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    Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2019

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-10-2019 at 09:22 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 12:02 PM. 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 09:09 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 08:15 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 03:16 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 09:18 PM.

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