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    Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2018

    Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2018 (New York, Mar. 8-18, 2018

    Co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and UniFrance


    12 Days/ 12 jours (Raymond Depardon 2017)
    Ava (Léa Mysius 2017)
    Barbara (Mathieu Amalric 2017) OPENING NIGHT FILM
    Before Summer Ends//Avant la fin de l'été (Maryam Goormaghtigh 2017)
    C’est la vie!/Le sense de la fête (Olivier Nakache & Éric Toledano 2017)
    Comfort and Consolation in France/Pour le réconfort (Vincent Macaigne 2017)
    Custody//Jusqu'à la garde (Xavier Legrand 2017)
    Endangered Species/Espèces menacées (Gilles Bourdos 2017)
    The Guardians/Les Gardiennes (Xavier Beauvois 2017)
    Jeannette, The Childhood of Joan of Arc/Jeannette, l'enfance de Jeanne d'Arc (Bruno Dumont 2017)
    July Tales/Contes de juillet (Guillaume Brac 2017)
    Just to Be Sure/Ôtez-moi d'un doute (Carine Tardieu 2017)
    The Lion Sleeps Tonight/ Le lion est mort ce soir (Nobuhiro Suwa 2017)
    A Memoir of War/La douleur (Emmanuel Finkiel 2017)
    Montparnasse Bienvenüe/Jeune femme (Léonor Serraille 2017)
    Number One (Tonie Marshall 2017)
    Orchestra Class/La Mélodie (Rachid Hami 2017)
    A Paris Education/Mes provinciales (Jean-Paul Civeyrac 2018)
    Petit Paysan (Hubert Charuel 2017)
    See You Up There/Au revoir la-haut (Albert Dupontel 2017)
    The Sower/Le semeur (Marine Francen 2017)
    Tomorrow and Thereafter/Demain et tous les autres jours (Noémie Lvovsky 2017)
    Waiting for the Barbarians/ En attendant les barbares (Eugène Green 2017)
    The Workshop (Laurent Cantet 2017)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-03-2018 at 09:01 PM.

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    Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2018
    Blurbs and schedules

    In my fall Paris report I already briefly noted Barbara, Number One, See You Up There, Montparnasse Bienvenue, C'Est la Vie! and Comfort and Consolation in France. I recently watched Cantet's The Workshop/L'Atelier twice and am preparing a review; it comes out here 23 Mar. For all the films I've added a few other details, at least the French release dates and AlloCiné French press ratings for each film, highlighting in red the 11 out of 20 with the warmest home reception of a 3.5 or above. That's not to imply the others are no interest by any means but is worth being aware of.

    Below are the FSLC's descriptions and the schedules of screenings. Reviews will appear below.

    Jeanne Balibar, Mathieu Amalric in Barbara

    Barbara - Filmleaff coverage
    Mathieu Amalric 2017 France 98 minutes
    Opening Night · U.S. Premiere ·
    Introductions by Mathieu Amalric and Jeanne Balibar
    A chameleon-like Jeanne Balibar stars in this tantalizing, meta-cinematic tribute to Barbara—a legendary chanteuse and enduring icon of French culture—from actor-director Mathieu Amalric. France 6 Sept. 2017 (AlloCiné press rating 4.1).
    Showtimes March 8 6:30 PM 9:00 PM

    12 Days/12 jours
    Raymond Depardon 2017 France 87 minutes

    N.Y. Premiere · Q&A with Raymond Depardon and Claudine Nougaret
    Continuing a 30-year collaboration with sound recordist and producer Claudine Nougaret, renowned photographer and documentarian Raymond Depardon has made a startling, face-to-face look at mental illness and the French legal system. France 29 Nov. 2017 (AlloCiné press rating 4.2).
    Showtimes March 15 6:30 PM


    Léa Mysius 2017 France 105 minutes
    N.Y. Premiere

    The breathtakingly bold debut feature from Léa Mysius—about a 13-year-old girl taking in as much of life as she can before she goes blind—is a coming-of-age tale unlike any other. France 21 Jun. 2017 (AlloCiné press rating 3.5).
    Showtimes March 11 8:30 PM
    March 16 9:15 PM

    Before Summer Ends

    Before Summer Ends/Avant la fin de l'été
    Maryam Goormaghtigh 2017 France/Switzerland 80 minutes

    N.Y. Premiere
    Three thirty-something Iranian friends embark on a late summer road trip through the sunny South before one of them heads back to Iran in this endearingly wry and perceptive travelogue about what it means to be an outsider in a foreign country. 12 Jul. 2017 France (AlloCiné press rating 3.5).
    Showtimes March 17 1:00 PM

    C’est la vie!/Le sens de la fête - Filmleaf coverage
    Olivier Nakache & Éric Toledano 2017 France/Canada/Belgium 117 minutes

    U.S. Premiere
    The behind-the-scenes planning of an elaborate wedding makes for a deliciously deadpan comic soufflé from the directors of the smash hit The Intouchables. 4 Oct. 2017 France (AlloCiné press rating 3.7).
    Showtimes March 10 9:30 PM
    March 18 7:45 PM

    Comfort and Consolation in France/Pour le réconfort - Filmleaf coverage
    Vincent Macaigne 2017 France 91 minutes

    North American Premiere · Q&A with Vincent Macaigne on March 14
    One of France’s most distinctive rising talents, Vincent Macaigne directs this daringly iconoclastic chamber drama about the clash between France’s haves and have-nots. France 25 Oct. 2017 (AlloCine press rating 3.2).
    Showtimes March 14 8:45 PM
    March 18 1:00 PM


    Custody/Jusqu'à la garde
    Xavier Legrand 2017 France 93 minutes

    N.Y. Premiere · Q&A with Xavier Legrand
    Winner of the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival, this riveting domestic drama is a harrowing study of a family coming undone in the midst of a bitter custody battle. France 7 Feb. 2018 (AlloCiné press rating 4.2).
    Showtimes March 11 3:00 PM

    Endangered Species

    Endangered Species/Espèces menacées
    Gilles Bourdos 2017 France/Belgium 105 minutes

    U.S. Premiere · Q&A with Gilles Bourdos and writer Richard Bausch on March 11
    Drawing from Richard Bausch’s short stories, Renoir director Gilles Bourdos delivers an explosive emotional epic about the tangled relationships among parents, children, husbands, wives, and lovers. France 27 Sept. 2017 (AlloCiné press rating 3.2).
    Showtimes March 11 5:30 PM
    March 15 1:30 PM

    The Guardians/Les gardiennes
    Xavier Beauvois 2017 Switzerland/France 138 minutes

    U.S. Premiere · Q&A with Xavier Beauvois
    A resilient young woman weathers the turbulence of World War I in the quietly affecting new film from Of Gods and Men director Xavier Beauvois. France 6 Dec. 2017 (AlloCiné press rating 3.4).
    Showtimes March 16 6:00 PM


    Jeannette, The Childhood of Joan of Arc/Jeannette, l'enfance de Jeanne d'Arc
    Bruno Dumont 2017 France 105 minutes

    N.Y. Premiere · Q&A with Bruno Dumont on March 9
    The ever-unpredictable Bruno Dumont (Slack Bay) takes another thrilling hairpin turn with this audacious heavy metal musical about the spiritual awakening of a young Joan of Arc. France 6 Sept. 2017 (AlloCiné press rating 3.2).
    Showtimes March 9 6:30 PM
    March 13 4:15 PM

    July Tales/Contes de juillet

    July Tales/Contes de juillet - Prochainement (1h 10min)
    Guillaume Brac 2017 France 68 minutes

    North American Premiere
    Two languorous summer days, two tales of romantic misunderstanding: this deceptively breezy diptych channels the spirit of Rohmer as it explores the thorny relationships between men and women. Not yet released in France.
    Showtimes March 9 2:15 PM
    March 12 9:30 PM

    Cécile de France, Francois Damiens, Just to Be Sure

    Just to Be Sure/Ôtez-moi d'un doute
    Carine Tardieu 2017 France/Belgium 100 minutes

    N.Y. Premiere
    Life gets complicated for a middle-aged man when he discovers his father is not his father—and his girlfriend may be his half-sister—in this witty, winning seriocomic charmer. France 3 Sept. 2017 (AlloCiné press rating 3.4).
    Showtimes March 18 3:00 PM

    The Lion Sleeps Tonight/Le lion est mort ce soir

    The Lion Sleeps Tonight/Le lion est mort ce soir
    Nobuhiro Suwa 2017 France/Japan 103 minutes

    North American Premiere
    Living legend Jean-Pierre Léaud stars in this self-reflexive ghost story—a playful consideration of cinema, mortality, and the actor’s own status as an emblem of film history. France 3 Jan. 2018 (AlloCiné press rating 3.4).
    Showtimes March 9 4:00 PM
    March 15 9:15 PM

    Benoit Magimel in A Memoir of War/]La douleur

    A Memoir of War/La douleur
    Emmanuel Finkiel 2017 France 127 minutes

    North American Premiere · Q&A with Emmanuel Finkiel on March 17
    Marguerite Duras’s autobiographical memoir—a heartrending reflection on wartime grief—receives a haunting and hypnotic adaptation starring a profoundly moving Mélanie Thierry. France: 24 Jan. 2018 (2h 06min) (AlloCiné press rating 4.0).
    Thursday, March 15, 3:45pm Saturday, March 17, 3:00pm (Q&A with Emmanuel Finkiel)
    Showtimes March 15 3:45 PM
    March 17 3:00 PM

    Montparnasse Bienvenüe/Jeune Femme - Filmleaf coverage
    Léonor Serraille 2017 France 97 minutes

    New York Premiere · Q&A with Léonor Serraille & Julie Roué on March 9
    A newly single young woman attempts to restart her life in this refreshingly complex portrait of an all-too-human heroine veering between instability and strength. Winner of the Camera d’Or at Cannes for best first film. France 1 Nov. 2017 (AlloCiné press rating 3.9).
    ShowtimesMarch 9 9:30 PM
    March 12 1:15 PM

    Emmanuelle Devos in Numéro une

    Number One/Numéri une - Filmleaf coverage
    Tonie Marshall 2017 France 110 minutes

    U.S. Premiere · Q&A with Tonie Marshal on March 10
    Emmanuelle Devos stars as an ambitious businesswoman navigating a sexist corporate minefield as she attempts to crash the boardroom boys’ club in this timely feminist drama from Tonie Marshall (Venus Beauty Institute). France 11 Oct. 2017 (AlloCine press rating 3.3).
    Showtimes March 10 6:30 PM
    March 17 9:15 PM

    Orchestra Class/La Mélodie
    Rachid Hami 2017 France 102 minutes

    U.S. Premiere · Q&A with Rachid Hami
    A violinist is tested when he signs on to teach music to a class of middle-school students on the multicultural outskirts of Paris in this refreshingly naturalistic ode to the transformative power of music. France 8 Nov. 2017 (AlloCine press rating 2.9).
    Showtimes March 14 6:00 PM

    A Paris Education/Mes provinciales

    A Paris Education/Mes provinciales
    Jean-Paul Civeyrac 2018 France 137 minutes

    North American Premiere · Q&A with Jean-Paul Civeyrac on March 17
    A movie-mad jeune homme discovers the pleasures and perils of the bohemian life when he moves to Paris in this bittersweet ode to cinema and the heady days of youth. French theatrical release: 18 Apr. 2018. (Hence, no press rating.)
    Showtimes March 12 3:30 PM
    March 17 6:00 PM

    Petit Paysan

    Petit Paysan
    Hubert Charuel 2017 France 90 minutes

    N.Y. Premiere
    A farmer’s desperate attempts to save his cows from a deadly epidemic yields a surprisingly tense thriller rooted in everyday life. France 30 Aug. 2017 (AlloCiné press rating 4.1).
    Showtimes March 11 1:00 PM
    March 14 4:00 PM

    See You Up There/Au revoir là-haut - Filmleaf coverage
    Albert Dupontel 2017 France/Canada 117 minutes

    N.Y. Premiere
    This spectacularly surreal comic caper—in which an ex–World War I soldier and artist embark on an audacious get-rich-quick scheme—is a whimsical wild ride through Jazz Age Paris. France 25 Oct. 2017 (AlloCiné press rating 3.9).
    Showtimes March 13 8:45 PM
    March 18 5:15 PM

    The Sower/Le semeur
    Marine Francen 2017 France/Belgium 98 minutes

    U.S. Premiere · Q&A with Marine Francen on March 10
    Writ in bucolic, golden-hued images that recall the paintings of Jean-François Millet, this quietly provocative, Napoleonic-era fable imagines a community of women into whose midst wanders a lone male. 15 Nov. 2017 (AlloCiné 3.1).
    Showtimes March 10 3:30 PM
    March 13 2:00 PM

    Tomorrow and Thereafter/Demain et tous les autres jours

    Tomorrow and Thereafter/Demain et tous les autres jours
    Noémie Lvovsky 2017 France 91 minutes

    U.S. Premiere
    As her mother steadily loses her grip on reality, a young girl escapes into a fantasy world of her own in this alternately enchanting and cathartic family portrait from acclaimed actress-director Noémie Lvovsky. France 27 Sept. 2017 (AlloCiné press raging 3.3).
    Showtimes March 10 1:00 PM
    March 16 2:00 PM

    Waiting for the Barbarians/En attendant les barbares
    Eugène Green 2017 France 76 minutes

    North American Premiere · Q&A with Eugène Green on March 13
    Six strangers confront their uniquely 21st century anxieties with the help of a sorcerer in this playful performance art consciousness-bender-cum-ghost story about the search for meaning in the age of social media. (Apparently no France, but Spanish, release; no AlloCiné listing.) The one available review in Cineuropa is unpomising.
    Showtimes March 13 6:30 PM
    March 16 4:00 PM

    Mathieu Lucci, Marina Fois in The Workship/L'Atelier

    The Workshop/L'Atelier
    Laurent Cantet 2017 France 113 minutes

    N.Y. Premiere · Q&A with Laurent Cantet on March 12
    Director of the 2008The Class/Entre les murs (Palme d'Or at Cannes its year) Laurent Cantet returns with a tense, provocative exploration of contemporary French society as seen through the eyes of the next generation, again focused on a classroom situation, this time in summer, outdoors, a writing workshop where multicultural youths seek to compose a thriller set in their hometown, the port La Ciotat, under a successful Parisian crime novel writer played by Mariina Foïs. Scenario by Cantet reuniting after a break with his regular collaborator Robin Campillo, who also edited. Not at Cannes in Competition, but nominated for the Un Certain Regard award. France : 11 Oct. 2017 (AlloCiné press rating 3.9.)US theatrical release begins 23 Mar. 2018.
    Showtimes March 12 6:30 PM
    March 14 1:30 PM

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-14-2018 at 03:23 AM.

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    JULY TALES/CONTES DE JUILLET (Guillaume Brac 2017)



    Brac's summer tales evoke, but contrast with, Éric Rohmer

    Brac's 2013 Tonnerre was shown in the 2014 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema and we reviewed it then.

    The word "conte" and a summer setting for two short films with young people flirting with each other sounds like Eric Rohmer, but in Guillaume Brac's more contemporary "tales" set in the suburbs of Paris there is a lot less civility and restraint and the disappointments are brutal and quick. In the first, "L'Amie de dimanche" ("The Sunday Friend"), two young women coworkers,Lucie (Lucie Grunstein) and Milena (Milena Csergo) go on a park outing to the greater Paris amusement center at Cergy-Pontoise.

    After a bathe and a picnic lunch, they are approached by a young male park worker called Jean (Jean Joudé) whose design is clearly not to help but to connect. This deeply disappoints Lucie, the one he doesn't focus on, and that she is described as always pouty and unhappy sounds like Rohmer. True to Rohmer plot patterns, when the shy Lucie goes off by herself, she does quite well, actually better than her friend.

    Lucie meets a young man practicing fencing, Théo (Théo Chedeville), who develops an interest in her and a connection, through giving her an impromptu fencing lesson. They plan on a date. Meanwhile the other couple discover they went to the same schools, only then Jean was a fat boy ("like all teens," he says) and now he's dark, well-built and robust. When they return to a park base his involvement with Milena causes his girlfriend, Kenza (Kenza Lagnaoui), who is at the park working too, to break up with him, and they come to blows. Things between Jean and Milena end messily.

    The second "conte" is called "Hanne et la fête nationale" ("Hanne and the National Holiday"). The national holiday is France's, July 14th. Hanne, a Norwegian university student who has been studying in Paris, has encounters with three boys on this day, which ends with tragic news of the terrorist attack in Nice. When Hanne wakes up in her dorm room, an Italian student, Andrea (Andrea Romano) is lying beside her touching her and apparently beginning to masturbate - a situation one can't imagine happening in Rohmer. All day Hanne fends off Andrea, who claims to be in love with her. She meets a more polite but pushy French boy out on the street, Roman (Roman Jean-Elie), who invites her to a holiday party with friends that evening in a flat he says has a view of the Eiffel Tower.

    Hanne resists Roman but is on the verge of accepting when Andrea appears and punches Roman in the nose - another very un-Rohmer event. He bleeds profusely, or thinks he does, and after a visit from a campus fireman called Sipan (Sipan Mouradian), Roman departs, expecting Hanne to come to his party. But she stays with Salomé (Salomé Diénis Meulien), a student of quantum physics, Andrea, and Sipan, who's invited to stay. This little multinational gathering at the Ciné Universitaire in the 14th arrondissement of Paris goes well till, during an interpretive dancing performance by Sipan accompanied on the guitar by Andrea, Salomé goes off in a huff after Hanne, now drunk, seems to make a play for Sipan, whom Salomé had her eye on. Left alone, and beginning to see a lost opportunity in her rejections of Andrea, Hanne hears the news from Nice and gets ready to fly home to Norway.

    Have times changed for the worse since Rohmer, or is Brac's film style just rougher than his? Nonetheless Brac's two tales are well constructed, even if they come off a little more like student short films than the work of a finished auteur, though for the younger generation of French cinephiles, as indicated by a well-informed piece about these Tales on the film website Citizen Poupe that I've drawn on for information in this review, do consider him to be one.

    Joseph Owen wrote a short English language review of this film at Locarno, August 2017, in The Upcoming , but it seems to have been little commented on.

    July Tales/Contes de juillet, 68 mins., debuted at Locarno, Aug 2017. It was screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (UniFrance/FSLC), New York, March 2018. French theatrical release coming "prochainement," according to AlloCiné. If the Tales do come out in French cinemas, we will see how the Parisian critics receive them.
    Showtimes March 9 2:15 PM
    March 12 9:30 PM
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-10-2018 at 10:39 AM.

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    A meditative, playful vehicle for Jean-Pierre Léaud and a group of children

    A vehicle for Jean-Pierre Léaud, about the making of a film, or two films within the film. The star must leave the shoot when it is delayed and seeks to visit an early greatest love, and is visited by her ghost, or imagines he is talking to her. At an old building where he goes to find her, he is found by a group of children who are making a film of their own. They run around, and when they enter an old room they have found as a set, they are startled to find "Jean" (Léaud). They are frightened at first, but then Jean enters into a friendly and lighthearted relationship with them, and participates in their film, which turns into a rough, simply conceived French vesion of "Ghostbusters." Then he returns to the film he is acting in, where he has a very brief scene in which he dies.

    In the course of this, Jean confronts his past a bit, and has some conversations with Julie (Pauline Étienne), his girlfriend who died young.

    The scenario seems confused on this point, because first Jean seems not to know that Julie is dead, and died very young, then knows that it may have been suicide, and that it was by a lake he take the children to. There is a lion, and several renditions by Léaud of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." The reference is to death, and he repeatedly says that age 70 to 80 is a key time because it is the period when one faces death. He repeatedly tells his director of the film he is to be in that he cannot play his own death.

    Perhaps one cannot play one's own death, but one can play a man dying. And these disclaimers are partly humorous reference to Léaud's recent performance of a nearly two-hour-long on-screen death scene as the star of Albert Serra's critically celebrated film, The Death of Louis XIV . Anther humorous thing is the children have not heard of him, though he is a kind of ultimate icon of French Cinema, and when they ask him if he really is an actor, he says he didn't make many films, but they were nice ones. He has 96 credits. That's not "not many" films.

    This is a workshopped film, involving the children. The children interact and play, and pretend to be making a film, and this film captures them on the run, and is an edited version of their many interactions. There are charming moments with the children; also a brief focus on a subplot of one of them, a redheaded boy called Jules (an excellent Jules Langlade), who is struggling a bit with his mother over her new boyfriend, who can't replace his father who died in a car crash when he was seven. But all this, despite its occasional charm, only dilutes the story of Jean confronting death and the spectre of his lost love.

    There are also some good moments with Léaud, when he springs to life. He seems to be often dormant - this is why he was perfect to play the semi-moribund Louis XIV, but when he is on, he is really on.

    However, this film sags and sways and repeats itself. It's a mixture of retro French style and hagiography. One is expected to find it interesting just because it has Léaud in it, more or less playing himself. As an object there is a certain fascination in him. He has lived so much of his life on screen. He is still sprightly but also bloated and not very healthy appearance; his unusual hair, still flowing, straight and luxuriant, only partly gray, around the aging face, a young-old man of 72, who for those who remember has the young Antoine Doinel somewhere inside.

    Thi Lion Sleeps Tonight/Le lion est mort ce soir, 104 mins., debuted at
    Donostia-San Sebastián International Film Festival; also Busan and Taipei. It opened Jan. 2018 in France and Japan. Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, New York, March 2018.
    Showtimes March 9 4:00 PM
    March 15 9:15 PM
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-10-2018 at 06:19 AM.

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    Bruno Dumont does Péguy's Joan as a rock musical

    Peter Debruge reviewed Dumont's new film, which is religious and musical, at Cannes for Variety. He said it's a "a bizarre treatment of Joan of Arc's early years" that "flies in the face" of conventions, both musical and religious. It's "a blasphemous assault on French history, religion, and the musical genre." Well, it's an oddball and stunningly original movie, like everything Dumont has done since his debut feature The Life of Jesus in 1997, and each time, as Dennis Lim said at Lincoln Center before the US premiere of this one, "redefining the language of cinema." But in its own slightly bizarre way, this is no different from the musical Les Miserables - only with electric modernistic heavy metal sound, headbanger head-swirling, and amateur acrobatics.

    According to Dumont, Jeannette, which uses only local, non-professional actors from his region of origin in northeastern France, is a word-for-word performance of the first of a three-part drama (or mystery, or poem) by Charles Péguy, the first version of which is dated 1897, called The Mystery of the Charity of Joan of Arc. See
    French Wikipedia.) Staged in the pretty semi-coastal area where Dumont also filmed his recent Slack Bay and his previous comical L'l Quinquin, it has two Joans, pre-teen (Lise Leplat Prudhomme) and teen (Jeanne Voisin). The actors' singing is recorded live, a capella, as in the movie "Les Miz." The nun who appears to the young Joan is doubled, because Dumont found twins for the part, and could not leave one out. Serendipity plays a part in his work.

    Dumont's ability to use naive, untrained actors to capture a feeling of authenticity and raw energy, as well as religious purity, has been seen before, notably inn his 2009 Hadewijch about a girl who enters a convent, and before that his first two films, L"humanité and The Life of Jesus. Something similar happens earlier in the cinematic tradition with Rossellini's Flowers of Saint Francis and Pasolini's Gospel According to Matthew. They didn't think of adding music, and could not have used a local rapper with frenetic hand and body movements to play Joan's uncle.

    The Childhood of Joan of Arc/Jeannette, L'enfance de Jeanne d'Arc,105 mins., debuted at Cannes Directors Fortnight May 2017, showing at a dozen other international fests, including Transylvania, Moscow, Karlovy and Jerusalem, as well as Vienna, Portland and SxSW. It opened on FRench TV. AlloCiné gave it a mediocre 3.2 press rating but the perpetually hard to please Cahiers du Cinéma loved it and the hip Les Inrockuptibles was favorable. Screened for this review as part of the NY Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, March 2018. Dumont, appearing with an excellent translator for the Q&A and speaking in mellifluous French, was almost more entertaining than his film. He explained his attitude toward religion and his working method with an engaging and personal kind of clarity that reinforced the admiration I've felt for this amazing artist from the very beginning.

    Dumont (left) with interpreter at Q&A after screening [CK photo]
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-11-2020 at 11:53 PM.

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    Noémie Lvovsky's intimate and knowing portrait of the love between a young daughter and her mad mother

    This new film by the cinematic powerhouse Noémie Lvovsky (who acts, writes, and directs) is a poetic reflection of her own past as the loving and loved child of a mother whose touch on reality was never strong and growing weaker. The film was threatened with cancellation when more than half done after the young star Lucie Rodriguez, who plays Mathilde the daughter to Lvovsky's mother, had to permanently withdraw due to foot surgery. The film was saved by cutting out a hunk of the scenario and injecting an adult Mathilde. Anaïs Demoustier, a young actress with an impressive CV (Bird People, for one) took on this role - and bears a remarkable resemblance to Rodriguez.

    One French critic (Nicolas Marcadé, Les Fiches du Cinéma) says Lvovsky curbs here her usual wildness as a writer. Perhaps. Nonetheless, the film's eccentricities create a distance that make it unrelatable at first. Mathilde is first seen in a meeting between her teacher and her mother, who spends the entire time wondering how to say most elegantly in French, "I didn't know what this meeting was for." As she leaves she turns badk and tells the teacher, "I'm not a good mother." The teacher answers, "I'm sure you are doing the best you can." Yes but that's not very good, as we now learn. Next Mathilde's mother doesn't come home till very late and when she does, arrives disheveled in a wedding dress and veil she has bought at a department store. Her husband (Mathieu Amalric, excellent) has moved out some time ago.

    This is no ordinary depression. Mathilde's mom lives in another world, one we never enter, and she often literally wanders off. Mathilde has to fix her own meals. She takes refuge not in school, which she doesn't like, and where the other kids make fun of her, but in her own fantasies. When her mother gives her a small pet owl, the bird - as well-realized a character as the film has - the owl, for Mathilde, develops a full-throated human male voice (Micha Lescot) and talks to her; his advice at some points turns out to be crucial. Mathilde, who is dressed in beautiful brightly colored elegant French children's clothing, is moved to steal the school's instructional skeleton and bury it in a park, with all due ceremony.

    All this seemed a skittish and frivolous approach to madness. But by the end of the film, one realizes that Lvovsky knows whereof she speaks and one has got a keen sense of the helpless feeling the child of a mad but much loved and cherished parent is like. And the mother played by Lvovsky with a mix of warmth and distance becomes a very real presence.

    The turning point for me comes when Mathilde, in a fury of rage and frustration at her mother's failure to come home for the Christmas dinner she has tried and failed to prepare, sets fire to the living room curtains. Only the owl's frantic instructions save the flat. It's a remarkably achieved sequence, and finally it all begins to seem serious and real.

    Things get so bad, Mathilde's father comes to the flat to help move her mother to a sanatorium in his modest car as is her mother's wish. Tellingly, she informs him she has seen this coming at least as far back as before Mathilde, who is nine, was born. This sequence is a kind and tender one.

    There are no histrionics in this film, and there is no sentimentality. This admirable restraint makes up for passages, like the owl-to-daughter dialogue, that fail to convince.

    Demoustier's young adult Mathilde visits her mother at the asylum and their sympathetic dance in the rain is a metaphor for their enduring communication and love. Lvovsky has said in an interview in Libération athat her late mother's memory is so alive she could "still draw the shape of her fingernails." "She was a poetic personality, very intelligent, like an ascetic, incapable of having a social life. She made me tink of Marguerite Duras."

    Tomorrow and Thereafter/Demain et tous les autres jours, mins., debuted as the opening night film at the Locarno Festival, Aug. 2017. It opened in French cinemas 27 Sept. 2017 to only fair reviews (AlloCiné 3.2), but critics nonetheless said kind things. Screened for this review as part of the New York UniFrance and Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Mar. 2018.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-10-2018 at 08:04 PM.


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