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Thread: Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2019

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    Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2019

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-10-2019 at 08:22 PM.

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    THE TROUBLE WITH YOU/EN LIBERTÉ! (Pierre Salvadori 2018)

    PIERRE SALVADORI: THE TROUBLE WITH YOU/EN LIBERTÉ! (2018)
    OPENING NIGHT FILM


    DAMIEN BONNARD AND ADÈLE HAMEL IN THE TROUBLE WITH YOU

    Classic Hollywood comedy, French style

    Salvadori's broad cop comedy featuring Adèle Haenel of Love at First Fight/Les combattants - which made it into the Cannes Festival's Directors' Fortnight - centers on a policewoman widow, Yvonne Santi, who discovers her deceased cop husband Jean Santi (Vincent Elbaz) was more of a crook than the paragon she'd imaged and conveyed to her young son. Meanwhile Antoine (Pio Marmaï), the innocent jewelry store clerk - the only one not in on an insurance scam, who has done eight years in jail at Jean's behest, gets out and returns to his faithful wife, Agnès (Aubrey Tautou). Angry and negatively influenced by his incarcerated years (but possessed of a spirit of madcap chaos), Antoine embarks on a spree of crime and mayhem-sowing. Going to him to apologize and make up for the wrong-doing of her husband, Yvonne winds up joining Antoine in his craziness. The question is whether Antoine and Agnès can find common ground again. As for Yvonne, at the center of all this, whe's also being wooed by he longtime admirer on the force, Louis (Damien Bonnard). Everything's getting stirred up.

    Salvadori told the Lincoln Center audience he was nervous about showing his movie here, because America is where he has always drawn his inspiration, Ernst Lubitsch being a prime model. On top of this Salvadori is France's premier maker of film comedies today. But will they appreciate him here? it's a fact that French comedies don't play (or translate into subtitles) as well abroad as do their romances, crime stories, or other genres. This was evident in the New York festival audience, which felt like small patches of francophone appreciators having a riotous time with large dead areas of Americans between them.

    What does communicate to a wider audience is the skill with which Salvadori and his well-chosen cast weave image and action through the course of a fast-paced series of silly scenes. The bright-colored cinematography of dp Julien Poupard is a delight, obviously bolstered by some terrific set design. Notable among these is the richly adorned S&M parlor that, for some inexplicable reason, we return to repeatedly. The film begins with a violent shootout conducted by Yvonne's late husband, Jean. We soon learn that this is a mere realization of Yvonne's nighttime storytelling to her little son. This will subsequently be retold, and re-realized in action for us, with Jean depicted more realistically.

    Next to a ceremony inaugurating a ridiculous statue celebrating Jean, of which according to comments after, only the pistol, brandished up in the air, resembles the man. It's when back at the police station the S&M parlor is raided, one of the the men held tells Yvonne about her husband's participation in the scam to enrich a high-end jewelry store by faking a robbery. And just about then Antoine gets out of prison and goes pretty wild, endangering himself and others. Periodically, Yvonne's bedtime story of her husband's gunfight gets retold for the kid. Everybody winds up happy in the end, somewhat fancifully since Antoine has done a lot of damage, Yvonne may have tarnished her own reputation, and Louis has shown his corrupt side. None of it matters. Comedy is forgiving.

    Nominated for nine César Awards including Best Film, Director, Screenplay, and all four acting categories.

    The Trouble with You was reviewed at Cannes Directors Fortnight by Jessica Kiang in Variety and by David Rooney in Hollywood Reporter. Salvadori's In the Courtyard/Dans la court, shown in the 2015 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, was a comedy overwhelmed by downbeat material. This is a happy one; hence its placement as the Opening Night Film.

    The Trouble with You/En liberté!, 108 mins., debuted in Cannes Directors Fortnight 14 May 2019 and opened in France 31 Oct. to rave reviews (AlloCiné press rating 4.3). Several other festivals. Adored by the French, this pleasant and highly accomplished piece of boisterous nonsense probably has very little future in the USA.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-01-2019 at 11:02 AM. Reason: E

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    GIRLS OF THE SUN/Les Filles du soleil (Eva Husson 2018)

    EVA HUSSON: GIRLS OF THE SUN/LES FILLES DU SOLEIL (2018)


    GOLDSHIFTSH CDHNI IN GIRLS OF THE SUN

    Girls in danger

    The 2019 New York Rendez-Vous with French Cinema's section of female-centric films gets off to an intense start with Eva Husson's Girls of the Sun/Les Filles du soleil. The film focuses on women in a brutal war fighting ISIS, in Iraqi Kurdistan, in a small all-female squadron led by Goldshiteh Farahani, who's acted in movies in French, Farsi, and English before. Farahani, whose dark beauty somewhat resembles the young Joan Baez, is impossible to look away from. But for all its intensity, and the authentic feel of the locations, the movie doesn't feel quite as real or as consequential as it would like to.

    The story begins with an intrepid, unshakably risk-taking woman journalist with a patch over one eye that she lost in Homs - a French version of Marie Colvin, whose life was dramatized last year by Matthew Heinemann in A Private War. Here she is called Mathilde H. and is played b the intrepid actress-filmmaker Emmanuelle Bercot (of My King and Standing Tall). Mathilde H.'s solemn declarations from time to time to Bahar (Farahani's character) about the need to bear witness but not to bear arms add an overwrought sincerity to what is already a film too much aware of its own seriousness.

    The woman's power aspect of things is also heavy-handedly underlined by Bahar's insistent strategy, in which she and Mathilde cooperate, speaking in French, which she handily happens to speak (having, she says, studied in Paris). As Bahar, followed closely by Mathilde H., leads her "Girls of the Sun" squad, survivors, all, of a massacre in Corduene and motivated to fight to avenge their own loved ones, she also insists, against her male cohorts, on a bolder strategy to take a hill directly, risking life and limb but speeding things up.

    But the story doesn't much differentiate other personalities than those of Bahar and Mathilde, or make clear the larger outlines of the tactical situation of the skirmishes. Eva Husson had good and ambitious intentions, but seems out of her depth here. One could not help remembering as one watched it that her previous and debut feature was Bang Gang, a movie of unadorned sensuality focused on well-off teenagers having a summer orgy of group sex. That was a more distinctive effort. Maybe she is trying too hard here to make up for her initial frivolity.

    (See Jay Weissberg's Cannes review for Variety on this "pedantically commonplace drama" and for references to better representations of the real-life subject matter of the female fighters in Iraqi Kurdistan.)

    Girls of the Sun/Les filles du soleil, 115 mins., debuted at Cannes in Competition and was included in at least nine other festivals including Toronto and London. Released Nov. 21, 2018 in France, it received very poor reviews (AlloCiné press rating 1.9), and its Metascore is 59. In his Hollywood Reporter review, Jordan Mintzer described Husson as adopting "an overtly manipulative, rather cheesy approach to the genre that can play more like fantasy than reality." Screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-Film society of Lincoln Center 2019 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.

    Rendez-Vous showtimes:
    Friday, March 1, 1:30pm
    Sunday, March 3, 8:30pm (Q&A with Eva Husson)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-02-2019 at 08:09 AM.

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    RAISING COLORS/VOLONTAIRE (Hélène Fillières 2018)

    HELENE FILLIÈRES: RAISING COLORS/VOLONTAIRE (2018)


    DIANE ROUXEL AND LAMBERT WILSON IN RAISING COLORS

    Tough little "meuf"

    Raising Colors is a beautifully produced, atmospheric and well cast film, even if it's finally not altogether satisfying. The subject is a highly educated young woman who challenges herself (and provides us with entertainment) by joining the French Navy. Laure (Diane Rouxel) is twenty-two and comes from a liberal Paris family and has a Masters from the Sorbonne in both Russian and English. Lacking other job prospects, and perhaps to be provocative to her family, she takes the offer of a military job. Little Laure thus displeases the big lady in the family in more ways than one, her famous actress mother (Josiane Balasko) - though mom comes around later when Laure has become a green beret.

    Raising Colors affords Diane Rouxel the opportunity to shine. She previously played a struggling juvenile delinquent's girlfriend in Emmanuel Bercot's powerful 2015 film Standing Tall/ La Tête haute (Rendez-Vous 2016). But she was understandably a bit overshadowed there by two powerhouse actors, Catherine Deneuve, as the understanding Juge d'Instruction, and the soon-to-be César-winning "Jeune Espoir Masculin" eighteen-year-old prodigy, Rod Paradot, as her boyfriend. Here the story is all about Laure, her adoption of military discipline, her growing dedication to the Navy corps, and her fascination with her superior officer, played by Lambert Wilson of Beauvois' Of Gods and Men (NYFF 2010), the Matrix sequels, and many other films.

    When Laure goes off to serve as a kind of secretary and information officer to the Director of Studies in the Naval Fusiliers, in a room facing Lambert Wilson, there is an excitement about it that makes one want to watch on. But it seems a bit of a leap. Why is she suddenly in a uniform, without our seeing her getting any military training? Did I miss something? But there are other omissions - not much back story about her, or her severe, upright new boss. They call the latter, Commandant Rivière, "le redoutable," or the formidable one, as she learns from her charming fellow trainee, Enseigne de vaisseau Loïc Dumont (Corentin Fila, the breakout star of Téchiné's recent success, Being Seven, a big boy now, this vibrant actor is ready for his own lead role).

    Dumont and Laure become friendly right away and he calls her "meuf," slang for girl, subtitled with a logical neutrality here as "dude." Their uncomplicated ease together is explained soon: he's gay. Later, from the chief training officer Albertini (Claire Denis regular Alex Descas), Laure learns (in an anecdote of excessive frankness from an officer to a trainee) he, Albertini, at least calls Rivière "Le Moine," the Monk.

    As a citizen critic on IMDb for this film comments from experience as himself a one-time French naval trainee, "the Ecole Navale in Lanveoc always feels too big for the little humans living in it." We feel that. And it's enhanced by repeated scenes of a parade ground by the water where the colors are raised from high above, dwarfing the figures there even more. Scenes at a parade ground where trainees are forced to drop and do forty pushups are a commonplace of such films as this, but as Boyd van Hoeij points out, this film puts its own somewhat dry art house spin on the "G.I. Jane" theme. The scenes here toy with ideas from countless military training films, no doubt including the one with Demi Moore; but toy is the operative word.

    The usual story of this kind, for instance - van Hoeij makes the point - would have had Lambert Wilson's part "either been the impossibly demanding boss who is the obstacle that needs to be overcome or the love interest who makes her work impossible." But while Rivière gives off an air of severity, and he and Laure are obviously fascinated with each other, these are just teases. She has a boyfriend, Philippe (Jonathan Couzinie), back home, but may have lost interest in him (as well as in menstruating, which she tries to stop), and she has a sexual interlude with a random young colleague (Igor Kovalsky). But the writing doesn't develop Laure's sexual interests.

    Laure does very little actual work at her secretarial job, before she suddenly and inexplicably enters combat training, taking time off from her secretarial duties - which weren't very heavy anyway: there is much more fussing over what uniform she will wear and how she will address her boss and salute him. The filmmakers seem to forget at times that military life is not all about style. Laure does a report, and then Rivière has her translate it into English (later, her Russian is much more severely tested). The real challenge comes when, like her pal Enseigne Dumont, Laure develops a desire to train for the commandos.

    The IMDb critic-French naval training vet also commented he "thought a bit less of the commando training part that was a far cry from the very tough reality of it." He points out that "whatever your position is in the navy you will always spend a bit of time on the ships," but in this film that, which"could have added another dimension," "is not the case." No boats in this naval training.

    Rivière refuses to allow Laure (actually known in the corps as "La Missy") to enter this training, but she manages to bypass him. There are some tough moments in the training, when she crawls on a rope over a pond and falls, climbing up a heavy rope, and jumping up and over a high barrier. Later an exercise with weapons and a Russian seems expressly invented to challenge her. She seems to have a great deal of difficulty but, the point is, she never gives up. And when her fascinating boss Rivière is no longer a factor, she moves on toward self-realization, with a feminist slant, because girls ("les meufs") aren't usually green berets.

    What Fillières succeeds best in conveying in this film aren't the military details at all, but, aided by Rouxel with her limpid, vibrant purity and determination, is her character's fascination with the military life and her temporary idol, "le redoutable" AKA "le Moine," Commandant Rivière. And her purity of dedication. Not only can her commandant be called "The Monk." She seems a bit of a secular nun herself.

    Raising Colors/Volontaire, 101 mins., opened in French theaters Jun. 2018; the AlloCiné press rating of 2.7 shows critics were not too impressed in general, though some were positive and many were impressed by the two leads. An IMDb User compared it favorably with [I]G.I. Jane. Screened for this review as part of the 2019 UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, 28 Feb. - 10 Mar. 2019.

    Rendez-Vous showtimes:
    Friday, March 1, 4:00pm
    Sunday, March 3, 5:45pm (Q&A with Hélène Fillières)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-02-2019 at 07:15 AM.

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    WHEN MARGAUX MEETS MARGAUZ/LA BELLE ET LA BELLE (Sophie Fillières 2018)

    SOPHIE FILLIÈRES: WHEN MARGAUX MEETS MARGAUX/LA BELLE ET LA BELLE (2018)


    SANDRINE KIBERLAIN AND AGATHE BONITZER IN WHEN MARGAUX MEETS MARGAUX

    A philosophical fantasy in which a middle-aged woman encounters her earlier self in real life

    I was underwhelmed by the director's previous film, If You Don't, I Will/Arrête ou je continue, even though it starred Matthieu Amaric and Emannuelle Devos. But this one charms and captures with its teasing "high concept": the forty-five-year-old Margaux (Sandrine Kiberlain) discovers she is coexisting in time and space with another Margaux (Agathe Bonitzer, daughter of the directer with fellow-director Pascal Bonitzer),who's herself twenty years younger. The older Margaux can foresee what the younger one will do, because she has been there before. But not exactly. The film succeeds and pleased partly because it does not follow out its concept too strictly, and treats its fantasy, if it is that, as one involving real people.

    The story blends Thirties rom-com with sci-fi surrealism, casually interwoven in the manner of a sophisticated French sex comedy.

    In between the two Margaux to complicate matters and add a gentle element of the unexpected is Marc. He was once older Margaux's lover, and now starts up - maybe - with younger Margaux - only he runs into the older Margaux and he's flirting with both of them. Marc is played by the sublimely assured and sexy Melvil Poupaud, who has been in many, many films most Americans haven't seen, but by the time he starred in one they have seen, Éric Rohmer's A Summer's Tale, in 1996, at twenty-three, had already been in twenty-two movies. Now, wouldn't you know it, he's forty-five! So just the right age for Kiberlain's Margaux, but suave and smooth and youthful enough to make love to (or, she would say, have sex with) Bonitizer's younger version without seeming like a sex offender.

    But then Margaux one and two go skiing together, without Marc, who pleads sore muscles. The younger Margaux has a fall and hits her head, and everything changes. We realize the film has a humble and uplifting message. The meeting of the two Margaux has been some serious play, but the more serious play is just beginning, just as the film ends.


    When Margaux Meets Margaux/La Belle et la belle, 97 mins., debuted in France 14 Mar. 2018. It also showed in BiFan - Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (Korea). Good reviews in France as indicated by a 3.5 AlloCiné press rating (user rating 4.0); Arrête ou je continue got 3.3. from the press.). Jean-Baptiste Morain, the Inrocks reviewer, said it was "perfectly balanced," and Fillières' best of her six films so far. Screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Mar. 2019.

    The third of Fillières' films that I've seen was her 2005 Gentille, at my first Rendez-Vous (Mar. 2006), which I called "amiably ditsy."

    Friday, March 1, 6:15pm (Q&A with Sophie Fillières and Agathe Bonitzer)
    Wednesday, March 6, 8:45pm
    New York Premiere
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-27-2019 at 02:16 PM.

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    COINCOIN AND THE EXTRA-HUMANS/COINCOIN ET LES Z'INHUMAINS (Bruno Dumont 2018)

    BRUNO DUMONT: COINCOIN AND THE EXTRA-HUMANS/COINCOIN ET LES Z'INHUMAINS (2018)


    LUCY CARON AND ALANE DELHAYE IN COINCOIN AND THE EXTRA-HUMANS

    More life in the northeast from Bruno Dumont

    I call your attention to what I wrote about the first 2014 Bruno Dumont miniseries, Lil (or "P'tit") Quinquin (the spelling of his name has been changed to "Coincoin"). Many of the main characters return here, notably the local representatives of the Gendarmerie, Lt. Carpentier (Philippe Jore) and his boss, Cpt. Van der Weyden (Bernard Pruvost), with their peculiarities, particularly Provost's Tourette--like twitches and Jore's far-apart front teeth, and of course Alane Delhaye, who now must be sixteen or so, still with the smashed nose and twisted mouth and hearing aid and basilisk glare, but he's less feisty, calmer, and doesn't throw firecrackers at old people anymore. He still has a high-pitched boyish voice. His girlfriend from before, Eve Terrier (Lucy Caron) now has a mannish girlfriend, Corinne (Priscilla Benoist) who operates a big agricultural machine that opens up like a giant insect. Coincoin gets involved with a new girl called Jenny (Alexia Depret), but she toys with him. It's complicated with girls, he says. He still has a moment or two with Eve, who may long for her innocent time with Li'l Quinquin. This series is just as annoying and repetitious, as well done, and as curiously endearing as the first one.

    Now other things are going on: principally, muck falling from the heavens, constituting a kind of alien invasion; a unit of a right-wing party that Coincoin and his sidekick Fatso (L'gros, Julien Bodard) do illicit publicity for in town; and, hovering around the outskirts, African refugees. The extraterrestrial effluvia is thick and oily. Cpt. Van der Weyden calls in forensics to analyze it, and they find it's not only alien but alive. It has a tendency to fall down on Van der Weyden's and Carpentier's and some other people's heads at inopportune moments. And then sometimes it sends a flash of light out over people and knocks them down, whereupon they swell up and give birth to a clone of themselves. At first it just seems some of the locals have spawned identical twins. Van der Weyden insists on calling them "clowns," which is not far from the mark. The aliens are invading by clones, and later seem to be getting into the cemetery to bring out the dead. First to return as a zombie is the girl singer of the previous series, who has died in a fire.

    But the alien invasion is mainly an opportunity for comedy. First there is the muck falling on people, which has the slapstick effect of a mudpie in the face. The clone/clown hilarity peaks when Van der Weyden has been doubled, and Carpentier doesn't know which identical twin is his real boss. An occasion for a nice horror movie effect comes when the inhabitants of the local trailer park all come out and stand around staring, turned into static zombies dressed in bright colored clothes.

    Much fun is had with vehicles. I have mentioned the giant grasping agricultural vehicle operated by Corinne, Eve's girlfriend. L'gros has a motorcycle, and Coincoin has a hot little open car. They have fun evading the Gendarmerie, which in principle they must because they're driving without a license. But the cops are no great exemplars of highway safety or the rules of the road. Carpentier has his way of making his Citroën police vehicle tilt and run on the wheels of only one side, and then drop back down on four wheels - when it doesn't flip over. Dumont seems never to tire of these very dangerous stunts. Van der Weyden utters more than once the French equivalent of "enough already!" and we may be ready to say so with him.

    All this is awesome because it's so original, so sui generis, and so skillfully done. Dumont's way with non-actors remains matchless. He can shoot Van der Weyden and Carpentier twitching and nodding at each other many beats longer than normal and it still has a surreal magic, and seems perfectly planned out even if it isn't.

    What about the refugees and the right wing? These are important elements that are only touched on, but seem alive, a real part of the real region of France that Dumont's films have always focused on. If they were taken more seriously, this would be a different kind of film. It's surreal comedy about real people and places. At the US Premiere, there was no Q&A, but there was much laughter throughout the three hours-plus run-time, and warm spontaneous applause at the end.

    Coincoin and the Extra-Humans/Coin Coin et les Z'Inhumains, 200 mins., is a sequel to Dumont's earlier L'il Quinquin mini-series. This time there was a 52-minute feature version that got an AlloCiné press rating of 2.9; but its user rating is 3.5. Screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Mar. 2019.

    Rendez-Vous showtime:
    Sunday, March 3, 1:00pm
    U.S. Premiere
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-03-2019 at 08:18 PM.

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    WHATEVER HAPPENED TO MY REVOLUTION/TOUT CE QU'IL ME RESTE DE LA RÉVOLUTION (Davis)

    JUDITH DAVIS: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO MY REVOLUTION/TOUT CE QU'IL ME RESTE DE LA RÉVOLUTION


    JUDITH DAVIS IN WHATEVER HAPPENED TO MY REVOLUTION

    Old radicalism meets new, with an improvisatory fieel

    Judith Davis sent an iPhone film to the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. She meant to attend but her purse was stolen, in it her passport, the day before departure, so she could not go. This somehow fits the improvisational and sudden feel of her energetic film about revolutionary and socialist impulses then and now, Sixties radicals grown old and their obstreperous offspring. Davis spoke in her video of working with her own little collective, whose performances reflect group decisions.

    In the film, the protagonist, Angèle (Davis) is an idealistic urban planner confused about where her once radical parents, long separated, now stand, since they have made compromises to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. Not only that, but today's Paris is a world where the spirit of 1968 seems long forgotten.

    The movie is a blend, pretty successful because of the fresh energy of the action, between the story of Angèle's reunion with her long estranged mother Diane Sorel (Mireille Perrier, J’entends plus la guitare) and a love-and-like story of relations with an oddball group of kindred spirits and a new potential boyfriend, Saïd (Malik Zidi).

    This involves the work of the collective group of improvisational actors of which Davis is a proud member, so there are, shall we say, "actorly" moments throughout, but this contributes to the lively energy of what is a film on the cusp of a certain French bourgeois experience: old radicalism meets new.

    The turn comes when Angele suddenly learns from her father that her mother didn't ever mean to be as estranged as she has been but really had wanted the children to come and live in the country with her, years ago. The reunion strengthens Angèle's convictions, but also her family ties. Meanwhile, out in the country a wild performance by a commercial-aligned individual that feels like an extreme episode of Donald Trump's "The Apprentice" leads to a sudden burnout and a new member of Angèle's troup of people gathered to find themselves.

    If we realize that these are all performances, and the result a kind of Brechtian Alienation Effect, we can enjoy a very lively film that, despite its eccentricity and political high seriousness, is also at heart, as the happy ending shows, a love story.

    Whatever Happened to My Revolution/Ce qu'il me reste de ma révolution, 88 mins., debuted in five French festivals starting with d'Angoulême 22 Aug. 2018. French theatrical release 3 Feb. 2019, with good reviews (AlloCiné press 3.6); Ouest France called it "Drôle et juste." Screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Mar. 2019.

    Saturday, March 2, 3:30pm (Q&A with Judith Davis)
    Monday, March 4, 1:30pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-05-2019 at 11:17 AM.

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    ART OF SEDUCTION, THE MADEMOISELLE DE JONCQUIÈRES (Emmanuel Mouret 2018)

    EMMANUEL MOURET: THE ART OF SEDUCTION/MADEMOISELLE DE JONCQUIÈRES (2018)


    EDOUARD BAER AND CECILLE DE FRANCE IN MADEMOISELLE DE JONCQUIERES

    An elegant 18th-century moralistic tale whose motivations remain a bit vague

    Emmanuel Mouret's Mademoiselle de Joncquières is a decided contrast to the director's delicate and playful Shall We Kiss? which I reviewed eleven years ago. It's like a pared-down version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses (but based on in a story in Denis Diderot's Jacques the Fatalist instead of Choderlos de Laclos renowned and complex epistolary novel) and stars Édouard Baer and Cécile de France as an 18th-century rake and the sophisticate, burned when he drops her, who takes revenge by bating him with a beautiful virgin who really isn't. It's a beautiful film with some good lines but I feel the casting is off. De France is trying hard to be beautiful but not hard enough to be mean. Baer is an appealing actor but that's the problem, not enough edge. Forget this and watch either Vadim's 1959 Dangerous Liaisons or Frears' 1988 English-language one, one of my favorite films of the Eighties. Watched at UGC Danton 24 October 2018. AlloCiné press rating 3.9, showing that the French critics were generally quite favorable.

    Rewatched as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center 2019. The audience was large and the reaction positive. The film is pleasing - and efficient: Mouret wastes no time in delivering the succession of scenes and dialogue. However the impression remains strong that the main characters are too pleasing and bland, the action too predictable. It's hard to see complexity or meanness in either of them. And hence the motivations feel more theoretical than visceral. it is all a - very beautiful and graceful - going through the motions. But the film is finely made, the mise-en-scène handsome from first to last. And the mimicry of elaborately polite 18th-century French conversation is patient and consistent, both in the writing and in the actors' attempted delivery. And yet, the appreciation of all these elements cannot lessen, but only increase, one's sense that something essential is missing that would give this real logic and bite appropriate to the period so attractively recreated in the settings and costumes.

    The Art of Seduction/Mademoiselle de Joncquières, 110 mins., debuted at Toronto, then Busan and Gothenberg, last fall and early 2019. Initially watched in Paris Oct. 2018. Screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Mar. 2019.

    Rendez-Vous Showtimes:
    Friday, March 1, 9:00pm (Q&A with Emmanuel Mouret and Edouard Baer)
    Monday, March 4, 4:00pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-09-2019 at 01:14 PM.

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    IN SAFE HANDS/PUPILLE (Jeanne Henry 2018)

    JEANNE HENRY: IN SAFE HANDS/PUPILLE (2018)


    ÉLODIE BOUCHEZ AND "THÉO" IN IN SAFE HANDS

    France's anonymous adoption system for newborns dramatized

    Jeanne Herry's second feature In Safe Hands/Pupille, about France's anonymous adoption system for newborns, is one of several offerings in the 2019 New York Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series that relate to what can broadly be considered state social issues, along with Thomas Lilti's The Freshman/première année critiquing the state's ruthless system filtering out entrants into medical school and Invisibles, about a daytime shelter for homeless women. The French take their social services seriously and are particularly proud of their anonymous adoption system (called "l'accouchement sous X"). In Safe Hands is well researched, warmly acted, and intricately edited to interweave many strands, including mother, baby, nurses, doctors, social worker, foster parent, adoptive parents, and so on.

    The caring comes through in the warmth of the performances, which most notably include the popular and often funny Sandrine Kiberlain as one of the caseworkers, GilleS Lellouche as the chosen foster parent for the three months awaiting adoption, and Élodie Bouchez, with that big smile of hers, as the now single adopting parent who has steadfastly waited out a nine year process.

    It's hard to praise the construction of this movie too much. It tells its basic story well, and it provides backstories, or at least little details of the lives of each of its main characters. Jordan Mintzer isn't wrong in his Hollywood Reporter review, though, that the "thing" of Kiberlain's and Lellouche's characters is overdone, that there are a number of saccharine moments, and that the frequent closeups of the baby could fill a number of Huggies commercials. The dp Sofian El Fani did well nonetheless to show us people's emotions and give us closeups of the baby's changing emotional states, which are remarkable. (Who is this baby, one would like to know?) But the dp needn't have provided quite so many in-our-faces shaky-cam closeups of other objects.

    First impression is the birth, then the careful social worker who explains things and takes note of the mother's wishes. She is a 21-year-old university student who became aware she was pregnant too late to do anything about it. But later, when "Théo" gives evidence to the temporary foster parent, Jean (Gilles Lellouche) that he may be shut down or limp, that there could be some problem, the receiving social worker is reluctant at fist to break the secrecy of her relation with the mother by revealing further information hat might be of urgent use.

    Through several steps back in time the film shows us how Alice survived a long period of waiting, and then a postponement when she broke up with her partner and was automatically made to wait further to settle into single status (though the state had just okayed single-parent adoptions, allowing Alice a second chance eventually).

    Key also are some bureaucratic sessions when various parties heatedly debate which adoption candidates or candidate will get to be the adoptive parent of Théo. Fur flies and foul words are used. But the sense is that there is passionate caring here, and that the system is working.

    Much of this film could just be a TV special, except it's not, because the French are clearly willing to lavish some of their best talent on such material, and did so here. Pupille got seven César awards. Incidentally, the César Best Film winner was another picture about a social issue, an agonizing critique of a lax aspect of the French court "Juge d'Instruction" system in divorce custody situations seen in the RendezVous with French Cinema of 2018, Xavier Legrand's Custody.

    In Safe Hands/Pupille, 109 mins., debuted at Angoulême, showing in six Francophone fests in late 2018. It opened in French, Swiss, and Belgian theaters 5 Dec. 2018 and got high marks from French Critics: AlloCine press rating 4.3. Screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Mar. 2019.

    Monday, March 4, 6:15pm (Q&A with Élodie Bouchez)


    SANDRINE KIBERLAIN IN IN SAFE HANDS/PUPILLE
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-05-2019 at 08:16 PM.

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    THE SUMMER HOUSE/LES ESTIVANTS (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi 2018)

    VALERIA BRUNI TEDESCHI: THE SUMMER HOUSE/LES ESTIVANTS (2018)


    RICARDO SCAMARCIO, VALERIA BRUNI TEDESCHI IN THE SUMMER HOUSE

    A Valeria Bruni Tedeschi family drama à la Chekhov, by Fellini

    The Summer House/Les Estivants, the prolific actress Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's fourth feature, is perhaps her most complex and one of her best. And though she is constantly seen on stage and screen in French and Italian, in which she is equally fluent, and has 90 screen acting credits, she obviously cares very much about her relatively small number of directorial efforts, because they are so autobiographical, speaking much about her complicated Franco-Italian industrial family and usually incorporating family members into the cast.

    Note that Bruni Tedeschi recently directed for television a version of Chekhov's Three Sisters (R-V 2016). The Summer House, an elaborate, full-dress, impressively cast and acted family gathering at the family summer place of a wealthy industrialist, with a sister Elena (Valeria Golino), mother Louisa (Marisa Borini), and adopted daughter on hand, has all the trappings of Chekhov and then some. These notably include Elena's older husband, the wealthy industrialist and lord of the manner who has fired thousands of employees (Pierre Arditi) This is like Chekhov by Bruni Tedeschi with staging by Fellini. And this is also self-reflective, because Anna, Bruni Tedeschi's character, is here working on a film - though in a comical preliminary scene including Frederick Wiseman as a board member it doesn't seem to have gotten the funding it sought - with her cowriter Nathalie (B.T.'s actual cosripter Noémie Lvovsky).

    All members of Anna's complicated family seem to be on hand, including the director's own mother as her character's mother again, two actors competing apparently to play Anna's brother who died of AIDS (as did B.T.'s actual brother Virginio), and her brother's ghost (Stefano Cassetti) haunting the grounds. The film juggles a lot of subplots, including intense ones "downstairs," among the estate's household of staff, which include Yolande Moreau and François Négret. Also on hand is B.T.'s adopted African daughter Oumy Bruni Garrel, two members of the Comédie Française, Laurent Stocker and Bruno Raffaelli, and Italian heartthrob Riccardo Scamarcio as Luca, Anna's love, who is drifting away from her, standing in for her ex-husband Louis Garrel.

    Late in the game there comes some nice diegetic music as a large older gentleman called Bruno (Bruno Raffaelli) sings German opera and lieder, with Louisa accompanying him on the piano.

    The only taint on this enjoyable romp is how old-fashioned and derivative it is - in many respects. Bruni Tedeschi's own creation of Anna, a creative madwoman, driven crazy by by Luca's abandonment, is original with her. And as Luca, Scamarcio is both very physical and real, fleshy, dark and handsome with his flashing pale blue eyes, kissing her, smoking, and yet perhaps also imaginary some, or even all, of the time. All this is certainly sui generis. It's just the whole idea of the wealthy family summerhouse gathering of moody isolated planets that comes from the Russians, and the whole social setting of inherited wealth, with servants, an old house, is very vieux jeu - not to mention the fact that Burni Tedeschi has done this kind of thing herself, speaking about her own and her family's life, before.

    But this familiarity does not keep The Summer House from entertaining, if you sit back and ride with the full extent of its meandering, anecdotal unfolding - though Jessica Kiang clearly did not, since in her Variety review she called this film "aggravatingly insular." (See however Boyd van Hoeij's more appreciative and more detailed review for Hollywood Reporter.)

    The Summer House/Les Estivants, 122 mins., debuted at Venice (Out of Competition) Sept. 2018 and was shown in at least five other festivals, including Mumbai. French theatrical release began 30 Jan. 2019 (AlloCiné press rating 3.1). Screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-FSLC Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, Mar. 2019. U.S. Premiere.
    Rendez-Vous showtimes:
    Tuesday, March 5, 1:30pm
    Friday, March 8, 6:00pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-06-2019 at 05:12 AM.

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    SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS (Vergill Vernier 2018)

    VERGIL VERNIER: SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS (2018)



    Improvisational anomie

    About Vergil Vernier's debut featureMercuriales I was harsh: "Virgil Vernier works with interesting documentary elements and exceptional access to intimate situations to put together a sketchy fiction that ultimately does not cohere," I wrote in my 2015 New Directors/New Films series review. Vernier's sophomore film, Sophia Antipolis, presented within the March 2019 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema schedule and introduced as a Film Comment selects film by that FSLC publication's editor, is a chance for a reassessment. And it shows Vernier still intent in his use of non actors and evocation of urban anomie. He still deserves to be considered promising. Vernier has widened his scope and strengthened his thrust, which is to use his vignettes collectively to scare us, suggesting a world with hints of the occult and the apocalyptic around its edges.

    But from the first Vernier is up to his previously demonstrated fascination with young women. Of Mercuriales I wrote, " Vernier's male fascination with nubile female bodies, even a young girl's, verges on the voyeuristic and exploitative." Sophia Antipolis starts right off with young women stripping to show their breasts, pleading with an unseen cosmetic surgeon to operate quickly enlarge their already perfectly nice looking poitrines. One of these girls, named Sophia after the town, is only sixteen, and has faked her ID to appear eighteen and therefore have the right to decide on such surgery without parental consent. This is putatively the girl who will stop turning up for her best girlfriend at school and start hanging out with rough crowd, then become a little too wild even for them, then turn up as a charred body.

    This time Vernier's film is dominated by the haunting mystery of a girl's charred body found in a building in the eponymous Sophia Antipolis, a garish, giant urban mall that's become a kind of Silicon Valley outpost in the middle of the French Riviera. Such a setting, familiar to the filmmaker from an early age and meant by him to represent a place more ideal or nightmarish than real, well suits his taste for alienation.

    Around the image of the charred body other vignettes hover with an uneasy blandness. There is a Vietnamese woman whose older French husband has died, and who's tempted at her door, Seventh Day Adventist-style, into attending the meeting of a "spiritual" group. Vernier likes to use real-life stuff: here, the group leader - its members insist it's not a cult - demonstrates the existence in the world of inexplicable mysteries by transforming a hypnotized man's body into a rigid board you can sit on, stretched between two chairs.

    Things relax temporarily as two of the women at the meeting have a nice day together, going on a walk, having ice cream, and admiring the sea. Then we join two black men with Arabic names. One is a newcomer in the area, who served four years as a sailor. He now follows around the other, a tall, goateed devotee of Spirulina, and is apparently induced by him to join a vigilante group and attend a training session in Israeli Krav Maga fighting methods that look pretty violent. This group brings to mind the right wing militants the smartest student secretly trains with in Laurent Cantet's The Workshop (Rendez-Vous 2018), which, however, seemed more fully realized. (A Film Comment article refers to the vigilantes as "a right-wing paramilitary outfit.") Whatever they are, when they kidnap a man they suspect of pedophilia, the newcomer has second thoughts and flees on foot from the scene. Maybe this all coheres better this time, and the Super16 cinematography remains to intensify the bright colors in the Riviera sunlight. But for me, it still didn't quite add up.

    Sophia Antipolis, 98 mins., debuted at Locarno, where it was nominated for a Golden Leopard; presented also in three other festivals, including Rotterdam. French theatrical release 31 Oct. 2018. Only 13 reviews listed on AlloCiné but favorable, with 3.7 press rating. Screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Mar. 2019.

    Rendez-Vous sowtimes
    Tuesday, March 5, 4:00pm
    Sunday, March 10, 5:30pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-06-2019 at 04:13 AM.

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    TIME OF THE PIRATES, THE/SEULS LES PIRATES (Gaël Lepingle 2018)

    GAËL LEPINGLE: THE TIME OF PIRATES/SEULS LES PIRATES (2018)


    DELPHINE CHUILLOT AND LUDOVIC DOUARE IN THE TIME OF PIRATES


    A fight against relocation

    This little film, hovering on the brink between documentary and fiction, centers around a group of people who are getting evicted from their housing, particularly a theatrical man who (or so he says) has lost his voice due to cancer, and at first speaks only in whispers, Géro (Ludovic Douare). He takes in his girlish but confident 18-year-old nephew Léo (Renan Prévot) as a temporary all-round theatrical apprentice for the summer.

    With Géro we enter a spunky marginal French world on the edge of social networks and urban planning in a suburban world of the Loire Valley. Géro is a stubborn, angry person, who was in a brutal reformatory kind of school when young, which may have marked him for life. Géro refuses to cooperate with relocation services and therefore risks winding up on the street. We never see Géro evicted; his long-gestating play eventually gets put on. The film is divided up into sections: 1. Les bonnes volontés (Good Wills), 2. Toute voiles dehors (Headsails and Courses), 3. Ne pas mourir (Not to die); what these mean is anybody's guess.

    There are some men Léo meets at Géro's who're involved in a devious business, which may involve human trafficking. For some reason Léo winds up with one of these men in flight for several days. There are also women who work at an agency, one of whom leaves, and one of the women may be the former companion of Géro.

    While the various segments of The Time of Pirates are momentarily interesting in themselves and characters are well realized, they never cohered, for me, into a story that makes emotional or artistic sense. The film seems as marginal as its subject matter. Compare the similarly marginal material of Pierre Schoeller's moving 2008 Versailles (R-V 2009), which worked because of a compelling storyline and remarkable performances by Guillaume Depardieu and a seven-year-old boy named Max Baissette de Malglaive.

    A collection of clippings about the film helps explain what Seuls les pirates is seeking to do and its reception in France.

    The Time of the Pirates/Seuls les pirates, 89 mins., debuted July 2018 at FID Marseille, where it won the Grand Prix, and showed in Nov. at Belfort Entrevues. Listed on IMDb but not on AlloCiné. Screened for this review as part of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, Mar. 2019.

    Rendez-Vous showtimes:
    Tuesday, March 5, 6:15pm

    Wednesday, March 6, 2:00pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-05-2019 at 05:58 AM.

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    KEEP AN EYE OUT!/AU POSTE! (Quentin Dupieux 2018)

    QUENTIN DUPIEUX: KEEP AN EYE OUT!/AU POSTE! (2018)


    GRÉGIRE LUDVIG, BENOÎT POELVOORDE IN AU POSTE!

    Droll interrogation

    A few years ago I reviewed Dupieux's film Reality, which featured a prolonged and frantic search for an Oscar-winning groan. (It was for a proposed horror film.) Au poste (the French title is more succinct, but the English one is a playful pun), so neatly constructed it runs only 73 minutes, is a standard Eighties-style police procedural focused on a relentless, drawn-out interrogation. Well, not really, but that's the format within which it ostensibly works. It's all in the whimsical drollery - with a touch of the macabre that's sometimes scholboyish. The concentrated focus on a shaggy whodunit makes this more uncomplicated enjoyment than the earlier film. And yet it is a self-reflective piece that has links with the French Nouveau Roman as well as with Claude Miller's 1981 Garde à vue (which featured Romy Schneider, Michel Serrault, Lino Ventura and Guy Marchand.) Dupieux makes do with lesser luminaries, but he is well served by the confident lead performance of Benoît Poelvoorde as the high ranking policeman in the room, Le commissaire Buron.

    The man Buron is interrogating is called Fugain, Louis Fugain (Grégoire Ludvig). Fugain is the prime suspect in a murder case because he was found with the corpse of a man lying in a pool of blood. He insists he only found the man when returning to his apartment building late at night. Something untoward happens to an underling, Philippe (Marc Fraize) while the Commissaire is out of the room. Is Fugain perhaps accident-prone, or rather prone to induce accidents in others, like the creepy protagonist of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Cure? Yet Fugain is a polite, well-spoken individual, the picture of seeming innocence.

    What is it with that other Philippe's eye, or rather, the blur he has in the place of one of them? Oh, he's just always been line that, he says. It is that first detail that informs us this story not only plays with the interrogation theme, but has surreal, or bizarre elements, like, also, the way Buron's son casually recounts a suicide attempt while offering him a hot dog. Another odd, avantgardist aspect is the flashbacks in which a character meets up with someone in the present time. That could be thought-provoking in narrative terms, but merely odd elements are a guy smoking cigarettes with a hole in his chest, and one eating an entire oyster, with the shell, crunching down. Such self-indulgent whimsy is for pure fans of the absurd.

    The commissioner's interrogation is "excruciating" only in the sense that he lets it drag on and on. He not only enjoys it for its own sake, but uses it as the opportunity to hold forth on little points about which he has very particular opinions. In this, Dupieux is celebrating and mocking the detective in films and stories who is obsessed with detail and pompous about his ideas, like Hercule Poirot. Unlike Inspector Antoine Gallien (Lino Ventura in Garde à vue), whose relentless interrogation is aimed at ferreting out the truth, Commissaire Buron simply enjoys the process, and his own whimsies. So we might say Commissaire Buron is a stand-in for the filmmaker, Quentin Dupieux. Like Dupieux, who operates on multiple leels, Buron gives the impression of being both benign and dangerous.

    Fugain insists on his innocence, which he thinks so obvious he is in a hurry to be sent home. And, since it's only routine, he thinks, if there must be a delay for the Commissaire to do something else,why can't he go home and come back to finish it tomorrow? Oh, no, replies Buron, "This is not an interrogation à la carte."

    Indeed not. And there is a different surprise awaiting us, and then Fugain, at the film's end.

    TRAILER] (This movie can be watched online, Amazon or Vudu).

    Keep an Eye Out!/Au poste!, 73 mins., debuted Sept. 2018 at Berlin Fantasy Filmfest; four other festivals are listed on Imdb. It released theatrically in France July 4, 2018, and got very good reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.9). Screened for this review at the UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center New York Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Mar. 2019.

    Rendez-Vous with French Cinema showtimes:
    Tuesday, March 5, 8:15pm
    Sunday, March 10, 7:45pm
    New York Premiere
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-27-2019 at 05:08 PM.

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    THE TRUK/L'ENKAS (Sarah Marx 2018)

    SARAH MARX: THE TRUK/L'ENKAS (2018)


    SANDOR FUNTEK IN THE TRUK/L'ENKAS

    A tough life on the outside

    Staying in prison would have been preferable for Ulysse (Sandor Funtek of Blue Is the Warmest Color), the young early-released ex-con who finds life on the outside a lot harder, right away. Funtek gives a muscular, intense performance but the rapid, staccato talk and short scenes give him little room to breathe as an actor. The screenplay develops situations but not characters or emotions. Wendy Ide's summary for this film in her Venice review for Screen Daily holds: "It’s a confident, stripped down debut which delivers its stark message with economy, but lacks a distinctive flair."

    The lack of "a distinctive flair" is the problem. Marx never transcends her grim, somewhat monotonous material. Unlike (though admittedly it's unfair to compare with a master) Jacques Audiard's prison drama A Prophet, whose young inmate traverses an astounding arc, poor Ulysse feels like the rat in this film that runs around in a garage and then gets electrocuted. A Prophet with its growing epic scale, is the sky above; The Truk is the mud below. The Dardennes may be the real model. Marx has the nitty gritty intensity. She needs more time and more context to reach their level.

    Ulysse gets out with the arrangement that he will care for his severely depressed mother (Sandrine Bonnaire). We see prison functionaries discuss this idea. One thinks he will relapse, another that this task will motivate him and give him responsibility. Before he even gets out Ulysse arranges to share in a petty drug scam because "everybody does it" and he needs to, to supplement minimum wage. He needs more than that. He owes his exhausted ex-girlfriend Léna (Virginie Acariès) money for caring for his mom while he was in jail. It also turns out there are additional costs to Ulysse for health care that the social services don't cover.

    His plan with pal David (Alexis Manenti) is to hire a food truck to sell burgers and ketamine-spiked beer at electro music raves. They make up a name for their business, "l'Enkas," word play (as explained by Boyd van Hoeij in his Hollywood Reporter review) combining "en cas," snack, with a K, for ketamine. To raise the money for this requires risks. As more people get involved in the event the business situation becomes more aggressive and hostile and David and Ulysse's chance of making any money diminishes. Ulysse's project with David makes them essentially part of a drug ring.

    To do this no-nonsense minimalist film credit, it keeps us tightly wound up in its network of bad deals and bad luck. Handheld camerawork by dp Yoan Cart and restrained music (except for the tellingly grating techno during the rave sequence) by Laurent Sauvagnac and Lucian M’Baidem nicely fit the material. His role and performance fit the charismatic and sexy Fundek as neatly as his trim down jacket. This can be a good calling card for him and his director.

    The Truk/L'Enkas, 83 mins., debuted in the Venice "Orizzonti" section Aug. 2018; listed in four other festivals. It is listed as " Prochainement" on AlloCiné (Feb. 2019). Screened for this review as part of the 2019 New York Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.
    Rendez-Vous showtimes:
    Wednesday, March 6, 4:00pm
    Sunday, March 10, 1:30pm


    SANDOR FUNTEK UB THE TRUK
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-25-2019 at 08:47 AM.

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    MAYA (Mia Hansen-Løve 2018)

    MIA HANSEN-LØVE: MAYA (2018)


    AARSHEE BANERJEE AND ROMAN KOLINKA IN MAYA

    A war correspondent, an ex-hostage released from Syria, spends time adrift in India

    Shown in its New York premiere as one of the most anticipated films of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Mia Hansen-Løve's sixth film, Maya, like the others, focuses on a person dealing - or not - with a big change that takes a deep emotional and intellectual toll. Her films have frequently had a distinctive before-and-after structure. Her first, All Is Forgiven/Tout est pardonné, skips eleven years midway to an "after" period post drug rehabilitation and remarriage and a child's growing up. Father of My Children/Le père de mes enfants has a second half after the suicide of the father, a shattering loss for everyone, including the viewer. The director's previous film, Things to Come/L'avenir, deals with the aftermath of its philosophy teacher protagonist's abandonment by her husband and her publishers.

    Maya, somewhat oddly named after its secondary character, is about the aftermath of trauma that we see only in the bruises on the protagonist's handsome body and an elaborate public and private reception of a heroic survivor - who, inevitably, suffers from survivor guilt. Gabriel (Roman Kolinka, by now a Hansen-Løve regular) is a French war correspondent who, after his return to France in a French government plane with fellow ex-prisoner and close comrade Frédéric (Alex Descas), winds up going back to India, where he grew up, to recover - or not - from the shock of his four months as a hostage in Syria. This trajectory is a considerable shift for Hansen-Løve herself, away from her native France, and Europe, and from French to mostly English dialogue.

    When the film opens we see the bruises on Gabriel's back as he comes out of a shower in a Jordan hotel. There will be many hotel rooms, luxury or country style, and shots of Gabriel bathing or shaving or being shaved. As Gabriel and Frédéric return to France, notably missing for them is their photographer associate, still a prisoner, whose situation will not end well. The two men submit to heavy publicity and batteries of tests. Many reviewers refer to Alex as "the great Alex Descas"; and perhaps we do feel his greatness, from Claire Denis' films, but his character exists here simple as a warm, confident source of camaraderie for Gabriel whose energy never flags. He represents duty, and the calling. Literally so when later on he face-calls Gabriel from Istanbul, already back in action. Frédéric, anyway, seems fine when they first return to France. Gabriel also seems okay, and in a quick series of scenes, declares that he wants no therapy or book deal, just to get back to business.

    But for Gabriel it's not going to be that easy. And having heard him questioned by a psychologist specialized in ex-prisoners, we know he admits to memories of physical and mental torture. He can't readjust to being in France, not to mention accept his ex girlfriend's offer of getting back together (she seems deluded by the emotion of the moment and the publicity). Instead, he goes off to India, where he grew up with his diplomat father and a mother who abandoned them, to see his godfather and visit a house in Goa that was left to him.

    Whether or not this was the right decision we don't ever know. What Gabriel ultimately seems to need is simply to return to war, to the action. But so at least with India we have one of the kind of sudden, inexplicable shifts at which Hansen-Løve excels and which are her trademark. Ideally, the shift will leave us, the viewers, quietly devastated. But this time there are problems and, while as usual interesting, this is for various reasons not up to Hansen-Løve's best. War correspondents in fiction films make me uneasy (Matthew Heinemann's A Private War about Marie Colvin is an exception, but it's barely fiction). So do films in which the director is working in a foreign language. Maya is both. A recent example is Joachim Trier's Louder Than Bombs, set in the US with a war correspondent played by Isabelle Huppert, where that terrific filmmaker did less than his best work.

    There is the further danger here that Hansen-Løve might be accused of a colonial, Disneyland-ish use of India. In part this is self-conscious. She has acknowledged a debt to Jean Renoir's The River. She has also said that after making Things to Come - she just needed to get away. What's more "away" than India?

    There is also a problem with Roman Kolinka, the lead, who, somewhat like the setting, seems partly chosen as scenery. But unlike chaotic and colorful India, Kolinka, tall, handsome, well built (and we get repeated glances at his near-nude body), is recessive and opaque as an actor and personality. We can understand: Gabriel is repressing, shut down. But he is a void at the center of the action.

    Gabriel is able revisit his family’s old house in Goa. He makes contact with godfather Monty (Pathy Aiya) and his college-age daughter, Maya (Aarshi Banerjee). He and Maya sense something in common, she having recently "escaped" from another European capital, London, where she was studying, but wasn't comfortable, to return to India, where she feels at home.

    Hansen-Løve has acknowledged the "colonial" aspect of her film explicitly. Its travelogue aspect is painfully explicit, when first Monty and then Maya, with whom Gabriel will develop a bond and then a thing, stiffly lecture each other and the audience about Goa and its exploitation. This is a film that, given the filmmaker's justifiably high reputation among cinephiles and critics, has been reviewed extensively. I've read all the reviews I could find on line and via Metacritic. The comment is almost universal: it's all too evident here that English is not Hansen-Løve's first language, nor that of her protagonist or most of the characters who come and go in the movie. The English dialogue is resultingly not only wooden or tinny, but sometimes simply incomprehensible. (French viewers can at least escape from the second issue by watching the film with French subtitles.)

    Gabriel and Maya contrive to go traveling together, and for quite a while this relationship seems comfortably platonic. Finally Maya is lying cuddled against Gabriel and when he tells her it's time to go to her room, she wittily utters, dramatically spaced apart, what she has earlier announced are the two only French words she knows: first "Oo-la-la!" (wow!) and then (as she heads out the door) "Degueulasse!" (disgusting!). This seemed to me - tellingly - Maya's best moment, the one when she most clearly illustrates reviewers' claims that she and debut actress Aarshee Banerjee are smart, as well as naive. Her smartness is often masked by wooden delivery of lines. Her only two French ones sparkle.

    My worst fear was that the movie would eventually just turn into a travelogue, and it does, with a thirty-something romancing a teenager, as Gabriel voyages across India (with a lightweight team of Hansen-Løve and her dp Helène Louvart using Super16 instead of Kodak 35mm) enroute to Mombai to be reunited with his mother (Johanna Ter Steege). It somewhat mystifies me why critics find the travel portion such a highlight, but certainly the film's most moving segment is the ultimately unsuccessful reunion, with the camera memorably following the mother away in her Tata car beyond the normal "goodbye" end point, showing her weeping alone behind the wheel, a moment that shows Hansen-Løve's gift for the unexpected emotionally devastating moment. This is still a great filmmaker. Nonetheless Kate Taylor of Globe & Mail hit the bull's when she wrote, " it’s never clear why being the object of a youthful crush might be a good cure for PTSD."

    Maya, 107 mins., debuted at Toronto, and listed in 13 festivals on IMDb including also London, AFI, and Gothenburg. French theatrical release 19 Dec. 2018, AlloCiné press rating only 3.3 (27 reviews); high ratings from some sophisticated reviews such as Les Inrocks and Cahiers,. Screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Mar. 2019.

    Rendez-Vous Showtimes
    Wednesday, March 6, 6:00 PM
    Thursday, March 7, 2:00pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-07-2019 at 03:07 PM.

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