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Thread: SFFS French Cinema Now Series Nov. 19-22, 2015

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    SFFS French Cinema Now Series Nov. 19-22, 2015

    General Forum thread.

    November 19-22, 2015 the SF Film Society presents French Cinema Now, a program of 11 films, at the Vogue Theatre, San Francisco

    Full details on the SFFS's website here. The ones I will review or have reviewed are marked with an asterisk. Click on titles of those to find the reviews.
    The films and festival blurbs are:

    *My Golden Days (Arnaud Desplechin 2015)
    In Arnaud Desplechin’s latest film, episodes from the past reverberate through the life of Paul Dédalus (Mathieu Amalric), an anthropologist preparing to return to Paris from Tajikistan. Critical chapters from his troubled youth, including his first romantic attachment to Esther, a schoolmate of his younger sister, are brought vividly to life by first-time actors Quentin Dolmaire and Lou Roy-Lecollinet, who bring fresh radiance to a coming-of-age tale full of both youthful passion and knowing regret. AlloCiné press rating: 4.1.
    November 19, 2015, 7:30 p.m.

    *My Friend Victoria (Jean-Paul Civeyrac 2015)
    A rich and multi-dimensional portrait of a woman who both struggles with and is attracted by assimilation into a world different from her own, My Friend Victoria follows its eponymous French African protagonist through several key episodes of her life. Adapted from a Doris Lessing story, the film features terrific performances by several unknown actors, including Guslagie Malanda as the older incarnation of the title character. AlloCiné press rating: 3.4.
    November 20, 2015, 7:00 p.m.
    US theatrical release 4 Dec. 2015 (NYC, IFC Center).

    Disorder/Maryland (Alice Winncour 2015)
    A soldier (Matthias Schoenaerts) suffering from PTSD is assigned to protect the wife (Diane Kruger) and son of a shady Lebanese businessman in this taut character-driven thriller. Though everything at "Maryland"—the lush, private Antibes estate where they are staying—seems calm, Vincent is anxious and on edge, and just because he suffers from paranoia doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be wary. AlloCiné press rating: 3.0.
    November 20, 2015, 9:15 p.m.

    Asterix – The Mansions of the Gods/Astérix – Le domaine des dieux (Louis Clichy, Alexandre Astier 2015)
    Director expected
    The latest filmic incarnation of the beloved French comic Asterix continues its winning tradition, going on 50 years now, of combining goofy puns and skewering social satire. Appealing to all ages, this French box office blockbuster features the expert 3-D animation of co-director Louis Clichy (animator on Pixar’s Wall-E and Up) and centers on Caesar’s attempts to conquer Asterix and his fellow villagers by building garish condominiums around their paradise in Brittany. Recommended for ages eight and up. AlloCiné press rating: 3.7.
    November 21, 2015, 1:00 p.m.

    All Cats Are Grey/Tous les chats sont gris (Savina Dellicour 2014)y
    Dorothy (Manon Capelle) is almost sixteen and reaching a difficult stage of adolescence. She’d like to know more about her real father, but asking her mother about him is “just not possible.” Then one day she meets a private detective named Paul (Bouli Lanners) and solicits his help finding her missing dad. The problem is that Paul is convinced that he is Dorothy’s father and has already been watching her. Not yet released in France.
    November 21, 2015, 4:00 p.m.

    *Gaby Baby Doll (Sophie Letourneur 2014)
    Gaby is incapable of sleeping alone. When her boyfriend figures out that she is keeping him around mostly as a sleep aide, he abandons her in the house where they are staying in the Burgundy countryside. Unable to endure solitude, Gaby invades the groundskeeper shack of a loner who has fashioned his life to avoid all human companionship. Lolita Chammah, Isabelle Huppert's daughter, gives a charmingly offbeat performance as the equally exasperating and endearing Gaby in this romantic comedy of opposites. AlloCiné press rating: 2.8.
    November 21, 2015, 6:15 p.m.

    *The Great Man/Le Grand Homme (Sarah Leonor 2013)
    Director expected
    Two French legionnaires survive an ambush while on duty in Afghanistan, setting off opposing forces of loyalty, nationality, ethnicity and identity that will test their friendship. Divided into chapters that reflect the shifting identities of the film’s two main protagonists, Sarah Léonor’s sophomore feature mixes reserved formalism, empathetic visual storytelling and strong performances from Dardennes regular Jérémie Renier and newcomer Surho Sugaipov to enliven this fable of family, country and codes among men. AlloCiné press rating: 3.4.
    November 21, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

    * Valley of Love (Guillaume Nicloux 2015)
    It’s been 35 years since Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu starred together in a film, so this funny and touching metaphysical drama is cause for celebration. Here, they play a divorced couple reuniting in the transcendental setting of Death Valley because their deceased son Michael had made a promise to appear to them there on a specific date. AlloCiné press rating 3.4.
    November 22, 2015, 1:30 p.m.

    Maestro (Léa Fazer 2014)
    Based on an actor’s experience of working on Eric Rohmer’s final film, The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (SFIFF 2008), Léa Fazer’s charming romantic comedy takes place on a film set and depicts the paternal relationship that forms between a young man full of joie de vivre (Pio Marmaï) and a master filmmaker nearing the end of his life and career (the always wonderful Michel Lonsdale). AlloCiné press rating 3.8.
    November 22, 2015, 4:00 p.m.

    *The Measure of a Man/La Loi du marché (Stéphane Brizé 2015)
    Best Actor, Cannes Film Festival
    Thierry Taugourdeau (Vincent Lindon) has been out of work for a year; one of hundreds laid off from his factory, he is struggling to make ends meet for his family on his meager unemployment. From the job center to the bank, each transaction in his life—whether large or small—now holds consequences. Working skillfully beside non-professionals, Lindon gives a forceful but restrained performance that won him the best actor prize at Cannes. AlloCiné press rating 3.8.
    November 22, 2015, 6:00 p.m.

    *In the Shadow of Women/L'ombre des femmes (Philippe Garrel 2015)
    Philippe Garrel once more delves into the emotional currents of male/female relationships in his beautifully modulated new film about a married couple who work closely together on documentary projects. When the husband meets a pretty young archivist, a fault line opens between the couple and the narrative explores the manifold sides of this romantic quandary. Evocatively shot in black and white, Garrel’s latest is a beautiful miniature, a reflective and moving exploration of life, love and filmmaking. AlloCiné press rating 4.1.
    November 22, 2015, 8:30 p.m.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 11-30-2015 at 06:02 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    VALLEY OF LOVE (Guillaume Nicloux 2015)



    Wandering in the desert to please a dead son

    From 2015 Cannes Competition and not the worst of the group, it has been noted (Van Sant's other two-hander, Sea of Trees, wins that hands-down) comes Guillaume Nicloux's slight, if wearisome, effort. Take two French cinema icons, Isabelle Huppert (62) and Gérard Depardieu (66), keep their own first names and personalities, mix in flimsy backstories, making them a long divorced couple. Add a sad, "spiritual" pretext: their estranged gay son, a recent suicide, has summoned them from beyond the grave in letters they've recently received. And plunk them down in California's Death Valley in the summertime, where the son, the unseen "Michael," has given "Isabelle" and "Gérard" a series of tourist sites and times to show up, promising to "appear" to them. Add scenery, digs at Americans, a few pseudo-Lynchian touches. And what do you get? Ninety minutes with two very interesting actors (who haven't been together since the late Maurice Pialat's 1980 gangster romance Loulou) with not enough to do. (This new film was produced by Pialat's widow, Sylvie.)

    While more known for a noir focus, Nicloux has recently exhibited a taste for playing around with celebrity, shown in his recent The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq, written by and starring the said Houellebecq. Here, the tiny, dry, pouty Huppert, who seems to skip around the scalding desert settings with relative ease, makes a startling contrast to the gigantic, obese, wheezing, plain-spoken Depardieu. "Isabelle" seems more convinced some spiritual event will occur. The desert is, arguably, a spiritual place. "Gérard," whose bulging gut and naked torso are seen even more often here than in the actor's recent star turn as a Dominique Strauss-Kahn stand-in in Abel Ferrara's considerably more interesting Welcome to New York, says it's all just "sand."

    The directness of Depardieu's self-impersonation here shows early on when "Isabelle" asks him how he's been these last three-plus decades. He says "I've gotten fat." She says "Whatever pleases you." He answers, "How could it possibly please me?" At first, the two actors' charisma, presence, and ease in front of the camera are exciting and hopeful. But there's never enough happening; Nicloux relies entirely too much on the mere presence of his stars, and has too little of his own to add.

    And some of it is predictable and clichéd. The choice, to begin with, of Death Valley, beloved of Antonioni and other European cineastes as a place for mystery and magic to happen; it often doesn't. Great vistas overwhelm dialogue; heat brings action to a standstill. The classic dumb American comes up to the couple knowing they're famous French actors and asks "Gérard" for his autograph. He signs it "Bob De Niro," which later that evening gets an angry reaction from the duped chap. "Isabelle" sniffs disapprovingly at goods in a local convenience store but winds up at one point sipping prefabricated noodles in a cup sitting in bed, watching an infomercial. But these light, humorous touches are undermined by the film's lugubrious obsession with "Michael's" imposed schedule, which becomes like Stations of the Cross given the extreme heat, especially for "Gérard." Transfportion between Stations however is by big "Gérard"-piloted SUV -- only the spartan "Isabelle," who's also a vegetarian, nixes use of air conditioning.

    Despite all this both, sleeping side by side in a shared motel room, soften and warm toward each other as the action unreels, and "Gérard" reveals he's sick, though he says he still feels fine. Unfortunately, the tight-lipped dialogue leads to no other big personal revelations from the two characters. They seem to have no lasting relationships since the divorce to report. It appears both virtually abandoned "Michael" early on, that being a possible element in his final depression, experienced while living with a boyfriend in San Francisco. "Gérard" knew "Michael" at least well enough to hotly deny "Isabelle's" suggestion he might have had AIDS; she admits she didn't see him at all for seven years and didn't even attend his funeral. This project seems partly undertaken as a way to seek forgiveness, and "Michael" may be inclined to give that. Meanwhile "Isabelle" has sore rings around her ankles, and "Gérard" develops them around his wrists: bad parenting stigmata?

    A strange, creepy late-night encounter between an undershorts-clad "Gérard" and a misshapen young woman in the motel tennis court is the main qualifier for the term "Lynchian" or "pseudo-Lynchian" to Valley of Love. But this is not Lynch or sub-Lynch. The best it has to offer is celebrity, stark scenery harshly photographed in wide screen format by dp Christophe Offenstein, and the eerie musings of modernist American composer Charles Ives. Don't bother. Life is short.

    Valley of Love, 92 mins., debuted in Competition at Cannes May 2015.; about ten festivals, including London, Warsaw, Vienna, Stockholm and Chicago. French theatrical release 17 June (AlloCiné press rating: 3.4). UK, 20 Nov. Screened for this review as part of the San Francisco Film Society's French Cinema Now series (Vogue Theater, Nov. 19-22) , showing Nov. 22 at 1:30 p.m.


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