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Thread: Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2016

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    VALLEY OF LOVE (Guillaume Nicloux 2015)

    GUILLAUME NICLOUX: VALLEY OF LOVE (2015)

    GUILLAUME NICLOUX: VALLEY OF LOVE (2015)

    [This review originally appeared when the film was shown as part of the San Francisco Film Society's November 2015 series "French Cinema Now." For my other coverage of this series see here. ]


    GÉRARD DEPARDIEU AND ISABELLE HUPPERT IN VALLEY OF LOVE

    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." Transportation 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. Also the FSLC-UniFrance 2016 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema's Opening Night film, Thurs. Mar. 3, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. with an introduction only by Isabelle Huppert and Guillaume Nicloux. Strand Releasing is bringing out this film in the US and it opens in NY at the Film Society of Lincoln Center 25 Mar. 2016.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-25-2016 at 08:19 PM.

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    FATIMA (Philippe Faucon 2015)

    PHILIPPE FAUCON: FATIMA (2015)


    SORIA ZEROUAL AND ZITA HANROT IN FATIMA

    An Moroccan immigrant mother meets the challenge of French culture

    While Jacques Audiard's Dheepan, about the dramatic dangers and cultural struggles of Tamil refugees in Paris, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, Philippe Faucon's Fatima, closer to a number of French films about immigrants, quietly explores the day-to-day life of an Moroccan mother in Lyons with two school-age daughters. The younger, 15-year-old Souad (Kenza-Noah Aiche), is acting out and doing badly; the older, 18-year-od Nesrine (Zita Hanrot), is simply terrified by the linguistic and intellectual challenges of the start of a pre-med program. Meanwhile, their mom, Fatima (Soria Zeroual), funds them by working as a housecleaner. We see Fatima patiently support her daughters even when they express contempt for her humble role. The movie plays down the underlying theme: Fatima is Fatima Elayoubi, who taught herself French and wrote a book about her experiences.

    Faucom's film, his eighth feature, meanders quietly, seeking a sense of the quotidian, shifting focus from one daughter to the other and to the mother. The girls speak French to mom and mom replies in Moroccan dialect. The girls ward off young Arab boys who want to date them; the older finally gives in and spends time with a playful boy. Fatima uncomplainingly sells her gold jewelry to raise money and endures daily humiliations. The father (Chawki Amari), an amiable man who has worked in construction and is fluent in French, meets regularly with the younger daughter.

    Various incidents show what the three women have to contend with. A landlady suddenly finds she doesn't have the key to an apartment she's renting, when she sees Nesrine's dark skin and Fatima's head scarf. A rich women Fatima comes to clean for seems to have purposely left money in her son's jeans to be washed to see if she will pocket it. When Fatima starts a friendly conversation with another mom at her daughter's school the lady says she's in hurry and dashes off. There is trouble with fellow North Africans, as when a woman complains that one of the girls has not greeted her on the bus.

    Fatima understands French, but is obviously shy and embarrassed about using it. When Souad mocks it, she points out to her that in the village, people laugh at her (Souad's) Arabic. Meanwhile, we begin to see Fatima working at her own studies. After a fall down a staircase that leaves her too much in paid to go back to work after several months' leave, despite no broken bones or torn ligaments, she begins putting together odd sentences in literary Arabic that she writes in a notebook. They are evidently the beginning of what was to become her book, Prière à la lune. She shares her writings with an Arab woman doctor she sees regularly due to her injuries.

    The film engages as authentic because it is low-keyed. It doesn't spell out the real Fatima Elayoubi's story in detail, and stops before her recognition as a writer of a book that depicts the travails of so many North African women who came to France in the Eighties and lived an invisible life, victimized by prejudice and hampered by lack of education and poor French. (You can find more about Fatima in a French column on the website À la rencontre de l'autre, and one from Glamour. Faucon was born and grew up in Morocco and Algeria, and his films have often dealt with North African themes.

    Fatima, 78 mins., debuted at Cannes Directors Fortnight 20 May 2015 and five other festivals followed, with, theatrical release in Belgium and France 7 Oct. 2015. In France it received the rave reviews (AlloCiné press rating 4.4/24), and later won the Louis Delluc Prize (which kicks off the French awards season) for Best French Film and it received four César nominations including Best Film. It was reviewed at Cannes by Justin Chang of Variety and Leslie Felperin of Hollywood Reporter. It was screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (Film Society of Lincoln Center and UniFrance) Feb. 2016. Feb. 19 it was announced that Kino Lorber had acquired the film for US distribution.

    As might have been predicted from the critical acclaim and prior awards (but it had big competition), Fatima won the 2016 César for Best Film.

    US theatrical release from 29 August 2016 NYC (Film Society of Lincoln Center).
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-25-2016 at 05:12 PM.

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    THREE SISTERS/LES TROIS SOEURS (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi 2015)

    VALERIS BRUNI TEDESCHI: THREE SISTERS/LES TROIS SOEURS (2015)



    Bruni Tedeschi opens up Chekhov's 'Three Sisters' with fluent Comédie Française performances

    Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's sunny, fluent film adaptation of Three Sisters, one of Chekhov's most notable plays, is a glorious feast of vintage acting since nearly all the cast comes straight from the Comédie Française, and though the limited budget shoot, funded by Arte for French and German TV, took place in little more than three days, they deliver fluent and lived-in performances in a film whose editing allows the action to breathe, and includes some memorable moments, like an impeccably dressed little boy with copious scarf solemnly pouring dirt on the face of his recumbent dad, and an odious bourgeoise dressing down a weeping old lady retainer and saying she's useless and should go back to her village.

    The script of the film, dedicated to the memory of director Patrice Chéreau, co-written with Noémie Lvovsky, retains the the play's essentials, including period and costume. But it jazzes things up from time to time, including an opening scene with a young woman relieving herself on a bidet and chatting with a nude girlfriend whose perfect breasts are highlighted by the sunlight streaming from an open window. Later there's a un-Chekhovian mad and surreal nighttime sequence when everyone seems high. And the score isn't decorout and classical, but a sparse scattering of arresting modern songs in English. Most notable among these, repeated at the end, is Lou Reed and John Cale's "Smalltown", which ends, "There's only one good use for a smalltown,/you hate it and you know you have to leave" -- suggesting an option the fading rural aristocrats and military men of Three Sisters can only dream of.

    The action takes place in a sun-dappled garden in summer, with a feeling of calm and open space redolent of landed gentry comfort, with a small French chateau filling in for the family estate of the two unmarried sisters and the one unhappily married one. Winter scenes inside it look out to snow flurries outside. In all seasons the siblings are joined by the play's population of men in uniform, debtors, pensioners, and spouses, who regret the present, declare their secret loves and unveil hidden paternity, and dream of a better future for humanity, and perhaps for themselves.

    Three Sisters/Les Trois soeurs, 110 mins., was adapted by Lvovsky and Bruni Tedeschi from a French translation of Chekhov's Russian play by André Markowicz and Françoise Morvan. Funded by and made for Arte TV and shown on German and French Television 4 Sept. 2015, the film received the French Film Critics Guild's "Best French Fiction 2015" television award. Accepting it, Bruni Tedeschi said she'd fallen in love with the whole cast and would have married any one of them. Since it was not released in theaters, there were no French film reviews or AlloCiné press rating. Screened for this review as part of the 2016 FSLC/UniFrance series Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, its first showing in the US, presented to the public on Wed., Mar. 9 at 3:30 p.m. and Fri., Mar 11 at 6:30, both including Q&A's with Valeria Bruni Tedeschi.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-26-2016 at 06:11 AM.

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    THE GREAT GAME/LE GRAND JEU (Nicolas Pariser 2015)

    NICOLAS PARISER: THE GREAT GAME/LE GRAND JEU (2015)


    ANDRÉ DUSOLLIER, NATALIE RICHARD, AND MELVIL POUPAUD IN THE GREAT GAME

    Politics as a deadly game of intellectual manipulation

    In French journalist Nicolas Pariser's directorial debut Le grand jeu ("The Great Game"), an elegant, low-keyed political thriller, the game is misdirection and deception in which key players follow Nietsche's advice, "Whatever is profound loves masks." Devious charmer Joseph Paskin (the great André Dusollier, in prime form) "just happens" to run into handsome has-been writer Pierre Blum (Melvil Poupaud) at a casino. Joseph is there to gamble, obviously (or so he says), but Pierre is there for the wedding of his ex-wife. None of this is by chance and Joseph has a use for Pierre. There conversation is a combination of wit and naiveté. We gradually enter a world we'll never quite understand, where events at the top are all a matter of hidden manipulation, and a writer can make a difference, if properly used. And Joseph, a lawyer of shadowy function who works behind the scenes of power, turns out to have a writing job for Pierre.

    It emerges that Pierre wrote a political novel 15 years ago that was much celebrated. He had ties with the extreme left whose leader, however, he detested. He has written nothing since. Pariser gradually explores Pierre's life and experience in interesting ways. The beauty of the film is its use of surprises and sudden shifts. I love a moment when someone bursts out toward Joseph from a corner, glimpsed in the moment before attack, and we cut immediately to an opening at the gallery run by Pierre's ex-wife Caroline (Sophie Cattani).

    We witness cynical discussions at the Élysée Palace, the center of French power, where it's said that whoever wins elections, the same clique runs things at the top. In his latest scheme to to bring down a top minister, Joseph is warned he's going fatally far. "Your trouble," a minister's aide tells him, "is that you can never stop." He may not be a casino gambler as he pretended, but he has the same kind of addiction to risk.

    There is a glamour of secrecy, knowingness, and danger surrounding Joseph, but Pierre has the glamour of the faded golden boy, the handsome loser who once had everything and now lives on the edge of nothing. It tells all that he's just moved into a tiny "chambre de bonne" (a garret) no one knows about and changed his phone number but Joseph leaves a note for him there setting up a meeting.

    Joseph explains to Pierre how a book can launch other books, and a plethora of writing on one side can bury writing on the other: more words, he says, can work better than censorship. We're in a very French world where ideas act as Molotov cocktails and a book, one Pierre's hired as a kind of "nègre," a ghost writer, to produce, may foment revolution. It works, but not as planned: the person who warned Joseph was right, and everyone is now in danger, including Joseph, Pierre, Caroline, and an artistic leftist young woman Pierre becomes drawn to, Laura (Clémence Poésy) and the group of radical separatists Laura belongs to, among whom Pierre temporarily hides.

    Le grand jeu stands out for its intelligence and originality, but while the only-40 Pariser shows impressive maturity, he doesn't quite know how to construct a thriller. Things meander a bit after the book's published, and one's disappointed that Caroline and Laura aren't more interesting, Pierre's rapport with them more electric. And it's unfortunate that Joseph, the most complex figure in the tale, virtually disappears in the later reels. Still, while it makes some sense for Peter Debruge in Variety to say this film suggests "how a sophisticated French helmer might spin the ingredients of a John Grisham-style potboiler," the whole point is that it's a film that only could come out of France. It make me think of a favorite of mine from a decade ago, Emmanuel Bourdieu's Poison Friends/Les amitiés maléfiques (NYFF 2006), about cruel intellectual manipulation and deception among ambitious Sorbonne students, which similarly is smart and exciting in a very French way.

    The Great Game/Le Grand jeu, 100 mins., debuted at Locarno (out of competition) Aug. 2015, several other minor festivals; with a theatrical release in France 18 Nov. and reviews were excellent (AlloCiné press rating 3.7/26). Screened for this review as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center/UniFrance series, Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, its US premiere, showing: Fri., March 4, 2016 6:30 p.m. and Sat. Mar. 5, 2016 at 9:15 p.m.., both times with a Q&A with Nicolas Pariser, Clémence Poésy and Melvil Poupaud.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-19-2019 at 10:14 PM.

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    BANG GANG (A MODERN LOVE STORY) (Eva Husson 2016)

    EVA HUSSON: BANG GANG (A MODERN LOVE STORY)/BANG GANG (UNE HISTOIRE D'AMOUR MODERNE) (2016)


    LORENZO LEFEVRE, MARILYN LIMA


    There'll always be young. . . sex

    Eva Husson's sun-drenched first feature focused on French summer teenage sex orgies isn't long on plot but is not without it. The setup is that all we're watching is an episode remembered by a shy girl called Laetitia (Daisy Broom)and her more aggressive bleach-blonde friend George (Marilyn Lima). Laetitia is most interested in Gabriel (Lorenzo Lefèbvre), a poetic-looking music-mix guy who isn't into crowds. George wants to keep the attention of Alex (Finnegan Oldfield, a vivid young actor who shone in Thomas Bidguin's Les Cowboys), and so she encourages the setup of organized group sex gatherings. This leads to what a blurb calls "a pulsating, slow-motion bacchanal pitched somewhere between the world of Spring Breakers and that of Larry Clark." There are moments when Alex and his almost-twin best mate Nikita (Fred Hotier) seem like the serial deflowerer in Larry Clark's Kids. Gus Van Sant and Sofia Coppola's Virgin Suicides have also been mentioned. Perhaps surprisingly, Husson has said she was obsessed with Wong Kar-wai while making the film. A truly key element is the "sun drenched" cinematography of the film's dp, Dane Mattias Troelstrup, like Husson a graduate of AFI in Los Angeles, which makes lovely use of the time and setting of the action, summer on the French Riviera, specifically Biarritz. And none of this would work without a team of in-shape and willing young people fully prepared to disrobe and engage in (presumably simulated) group sex, long sunlit living room and bedroom parties of glimpsed, sometimes slo-mo bodies.

    The film, which bypassed Cannes and turned up at the putatively more friendly venue of Toronto, got mixed reviews upon its French theatrical release, some quite good, some bad, leading to a poor AlloCiné critics rating of 2.9. But Les Inrocks and Cahiers, always touchstones, liked it pretty well. Their Jecan-Philippe Tessé wrote: "The film finds its way , chugging along , because it doesn't just put its concept on the table ( a pitch , a look), but always seeks to question it." Les Inrocks' critic Serge Kaganski wrote what AlloCiné considered the most enthusiastic review. He praised the young actors, saying Finnegan Oldfield (clearly a "Jeune Espoir Masculin" of the moment) "cuts like a rasor." He called Marilyn Lima "a little Bardot, and said Daisy Broom has an "eye-teasing sexiness," and that Lorenzo Lefebvre "is full of dark beauty." Writing from a summer Paris screening, Variety's Guy Debruge acknowledged Husson's proceeds as if she's unaware Sofia Coppola and Larry Clark and Gus van Sant have already "made the same movie" but adds, "That’s not to say that Husson brings nothing new to the mix."

    Let's try to say what's new in the mix. First of all perhaps how social and well-off this suburban French Riviera group is; the delicate opening on a sylvan scene with birds chirping. The way orgies are like a party, and though people are doing drugs and drinking, they show little ill effect. Most of it's at the house of Alex (Oldfield), whose mother is away in Morocco, and his relationship with her is friendly and relaxed. He takes calls from her from time to time and always says he misses her and that all is quiet, and well. But this being now, no kid is without his or her iPhone, "Bang Gang" group invites are sent out by email, you can have a video of your first time, and their doings turn up soon on social media, with upsetting results at school later. There's also a hamster rescued from the school lab and running news stories about train derailments. At the end, when the summertime orgies are over, the film returns to some of the main characters and their voiceovers provide introspective analysis. True, Peter Debruge in his Toronto Variety review comments that the film's "Virgin Suicides-style voiceover" "sounds as if it was written and added at a very late stage," which is to say that while this movie has charm and panache, it's not without a thrown-together quality. Perhaps that's appropriate.

    Bang Gang: A Modern Love Story/Bang Gang: Histoire d'amour moderne, 98 mins., debuted in the Festival du Film Francophone d'Angoulême 26 Aug. 2015, also showed at Toronto, London, Gothenberg, Rotterdam. French theatrical release was 13 Jan. 2016 (AlloCiné press rating 2.9). Coming to US cinemas as A Samuel Goldwyn Films release. Screened for this review in the FSLC-UniFrance Rendez-Vous 2015 edition, Feb. 2016.

    Toronto film brochure.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-04-2016 at 10:08 AM.

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    A DECENT MAN/JE NE SUIS PAS UN SALAUD (Emmanuel Finkiel 2015)

    EMMANUEL FINKIEL: A DECENT MAN/JE NE SUIS PAS UN SALAUD (2015)


    NICOLAS DUVAUCHELLE IN A DECENT MAN

    Rounding up all Ahmeds: tribulations of an ordinary man trapped by circumstance

    Or two ordinary men, really, because a young French victim of a mugging makes a mistake, and accuses an innocent Arab man, whose face he just remembers because it was in a job interview film. But Eddy (Nicolas Duvauchelle, who has a tragic James Dean quality, and a back covered with tattoos) has alcohol and rage problems, which are going to lead him downhill. This is a powerful film, which blasts us with its extreme closeups and the shocking intensity of its action. It's a well made, and superbly acted film, rich in messages about class, ethnicity, and the trap of wage poverty. But the only trouble is, it's not clear what the point of it all is.

    Ironically, a violent incident proves a stroke of good luck for Eddy, when he plunges into a fight involving young car radio thieves in front of a cité (housing estate), and he gets badly beaten. At the hospital he seems to be considered a hero, and his estranged wife Karine (the beautiful Mélanie Thierry) takes him back in, temporarily anyway, and gets him an entry-level job at the big box store Homea where she works and is cozy with the manager, Régis (Nicolas Bridet, underused). Eddy and Karin's tow-headed little boy Noam (a surprising Johan Soulé) worships his dad and strikes macho poses to match him: sometimes we wonder why.

    Though Eddy does well moving boxes around at Homea, he is impatient to be promoted, and the fact that Karine is on a first-name basis with Régis is part of the anger and frustration that he feels. He has also begun to live up to what he's called, an "enfoiré," a fuckup, when he mistakenly picks out a young Arab, Ahmed (Driss Ramdi) in a police lineup. Ahmed was about to start a job and about to get married. Now he goes to jail. The French legal system pushes such accusations with a confrontation, and protects the accused as well as the aggressed-against. But Ahmed's life is interrupted only because of his name, and where he was when police did ID checks at a traffic jam. As for Eddy, still a drunk, still angry, still his own worst enemy, he is going to get in more and more trouble. "I'm not a bastard," the French title says, but Eddy's tragedy is that he keeps looking more and more like one, and he can't seem to stop the downward spiral. There is almost a Bressonian resonance about this sad tale.

    Director Finkiel seems a slow developer, but won a César for his short film Madame Jacques on the Croisette, and the Louis Delluc prize in 1999 for his featureVoyages. Nicolas Duvauchelle has played a series of gritty roles, and performs memorably here. He's currently remembered for Polisse and the TV seies "Braquo." Mélanie Thierry first gained notice for a lead role in Bernard Tavernier's The Princess of Montpensier. Jay Weissberg wrote an excellent review of this film for Variety based on a viewing at the Dubai Festival 13 Dec.

    A Decent Man/Je ne suis pas un salaud, 111 mins., debuted in Aug. 2015 at Festival du Film Francophone d'Angoulême, and was shown in Dec. at Les Arcs European Film Festival.It enters French theaters 24 Feb. 2016. U.S. Premiere. This film comes out in France 24 Feb. 2016. Screened for this review as part of the FSLC/UniFrance 2016 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York, the film's US premiere. Showing Sat., Mar. 5, at 1:00 p.m. and Mon., Ma. 7, at 1:45 p.m.

    Trailer.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-04-2016 at 10:06 AM.

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    STORY OF JUDAS/HISTOIRE DE JUDAS (Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche 2015)

    RABAH AMEUR-ZAÏMECHE: STORY OF JUDAS/HISTOIRE DE JUDAS (2015)]]



    Fragmentary and arbitrary and crabwise recounting of the last days of Jesus

    Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche, who was born in Algeria, has made films, admired for their seriousness and fine visuals, that range from Arab Paris ghetto to French folk tale; he already made a period, costume film in his 2011 Smuglers Songs, set in France in the eighteenth century. Here he plunges into a stage of the life of Jesus when his fame was growing and Judas (played by the director) was his closest disciple.

    The Story of Judas is a radical, personal rewriting of the story of the last days of Jesus shot in Algeria using largely Arab actors. Some parts may give one a fresh outlook, but others feel amateurish and arbitrary. Ameur-Zaîmeche is striving for an offbeat, neorealistic feel to the action, somewhat in the manner of Pier Paolo Pasolini. But early scenes seem completely aimless and unfocused, if not downright silly. No scenes have true emotional resonance. In short, Pasolini's Gospel According to Matthew this is absolutely not. Some parts just seem like stalling for time while the filmmakers try to think up some dialogue.

    Much emphasis is put on the casting of the money lenders out of the temple. Except that it's an open-air space, and what happens is that a lot of wooden cages of animals, presumably for sale, are opened and smashed up, turning the cleansing of the temple into a PETA demo. Later, Judas discovers a scribe has been painstakingly recording all the sermons and miracles of Jesus, and Judas sets out to destroy these records. Is this as if they were incriminating evidence to be used by the Roman authorities, perhaps? It's not at all clear. But another big scene consists of Judas tearing up documents and burning them.

    Perhaps Ameur-Zaïmeche means to present Judas as the closest of Jesus' disciples, but this doesn't come through, mainly because the film hardly follows Jesus at all, except for an early scene of Judas carrying Jesue after his forty days in the desert, playing Saint Christopher. a zipped-through Last Supper, consisting of a few closeups and shots of food and wine. There is an oddball, mildly interesting sequence where Jesus is condemned by the Roman authorities, but there, Judas isn't even present. Pilate seems at the mercy of Jesus, who reads his mind and relives him a violent headache, then advises him to go on long walks.

    The French critics spoke pretty highly of this film when it came out 8 April 2015, as indicarted by an AlloCiné press rating of 3.9 based on 19 reviews. But viewers, whose ratings came in at a terrible 2.4, pointed out that while a revisionist life of Jesus is allowable, it needs to be called that -- and above all to be less fragmentary and more plausible. See the detailed description of the film by the AlloCiné viewer who goes by the moniker "poet75," who calls the screenplay "calamitous." The more one examines details of the film, the more they seem absurd and, as an approach to the life of Jesus, unenlightening.

    Story of Judas/Histoire de Judas, 99 mins., debuted at the Forum section of the Berlinale, winning the Jury Prize. It got raves at its 8 Apr. 2015 French release (AlloCiné press rating 3.9/19).
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-22-2016 at 06:53 PM.

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    DISORDER/MARYLAND (Alice Winocour 2015)

    ALICE WINOCOUR: DISORDER/MARYLAND (2015)


    MATTHIAS SCHOENAERTS IN DISORDER/MARYLAND

    A bodyguard in a tense mansion with problems of his own

    Alice Winocour, who collaborated on the script of the Oscar-nominated Turkish-language film Mustang, is known for her unusual, finely textured costume debut about the controversial hypno-theripist Jean-Marie Charcot, Augustine, starring Vincent Landon. For her sophomore directorial effort the writer/director swerves into genre territory with a home invasion thriller. She still begins with mental problems, since her protagonist, Vincent, played by Matthias Schoenaerts, is a French Special Forces post-Afghan PTSD sufferer with night panic attacks, terrible headaches, and bouts of paranoia. Seeking distraction he gets a job as a security guard with other ex-servicemen at the eponymously named coastal estate "Maryland" of Lebanese financier Whalid (Percy Kemp) whose trophy wife (Diane Kruger) he becomes responsible for guarding while her husband's off on business. Excitement follows.

    As Guy Lodge pointed out in his Canes review for Variety, this not only takes Winocour more into mainstream territory than the rather airless, "porcelain" Augustine but has strong export potential given both its exciting action and Schoenaerts' current high international profile. The versatile and hunky young Belgian actor, who just gained UK and US attention with "a triple-shot of English-lingo period romances," Far From the Madding Crowd, Suite francaise and A Little Chaos, here returns to the hard man persona that gained him his rep with Bullhead and Rust and Bone. Schoenaerts has both a sweet, sensitive face, and access to a dangerous edge of animal violence. Disorder likewise delivers its violence with the arthouse éclat of a Cannes debut and a classy European gloss.

    Schoenaerts is terrific here, as he always is, and ideally suited for this role. The only shortcoming of the film is that its suspenseful action needs some tightening up. It's not a mistake, perhaps, that forty-five minutes pass before things get really tense and exciting when Vincent is chauffeuring Jessie and her little son Ali (Zaïd Errougui-Demonsant)to the beach and he senses the car is boing followed. But once things heat up, things are allowed to meander to much at the mansion. And there is a fantasy final shot that's just a cheat. There are parts of this film that are just great; unfortunately not all of it. There is no reason why Winocour couldn't have segued into full-blown genre in the last third: it would have strengthened not weakened, the focus on Vincent's characgter to do so.

    Disordder/Maryland, 101 mins., debuted at Cannes in Un Certain Regard May 2015 and was subsequently shown in over a dozen other prestigious festivals including Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and San Francisco. At its 23 Sept. 2015 French release the critical response was uneven (AlloCiné press rating 3.0 averaged from 28 reviews). TRAILER

    US theatrical release 12 Aug. 2016 (Metacritic rating 67%).
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-13-2016 at 01:47 PM.

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    STANDING TALL/LA TÊTE HAUTE (Emmanuelle Bercot 2015)

    EMMANUELLE BERCOT: STANDING TALL/LA TÊTE HAUTE (2015)


    ROD PARADOT (CENTER) IN STANDING TALL/LA TÊTE HAUTE

    A wild French juvenile survives the system

    Again a film that needs trimming, but we get a fulsome view of the awesome acting abilities of newcomer Rod Parasot as Malony, a juvenile delinquent with big time rage and impulse control problems, a penchant for stealing cars, a ditzy mess of a mom (Sara Forestier). He seems doomed, yet the French system seems more forgiving than some, and he has a humane judge (Catherine Deneuve) and a caring counselor (Benoît Magimel) on his side, as well as a girlfriend. Paradot is an incredible oyung actor who makes one think of the young Leo DeCaprio, whom he even somewhat resembles, and it's not surprising that he's one of this year's César nominees for Most Promising Actor (Jeune Espoir Masculin) -- along with Finnegan Oldfield (for LES COWBOYS), seen in BANG GANG in this Rendez-Vous series. Malony's gf Tess is played by Diane Rouxel, and she's a Most Promising Actress nominee.

    The film takes us in and out of the office of friendly Children's Judge Florence Blaque (Deneuve) more times than we can count, and there are many impassioned meetings between Malony and Yann (Magimel) and Yann and the judge. It emerges that Yann was once somewhat in Malony's place. Magimel, who started acting at 14 and has won many awards and been in many notable films, looks burnt out at 41, and it's believable when his character says he doesn't think he can go on. Judge Deneuve too loses faith in Malony, but only once; she even visits the juvenile center where Malony is being held, for his birthday, and when Malony comes to see her carrying his baby, they hug. Too good to be true? A little, and sometimes the temper tantrums and fights among the boys seem over-the-top. The point is more than amply made that Malony is truly a bad boy: he just can't stop stealing cars and flying into rages, and his first sex with the adoring Tess is more alike an assault.

    This is where some of the excess needed to be trimmed, to make way for the time when Malony starts to settle down and have hope and faith in himself. But Bercot proves adept at directing chaotic emotional scenes, particularly involving young guys. (She played a movie full of such drama herself opposite Vincent Cassel in My King/Mon roi, the role that got her the Best Actress award at Cannes. Since Standing Tall was chosen as the opening night film at Cannes, Bercot was certainly a presence at the festival. And Rod Paradot too, a surprising one, an acting "virgin," pulled out of a carpentry apprenticeship program and blooming under Bercot's stern tutelage into a thespian of unusual promise. Partly he was chosen because physically he could play both teenager and young adult, but that's only part of his magic.

    Standing Tall/La Tête haute, 119 mins., debuted in Competition at Cannes where it was the opening night film. It was highly praised by French critics upon its 13 May local theatrical release (AlloCiné press rating 3.9/21). A Cohen Media Group release in the US, Standing Tall opens Fri., Apr. 1 in NYC at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas6.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-30-2016 at 01:13 PM.

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    TWO FRIENDS/LES DEUX AMIS (Louis Garrel 2015)

    LOUIS GARREL: TWO FRIENDS/LES DEUX AMIS (2015)

    (Review originally published after screening film during original release at Cinéma Étoile Saint Germain, Paris, 27 Oct. 2015.)


    LOUIS GARREL, VICENT MACAIGNE, AND GOLSHIFTEH FARAHANI IN LES DEUX AMIS

    A trio of Paris friends and would be lovers looking scruffily gorgeous

    Louis Garrel's directorial debut is a very French spin on the subset of romantic comedy known as the bromance. The story, co-scripted by Christophe Honoré, for whom Louis has been a kind of muse, starts out with a sort of Cyrano situation. Clément (French indie cinema's resident lovable sad sack Vincent Macaigne), who tends to fall for girls out of his league, has now come to adore the radiant Mona (Iranian star Goldshifteh Farahani), and so Abel (Garrel) intercedes on his behalf. But obviously Mona is irresistibly beautiful, and the tall, tousle-haired Garrel is the unmistakable leading man here, the pudgy, balding Macaigne the natural sidekick.

    First off, Les deux amis/Two Friends has much pleasure to offer to the senses. Claire Mathon's cinematography was shot in luscious 35mm. color film; composing great Philippe Sarde did the score, and there is superb sound design by Jean Rabasse. There are lots of closeups of faces, in which each of the three principals is very flatteringly served. Garrel does not spare us generous helpings of his own striking mug; and Macaigne's angelic baby face and alabaster skin nicely set off Farahani's olive complexion, which in turn sets off her big, luminous eyes. Mona is feisty; Clément (as usual with Macaigne) is an innocent with heart on sleeve; and Abel is what Garrel often plays, a slightly pretentious but lighthearted bad boy,who here is seen initially running around with an underage girlfriend (Mahaut Adam) and partying with Asian hookers. He's an odd match for Clément. But this is about how hard young men work to be friends with each other.

    Beyond the sensuality, there's a Gallic talkiness, with constant onscreen discussions by the trio in various combinations about friendship, love, and how they may fit into them and with each other, or not. Each is a kind of slacker. Mona's in jail (we don't know exactly for what), but let out by day to work in a Gare du Nord pastry shop. Abel pumps gas at a parking garage, though he considers himself a writer. Clément is a movie extra, with obviously time to fall for girls Abel may steal. Honoré-Garrel may not achieve a Nouvelle Vague vivacity in the action (though there's lots of Hollywood rom-com-style running around), but they keep things bubbly, even when the scenes get frantic. Mona will turn into a pumpkin if she isn't back to the prison on the right train, and her willingness to party at a disco gets in the way of that. As a lark, all three of them wind up playing part of the crowd in a film recreation of the Paris 1968 riots -- a nod to Louis' indirect link to this moment via Bertolucci's The Dreamers and, more importantly, his father Philippe Garrel's Regular Lovers, which bears an anthemic relationship to this legendary time -- whereas this film shoot is just silly mayhem, though it's broken by Clément's suicide attempt.

    There are other scenes in the prison; at the Gare du Nord; in a hospital; a disco; a church full of elderly worshipers; in the streets of Paris day and night -- and near the end, in a scruffy hotel. It's the Hotel des 3 Nations, 13 Rue du Château d'Eau, as we learn from Mona when she does the right thing and calls up the prison authorities to come and get her after she's gone AWOL. The friendship of Abel and Clément survives. And Louis Garrel keeps it light. Time will tell if this good-looking, lively trifle plays well Stateside.

    Les deux amis/The Two Friends, 100 mins., in 35 mm. debuted at Cannes Semaine de la Critique May 2015 and opened in French theaters 23 Sept. AlloCiné press rating 3.7.

    Review on Film-Forward
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-24-2016 at 09:26 AM.

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    THE NEW KID/LE NOUVEAU (Rudi Rosenberg 2015)

    RUDI ROSENBERG: THE NEW KID/LE NOUVEAU (2015)


    GABRIEL NAHUM, EYTAN CHICHE, ET AL. IN LE NOUVEAU

    Schoolboy politics and mad laughter

    In his first feature Le Nouveau (The New Kid), rather than turning his young cast into actors (though some of them are), Rudi Rosenberg captures lightening in a bottle. He fills the screen with the "fou rire," the laughing fits when kids get the giggles and just can't stop. You can't fake that. These kids, though they may have been selected with camera and screen in mind, are still just kids. And that they still seem just kids at the film's end is Rosenberg's little triumph.

    Fourteen-year-old Benoît (Réphaël Ghrenassia) arrives at a strange school when his family comes to Paris for his father's work. He's shy, and making friends doesn't come easy. Besides that, the ruling clique's default mode is exclusion of those outside the charmed circle. They use all sorts of cruel mockery and exclusion to keep Benoît from fitting in. His gangly loser uncle Greg (Max Boubil), who's living on the family couch and has a dj background, has a wonderfully dumb, inappropriate idea: give a loud dance party while the parents are away with alcohol and invite the whole class.

    Only three classmates turn up, and they're the core freaks and geeks crew Benoît has connected with. They're Aglaé (Géraldine Martineau, who is an actress, and a highly accomplished one), a disabled girl; the nerdy, bespectacled, brace-wearing Constantin (Guillaume Cloud-Roussel), whose self-important obsession is the choir; the chubby, slightly weird Joshua (Joshua Raccah). They remain Benoît's bande à part against the clique around Charles (Eythan Chiche), the A-list kid who travels around protected by admirers and like-minded brats and gets elected class rep, with far more votes than the ambitious but doomed Constantin.

    Actually Réphaël Ghrenassia, who plays Benoît, is a stunner and charmer, and the nerdiness and weirdness of his posse is largely put on for the movie. And that's fine. It shows how arbitrary the stratification and exclusions of school are. Early on, Benoît forms an alliance with a Swedish girl, also new, the tall, pretty Johanna (Johanna Lindstedt), whose French is patchy. This is where Benoît gets his heart broken, because Johanna's outsider intimacy quickly fades when other boys show an interest, and while French for "fond" and "like" and "love" get a bit confused for her, along with the gender of copain-copine (boyfriend-girlfriend), "just friends" is all she wants with him.

    When Benoît gets admitted to a party of A-listers and Joshua's exclusion leads to several humiliating faux pas on Joshua's part, Benoît shows himself Joshua's true bro: the delicate line between gaining status and remaining faithful to one's real friends is one of many points where this little film achieves perfect pitch and delivers a positive message without being the least bit preachy or casting too many aspersions on the bad, mischievous boys who provide the core energy to any school. Likewise some really gross things get said, but without any grossierté.

    The New Kid/Le Nouveau, 81 mins., debuted and upon its 23 Dec. 2015 theatrical release was quite well liked by French critics (AlloCiné press 3.8/20), with even the stern Cahiers du Cinéma (Arlel Schwwizer) calling it a "pleasant surprise" making fine use of its non-actors; thoughLes Inrocks felt it relied a little too much on clichés about adolescent behavior. This seems unfair: they're basics, not clichés. The New Kid does't plumb depths because it's concerned with those, for les ados, all-important surfaces. TRAILER.


    JOHANNA LINDSTEDT, JOSHUA RACAH, RÉPHAËL GHRENASSIA, GÉRALINE MARTINEAU,
    GUILLAUME CLOUD-ROUSSEL
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-23-2016 at 09:38 PM.

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    WINTER SONG/CHANT D'HIVER (Otar Iosseliani 2015)

    OTAR IOSSELIANI: WINTER SONG/CHANT D'HIVER (2015)



    Strings of puzzlements

    The longtime French resident Georgian filmmaker Otar Iosseliani may by now, at 82, be in his own quirky way more French than the French. But the pleasant superficial gloss that implies (his new offering is full of Parisian parks and streets and cafes) can't save us from the fact that his sui generis films, which have long made him a minor festival darling, require the kind of attention only fans and ardent auteurists can provide -- those willing to spend the time it takes to make sense out of strings of conundrums. Though there are the usual occasional almost-but-not-quite Jacques Tati moments, Winter Song requires an appreciation and knowledge of Iosseliani's oeuvre and patient note-taking and second viewing to parse. Or, as mere surreal sequence of watchable but not particularly involving scenes, you can just let them flow past you and move on to something else. But the previous Iosseliani films I've seen, the 2006 Gardens in Autumn (NYFF 2006) and 2010 Chantrapas, frankly made more sense than this one, as did the documentary celebrating the director, Otar Iosseliani: The Whistling Blackbird (SFIFF 2007) -- though that survey (by Julie Bertucelli) made me observe that his films are the kind that are more fun to talk about than to watch.

    Winter Song provides an endless chain of similar and intertwined sequences. There are the two tall, bearded men with scarves who squabble and make up. There is the young man, respectable looking but, it turns out, member of a pickpocket ring, who keeps pursuing a young women with a violin, who's not interested, until she finally is. Does everybody really live in the same old building? What is the meaning of the several scenes where homeless people are expelled from their settlements, or their live-in car towed away? What is the point of the fat potentate in uniform, or head of police, who dines, bathes in a pool, and refuses calls about the homeless expulsion?

    Why does the film begin with the beheading, by guillotine, during the time of the French Revolution, of an aristocrat who refuses to take his pipe out of his mouth -- an event blandly observed by a seated group of ladies busy with their knitting? This fellow turns out to be one of the two tall bearded, who, in a late scene, sample a white wine at a cafe table, then spit it out and suddenly leave. (What does that mean?)

    Well, the skull of this executed aristocrat keeps reappearing in subsequent scenes set centuries later, and someone who specializes in skulls works on it and restores the fleshy head it originally represented -- which also is the fabricated head used in the guillotining aftermath in the opening scene. Above all -- since it seems to connect so little to anything else, except that quite a few scenes end in a minor kind of violence -- what it the significance of the semi-comic (but then not so funny) and elaborate sequence early on of modern warfare, taking place amid urban rubble, where enemies take shots at each other, and then are immediately gunned down? Press notes tell us this is the Russo-Georgian war. And so, then, it has a personal significance to the director, who comes from Georgia. But does he communicate this significance to the audience? Not without study, care, knowledge of the Iosseliani oeuvre, and repeated viewings.

    The film includes Rufus, Pierre Étaix, and Mathieu Amalric. but it's hard to single anybody out. That's not the point. Everyone is used as a distinctive, thematically repeated figurant or "extra," an actor/model to move about, recognized, but not further individualized.

    Winter Song/Chant d’hiver, 117 mins., debuted 9 Aug. 2015 at Locarno, also showing at Warsww and Busan; French theatrical release 25 Nov. with mediocre reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.0/14). Neil Young reviewed the film at Locarno for Hollywood Reporter.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-23-2016 at 05:27 PM.

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    LOLO (Julie Delpy 2015)

    JULIE DELPY: LOLO (2015)

    (This review was written in Paris at the time of the film's French theatrical release, 28 Oct. 2015.)


    VINCENT LACOSTE, JULIE DELPY, AND DANY BOON IN LOLO

    Oedipal meltdown

    In Julie Delpy's new comedy, Violette (Delpy herself) is a forty-year-old workaholic with a career in the fashion industry. Bored and divorced, and at a spa with her best friend Ariane (Karin Viard) she decides to have a fling with successful, but naive provincial computer entrepreneur Jean-René (Dany Boon). It turns into a serious love affair, and can continue since Jen-René has just transferred to Paris. Only her nineteen-year-old son Lolo (Vincent Lacoste), who's just broken up with his girlfriend and takes up residence at home again, has other ideas.

    I was reminded by this movie of Tanguy, a masterful, inventive, and relatively tasteful and subtle comedy about something similar, only in reverse. Tanguy is directed by the comic master Étienne Chatiliez (of Life is a Long, Quiet River), and features the legendary Alain Resnais regulars André Dussollier and Sabine Azéma as the parents of the titular Tanguy (Éric Berger). And while Lolo is ready to do anything to get rid of interference in his oedipal attachment to his mom, Tanguy's parents start carrying out a series of measures to force their nearly-thirty son, a Chinese scholar, to move out on his own.

    The physical business in Tanguy includes barring the son from using their car; disturbing his sleep; and shrinking his favorite clothes. Chatiliez, helped mightily by his trio of actors, keeps the action specific, droll, and within the realm of the possible. It's also true that as the son, Berger is an interesting character. Tanguy is very smart and quite nice, but we can thoroughly appreciate how his dependence on his parents and noisy lovemaking with a series of young ladies would drive them to distraction too.

    Not so with Lolo, a skinny, preening, self-satisfied young sod given to prancing around in colorful jockey shorts whom it's impossible to like for a moment. He fancies himself as a great artist, but the paintings he has done are daubs -- though he gets a gallery show. The measures he adopts to make life unbearable for Jean-René (whom he calls "JR") are such things as drugging him at a party and sprinkling itching powder all over his clothes. Later he enlists a geek pal to sabotage the most important interview of Jean-René's life, involving a major government contract; in fact the geek's trick involves shutting down a major French bank's digital system. These gestures are crude and don't even begin to be plausible.

    It seems that like Maïwenn, whose Mon roi I suffered through the other day, Delpy likes messy, over-the-top scenes, and so she resorts to crudeness and slapstick. But she errs in going deep down the borderline creepy oedipal route. Had she played more lightly and subtly with Lolo's feelings of jealousy toward the rustic interloper in his and his mother's sophisticated Parisian lives, an amusing comedy might have resulted. Lolo has some good scenes, and the principals could have been fine (though I'm a bit in doubt about Lacoste, who plays it too broad and is resultingly unable to make his character even slightly sympathetic), but this is not a success -- and owes too much to some of the cruder recent Hollywood comedies.

    Lolo, 99 mins., debuted at Venice Sept. 2015, also showing at Toronto. It opened in French theaters the day of this screening, Wed., 28 Oct. 2015. Watched at MK2 Odeon. Overall French critics were not too enthusiastic (AlloCiné press rating 3.1), international ones even less so (Metacritic rating 45%). In the US, this will be a FilmRise release. The Lincoln Center/UniFrance Rendez-Vous presentation is its U.S. Premiere. Showings:
    Tuesday, March 8, 6:30pm (Q&A with Julie Delpy and composer Mathieu Lamboley)
    Wednesday, March 9, 9:30pm (Introduction by Julie Delpy)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-18-2016 at 10:22 PM.

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    SUMMERTIME/LA BELLE SAISON (Catherine Corsini 2015)

    CATHERINE CORSINI: SUMMERTIME/LA BELLE SAISON (2015)


    IZÎA HIGELIN AND CÉCILE DE FRANCE IN SUMMERTIME

    Two earth forces meet in a passionate city-country lesbian love affair

    Izïa Higelin is marvellous as Delphine Benchiessa, the strong, earthy, dark-skinned farm girl in Catherine Corsini's passionate celebration of lesbian love and early Seventies feminism, La belle saison (the English title, Summertime, lacks the original metaphorical resonance of a special time both in life and nature). The French critics who took issue with Corsini for not setting events in the present to show both issues, the rights of women and gay rights, at the current cutting edge, are inexplicable. This film's lifeblood and its point are that it happens at a time when women were challenged to live up to the ideals they have been championing.

    This is where the vibrant, dynamic Cécile de France comes in. Delphine (Higelin) has left her parents' farm in the Limousin region where she was an integral part, prompted, we assume, by rejection by a younger lover who's decided to get married and the awkwardness of rejecting a perfect potential male partner, the patient, but eager Antoine (the excellent Kévin Azaïs of last year's terrific Les combattants). So she has gone off to spend time in the big city, in a tiny Parisian chambre de bonne, and encounters Carole (de France) at a university meeting of feminists and is instantly smitten by her.

    This film would be memorable if only for the scene of these fired-up, beautiful, cigarette-puffing, chanting, singing feminists. Carole's wide smile is infectious, her blond hair flows in all directions, her energy is electric. In other words, she's not just a political activist, but a hot babe. Delphine well knows she loves only women. Carole's assurance and glamour dazzle Delphine, but hide her uncertainty, since Carole lives with Manuel (Benjamin Bellecour), in a physical relationship, and Manuel considers this to be a lifetime commitment.

    It's a bit of a paradox the freethinking Carole has a lot to learn from the farm girl Delphine, and another paradox that despite Delphine's love for Carole, the family farm and the region's conservative values trump that, because the farm is her highest priority, so she rushes back there to take charge when her father has a stroke. What's surprising is that while Cécile de France's energy and sex appeal usually tear up the screen, Izïa Higelin's solid earthiness is stronger, and make Carole, properly, seem the weaker character.

    This is where the great Noémie Lvovsky comes in, in one of this powerhouse figure of French cinema's best roles as Monique, Delphine's mother. One of the most electric scenes between women in French cinema in a good while comes when, after several months of working together with Carole, who has pitched in on the farm, Monique hears a loud fight between Delphone and Carole (who's tiring of country living) that reveals what's going on between the two women, and barges into Delphine's bedroom next morning and sees the two women with naked bodies intertwined. Lvovsky, who who's usually played urban sophisticates, melds seamlessly into the role of an old fashioned country woman whose conservative values make her see her coworker Carole suddenly as an embodiment of the Devil who has corrupted her daughter. Of course she's got it wrong.

    It's both its strength and its weakness that this movie wears its heart on its sleeve. Its lovemaking is nearly as unrestrained as the younger intertwinings in Kechiche's Vied'Adèle, but there isn't the pain and intensity of hiding homosexuality that makes Annie Proulx's story and Ang Lee's movie of Brokeback Mountain such a devastating emotional experience. Still Summertime is a fraught lesbian love story with as rich a historical-political-social-economic context as has been yet brought to the screen, and when the causes of minorities are first expressed artistically, the language has to be basic. This is a beautiful and memorable film by any standard that will have specially lasting meaning for its most particular audience.

    Summerttime/La Belle saison, 105 mins., debuted at Locarno 6 Aug. 2015, where the Variety Piazza Grande Award went to Catherine Corsini as director. It has shown at ten other international festivals, including Toronto. At its 19 Aug French theatrical release it was enthusiastically received (AlloCiné press rating 3.8 based on 25 reviews). Strand Releasing will bring it to US theaters at a date not yet announced. Screened for this review as part of the 2016 New York Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, showing to the public on Tues., Mar. 8 at 9:15pm (Introduction by composer Gregoire Hetzel) and Sat., Mar. 12 at 4:30 p.m.

    (I previously reviewed Corsni's Les ambitieux (R-V 2007) and Three Worlds/Trois mondes (R-V 2013 and saw her 2009 Partir/Leaving.)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-25-2016 at 07:31 AM.

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