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Thread: Rendez-Vouz with French Cinema 2017

  1. #16
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    VOIR DU PAYS/STOPOVER (Delphine, Muriel Coulin 2016)

    DELPHINE, MURIEL COULIN: VOIR DU PAYS/STOPOVER (2016)


    ARIANE LABED AND SOKO IN VOIR DU PAYS

    Post-battle trauma with a female POV

    In this film, which will interest students of women at war and post battle psychological issues, we follow Marine (Soko) and Aurore (Ariane Labed), two young women soldiers, of only three females in a combat unit, as they participate in a three-day psych evaluation/debriefing session on Cyprus en route home from Afghan duty. The process is a strange combination of old-fashioned drunken R&R, complete with sex with locals (for Aurore) and a lot of sunshine, on the one hand, and, on the other, solemn virtual reality sessions where some individuals go before the while unit and talk about traumatic moments of their Afghan service. It was only a short time, but there have been deaths and their are recriminations and hostilities that go deep. So is the sexism and the men's desire to beat up on somebody, whether each other, the women, or the locals. It doesn't look like anybody is going to make a wonderful readjustment to non-combat life.

    Voir du pays won a screenplay award at Un Certain Regard at Cannes, and it deserves credit for looking closely at women in the military. The trouble is that the filmmaking sisters, who previously dealt with a rash of teenage pregnancy at a provincial French lyçée, seem by the nature of their choice a bit out of their depth here both with the subject matter and the technical demands of dealing with warfare. Focusing on a debriefing session is an easy way of bypassing combat scenes. But can you imagine a movie or a novel that talks about PTSD without actually showing action in country? Good use is made of the Cyprus locations and Cypriote actors, especially Chrystos, a local interested in the girls (Andreas Konstantinou). The fault is never with the actors, and there are some young men who make an impression to match the strong thespian efforts of Soko (also seen in the Rendez-Vous film The Dancer, which highlights her talents more fully) and her female cohorts.

    Aurore and Marine, friends from childhood with limited futures, joined the army as a career opportunity and as the French title ironically declares, to "see the world." It didn't turn out that way. When a local asks them how Afghanistan was, they say they didn't see it: they went straight to the base. Through the course of the film it comes to seem the future Aurore and Marine have ahead of them has shrunken, not grown. And they have become disillusioned with both the military and with me. The film also shows hostilities among the men, and the ability of some unit members to gang up on the others, particularly one who is scapegoated for publicly questioning a command decision to withdraw that the officers claim as a victory. He thinks the unit losses could have been prevented. Another soldier, the first to speak at the debriefings, is tormented by subtle guilt for the death of a comrade. He thinks it is his fault, because he let his pal take a seat in a vehicle that was usually his. Now the arm on that side has no feeling.

    Voir du pays/Stopover, 102 mins., debuted at Un Certain Regard, Cannes 2016, winning the Screenplay Award and nominated for the Un Certain Regard Award. Nominated for the Golden Pyramid at Cairo. showing in a half dozen other festivals including Angoulême, Jerusalem, London, Thessaloniki, Cairo and Palm Springs. French theatrical release 7 Sept. 2016; AlloCiné press rating 3.6. A First Run Features release (US). Watched for this review as an online screener for the Unifrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center 2017 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (1-12 Mar. 2017). Public screenings:
    Thursday, March 9, 9:00pm
    Friday, March 10, 4:15pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-23-2017 at 01:20 PM.

  2. #17
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    RIGH HERE, RIGHT NOW/TOUT DE SUITE MAINTENANT (Pascal Bonitzer 2016)

    PASCAL BONITZER: RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW/TOUT DE SUITE MAINTENANT (2016)


    ISABELLE HUPPERT, JEAN-PIERRE BACRI IN TOUT DE SUITE MAINTENANT

    Love and money

    This suave but somewhat chilly film is an ingenious mashup of old romance, new romance, and finance. It begins when Nora Sator (Agathe Bonitzer, the writer-director's daughter) comes to the too-perfect suites of a mergers and acquisitions firm called AB Finance, where she's to work. With her perfect mane of side-swiped red hair and severely plain outfit she's as cold as the place. Xavier (Vincent Lacoste), a young associate, is chilly too, but he will soften, and if you know him from Lolo or the recent Victoria you know this is an odd place for such an amiable goofball. They will have a somewhat-romance. A contretemps with Nora's much warmer sister Maya (Julia Faure), a singer-bartender who talks sexy, will get in the way, as well Nora's obsession with getting ahead, though Xavier is persistent. Nora is going to reveal some secrets just to spite Xavier and this vindictive gesture, misconstrued as loyalty and initiative, will get Nora a stunning promotion.

    Meanwhile Nora meets two old associates at AB Finance. Her boss, Arnaud Barsac (Lambert Wilson) now has only contempt for the dreamy Prévôt-Parédès (Pascal Greggory). In financial district drag these two look very alike, but the casting is logical. Barsac and Prévôt-Parédès have a long history together, and Nora learns that Barsac knew her father Serge (Jean-Pierre Bacri).

    There will be a big purchase-merger deal of course, to give Xavier and Nora something non-romantic to fight and compete over. It's successful-unsuccessful completion (it seems both, which doesn't strengthen the plot) will shake everything up. Prévôt-Parédès has already been pushed out, and Xavier is thinking about a more appealing line of work.

    After we've met Nora, Xavier, Barsac and Prévot-Parédès, the focus turns to Jean-Pierre Bacri's Serge, father of Maya and Nora, an early-retired scientist of some sort. First Bacri does his famous grumpiest-man-in-the-world act, and later he does an off screen dying act that leads him to the hospital and a painful-touching reunion with Barsac's wife Solveig (Isabelle Huppert), who comes to find him. Once upon a time Solveig had two suitors, Barsac and Serge, and Serge was the one she really loved, but she picked the other guy, because Serge wrote terrible poetry for her - or to spite herself. (Part of Huppert's fascination is that she's always mysterious.) There is much talk of the poetry, and of one particular poem.

    Maya's propositioning of Xavier at a bar, Xavier and Nora's squabble-romancing, Bacri's grumpiest man speech, Barsac-Wilson's putdowns of his old cohort Prévôt-Parédès are memorable moments. But nothing can compete with the few minutes when Isabelle Huppert is on the scene. Boy can she hold the screen, and boy is she elegant and wonderful to look at, sixty-something. So the best scene is the ironic, nervy one where Solveig encounters Serge leaving the hospital, and they both remember their lost but never forgotten love. Watch Huppert walk for long seconds toward the camera, as the tears well up in her eyes. The lady can act. And as great artists bring out the best in their collaborators, so Bacri acquires considerable heft in this scene as well. Bingo. Forget the financial world. The film's most powerful moment evokes a lost romance.

    Pascal Bonitzer shuffles together several generations and plot lines with skill here. He is obviously as well-connected as you can get in the small world of French cinema: hence this star-studded cast. It's top drawer and a pleasure to watch. And including his daughter is not mere nepotism on Bonitzer's part (though this industry is a bit inbred): Agathe Bonitzer is by now an experienced thespian who's worked for Noémie Lvovsky, Jacques Doillon, Christophe Honoré and Agnès Jaoui. But there lingers a certain suspicion that this famous screenwriter (who's worked most for Téchiné and Rivette, but many others including Raoul Ruiz, Chantal Akerman and Barbet Schroeder) isn't quite as good a director as he is a writer: another person at the helm of this film might have provided it with more warmth and umph.

    Right Here, Right Now/Tout de suite maintenant, 98 mins., produced by SBS Production, and co-produced by Entre Chien et Loup and Samsa Film, debuted at Cabourg, shtowing also at the Champs-Élysées and Brussels festivals. It opened in French cinemas 22 Jun. 2016; AlloCiné shows the critical response was solid (3.5) but viewers have been very lukewarm (2.7). Screened for this review as part of the Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (FSLC-Unifrance 1-12 Mar. 2017).
    Rendez-Vous public screenings:
    Friday, March 10, 9:30pm
    Sunday, March 12, 5:45pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-25-2017 at 10:46 AM.

  3. #18
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    JOURNEY TO GREENLAND/LE VOYAGE AU GROENLAND (Sébastien Betbeder 2016)

    SÉBASTIEN BETBEDER: JOURNEY TO GREENLAND/LE VOYAGE AU GROENLAND (2016)


    THOMAS BLANCHARD AND THOMAS SCIMECA IN JOURNEY TO GREENLAND

    Overgrown boys' adventure

    Betbeder is the cinematic poet laureate of the Parisian perpetual adolescent, the twenty-something, now thirty-something, amiable loser. In 2 Autumns, 3 Winters, this person was embodied in Vincent Macaigne with Bastien Bouillon as his best mate. This time the two pals are Thomas and Thomas (Thomas Blanchard of Poison Friends and Thomas Scimeca), who go on a visit to Kullorsuaq, one of the most remote parts of Greenland to see the first Thomas' father, who went to live in an Inuit village decades ago. The two Thomases met in acting class where they failed at improv and quit together (yet they are now part-time actors). Again as with 2 Autumns, the story is anchored by a voiceover (by Thomas 1, Blanchard). Nothing much happens. This will strike some viewers as lame and unimaginative. Indeed Betbeder takes few chances. But there is a documentary authenticity, a charm and a sweetness to make matters appealing.

    There is little going on but Thomas 1's concern about his father's heart and Thomas 2's attraction to a pretty local girl. As the ever-disapproving Cahiers du Cinéma says, they are twiddling their thumbs in their shared bedroom: "why travel 4,000 kilometers for this gag?" Well, because it's life. Thomas 2 is circling fingers trying to remember how the solar system works: they're so cut off from the usual world he's forgotten. Maybe these two doofuses aren't too bright. But in amping up the naiveté Betbeder also makes the guys seem curiously cuddly. The action is filled by introducing us to a succession of locals at parties and gatherings where there's singing, dancing, smiles - and no liquor: they town barred it, because it caused trouble. Apart the partying, the Thomases learn to hunt seals and are honored by being allowed to kill one. A boy has committed suicide: we learn the Internet generation has become disturbed by the limited options - go to the capital, which is tough, or stay and be a hunter in the traditional life, which is tough.

    The ways language distances people has never been clearer. Thomas 1 has studied an Inuit phrasebook, and now Thomas 2 is working on it, but aside from "hello," "goodbye," and "thank you," they don't know much. Subtitles tell us what the Inuit are saying that the boys comically misinterpret. When Thomas 2 makes the big speech he's memorized making a play for the pretty girl, she tells him thank you but she has someone; he guesses she's expressed interest. Always there is this barrier, the guys speaking French, everybody else (including Nathan) speaking Inuit.

    There is the inevitable moment when the finger-twiddling guys lose their patience with each other. Thomas 1 allows that Thomas 2's Daniel Auteuil imitation isn't that funny. But it passes. Here as elsewhere Betbeder has kept it light.

    The climactic event is perhaps a non-event: Thomas 1's inability too talk to his dad about his possible heart trouble. Runner-up is their nerve-racking last-minute effort to get on the internet to bring their social security job report up to date. They must list their few gigs every month by deadline to remain eligible for benefits. And this moment, with a bunch of locals gathered around as they log in on a borrowed computer a kid takes them to, seems quite real, as does their farewell tour around the village delivering complimentary French pancakes to all the people they've befriended during their stay. Maybe Betbeder's success is thanks to not trying too hard.

    Journey to Greenland/Le voyage au Groenland,, 98 mins., debuted at Cannes in the ACID (Association du Cinéma Indépendent pour sa Diffusion) program May 2016; four other festivals. French theatrical release was 30 Nov. 2016, to good reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.5). François Forestier wrote in Le Nouvel Observateur "It's often funny, intelligent, and very pleasant to watch." Screened for this review as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center-Unifrance 1-12 Mar. 2017 series, Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-11-2017 at 08:15 AM.

  4. #19
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    IN THE FORESTS OF SIBERIA/DANS LES FORÊTS DE SIBÉRIE (Safy Nebbou 2016)

    SAFY NEBBOU: DANS LES FORÊTS DE SIBÉRIE/IN THE FORESTS OF SIBERIA (2016)


    RAPHAËL PERSONAZ AND EVGENIY SIDIKHIN IN THE FORESTS OF SIBERIA

    A Frenchman deep in the Russian wild escapes from urban life

    Adapted from the bestselling book by Sylvain Tesson, this movie is beautiful and has a lovely (if sometimes intrusive) score. But it has not teeth. Quite unintentionally I'm sure, it makes the most challenging ordeals look relatively easy. The handsome Raphaël Personnaz, as the French adventurer, Teddy, who's shut down his life in Paris for this challenging six-month solitary idyll, has a quality of lightness and natural elegance about him. He was just right to play heir to the throne the Duc d'Anjou in Tavernier's The Princess of Montpensier, or the lighthearted political speechwriter in the same director's The French Minister. He could even be right for this. he is; he does sterling work; and has told how he loved the book before being engaged to participate in the film.

    Yet here's something in the writing and the editing that lightens the pain and strife. After all it's Siberia in the middle of winter Teddy has chosen to go to, in a little cabin by the shore of Lake Baikal. A key moment is the one when Teddy gets lost in a blizzard and collapses face down in the snow. This is when Aleksei (Evgeniy Sidikhin), a Russian fugitive who's committed murder and hides in the foret, picks Teddy up and slings him over his shoulder like a blanket. This makes it look like Teddy has a charmed life indeed. And Aleksei, a character not in Tesson's book invented to liven up the film, becomes a foil, friend, and comfort.

    Some have said this story will be whatever you make of it, and this is true: it may seem utterly enchanting, a fantasy you delight to escape into; or it can be an ordeal you rejoice not to have to face. Or it may seem beautiful and exciting but rather distant, as seen through a cracked glass. But it's interesting that according to the French movie website AlloCiné the viewers like this quite a lot more than the critics did (4.0 viewers vs. 3.4 critics). In critical terms, Nebbou's film falls short of its material; but viewers dream with it. However it's interesting to me what Eric Libiot wote in L'Express: "The strange impression that emerges after watching the film is that the making of it must have been incredible, while the result, on the other hand, fails to convey the exaltation Teddy sought and found for sic months."

    In the Forests of Siberia/Danes les forêts de Sibérie, 105 mins., debuted at Cabourg 8 Jun. 2016, opening theatrically in Switzerland and France 15 Jun. Screened for this review as part of the Unifrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center 1-12 Mar. 2017 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-26-2017 at 07:12 PM.

  5. #20
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    L'INDOMPTÉE/DAYDREAMS (Caroline Deruas 2016)

    CAROLINE DERUAS: L'INDOMPTÉE/DAYDREAMS (2016)


    TCHÉKY KARYO AND CLOTILDE HESME IN DAYDREAMS

    French artists in Rome

    In her first feature film, Caroline Deruas takes on a tricky, but interesting subject: life at an artist residency. This one's at the impressive Villa Medici in Rome, site of the actual French Academy in Rome (Mission Colbert), depicted here as failing financially and slated for extinction. First, then, several hazards of such places: one might get too caught up in the problems of management; and the place might be so glamorous and beautiful one is distracted from work. Another thing: do artists really want to be in a colony? A further snag turns up here: a jealous, competitive spouse. One might also just wind up writing about or painting or photographing the residency and come away with something too claustrophobic and self-reflective.

    These things happen to Camille Peano. She's played by Clotilde Hesme, who was cast as Louis Garrel's lover in Regular Lovers/Les amants réguliers (directed by Louis's father Philippe, the considerably older lover of Caroline Deruas in real life); and also in Christophe Honoré's Lovesongs/Les chants d'amour. Camille (like Caroline?) has a much older husband, Marc (Tchéky Karyo). He's a successful writer, but perhaps washed up, at least jealous of Camille's entering the field. Marc pulls out the noisiest portable manual typewriter in the world and comically types away on it day and night so Camille can't think, or sleep. Her idea is to write about Villa Medici's first woman artist resident. But she can't get going - till Marc leaves.

    These things are incidental because whhile Deruas plays around with the actual problems of residencies, her main concern is to turn the story into a surreal meditation on such places. Central to this aim is Axèle (Jenna Thiam), a pretty young photographer with glorious red hair, who seems even more haunted by the place's past, wielding cameras of various formats and turning out quite handsome efforts in which she, the architecture, and local statuary are rendered in surreal images. There is an understood competition between Camille and Axèle, who anyway is neurotic and crazy. Thaim and Hesme, an actress who normally exudes cool bemusement, are a good contrast. Axèle gets an impressive exhibition at the villa at the end that she seeks to destroy. Spoiler alert: maybe Axèle is just a figment of Camille's increasingly energetic imagination.

    Daydreams/L'Indomptée ("The Untamed") is really a very watchable film with delicate, beautiful images if you sit back and enjoy and indulge some of its more over-the-top surreal images; but it isn't a wholly successful effort. The artistic life is a subject it's hard to broach without falling into some clichés and that happens here. Deruas ought to have let herself indulge more freely in surrealism, to bring to life the ghosts that haunt the place and the hermetic mind games that plague artists shut off in a colony. Cahier du Cinéma's critic called this film "More the fantasy of a great film than aa great film about fantasy." Daydreams gives pleasure with its visuals, its settings, and its cast, but remains superficial.

    Daydreams/L'indomptable, 96 mins., debuted at Locarno Aug. 2016, and opened in Franch cinemas 15 Feb. 2017 (AlloCiné press rating a meager 2.5, though there were many favorable comments). Screened for this review as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center-Unifrance 1-12 Mar. 2017 series Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. Shotimes:
    Wednesday, March 8, 4:30pm
    Friday, March 10, 6:45pm (Q&A with Caroline Deruas)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-04-2017 at 11:43 PM.

  6. #21
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    RAW/GRAVE (Julia Ducournau 2016)

    "For the first time, a Film Comment magazine presentation within Rendez-Vous with French Cinema" - FSLC press release.

    JULIA DUCOURNAU: RAW/GRAVE (2016)


    RABAH NAÏT OUFELLA AND GARANCE MARILLIER IN RAW

    Hungry girl

    Raw (Grave in French, which means something different,of course) is the first film written and directed by Julia Ducournau. It concerns Justine (Garance Marillier), who is only 16 (though the actress looks older and is older). She is reserved and precocious, and her parents (Joana Preiss and Laurent Lucas, who've had some interesting and edgy roles before this, especially Lucas - Lemming and With a Friend Like Harry, for example) take her to join her older sister, the bumptious Alex (Ella Rumpf), as a student at a rather unusual veterinary collage. No wonder this turns into a horror movie.
    Justine and her parents are vegetarians. Why is that important? The same way it's important that she's a virgin. She's a tabula rasa. A little below the surface this prim vegetarian virgin is a sex-starved vixen whose taste for raw, bloody flesh is so rapacious it rapidly leads to cannibalism. There: I have given it alway. But there is plenty of buzz about this movie, about people fainting or having to be led out of the cinema, when it first showed at Cannes. And the English title, Raw, doesn't hide anything. If you don't know what's in store, you're a perfect tabula rasa too, ripe for shock. You're lucky.

    Justine and her parents are vegetarians. Why is that important? The same way it's important that she's a virgin. She's a tabula rasa. A little below the surface this prim vegetarian virgin is a sex-starved vixen whose taste for raw, bloody flesh is so rapacious it rapidly leads to cannibalism. There: I have given it alway. But there is plenty of buzz about this movie, about people fainting or having to be led out of the cinema, when it first showed at Cannes. And the English title, Raw, doesn't hide anything. If you don't know what's in store, you're a perfect tabula rasa too, ripe for shock. You're lucky.

    We, like Justine, are assaulted from the start of her arrival, when her parents point out to her the location of the hospital and the morgue. ("I'm already getting confused about geography," she says.) More than a veterinary college, this is a ferocious hazing program. The new students - the first year is the best, Alex tells Justine - are made to crawl on all fours on the way to a wild party. They are doused from above with buckets of animal blood. They're made to eat raw animal organs. Justine's is a rabbit's kidney. There are wild bachanalias. And Justine's roommate Adrien (Rabah Naït Oufella) is a hunky gay guy whose nearly shaved head and thick lips make him look animalistic and sexy. Justine opens the door of their room one day and he's standing there getting a blow job. Raw doesn't spent much time on personalities or the development of relationships. But it's strong on sisterly bonding, and Justine and Adrien are bosom buddies nearly immediately, and often sleep side by side. It goes further than that - lots further. Classes? They go directly into drawing and quartering horses, dissecting dogs, things like that. But the hazing takes up most of the time.

    Raw is a good looking, well cast and well acted film. It's French. Cronenberg and Lynch have been mentioned. Nonetheless it risks feeling more like a chic exploitation film. It's a horror genre movie toned down just enough to be taken seriously by more effete, non-genre viewers. It has some good shocks spaced through its run-time. Justine has a succession of revolting scenes, those involving eating of meat before she gets to like it; then her violent scratching of a rash; her chewing and then vomiting up quantities of her own hair; her sister's painful wax removal of her pubic hair; her consumption of a severed finger. Bu despite all this individualized disgustingness, the film is fundamentally shallow and unsubtle. It focuses - successfully though - on propulsive action rather than mood, and fails to awaken much emotion, other than disgust. For this reason its effect can be pretty superficial. It's well done for what it is. Again: it's French; its gross, tasteless song lyrics are in that language, subtitled. It has good production values. It has a glossy, beautiful look; but it still hasn't solved the problem of how to make blood look real.

    Yes, Julia Ducournau shows talent and has produced an accomplished first feature. It's not clear that she is the kind of distinctive talent we see in Lucile Hadžihalilović, the wife of Gaspar Noë, for example, and this film has been a bit overrated. It doesn't leave one with much to ponder. It all comes down to a pretty simple explanation at the end. It made me giggle more than cringe. This place, and these people, were so blatantly fictitious. LIke Anthony Lane of[urlf="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/13/kong-skull-island-and-raw"]The New Yorker[/url], "when the carnage was over" I too "went out and had a steak." No frissons, no nightmares. But yeah, I can see turning into a compulsive cannibal would be pretty bad. Is that why people give up eating meat? They might not be able to control themselves? This isn't an ad for vegetarianism: it makes vegetarians look creepy.

    Raw/Grave, 99 mins., debuted at Cannes at Critics Week, receiving the FIPRESCI Prize; shown in many other international festivals it has won many awards and nominations. Its critical claim is impressive. Metacritic rating is 82%; AlloCiné press rating is 4.1. Actually released in the US before France, 10 Mar., US, 15 Mar. France. Also shown as part of Film Comment Selects 2017 at Lincoln Center and, in an unusual move, also listed as part FSLC-Unifrance Rende-Vous with French Cinema as well.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-19-2017 at 01:13 AM.

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