 2006). Cp. also Christophe Honoré's 2008 La Belle Personne.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-26-2015 at 09:57 PM.

  8. #23
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    Stéphane Demoustier: 40-LOVE (2014)

    STÉPHANE DEMOUSTIER: 40-LOVE/TERRE BATTUE (2014)


    CHARLES MÉRIENNE IN 40-LOVE

    Father and son

    As Jérôme Sauvage, the harried store manager who gets let go, has his wife walk out on him, and has to pay more attention to his tennis-talented 11-year-old son Ugo (Charles Mérienne), Olivier Gourmet indeed delivers one of his reliably heartfelt and authentic everyman performances. But that isn't enough to hold together a film that seems too much like it's falling apart, like its protagonist's life. It may become a little too hard to see what this is about.

    What's immediately appealing about Stéphane Demoustier's first feature is the natural, no-nonsense relationship between father and son, which turns out to be central to the story even if unresolved. Charles Mérienne, the boy, indeed can play tennis, of course. He has a focus about him that doesn't seem faked or actor-y at all. Man and boy scuffle and spar verbally with each other in ways that seem satisfyingly not meant to make any point. When Jérôme talks frankly at home with a friend about what's gone wrong with his wife (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), he does so right in front of Ugo, and Ugo simply listens. Yes, Ugo is talented. But Jérôme, understandably distracted by a need to find a new livelihood and perhaps not too realistic about solutions (he envisions his own giant shoe store), and dishonest in exploring them (posing as a tax inspector to examine a potential competitor's books). He evidently isn't giving Ugo the support he needs all the time. Early on, he makes him lose a match due to lateness because he detours to scout for a store location. Besides, there's another boy in the program who's probably more talented and therein lies the problem for Ugo. But is this film about the father, the son, or the relationship between them? It can't seem to decide.

    There are problems with the cast that get in the way of this film's being memorable. It may be asking too much for an 11-year-old who is mainly an athlete involved in a particularly obsessive sport, but young Mérienne, though authentic and no-nonsense, is a bit blank. Hisa face is stiking in closeup though, and he might do very well if given future roles. Great as Olivier Gourmet is in the Dardennes films and plenty of others, there is some question whether he is suitable for a lead role -- Pierre Schöller's terrific The Minister/L'Exercise de l'Étât being a very notable exception. An actor like Gourmet needs remarkable material to truly shine. As for Bruni Tedeschi, who has had one of her best roles recently in Carlo Virzì's Human Capital/Il capitale umano (recently released in the US), she rarely impresses in minor roles and has little to do here, even though she gets two emotional moments.

    Some of the material is solid. It's specific to today's economic crisis and is knowledgeable about retail sales, employment, athletics, and the pathways to a pro tennis career. The socioeconomic aspect helps explains involvement of the Dardenne brothers in the production.

    Maybe I'm being too hard on this film, which Peter Debruge at Venice described in Variety as "an imperfect debut" but "revealing new psychological layers nearly every quarter-hour" and introducing "an impressive new talent." The material, whose late reel surprises Debruge points out are based on a news story, certainly is unusual and unfolds in an unexpected manner. Dubruge thinks the film does decide where to focus, and concludes it thus: it's an "extended volley back and forth, with the ball ultimately landing in Ugo’s court." It may land in Stéphane Demoustier's court too. His is a new name in French cinema to keep in mind.

    40-Love/Terre battue, 95 mins. The French title refers to the clay court of the Roland Garros French open site; Ugo is hoping to be sent to train there. The film debuted at Venice; half a dozen festivals. French theatrical release 17 December 2014 to very mixed reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.1): some appreciated the novelty and the social commentary; others found it conventional, and one writer noted the tennis matches were very badly filmed (the camera tends to focus only on one player at a time). Screened for this review as part of the FSLC/UniFrance-sponsored Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at the Walter Reade Theater and the IFC Center in New York in March 2015, its North American premiere.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-28-2015 at 12:14 AM.

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    Quentin Duprieux: REALITY (2014)--Closing Night

    QUENTIN DUPRIEUX: REALITY/RÉALITÉ (2014)


    ALAIN CHABAT IN REALITY

    La vida es sueño y sueño de sueño?

    Those not enamored of whimsy may not adore Quentin Duprieux's intricate but jokey dreams-within-dreams film. Perhaps it is needlessly clever, but clever it certainly is. As French critic Alexandre Lazerges says, it's also "puerile, but that's aways funny." It concerns Jason Tantra (Alain Chabat), a French expatriate living and working in Hollywood, who pitches a trite idea for an apocalyptic horror movie (TVs that dumb down the population and then kill them by emitting poisonous rays), and then goes nuts trying to find an Oscar-winning groan (gémissement) to satisfy Bob Marshall (French TV host Jonathan Lambert), his imperious and silly cigar-smoking potential Hollywood producer. He has 48 hours to find the perfect groan or Marshall won't produce his film.

    Jason Tantra is third cameraman on a TV show about cooking featuring an emcee in a giant rat costume (Jon Heder) who has developed eczema all over his body, though it may be only his imagination, as an irate dermatologist tells him. Tantra has a grumpy wife, Alice (Élodie Bouchez), who's a shrink. Her irate client (Eric Wareheim) stomps out of his treatment session, distracted by Jason's experimental groans. He turns out to be the principal of the school attended by a little girl named Reality (Kyla Kennedy). In the dream he has described, he was driving a jeep dressed in women's clothes. Only he apparently does drive a jeep wearing women's clothes.

    Some of these people begin dreaming, particularly Jason, who is sleepless in his frantic investigation of groans, and dozes off uncontrollably. All the while, rather maddeningly, the mood is intensified by background music from the first five minutes of Phillip Glass's "Music With Changing Parts" (appropriately from 1971), relentlessly repeated. And there is Zog (John Glover), a filmkaker-cameraman who is making a film (also produced by Bob Marshall) about a little girl called Reality who finds, or thinks she finds, a videotape inside a wild boar her father has killed. Ultimately, Jason appears to be part of Zog's film too. And he has either gone insane, or dreams that he has. But when Jason calls Bob Marshall, what he says is in a film Zog is projecting that is the videotape Reality has found, which also depicts herself. Duprieux has constructed a jokey series of Russian dolls that are dreams-within-dreams and films-within-films that cannot ultimately be tracked down. The line between reality and fiction, dream and film, is never drawn; each is always slipping into the next. As Boyd van Hoeij puts it in Hollywood Reporter Duprieux "applies the logic of an M.C. Escher drawing to his tangle of stories."

    Reality swims in a faded shallow-focus world of 1970's B-pictures. Most of what we see is pale and slightly retro, including the big boxy cars, the rotary dial telephones, and the TV equipment. But Duprieux isn't strict about this, leaving open the possibility that this is a contemporary fantasy. He has given us a surreal, dadaist film that Dali and Buñuel might have loved to make. And it also, a year after the death of Alain Resnais, continues his tradition of bright absurdity. Reality is a very smart and adept film, but also a contentedly silly and nonsensical one. Many of the French critics love it; it's not likely to play so well to Anglo audiences. Or to those not fond of whimsy. In its minute-to-minute action it is trivial. In its dull hi-def look and annoyingly repetitive sound it is un-beautiful. It is more in thinking about it afterwards that Reality becomes thought-provoking and unique. Maybe the French critics like it because in France the 1970's conceptual mindset still prevails whereby it is not so much the art work itself that matters as how eloquent the critic can wax in rapping about it. Hence the conceptual French film critics' premier voice Cahiers du Cinéma ranks Reality very high.

    Duprieux is a cult director. A small group love his oeuvre. Others detest him. In the US, he is the stuff of late night screenings. Parisians can take him in the daytime. Directed, written, edited and filmed by Duprieux, Reality was originally to have been shot in France and Korea. But it turned out to be cheaper to shoot it in Los Angeles. A wealthy cinephile who liked the scenario lent his wonderful modernist mansion at a cheap rate for Bob Marshall's house. A modicum of English dialogue was blended in alternating with the French to make the California location not seem totally incongruous. But it is still incongruous. And that is quite appropriate.

    Reality/Réalité, 102 mins., debuted at Venice 28 August 2014, showing at eight other festivals. French theatrical release 18 February 2015 to good reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.6). In the US, this film, screened for this review as the closing night presentation of the Film Society of Lincoln Center-UniFrance series, Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, is an IFC Midnight release.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-28-2015 at 12:17 AM.

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