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    Rendez-Vouz with French Cinema 2017

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-03-2017 at 09:54 AM.

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    Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2017
    March 1-12

    See the General Film Forum thread for this event here.

    Following is the main slate of the series, including this time some French films in this year's "Film Comment Selects" series.


    NOCTURAMA (Bentrand Bonello)

    Rendez-Vous with French Cinema Main Slate:
    Opening Night
    Django
    Étienne Comar, France, 2017, 115m

    French with English subtitles
    The world of legendary Romani jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt is brought to vivid life in this riveting saga of survival, resistance, and artistic courage. Reinhardt (Reda Kateb) is the toast of 1943 Paris, thrilling audiences with his distinctive brand of "hot jazz" and charming his admirers (including an intrepid friend and muse played by Cécile de France). But even as the rise of Nazism and anti-Romani sentiment force Reinhardt—whose music is considered degenerate under the Third Reich—to make a daring escape from the city, he refuses to be silenced, his music becoming his form of protest. The feature debut from acclaimed screenwriter Étienne Comar (Of Gods and Men) immerses viewers in a tumultuous chapter in the life of one of the 20th century’s greatest musical geniuses. North American Premiere
    French release coming 26 April 2017.
    Wednesday, March 1, at 6:00pm and 8:30pm (Étienne Comar, Reda Kateb, and Cécile de France in person)[/B]

    Closing Night
    The Odyssey / L’odyssée
    Jérôme Salle, France, 2016, 122m
    French with English Subtitles

    Lambert Wilson is magnetic in this grandly lyrical dramatization of legendary explorer-turned-filmmaker Jacques Cousteau. Spanning half a century and criss-crossing oceans, the film charts Cousteau’s professional triumphs and personal failures as he achieves renown for the underwater documentaries he produced on his oceanographic expeditions, amid the constant struggle to secure financial backing for increasingly ambitious scientific (and cinematic) objectives. Set against the backdrop of cross-generational family drama—centered on his long-suffering wife Simone (Audrey Tautou) and his talented, deeply conflicted son Philippe (Pierre Niney)—The Odyssey is an epic ode to scientific exploration and documentary filmmaking, and a celebration of the human drive to seek out new realms of discovery. U.S. Premiere. ) HERE. French release 31 Oct. 2016 AlloCiné press rating 3.4. [Previously reviewed on Filmleaf]
    Saturday, March 11, 6:00pm (Q&A with Jérôme Salle)
    Sunday, March 12, 8:00pm


    150 Milligrams / La fille de Brest
    Emmanuelle Bercot, France, 2016, 128m

    French with English subtitles
    A fearless everywoman stands up to a drug company in this gripping David vs. Goliath story, based on a real-life medical scandal. Irène Frachon (Sidse Babett Knudsen) is a pulmonologist at a hospital in Brest who begins digging into the connection between a widely prescribed diabetes drug and a spate of fatal valve disorders, with help from a research scientist (Benoît Magimel). Soon enough, Irène sets off a media firestorm, making powerful enemies in the pharmaceutical industry who will stop at nothing to suppress her story. Knudsen and writer-director Emmanuelle Bercot have created a memorably eccentric heroine, at once a tireless crusader and compelling human. U.S. Premiere. French release 23 Nov. 2016. AlloCiné press rating 3.7.
    Saturday, March 4, 3:15pm (Q&A with Emmanuelle Bercot)
    Monday, March 6, 4:15pm

    The Dancer / La danseuse
    Stéphanie Di Giusto, France/Belgium/Czech Republic, 2016, 108m

    English and French with English subtitles
    This visually sumptuous drama set amidst the opulence of La Belle Époque Paris charts the real-life saga of modern dance icon Loïe Fuller (Soko). Raised on the plains of the American Midwest, Fuller became the unlikely toast of turn-of-the-century France with her legendary performances, in which swirling swaths of silk fabric and dazzlingly colored lights created a kaleidoscopic spectacle of color and movement. Boasting lavish period detail, breathtaking dance sequences, and fiercely committed performances by Gaspard Ulliel, Mélanie Thierry, and Lily-Rose Depp as Fuller’s rival Isadora Duncan, The Dancer is an arresting chronicle of an artist’s struggle to realize her vision. French release 28 Sept. 2016. AlloCine press rating 3.4.
    Thursday, March 2, 1:45pm
    Monday, March 6, 9:30pm (Q&A with Stéphanie Di Giusto)

    Daydreams / L'indomptée
    Caroline Deruas, France, 2016, 98m

    French and Italian with English subtitles
    Past and present, fantasy and reality collide in the boldly original feature debut from Caroline Deruas. A group of young French artists converge at Rome’s sun-dappled Villa Medicis for a one-year residency. Among them are Camille (Clotilde Hesme), a writer whose marriage to a famous novelist (Tchéky Karyo) is disintegrating, and Axèle (Jenna Thiam), an erratic photographer haunted by spectral visions of the villa’s past. Deruas conjures a subtly surreal atmosphere through striking stylistic flourishes—iris shots, color effects, dream sequences—in this beguiling tale of creative struggle, romantic rivalry, and ghosts. U.S. Premiere. French release 15 Feb. 2017.
    Wednesday, March 8, 4:30pm
    Friday, March 10, 6:45pm (Q&A with Caroline Deruas)

    Faultless / Irréprochable
    Sébastien Marnier, France, 2016, 103m

    French with English subtitles
    Out of money and options, 40-year-old Constance (Marina Foïs) abandons her life in Paris and returns to her suburban hometown in hopes of picking up where she left off. After she finds no real romance from her occasional lover (Benjamin Biolay), something finally snaps when she discovers that her old job as a real-estate agent has been given to a younger woman (Joséphine Japy). It soon becomes clear: Constance is dangerous, and will stop at nothing to get what she wants. Both a wild-ride thriller and a chilling character study, Faultless is driven by a riveting central performance: almost always onscreen, Foïs brings unexpected depth and poignant humanity to her portrayal of a coldly calculating sociopath. French release 6 Jul. 2016, AlloCiné press rating 3.7.
    Sunday, March 5, 6:15pm (Q&A with Sébastien Marnier and Marina Foïs)
    Monday, March 6, 2:00pm

    Frantz
    François Ozon, France/Germany, 2016, 113m

    French and German with English subtitles
    The new film from acclaimed director François Ozon is a sublime, heartrending saga of guilt, forgiveness, and forbidden love in post–World War I Europe. Based on Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 antiwar drama Broken Lullaby, it charts the complex bond that forms between two strangers: Anna (Paula Beer), a young German woman grieving the loss of her fiancé, Frantz, in the war, and Adrien (Pierre Niney), a former French soldier. What plays out between them is a haunting investigation of postwar trauma and healing rendered in gorgeous black-and-white that occasionally gives way—gloriously—to psychologically charged bursts of color. French release 7 Sept. 2016, AlloCiné press rating 3.7. A Music Box Films release (US). [Previously reviewed on Filmleaf]
    Thursday, March 2, 9:15pm (Q&A with François Ozon)
    Saturday, March 11, 1:00pm

    From the Land of the Moon / Mal de pierres
    Nicole Garcia, France/Belgium/Canada, 2016, 116m

    French and Spanish with English subtitles
    Marion Cotillard delivers a performance of searing emotional intensity in this psychologically charged, 1950s-set saga of amour fou. She stars as Gabrielle, a troubled young woman—sick in both body and mind—who is stuck in a loveless marriage. When she travels to Switzerland for a rest cure, she meets the handsome, terminally ill lieutenant André (Louis Garrel), beginning a decades-long romantic obsession that will shape the course of her life. Beautifully photographed in the sunny south of France and the snow-capped Swiss mountains, From the Land of the Moon is an exquisite showcase for one of the finest actresses working today. French release 19 Oct. 2016, AlloCiné press rating 3.5. A Sundance Selects release (US). [Previously reviewed on Filmleaf]
    Friday, March 3, 6:30pm (Q&A with Nicole Garcia)
    Sunday, March 12, 1:00pm

    Heal the Living / Réparer les vivants
    Katell Quillévéré, France/Belgium, 2016, 103m

    French with English subtitles
    A medical drama of unusual depth and sensitivity, Heal the Living charts the disparate lives touched by a tragedy. Following a car accident, 17-year-old Simon (Gabin Verdet) is left brain-dead, setting into motion a chain of events that affects everyone from his family to the hospital staff to a mother of two (Anne Dorval) in need of a heart transplant. Director Katell Quillévéré weaves together the multistrand narrative with consummate grace, abetted by a remarkable ensemble cast (including Emmanuelle Seigner and Tahar Rahim), elegant camerawork, and a striking score by Alexandre Desplat. The result is an enormously affecting study of human interconnectedness that finds a silver lining of hope in a wrenching situation. French release 2 Nov. 2016, AlloCiné press rating 3.8. A Cohen Media Group release (US). [Previously reviewed on Filmleaf]
    Thursday, March 2, 6:30pm (Q&A with Katell Quillévéré)
    Friday, March 3, 1:45pm

    In Bed With Victoria / Victoria
    Justine Triet, France, 2016, 97m

    English and French with English subtitles
    Victoria (Virginie Efira) is a hotshot lawyer with a disastrous personal life. Between juggling a demanding job, raising two kids, and fending off an ex-husband who’s slandering her on the Internet, she can barely be bothered with the hit-or-miss (mostly miss) online hookups she sets up. Around the time Victoria agrees to help her old friend Vincent (Melvil Poupaud) with a decidedly bizarre legal matter, she runs into a charming former client Sam (Vincent Lacoste). Now that a shot at real romance comes along, will the perpetually harried Victoria even recognize it? This refreshingly offbeat (how else to describe a film that features a trial in which the star witness is a Dalmatian?) farce is propelled by Efira’s irresistible performance as a heroine who’s raw, real, and complicated in ways that transcend the rom-com formula. French release 14 Sept. 2016, AlloCiné press rating 4.0 (This is the biggest critical success in France on the list so far.)
    Saturday, March 4, 9:30pm (Q&A with Justine Triet)
    Sunday, March 12, 3:30pm

    In the Forest of Siberia / Dans les forêts de Sibérie
    Safy Nebbou, France, 2016, 105m

    English, French, and Russian with English subtitles
    Based on the award-winning memoir by adventurer Sylvain Tesson, this tale of survival follows Teddy (Raphaël Personnaz), a young Frenchman who leaves everything behind to live in isolation in the icy Siberian taiga. But initial exhilaration soon gives way to the harsh reality of staying alive in a frozen wilderness miles from civilization with roaming bears, life-threatening blizzards, and no electricity. The film captures majestic footage of the unspoiled Siberian landscape, its bleak beauty underscored by jazz trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf’s plaintive soundtrack. French release 15 Jun. 2016, AlloCiné press rating 3.4.
    Sunday, March 5, 1:00pm
    Thursday, March 9, 4:00pm

    Journey to Greenland / Le Voyage au Groënland
    Sébastien Betbeder, France, 2016, 98m

    English, Inuktitut, and French with English subtitles
    Scruffy, thirtysomething best friends both named Thomas (Thomas Blanchard and Thomas Scimeca) leave behind their struggling acting careers in Paris for an extended sojourn in a remote, snowbound stretch of Greenland. One is there to reconnect with his off-the-grid father, the other for adventure. What ensues is a perceptive, warm-spirited study of cross-cultural misunderstanding and connection, as the two men learn to survive in a place without alcohol, indoor plumbing, or a reliable Internet connection. Director Sébastien Betbeder balances wry, unforced comedy with casual insight into human relationships: between friends, family members, and the strangers who touch your life. Sébastien Betbeder previously made the 20-something loser rom-com with Vincent Macaigne, 2 Autumns, 3 Winters (Rendez-Vous 2014)[/I]. French release 30 Nov. 2016. AlloCiné press rating 3.5. A Netflix release (US).
    Tuesday, March 7, 4:30pm
    Wednesday, March 8, 6:45pm

    Mum’s Wrong / Maman a tort
    Marc Fitoussi, France/Belgium, 2016, 110m

    French with English subtitles
    When idealistic 14-year-old Anouk (Jeanne Jestin) embarks on a weeklong internship at her mom’s insurance company, she gets a crash course in the less-than-rosy reality of the corporate world, discovering some unsavory truths about her own mother along the way. An emotionally complex look at parents, children, and the moral compromises we make, Mum’s Wrong adroitly blends workplace satire with a compassionate social-issue message, while its leads Jestin and Émilie Dequenne (Rosetta, Our Children) create a nuanced, wholly believable portrait of a mother-daughter relationship undergoing a crisis. French release 9 Nov. 2016, AlloCiné press rating 3.3.
    Sunday, March 5, 3:30pm (Q&A with Marc Fitoussi)
    Friday, March 10, 2:00pm

    Nocturama
    Bertrand Bonello, France/Germany/Belgium, 2016, 130m
    French with English subtitles

    The audacious new film from Bertrand Bonello (Saint Laurent) unfolds in two mesmerizing segments. The first is a precision-crafted thriller, following a multi-ethnic group of millennial radicals as they carry out a mass-scale terrorist attack on Paris. The second—in which the perpetrators hide out in the consumerist mecca of a luxury department store—is the director’s coup, raising provocative questions about everything that came before. Bonello stages his apocalyptic vision with stylishly roving camerawork, blasts of hip-hop, and a lip-synced performance to Shirley Bassey’s "My Way." This is edgy, risk-taking filmmaking that is sure to ignite debate. A Netflix release (US). French release 31 Aug. 2016. AlloCiné press rating 3.4.
    Saturday, March 4, 6:15pm (Q&A with Bertrand Bonello)
    Sunday, March 5, 9:00pm (Introduction by Bertrand Bonello)

    The Paris Opera / L'Opèra de Paris
    Jean-Stéphane Bron, France, 2017, 110m

    French with English subtitles
    This all-access documentary goes behind the scenes of the Paris Opera, following the array of personnel—management, performers, costumers, cleaning crew—who work to bring breathtaking spectacle to audiences night after night. Over the course of a season, director Jean-Stéphane Bron nimbly juggles a dizzying number of storylines, from labor disputes to procuring a live bull for Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron to a PR crisis involving the head of the company’s ballet. Sweeping in scope yet full of intimate human moments, The Paris Opera offers a candid look at everything that goes into operating one of the world’s foremost performing arts institutions. U.S. Premiere. French release 5 Apr. 2017. AlloCiné lists the title as L'Opéra.
    Thursday, March 2, 4:00pm
    Saturday, March 11, 3:30pm

    Planetarium
    Rebecca Zlotowski, France/Belgium, 2016, 105m
    English and French with English subtitles

    Natalie Portman lends her star power to this dreamy, visually ravishing tale of magic and movies set in a glamorous vision of 1930s Paris. She and her sister (Lily-Rose Depp) form a psychic duo, touring the stages of Europe performing séances. When they catch the eye of a movie producer (Emmanuel Salinger), he resolves to make them stars and to capture an act of spiritualism on film. Forgoing traditional narrative structure in favor of swooning atmosphere, director Rebecca Zlotowksi revels in the Art Deco architecture, sumptuous period couture, and doomed decadence of prewar Paris. Zlotowski made the 2010 Belle Épine (ND/NF 2011 and 2013 Grand Central (R-V 2014), both with Léa Seydoux. French release 16 Nov. 2016, AlloCiné press rating 3.1 A Swen Group release (US).
    Friday, March 3, 9:30pm (Q&A with Rebecca Zlotowski)
    Tuesday, March 7, 2:00pm


    Raw/Grave

    Film Comment Selects

    Raw / Grave
    Julia Ducournau, France/Belgium, 2016, 99m

    French with English subtitles
    When incoming freshman — and lifelong vegetarian — Justine (Garance Marillier) joins her older sister (Ella Rumpf) at a strangely decrepit veterinary college, she seems poised to be the school’s new star pupil. But a hazing ritual in which she’s forced to eat raw meat awakens something primal in Justine: a newfound — and highly disturbing — taste for flesh. The feature debut from Julia Ducournau marks the arrival of a bold new directorial voice, blending blood-spattered body horror, pitch-black comedy, and one of the most dysfunctional sisterly relationships ever depicted on screen into a potent, emotionally resonant coming-of-age nightmare. Many reviews, including Walter Chaw 4-our-of-4 stars at Fantastic Fest. French release 17 Mar. 2017. Seems to have had an online release in Jan. US release 10 Mar. A Focus Features release (US).
    Tuesday, March 7, 6:45pm (Q&A with Julia Ducournau)
    Wednesday, March 8, 9:15pm (Introduction by Julia Ducournau)

    Right Here Right Now/ Tout de suite maintenant
    Pascal Bonitzer, France/Belgium/Luxembourg, 2016, 98m

    French with English subtitles
    Workplace drama doesn’t get any messier than in this intriguingly knotty tale of corporate backbiting and buried secrets. Nora (Agathe Bonitzer) is a bright young professional whose new job at a financial firm turns out to be a trial by fire when she learns that her bosses (Lambert Wilson and Pascal Greggory) share a tumultuous history with her prickly mathematician father (Jean-Pierre Bacri). Meanwhile, an interoffice romance with a competitive colleague (Vincent Lacoste) leads to even more complications, leaving Nora to navigate a minefield of delicate relationships as she climbs the corporate ladder. Isabelle Huppert costars and delivers a typically multilayered performance as one of many sharply etched characters populating this complex moral tale. Bonitzer was Raoul Peck's writer forMurder in Pacot and 2014 FCS included his Cherchez Hortense French release 22 Jun. 2016, AlloCiné press rating 3.5.
    Friday, March 10, 9:30pm
    Sunday, March 12, 5:45pm

    Slack Bay / Ma Loute
    Bruno Dumont, France/Germany, 2016, 122m

    English and French with English subtitles
    In a postcard-perfect seaside village in 1910, an eccentric (to put it mildly) leisure-class family whiles away the summer. But something troubling is afoot: what’s behind the string of tourists gone mysteriously missing? Former enfant terrible Bruno Dumont continues his surprising foray into farce—which began with 2014’s acclaimed Li’l Quinquin—with this surreal, oddball mix of slapstick and detective story. The director and his cast (which includes Fabrice Luchini, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, and a very game Juliette Binoche) stretch each joke to its breaking point, resulting in a winking, weirdly captivating comedy that’s in on its own absurdity. French release 13 May 2016, AlloCiné press raging 4.1 (highest in this list so far). A Kino Lorber release (US).
    Thursday, March 9, 6:30pm
    Saturday, March 11, 9:00pm


    Slack Bay

    Sophie’s Misfortunes / Les malheurs de Sophie
    Christophe Honoré, France, 2016, 106m

    French with English subtitles
    Based on the French children’s classic by the Countess of Ségur, the latest from Christophe Honoré is an enchanting fable for adults and kids alike, set in a light-filled 19th-century chateau. The film captures the imaginative freedom of childhood through the eyes of the irrepressible Sophie (Caroline Grant), a mischievous young girl whose life changes drastically after she’s left in the care of a severe stepmother (Muriel Robin)—a far cry from the life she had with her loving mother (Golshifteh Farahani of Jarmusch's Paterson and Louis Garrel's Two Friends/Les deux amis). With the help of her two friends and their mother (Anaïs Demoustier), Sophie works to escape her stepmother’s wicked grasp. Throughout, Honoré combines gorgeous period detail with playful modern touches: a bouncy electronic score by Alex Beaupain (who wrote the songs for Honoré;s Lse chansons d'amour/Love Songs, expressive handheld camerawork, and a menagerie of animated animals. French release 20 Apr. 2016, AlloCiné press rating 3.4 (Users rating 2.2). U.S. Premiere.
    Saturday, March 4, 12:30pm (Q&A with Christophe Honoré)
    Wednesday, March 8, 2:00pm (Intro with Christophe Honoré)

    The Stopover / Voir du pays
    Delphine & Muriel Coulin, France/Greece, 2016, 102m

    French and Greek with English subtitles
    On their way home from Afghanistan, a band of French soldiers stop in Cyprus for decompression: three-days at a sun-splashed resort, where they will undergo intense psychological debriefing. There, amidst the crystal-blue waters and hordes of vacationing tourists, Marine (Soko) and Aurore (Ariane Labed)—two of only three women in their male-dominated unit—confront rage, trauma, and army sexism as they struggle to readjust to "normal" life. This riveting drama—winner of the Best Screenplay award in the Un Certain Regard competition at Cannes—is an all-too-rare exploration of war’s psychological wounds on female soldiers. This debuted in Un Certain Regard at Cannes. The sisters previously made 17 Girls (R-V 2012)and Samba. A First Run Features release (US).
    Thursday, March 9, 9:00pm
    Friday, March 10, 4:15pm

    Struggle for Life / La Loi de la jungle
    Antonin Peretjatko, France, 2016, 99m

    French with English subtitles
    In this wild, joke-a-minute slapstick satire, a middle-aged intern (Vincent Macaigne) is sent from France to French Guiana to oversee the creation of a South American ski resort led by Galgaric (Mathieu Amalric). There, he meets a beautiful intern at the National Forestry Office named Tarzan (Vimala Pons) and what ensues is a surreal journey through the Amazon jungle, with absurdist bureaucratic disasters, an aphrodisiac mishap, and a cannibal encounter. Playing something like a Jerry Lewis gag-fest meets Survivor, Struggle for Life combines anarchic black comedy with a scathing critique of colonialism. French release 13 Jun 2016, AlloCiné press rating 3.6 (USers 3.0).
    Monday, March 6, 7:00pm (Q&A with Antonin Peretjatko)
    Tuesday, March 7, 9:15pm (Introduction by Antonin Peretjatko)

    The Together Project / L'effet aquatique
    Sólveig Anspach, France/Iceland, 2016, 83m

    English, French, and Icelandic with English subtitles
    The final film from the late French-Icelandic director Sólveig Anspach is an irresistibly offbeat aquatic comedy. When gawky construction worker Samir (Samir Guesmi) encounters prickly swim instructor Agathe (Florence Loiret Caille), he’s immediately smitten. But his unconventional plan to win her over—pretending he can’t swim in order to take lessons from her — proves more than a little problematic. Sweet without being cloying, quirky without being grating, this romantic charmer succeeds thanks to the interplay between the two leads and Anspach’s breezy sincerity. French release 29 Jun. 2016, AlloCiné press rating a very favorable 3.9.
    Friday, March 3, 4:00pm (Q&A with composer Martin Wheeler)
    Thursday, March 9, 2:00pm

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-01-2017 at 06:02 AM.

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    Previews



    Previews.

    I'll be previewing the following films in the series before the Rendez-Vous begins. Some others I may catch at public screenings or elsewhere.

    The Dancer / La danseuse
    Stéphanie Di Giusto, France/Belgium/Czech Republic, 2016, 108m

    English and French with English subtitles
    This visually sumptuous drama set amidst the opulence of La Belle Époque Paris charts the true-life saga of American-born modern dance icon Loïe Fuller and boasts a fiercely committed lead performance by Soko

    Django (Opening Night Selection)
    Étienne Comar, France, 2017, 115m

    French with English subtitles
    The world and music of legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt (Reda Kateb) are brought vividly to life in this riveting saga of survival, resistance, and artistic courage set against the tumultuous backdrop of World War II-era Paris.

    Frantz
    François Ozon, France/Germany, 2016, 113m

    French and German with English subtitles
    Based on Ernst Lubitsch's 1932 antiwar drama Broken Lullaby, the new film from acclaimed director François Ozon is a sublime, heartrending saga of guilt, forgiveness, and forbidden love in post-World War I Europe. A Music Box Films release.

    From the Land of the Moon / Mal de pierres
    Nicole Garcia, France/Belgium/Canada, 2016, 116m

    French and Spanish with English subtitles
    Marion Cotillard delivers a performance of searing emotional intensity as a troubled woman in love with a terminally ill lieutenant (Louis Garrel) in this psychologically charged, 1950s-set saga of amour fou. A Sundance Selects release.

    Heal the Living / Réparer les vivants
    Katell Quillévéré, France/Belgium, 2016, 103m

    French with English subtitles
    A fatal car accident sets into motion a chain of events that touches the lives of seemingly disparate people in this enormously affecting medical drama of unusual depth and sensitivity. A Cohen Media Group release.

    Nocturama
    Bertrand Bonello, France/Germany/Belgium, 2016, 130m

    French with English subtitles
    The audacious new film from Bertrand Bonello (Saint Laurent) is both a precision-crafted thriller about a mass-scale terrorist attack on Paris and a provocative exploration of consumerism and millennial disaffection. A Netflix release.

    The Odyssey / L'odyssée (Closing Night Selection)
    Jérôme Salle, France, 2016, 122m

    French with English subtitles
    Lambert Wilson is magnetic in this grandly lyrical dramatization of legendary explorer-turned-filmmaker Jacques Cousteau. Set against the backdrop of cross-generational family drama, The Odyssey is an epic ode to exploration and documentary filmmaking, and a celebration of the human drive to seek out new realms of discovery.

    The Paris Opera / L'Opéra
    Jean-Stéphane Bron, France, 2017, 110m

    French with English subtitles
    Go behind the scenes of the Paris Opera, where backstage dramas, crises, and triumphs play out each night before the curtain rises.

    In Bed With Victoria / Victoria
    Justine Triet, France, 2016, 97m

    English and French with English subtitles
    A hotshot lawyer with a disastrous love life gets a shot at real romance-if only she could recognize it. This refreshingly offbeat farce is raw, real, and complicated in ways that transcend the rom-com formula.

    Slack Bay / Ma Loute
    Bruno Dumont, France/Germany, 2016, 122m

    English and French with English subtitles
    Juliette Binoche, Fabrice Luchini, and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi costar in this surreal, weirdly captivating mix of slapstick comedy and oddball detective story, the latest foray into farce from former enfant terrible Bruno Dumont. A Kino Lorber release.

    Raw / Grave
    Julia Ducournau, France/Belgium, 2016, 99m

    French with English subtitles
    When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her.


  4. #4
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    DJANGO (Django (Étienne Comar 2016)

    ÉTIENNE COMAR: DJANGO (2016)


    REDA KATEB (SEATED, FAR RIGHT) AS DJANGO REINHARDT IN DJANGO

    Wonderful music, teamwork, blah plot

    In 1943 the great gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt left Paris and, after months of waiting in Thonon-les-Bains, fled to Switzerland to escape the German massacres of his people who, along with Jews, homosexuals, and communists, were targeted for extermination by the Nazis. This is the moment French director Étienne Comar chooses to focus on in this atmospheric, beautiful, but unfortunately rather flat film, which comes out 25 Apr. 2017 in France. It debuted at the Berlinale 9 February and opens Lincoln Center and UniFrance's Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 1 March. This film nicely showcases Django's music, including a lost suite for orchestra, organ, and chorus composed while in flight and a Paris theater concert of Django and the Jazz Hot Quintet recreated by the Rosenberg Trio, Warren Ellis. The filmmakers deserve much credit for letting the music breathe in a few extended sessions rather than the usual tiny cli[ps. The movie also is valuable for the information it conveys about the persecution of the Roma people. And it's an unusual lead role for the inconspicuous French-Arab actor Reda Kateb, who's played in excellent films like Zero Dark Thirty and (most notably) Audiard's great A Prophet, but is rarely noticed, especially outside of France.

    There is much here to show what exceptional chops Reda Ketem has. He not only looks and acts the part but gives an effortlessly convincing impression of Django's lightening fingers on the guitar and speaks the Roma language. But despite a vivid mise-en-scène (complete with period Roma encampments) and a good cast - including Cécile de France as an ambiguous femme fatale, a Django fan and a bit more (her hair big and wavy as in her "The Young Pope" HBO TV series performance for Paolo Sorrentino), we seem to spend too much of the movie just waiting for something to happen. And when it finally does, it lacks drama because it's masked by an unmemorable decadent-Nazis partying sequence. And then, in this oddly paced scenario, we're immediately zipped forward to 1945, when Django's safely back in Paris, the War over, conducting his suite (or a recreation of it). We're left with the memory of those toe-tapping, head-bobbing Jazz Hot sessions.

    Maybe writer-producer Étienne Comar, who scripted for this directing debut, is better at static situations, which is where he excelled in writing the screenplay for Xavier Beauvois' Cannes Grand Prix-winning 2010 film Of Gods and Men/Des hommes et des dieux about a group of monks menaced by terrorists trying to decide what to do. Django also begins with a kind of stagnation. Django is an enormously admired musician in Paris and around the world, when we meet him, who's been joined by Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins; you name it. So the fact he's from a group classified as "degenerate" by the Occupation seems not to matter - till it's gradually clear that the culturally sophisticated Nazis aren't ultimately the ones in control, but the racists and exterminators.

    Perhaps the film's highpoint is its recreation of the Quintette du Hot Club de France theatrical performance, with the group cooking non-stop on stage and the audience smoking, jiving, finally standing up and dancing in the theater. Details of the group's makeup aren't much detailed. Instead we see how boorish and domineering the German officers are when they tell Django how he must play at an upcoming tour of Germany, for which he's to be highly paid. Django, whose proclivity for drink and fishing have been roughed in when he's first seen prior to the concert, is contemptuous, and simply says he won't go or ever play for the Krauts. But Louise de Klerk (Cécile de France) and others warn him that he can neither go - he'd never come back - nor simply refuse to go: the moment has come to go into hiding. And so reluctantly he does sneak off to Thonon, with his pregnant wife Naguine (Beata Palya) and colorful mother Négros (Bimbam Merstein), for what will be a boring and drawn-out period of waiting, shifting residences, and performing incognito to pay expenses.

    Here, despite initially arousing hope with its musicality and its fluent sense of period, the film founders, and we realize that, outside of the toe-tapping concert sessions, it never did really have a sense of rhythm. There are several more of those, all good, and Django connects with his local Roma comrades. And there's a complicated and cooked-up Hitchcockian-cum-Inglourious Basterds plot that neither gels nor convinces. All the fun little details just ultimately seem like only an excuse to glue together the musical sessions, and we can't help wishing for more of those and less ho-hum plotting. Kateb always quietly shines, as he might better have done in a movie with more charisma. Props to dp Christophe Beaucarne for the film's handsome gloss and to production designer Olivier Radot for its quietly authentic settings. I love it when the old cars in a period movie don't look like they just came out of a museum or collector's garage but have some rickety patina, as here. The purely musical parts of this film deserve to be anthologized and re-watched.

    Django, 117 mins., debuted at Berlin 9 Feb. 2017. Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema where it is the Opening Night film 1 March. French theatrical release 25 April 2017.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-15-2017 at 06:32 PM.

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    FRANTZ (François Ozon 2016)

    FRANÇOIS OZON: FRANTZ (2016)


    PIERRE NINEY AND PAULA BEER IN FRANTZ

    Ozon redoes the postwar romance in fine style

    Ozon's new Frantz at times seems terminally tasteful and tame, impeccably set in post WWI trappings and filmed in handsome black and white (with discreet color segments) that makes everything and everyone look pleasingly generic. Primarily it's a nice vehicle for its two young protagonists, the rising French star Pierre Niney (ex-Comédie Française and the official film YSL) and the promising German newcomer (so awarded at Venice) Paula Beer. Niney plays Adrien Rivoire, the mysterious slim young Frenchman who appears in the little German town cemetery where Anna (Beer) pays daily homage at the grave of her late fiance, Frantz Hoffmeister (Anton von Lucke), killed in the war.

    As is his wont Ozon teases and puzzles us. And yet still he lays out points with absolute clarity. When Adrien explains who he is, it takes a while for Frantz's father, Doktor Hoffmeister (Ernst Stötzner) to accept him. But then everybody does. Later comes a shocking surprise that amateur script-doctors may have guessed; and concealment goes on, while the impact of the surprise is muted, some are protected from it, and it's then viewed from various angles.

    If nothing gathers intense emotional power, Frantz touches on various intriguing themes. First is the pacifist one. A beer-drinking gang of bereaved German fathers are made to consider that they caused the war and sent their sons off to die in it. Frantz's favorite poet was Verlaine and French was his and Anna's secret language and she is fluent in French as Adrien is in German. But nationalism can't be banished with cultural affinities and a few pious generalizations. One is somewhat in the territory of Vercors' Le silence de la mer, the subject of Jean-Pierre Melville's first film, about the German Occupation officer who just loves everything French; but whose delusions become painful, while all along his humble French "hosts" refuse to ever utter a word to him.

    In his Venice review for Variety Jay Weissberg points out that in Frantz Ozon is remaking Ernst Lubitsch’s anti-war drama Broken Lullaby, "expanding the melodrama while soft-pedaling the pacifism." More than that Ozon may see the pacifism as a mere teaser, or a red herring. With these two attractive people (Niney and Beer) drawn (impossibly?) to each other, there is much material for melodrama. But Ozon is having most fun with deception, surprise, and mysterious portents, including multiple hints (with reference to a painting in the Louvre by Manet) of the possibility, or temptation, of suicide. Frantz isn't as clever, sensuous, and certainly not as eccentric and provocative as some of Ozon's previous films. But in a world of kitsch excess, it does stand out. It is an elegant and beautifully made movie. In Hollywood Reporter Boyd van Hoeij saw the French/German mirroring effects as signs of "a master storyteller."

    Frantz, 113 mins., in German and French, debuted at Venice, where Paula Beer won the Best Young Actress award. Nine other festivals including Busan, Telluride, Toronto, and London. French theatrical release 7 Sept. 2016 (AlloCiné press rating 3.7/33). The anglophone critics' rating is a bit more lukewarm (Metacritic 63). The film is also included in the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2 Mar. 2017(with Ozon) and 11 Mar., and its US theatrical release is 15 Mar., Bay Area 24 Mar. Rewatched 15 Feb. 2017 as part of the FSLC-Unifrance Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-03-2017 at 04:06 PM.

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    NOCTURAMA (Bertrand Bonello 2016)

    BERTRAND BONELLO: NOCTURAMA (2016)


    HAMZA MEZYANI, MANAL ISSA IN NOCTURAMA

    Bonello's ballet of young terrorists

    Ideally the title will seem to you dark, cool, and threatening. Those who've been unable to avoid seeing the trailer, as I have several times, will suspect a terrorist act involving a dozen or so young people of mixed social and racial types. But it's still a gripping, tense thriller composed in new ways: staccato, process-oriented, powerfully suspenseful, turning a cold eye on youth, politics, consumerism, holding you in its tight, sweaty grip for over two hours. Dazzling in another genre, Bertrand Bonello goes on showing his originality, boldness, and chops.

    Even the unsatisfied ones must grant the boldness and variety of Bonello's filmography, in what I've seen of it. Apollonide was a languorous period film of a nineteenth-century Parisian bordello. Saint Laurent (NYFF 2014) was a biopic, but a cool one, focused on the designer's period of high fame and other highs, and lows, drugs, decadence and depression- with a to-die-for cast including Gaspard Ulliel, Helmut Berger, Dominique Sanda, Léa Seydoux, Louis Garrel, Jérémie Renier, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi - YSL himself would have liked to be in it. Nocturama takes on the different challenge of an action film. Except Adèle Haenel, who speaks a key line, and Vincent Rottiers and Finnegan Oldfield (not really box office luminaries) the cast is carefully selected but largely unknown.

    The anonymity and youth of this team underlines its simple efficiency. It works perfectly to do what it's set out to do. As the young people rush around taking Métro trains hither and yon in the disquieting, brilliantly conceived opening sequences, grabbing stuff, and tossing "burner" phones, all focus and all energy go into the operation. What is it? We don't know till it happens. And Bonello plays a bit with time, shifting back and forth among the characters, challenging and confounding us (this is a movie that will benefit from repeated viewings). When it's over, as we know from movies from Rififi to Reservoir Dogs, then things tend to go wrong. But the question is how. Each one must transcend the tradition in his own way. What's new about Nocturama is the strange, subtle, drawn-out disintegration, staged in a large, old, extremely posh Paris department store where the young terrorists mysteriously assemble, and hide, and wait all night.

    Bonello has explained how he conceived this movie while working on the "opiate," sleepy Apollonide: something completely different, contemporary, fast, hard, energetic, explosive. (It's explosive, alright.) The opening rushing around of the young men and women he saw as like a ballet, organized, purposeful. Then, the shock, the explosions. Last, the waiting, dissipation of energy, chaos. As he describes it, his film was thus conceived in contrasting movements, abstractly, impressionistically, telling its story "plus dans l’action que dans le discours (more in action than in speech). So, nothing likeRififi's long period of planning. No filling in of character - except for one or two, and what emerges or is hinted at in the last third. Viewers may complain of a lack of character or of technical detail. They can't fuss about the tension. That screws up tight in the first frames and won't let go even in the enveloping flames of the final credits.

    Bonello is musical and particularly here tecnno and other types of very loud contemporary music are screwed up to a pitch to produce a sense of (I have to keep using this word) tension, dissolution, Dionysian release: in the deluxe playpen that is this department store where the wind up the kids find the sound system department and crank up the Bang & Olafson. It throbs and screams and shakes us. When after the Paris attacks of 13 November "Paris est une fête" (Hemingway's celebratory Moveable Feast) having become too much a morale-building rallying cry, no longer was a good title, Bonello browsed through his albums and found "Nocturama" by Nick Cave, a word that turns out to apply generally to the part of the zoo for nocturnal animals which fits the film and its conclusion too. Terrorism became specially sensitive for French people in 2015, but Bonello avoided problems by staying focused on the subject as he conceived it six years ago.

    Mike D'Angelo rated this highest (74) of the films he first saw at Toronto (Toni Erdmann was an 82, but already seen at Cannes). His tweet was hedging on the score, "Depends where I ultimately land on the ending, the ugliness of which I'm not sure is justified. But this is stunning." So: yes, the ending, where the Gendarmerie Nationale's shock team GIGN moves in and guns them down, is brutal and numbing. But it provides the decisive sense of an ending that suits the construction of this remarkable film. This is a conceptual revolutionary movie on steroids. Especially at the end it didn't really remind me of the November 2015 Paris attacks but the claustrophobia of Marco Bellocchio's 2003 Buongiorno, notte (2003) about the Red Brigade kidnapping of Aldo Moro - which does not end well. After D'Angelo's recommendation, I was surprised Nocturama wasn't in the New York Film Festival (so was he). Now that it belongs in the US to Netflix, people are afraid it won't see the big screen, or not much. That would be wrong. It's a magnificent looking and sounding film - even if in its effective creation of discomfort and nerves it goes on a bit too long at two hours and ten minutes.

    Nocturama, 130 mins., premiered in Paris 8 July 2016, in French theaters 31 August. Over 15 international festivals starting with Toronto. AlloCiné press rating is 3.4; Metacritic rating 73. (On D'Angelo's scale, his 74 is much higher.) Some French critics were displeased by the lack of context or politics or realism, want these young people to be vicious ideologues instead of confused and naive, as they are. Les Inrockuptibles gets it right: the film shows their utter foolishness but is tenderly sympathetic toward their anger and frustration with the materialistic world they've inherited. Screened for this review as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center-UniFrance 1-12 March 2017 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-25-2017 at 07:23 PM.

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