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Thread: Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2018

  1. #16
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    WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS (Eugène Green 2017)

    EUGÈNE GREEN: WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS/EN ATTENDANT LES BARBARES (2017)



    An elegantly formal workshop film from Eugène Green

    The film is the offshoot of an evening workshop in Toulouse April-May 2017 led by Green. It was reported on in Cineropa by Alfonso Rivera, who described it as a "daring" experiment. He did not simply film the workshop but went about a plan to make a film that uses images of Toulouse. He wrote a screenplay, brought his usual dp by Raphaël O'Byrne and a sound engineer, chose 12 actors from 35 candidates. But the result will not appeal to everybody. Some will find it too stylized, its archness alienating. Richard Brody of The New Yorker, however, has good things to say about it both in a piece on "the must-see films of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema" (including also Bruno Dumont's musical Joan of Arc beach movie and one about three Iranians, two thin and one very overweight); and his short review for the magazine's front section movies listings.

    Anyone who has carefully watched Green's previous feature, Son of Joseph (NYFF 2016) will find many similarities. There is the expressed distaste for modern digital devices, shown here in the confuscating of the cell phones of all the multi-identity players when they come to the chateau (except for the "SDF" or homeless person, who has none), and the implied mockery of "bobos," or bourgeois (rich) bohemians (or pseudo bohemians) whom Joseph and Vincent in Son of Joseph both agree they "detest." Green has long tended to consider Americans uncouth, and one of the barbarian groups feared by the reuge-takers in the film are "United Statians."

    Also carrying over from the previous film is Bressonian dialogue, meaning speaking very slowly (in Green's case archaically using all he liaisons), framed front and center and staring into the camera when speaking. Green also repeats some of the same verbal jokes, like giving feminine forms of French nouns that don't exist, like "auteurse," and the joke that a female bobo is a "bobine." There is something engagingly lame about these, but they are also one of the things that will turn off viewers or leave them indifferent, and Green sometimes sounds like an amiable but incorrigible curmudgeon.

    Green's anti-modern and moralistic opinions are freely distributed through his dialogue (not counting the lines acted out directly from a 12th-century play about a knight defeating a sadistic tyrant). But another element, maybe the key one, is the way Green, for all his retro grinch tendencies, visably revels in the pure feelings and beauty of youth. The cast (save the bobo couple) consists of attractive young men and women with rich resonant voices. They're not Hollywood movie stars, but something better. They have class. And since Green is a longtime figure of the French historical theater with a focus on the 17th century, they have formal thespian skills. Green's idiosyncratic entertainments are a blend of all he is.

    Waiting for the Barbarians/En attendant les barbares, 76 mins., debuted at Gijón (winning the Grand Prix Asturias there) and Turin, with no commercial release planned.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-17-2018 at 09:20 PM.

  2. #17
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    AVA (Léa Mysius 2017)

    LÉA MYSIUS: AVA (2017)


    NOÉE ABITA AND JUAN CANO IN AVA

    And original debut with a wild girl, going blind

    The expansive mini-biography by Guy Bellinger in IMDb tells us a lot about the young Léa Mysius, who showed promise and daring with short films when quite young in film school; this is her feature debut. Mysius was born in Bordeaux and grew up in the Médoc where this film takes place, in the summer, full of beach and outdoor scenes, as if focuses on a 13-year-old girl who learns that she will soon lose her eyesight, and she and her mother determine to enjoy life to the fullest while the sight lasts. Mysius left this region at 13 herself (a kind of loss of sight?) with her parents and finished high school on the island of Reunion, then returning to France. Her companion Paul Guilhaume is the cinematographer for this film, as for a previous short film.

    Ava is better at striking incidents and atmosphere than storyline, and there are lags and lulls in the action, even when he young heroine runs off and connects with Juan (Juan Caro), who is a dark local outcast from his family, or clan; is he Spanish, or a gypsy? There is a little of the Criminal Lovers vibe and I even thought of an old favorite of mine, Manual Pradal's beautiful, mythic 1997Marie Baie des Anges. What happened to the loss of eyesight? It's just a starting point, seemingly, to give the teenager's coming-of-age story a more intense edge. But the way that element comes and goes is another instance that Mysius is not ace at the writing.Vivid scenes - like the Spanish outdoor wedding, ending in a rainstorm, while Ava poses as a pardy hire to get his documents from his caravan and steal Juan's car for their, or his, escape - and saturated colors in 35mm. film, make this a kind of sensual pleasure. And the black dog and the dark-skinned boy and the nudity and the beaches and the blinding night-time: atmosphere, image prevail.

    There is always an edge to the personalities, not only the wild Ava, but her immature mother, and the mysterious Juan. The film injects a mythic quality also with the two police on horseback who keep coming after Juan, like fascist guardians. The music is fine. This is indeed a most promising debut.

    Ava, 105 mins, debuted at Cannes May 2017 in Critics Week, and showed in 17 other festivals. It opened in France in May 2017 and got good reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.5). Télérama called it "a feast of the senses." Screened as part of the March 2018 New York Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, a joint production of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and UniFrance. Showtimes (Walter Reade heater):
    March 11 8:30 PM
    March 16 9:15 PM
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-08-2018 at 10:41 PM.

  3. #18
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    THE WORKSHOP/L'ATELIER (Laurent Cantet 2017)

    LAURENT CANTET: THE WORKSHOP/L'ATELIER (2017)

    MATHIEU LUCCI, MARINA FOÏS IN THE WORKSHOP/L'ATELIER

    Mysterious youth

    Laurent Cantet's new film is part improvisational schoolroom study (like his prize-winning 2008 The Class), part slow-boiling (and slow-diffusing) thriller. Its themes, various and shifting, go back to social conflict and work, like his 1999 Human Resources and 2001 Time Out. They've also been updated and are as contemporary as Isis and the Bataclan massacre. This is a return to form and to collaboration with editor-cowriter Robin Campillo after two less successful projects by Cantet abroad on his own. The Workshop is alive and spontaneous yet easy-paced and very much a think piece. It leaves you pondering.

    The focus is a summer writing workshop. A successful crime novelist, Olivia Dejazet (Marina Foïs), has come from her Parisian home base to the southern town of La Ciotat. The young students (all played by non-actors), who meet with her outdoors are a lively mix including white, black, Arab. The project is to invent collectively a novel that will later be published, the only requirement to make use of local setting and history. La Ciotat is a formerly great marine construction zone. It employed many workers, but most of it was shut down several decades ago, reduced to work on luxury yachts. The group agrees on a story about a mysterious death, presumably a murder.

    They differ on the details. Malika (Warda Rammach) is focused on the great past of ship construction because her grandfather, an Arab from North Africa, established her family's French citizenship through honorable work there. She reads a nice text she's composed about the glory days and the shutdown. Several others, including the white French Benjamin (Julien Souve), here only a few years, don't relate to La Ciotat's history, the former glory, subsequent divorces and suicides and sense of disenfranchisement.

    Overheard after the first class, the student-collaborators also set themselves off from Olivia, who of course is older, successful, in their eyes well-paid and supplied with a very nice house for the summer, most of all of another, privileged class, Parisian. They find her a little snobbish. One girl even says she has trouble understanding Olivia's Parisian French.

    But whatever others say, control falls into the hands of one student, Antoine (Matthieu Lucci, riveting), who becomes the film's focus and pivot point. He doesn't talk much, but when he speaks, the effect is sly, disruptive, dismissive. In particular he riles the classmates of Arab background, linking them with Isis and the recent terrorist attacks in France. Eventually Antoine emerges not only as Olivia's main fascination, maybe the smartest, most talented class member, who yet abandons the class after reading two stunning texts. The first of these is a description of a mass murder by a disgruntled worker on a luxury yacht, which causes outrage and disruption among the others. The second, read as a parting shot, is about murder as an "acte gratuite" and is a stunning passage worthy of Camus' The Stranger. Through Antoine, the film also shifts from being about composing a thriller into perhaps becoming one.

    As the POV shifts to Antoine, we see him much by himself - on afternoon swims, diving off the dramatic cliffs. At home he speaks little to his parents, does body building, admires his muscles, watches a right wing idealogue, plays video war games. It appears the video game that opened the film, its source unidentified, was his. He hangs out with a married cousin and a group of relatives and pals, they play night games with camouflaged faces and loaded pistols. He has stalked Olivia when she was visited by her editor, possibly lover. Later she electronically stalks him, tracking him to these activities through social media. There is something very contemporary about the incriminating digital trail Antoine has left. At the same time he likes kids and has a sweet smile, though in the classroom or in combative dialogue with Olivia it may start to look more like a smirk.

    This last shift has been questioned by some as manipulative or simply tonally shaky - the joyous, chaotic action of The Class was nothing like this, where the "classroom" is open-air and shifting, the class is multicultural and differently committed, the subject matter itself uncertain. But it is saved by the cast. The other students never seem anything but authentic and alive. That "workshopping" of the film itself was extensive is shown in how each one is clearly established as an identity with a few deft touches.

    None of this would work without the main actors, Marina Foïs and, especially, Matthieu Lucci, who is clearly a remarkable find. Foïs creates just the right mix of confidence, good will and insecurity in the face of multicultural working class youth. Lucci is a natural. The camera loves him. He makes Antoine preternaturally poised and mysterious. Perhaps everything Antoine is doing is playacting. His denial of political thoughts and claim to being "con" (stupid) are obvious lies. But are his nativism and racism deep convictions, or masks he's trying on? All is hidden behind the deeper mask of youth. What's behind the new muscles and fresh skin? Boredom, despair? Maybe it's just a phase he's going through, and we may hope that is true for the whole country, and for him.

    Not all of this quite works. It may seem too calculatedly improvisational, tipped in for effect. But there's also a freedom about it - the surprise final sequence adds to that - that promises Cantet and Campillo (himself covered with glory as a director after Eastern Boys and his Cannes prizewinner BPM) - still have good things in store.

    The Workshop/L'Atelier, 113 mins, debuted at Cannes in Un Certain Regard, showing or scheduled in 20 oher international festivals. It opened theatrically in France 11 Oct. 2017 (AlloCiné press rating a generally enthusiastic 3.9). US release (NYC) by Strand Releasing begins 23 Mar. 2018 in NYC at IFC Center. Previously included in the Mar. 8-18 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-22-2018 at 03:44 PM.

  4. #19
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    THE GUARDIANS (Xavier Beauvois 2017)

    XAVIER BEAUVOIS: THE GUARDIANS/LES GARDIENNES (2017)


    IRIS BRY IN THE GUARDIANS

    The Great War at home, on a French farm

    Xavier Beauvois is an important French director. See his shattering 2005 Le petit lieutenant, a cop flick that's infinitely more. Or his noble, troubling 2010 Cannes-Palme-d'Or-winning Of Gods and Men, about monks threatened with extinction in North Africa. And Beauvois is still significant as an actor: you will encounter him in Claire Denis' latest Let the Sunshine in in a cameo role that, typically, acquires considerable depth. Beauvois' new directorial effort, The Guardians, is a traditional historical film about WWI drawn from a 1924 novel by Ernest Perochon, freely adapted, then shot more freely still - but not without due respect for cinematic traditions. The material itself cannot help but make us keenly aware of them.

    The fresh touch is, as the French version of the title, Les Gardiennes, will tell you, that it's wholly from the point of view of the women left at home during the Great War to tend the farm and deal with heavy losses as their men fight "Les Boches" (French equivalent of "the Jerries") at the front, and often do not return. The film is old-fashioned, lively, free, emotional, yet a little too understated - at first, anyway - and a little long. But this is a picture of sexual and class injustices, and a young woman from nowhere who triumphs over them to become a free spirit of the TWenties.

    The screen is dominated by two faces, maybe three. First is the dour gray one of Hortense (the splendid Nathalie Baye, central to Le petit lieutenant, in charge of the Paridier farm now, with her eldest son at the front. Through the local town organization she hires a young, vigorous, fresh-faced woman who grew up in an orphanage, Francine (Iris Bry, a promising newcomer). Present also is Hortense's daughter, Solange, whose husband Clovis (Olivier Rabourdin), the responsible man of the farm, is at the front. Solange is played by Laura Smet, Natalie Baye's real-life daughter by the late lamented Johnny Johnny Hallyday, and the time they've been together in a feature film.

    Beauvois's interests in this film are several. One is the silences. And there are notable moments when people just stare at each other, as those on the farm may do. Another is the seasons, and the harvests. Viewers attending the New York Rendez-View with French Cinema may be put in mind of another film of the series, Marine Francen's The Sower/Le semeur, where the scythe-wielding and even the women's clothes, the way they wear their shawls tucked into their waists, are very similar, even though Francen's story takes place in 1852. Beauvois' film gives even more time to lengthy scenes of the women doing various sorts of farm work, especially the harvesting. The Great War however is a time of innovation, and with it comes modern harvesting equipment, and Beaufois is attentive to showing this, as the story moves from 1915 through the First World War and to the dawn of the Twenties.

    Equally or more important in human terms are the returns of the men, and their failures to return. The big change comes during the time on leave of Hortense's vibrant young son Georges (Cyril Descours). Francine is shy with him but he is interested and - importantly - she can read and write and they agree to exchange letters, which become love letters. The relationship turns physical on another leave for Georges.

    But then there are the Americans, a group of uniformly handsome young soldiers in tan casual uniforms who seem to be hanging around waiting for an assignment, with plenty of time and money and testosterone. It is their interest in the local women and especially Francine that leads to trouble and injustice for they young woman that covers Solange's real betrayal with one of them, while Francine becomes pregnant with Georges' child but she is cast out by the family, wronged by Georges and Hortense.

    Somebody comes back alive, somebody doesn't. The sorrow Hortense experiences may warp her. But there are twists that seem novelistic at best, while perhaps toward the end only the singing of Iris Bry, showing FRancine turning into a free spirit in a new culture of changing times, may stand out, and provide viewers with positive memories of what ma feel a bit manipulative as the hitherto taciturn narrative takes a melodramatic turn.

    The Guardians/Les Gardiennes, 138 mins., debuted at Toronto Sept 2016, also shown at Tokyo, London and Mar del Plata. It opened in cinemas in France 6 Dec. 2017 (AlloCiné press rating a very so-so 3.4). Screened for this review at the Unifrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center New York series, Rendez-View with French Cinema, where it was shown 16 Mar. 2018, with a Q&A featuring Xavier Beauvois, speaking volubly with Kent Jones and the audience through an interpreter and tippling from a flask labeled "Medicine."


    Xavier Beauvois, after screening (Kent Jones, right)


    Xavier Beauvois after screening
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-24-2018 at 11:59 AM.

  5. #20
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    BEFORE SUMMER ENDS (Maryam Goormaghtigh 2017)

    MARYAM GOORMAGHTIGH: BEFORE SUMMER ENDS/AVANT LA FIN DE L'ÉTÉ


    HOSSEIN, ARASH, AND ASHKAN IN BEFORE SUMMER ENDS

    Three Iranian friends on a last trip in the French South

    Their names are Arash, Ashkan, and Hossein. Arash is grossly overweight; Askan is balding, with glasses, a photographer. Hossein is handsome and dark. All three are Iranian men in their early thirties living in France. Arash hasn't taken to the country and is about to leave. It's summer and the other persuade Arash to go on a road trip to the South, in hopes it may change his mind and make him stay, or just to enjoy his company one last time.

    The camera lingers on Arash, and loves his comfortable obesity, which he carries well, though one wonders if the preference for being alone and slowness to make friends may not make his body either a symptom of a cause Arash does the driving. They camp, and seem to have a great deal of outdoor equipment and outfits. They sit up half the night talking, and Arash snores during the day, or provides a cushion for Ashkan's snoozes.

    The story is semi-true, the conversations not far from fact, which concern such topics as friendship, courting women, feelings toward Iran and exile, poetry, and obligatory military service.

    The last topic turns out to be a crucial and defining one. Arash's fatness began with a three-month period of intentional weight-gain he did at age 18, to make himself ineligible. Ashkan did his service at 18, so it's long in the past. Hossein gained exemption by costly bribe, requiring a bank mortgage. Now he earns on the trip from a phone call that the bank threatens to remove its sponsorship because in the past year he dropped out of university. He is married and 33. How can he go back and serve at this age and with a wife? But if he doesn't, he'll become an involuntary exile. None of these three wants to stay away from their homeland.

    The other topic is women. Whether you quote the poetry of Hafiz or talk about Tarantino depends on whom you're seeking to impress, says Hossein, who coaches Ashkan on pickups. He is looking; Arash isn't; Hossein has no reason to. They wind up with two women, one of whom AShkan likes, who hang with them for several days. He might like to propose to her. They go to an amusement park, and to the girls' concert, and swimming.

    Why include a movie mostly in Farsi in a French film festival? Because it's a French production, the director is an Iranian, Belgian, and Swiss mixture, and, unlike many pictures released in France this doesn't showcase Paris but is an escape from it into the French heartland, a festive, estive, rural world. And the style of the film, and its predominant emphasis on conversations, some of them philosophical, does not clash with francophone cinema at all.

    The amiable and aimless semi-documentary material is confidently by first-timer Goormaghtigh but it's nonetheless a bit thin; hence the very short run-time. But this might be of interest to the wide world of Iranian expatriates, for whom it's an offhand expression, and to whom its scraps of sincere conversation by three youngish men about exile and adaptation and Hafiz might speak volumes. Nor did French critics and public take it amiss. AlloCiné shows a fair and equal reception by both (Critic rating 3.5; Viewer rating, ditto).

    Before Summer Ends/Avant la fin de l'été, 80 mins., debuted at Cannes May 2017, and opened in French cinemas 17 July, showing at eight other festivals including London, Chicago and Vienna. Screened for this review as part of the 8-18 Mar. 2018 Unifrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center New york Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (shown 17 Mar. 1 pm).
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-17-2018 at 07:38 PM.

  6. #21
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    JUST TO BE SURE/ÔTEZ-MOI D'UN DOUTE (Carine Tardieu 2017)

    CARINE TARDIEU: JUST TO BE SURE/ÔTEZ-MOI D'UN DOUTE (2017)


    FRANÇOIS DAMIENS, CÉCILE DE FRANCE IN JUST TO E SURE

    Stars crossed and uncrossed in Brittany

    Just to Be Sure/Ôtez-moi d'un doute is a charming and good-looking new French romantic comedy with a well-known and appealing cast led by Cécile de France and François Damiens ( two of the best-known French-speaking film actors today from Belgium), along with, as the older generation, the distinguished Guy Marahand and the appealing André Wilms. The action is solid and realistic, yet worthy of a classic farce. That is the movie's chief charm but also its weakness. Some of the things that happen would, in real life, be painful, but here go by without a hitch.

    Erwan Gourmelon (Damiens) does an important and challenging job. He heads a team that diffuses old mines along the Breton coast that survive from both the great wars. His father Bastien Gourmelon (Guy Marchand) is getting a bit old but still enjoys his small boat; this may require bypassing some nautical regulations. One day Erwan literally bumps into a woman on the road who hits a wild boar.

    She is called Anna Levkine (Cécile de France) and, since she's a doctor, she is able to put the boar out of its misery. Tough-talking, cigarette-smoking, glamorous and pretty, Anna smites Erwan at once with her charms.

    Meanwhile, other action is afoot. Erwan's young daughter Juliette (Alice de Lencquesaing) is unexpectedly pregnant (as she is also in the recent Endangered Species ), by she knows not whom. And she does not want to know, planning to raise the kid herself. Erwan is not content with this and insists on DNA tests - which lead to the surprise revelation that Erwan is not the son of Bastien. Erwan hires a private detective. She finds that his real father is not far away: Joseph Levkine (Wilms) - the father of Anna!

    Anna and Erwan, who've been meeting and are rapidly getting interested in each other, may be semi-siblings. Whoops! More than awkward. Spoiler alert: this all sorts out, and everybody winds up happy. The wild card, and perhaps the most amusing character in the story, is Didier (Estéban of the group Naïve New Beaters), a geeky young man Juliette has hired as a social service as a helper on Erwan's team. His connection with her turns out to be more than that. As Didier, Estéban has a very offbeat charm that makes the movie's most directly comic note, while every other main actor down the line provides appealing solidity and warmth.

    Just to Be Sure is only teasing us, but in the most good-natured way. This cast has the kind of rumpled pizazz, glamour and sex appeal the French carry off so effortlessly. We know quite well how things are going to turn out, but everybody is so likeable that we thoroughly enjoy getting there. This is an up-to-date example of why Hollywood has been known to steal rom-coms from the French and remake them Stateside.


    Just to be Sure/Ôtez-moi d'un doute, 100 mins., AlloCiné press rating 3.4. Screened for this review as part of the Unifrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center 2018 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 18 Mar. 2018.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-19-2018 at 05:14 PM.

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