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Thread: Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2019

  1. #16
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    METEORITES/LES MÉTÉORITES (Romain Laguna 2018)



    Sexual coming of age with visual flair and a strong lead

    This beautiful but no-nonsense summer-of-love coming of age picture entirely revolves around the sixteen-year-old Nina, played with flair and assurance by newcomer Zéa Duprez. Nina lives with her bohemian (tattooed, dope-smoking) mother Karine (Rosy Bronner) and army- bound brother Alex (Nathan Le Graciet) in a town-center flat. While Alex works in a vineyard, he rejects his father's suggestion he become a winemaker. For the nonce Nina, who has dropped out of school, takes a summer job at a theme park called Dinospace a bus ride away.

    Dp Aurelien Marra delivers the square-format 4:3 images in ripe color and the editing is clean and quick. The aspect ratio delivers something simple and earthy; it also emphasizes the mountains and verdant hills that are a backdrop for many scenes and intensifies the depth of a yellow covered bridge Nina runs through to catch the bus to work or, the first time, to miss it; and the tunnel she rides through on a motorbike, the red taillight glowing.

    This movie's tomboy spunk is balanced by a mystical side: Just before Nina meets her temporary boyfriend who gives her a brief sexual affair before disappearing for Algeria, she sees a meteorite disappear into one of the omnipresent mountains. It's not the sign of apocalypse, she decides, but that something new and important is coming to her.

    Morad (Bilal Agab) is the 19-year-old brother of Nina's co-worker Djamila (Oumaima Lyamouri). When they meet, there is a long mutual stare. Nothing need be said. Bilal warns Nina Morad won't stay around and will only hurt her, but she hooks up with him. Morad has been in juvenile detention for two years, she learns from him later. He has a man bun and a tattoo, deals, and rides a motorbike. His recognition of Nina's tomboy side shows when she's at his place, kids are playing ball, and he tells her "Show me what you've got." The combative relationship that develops between them makes up for their lack of romance.

    But later, she makes several long treks to Morad's and Djamila's place, and waits a long time for him to come out to see her. When she gets beat up by some rich girls whose iPhone she steals, he sticks around to be nice to her. What will she do when the job ends and he disappears? With its cell phones and trendy hair and references to the siege of Raqqa this is not a film like Marie Baie des Anges aiming to be classic and timeless and not like that favorite of mine meant to be a romance. It's how the girl spent a rough summer that had some unforgettably cool stuff in it. The filmmaker shows a sense of the moment. But what is timeless is the simple elegance of the filmmaking.

    Romain Laguna studied at the French national film academy La Fémis, and previously made several short films. He shot this debut feature near his home town of Béziers, in the south of France, using non-actors.

    Meteorites/Les Météorites, 85 mins., debuted in San Sebastien's New Directors competition May 20, 2018; it was also shown at Bron, France Les Alizé, and a French premiere; French theatrical release scheduled for May 2019. Reviewed by Neil Young for Hollywood Reporter and described in Variety. Screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Mar. 2019. North American Premiere.

    Rendez-Vous showtimes:
    Thursday, March 7, 4:15pm
    Sunday, March 10, 3:30pm

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-06-2019 at 02:49 PM.

  2. #17
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    AMANDA (Mikhaël Hers 2018)



    A young man and his young niece cope with loss in a terrorist attack

    Stephen Dalton, reviewing the film for Hollywood Reporter, calls Michaël Hers' Amanda "a quietly moving celebration of human resilience," but also "oddly devoid of passion or psychological nuance," and "a pleasantly banal film." This strange contradiction is true. Even in his first film Memory Lane (2010) I found Hers had a tendency to trivialize his material, while also already then drawn to sadness. One thing is clear and positive, though. This is another chance, well taken, for the prolific and increasingly known young actor Vincent Lacoste to expand his range into a more serious and adult mode - something he already got a chance to do in a big way when Christophe Honoré chose him for the (I would say more challenging) lead role in his complex autobiographical film Sorry Angel/Plaire, aimer et courir vite (NYFF 2018). This may seem a paradox, but doesn't one often find the best thing about a movie is the actors? Lacoste is out of his comfort zone of comedy and romance in both of these pictures.

    As the story begins, in the early summer, David Sorel(Lacoste) is just tentatively dealing with his life in his early twenties. He is spending a lot of time quite comfortably helping his sister Sandrine (Ophélia Kolb), a lycée English teacher, raise her 7-year-old daughter, Amanda (the round-faced, quietly feisty Isaure Multrier), and gently initiating a romance with a pianist, Léna (Stacy Martin of Nymphomaniac). The security of the situation is suddenly and brutally broken when, one day, David walks into a park full of dead bodies, the result of a terrorist attack (not quite corresponding to any real one) that has taken away Sandrine and wounded Léna. Hers shows the strewn, bloodied bodies, but goes into no further details. For the film, all that matter is that the grief-stricken David now becomes largely responsible for Amanda as a potential guardian.

    Family is relegated away in this story, to make the pressure on David greater. His and Sandrine's father is dead, and their mother has long ago left them and their father to live in London, and become estranged. A recent gesture on her part toward reconciliation, accepted by Sandrine, who's planned and paid for a Wimbledon trip there with David and Amanda, is left dangling. A benevolent aunt named Maud (Marianne Basler) shares in providing a place to sleep for Amanda for a while.

    Lacoste is muted here, and it works well, especially when he breaks into quiet sobbing that seems surprisingly real, and unstudied. But the action at this point is desultory-seeming; the energy, never high, begins to dissipate. Is anything going to happen? The strongest moments are when Amanda, who has been repressed (though discovered sobbing in the middle of the night by David), puts her foot down, complaining about being shunted back and forth been two households now, and refusing to let David remove her mother's toiletries from the bathroom. David is handling grief by being mired in work, still working as an arborist and doing duty for an Airbnb type unit, while sleeping over at Sandrine's place much of the time to be with Amanda when she's there. Léna has a damaged arm from the attack, but more than that is traumatized, and leaves Paris to rejoin her family.

    David goes to Léna one day and try to bring her back to Paris, but she feels they hardly know each other, and agrees only to a night of love. He carries out another gesture, bolder in a way: he takes Amanda for the trip to London., where they stay at an Airbnb, and do more travelogue-ish bike riding, of which he has done a lot already, and he wears more of an endless succession of T shirts. They meet his and Sandrine's long -estranged mother Alison (Greta Scacchi), Amanda's grandmother, in a London park, and get ice cream. David and Amanda share emotions at a tennis match.

    "Les choses de la vie," the things of life: they are fraught with meaning and intensity in a time like this of trauma and sorrow. But for a film to work, you've got to put some spin on them, give them some oomph. We don't need Michael Haneke, but I couldn't help remembering how devastating and unforgettable he made grief in Amour. And after all, an older life partner like the one played by Tritignant has a lot more to grieve about then the fresh-cheeked, curly-haired Vincent Lacoste, delicate an natural though he may be as an actor. He is more convincing and effective in his two other performances currently playing in New York: as the adventurous young gay man in love with an older writer dying of AIDS in Honoré's Sorry Angel, and as the passionate, challenged medical student in The Freshman. It's still a sweet, touching performance, but it could have been given more poignancy.

    Amanda, 107 mins., debuted at Venice 2018; also in festivals of Bordeaux, Tokyo and Montreal. In French cinemas Nov. 2018, with highly favorable press reception (AlloCiné press rating 4.0). Screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Mar. 2019. (Guy Lodge paints a much more glowing picture of Amanda in his Variety review.)

    Rendez-Vous showtime:
    Saturday, March 2 6:00pm
    Q&A with Mikhaël Hers
    Saturday, March 9 1:30pm
    U . S . P R E M I E R E
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-02-2019 at 04:52 PM.

  3. #18
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    INVISIBLES/LES INVISIBLES (Louis-Julien Petit 2018)



    Vérité comedy about homeless women and their frustrated advocates

    Louis-Julien Petit is a French heir to Ken Loach whose latest film about poor people has been a crowd pleaser well received by the winter season French audience. His previous one, Discount, was about supermarket employees who steal and resell goods in revolt against being laid off and replaced by automated pay stations. So it's not surprising that this time, inspired by Claire Lajeunie's non-fiction book Sur la route des invisibles, he focuses on a group of social workers who respond to the closing of their homeless women's day center (known as l’Envol) for being unprofitable by illegally requisitioning a vacant warehouse to replace it, and developing a much more elaborate than normal program of empowerment and training for the women at the new location.

    Welding together both pro and authentic cast members, Petit has defined an engaging topic informed by his personal passion and a lengthy period he spent in the field. However there is faltering in the treatment. An emphasis on hilarity and uplift keeps the action from digging as deep as it should into the painful and difficult lives of the women depicted. At some point the whole structure loses its way in a series of entertaining but increasingly unhinged improvisations. The aim clearly is to wind up with feel-good celebratory action. And that happens. But somewhere along the line the movie, though enjoyable, runs off the rails, and its good social intentions get lost in the giddy hilarity.

    The spirit behind the film is right, though, and the action is informed by the presence of a panoply of colorful characters whose essence is authentic. Real homeless women were engaged to depict versions of themselves.

    There are, moreover, two sets of "invisible ones" here. The "SDF's", the homeless ones, are played with abandon by real non-actors. But there is also the core of social workers, played by professional actors, Aubrey Lamy, Corinne Masiero, Noémie Lvovsky, and Déborah Lukumuena. Their characters, too, turn out to be essentially invisible: poorly paid, discouraged, and at war on a daily basis with a heartless and unresponsive bureaucracy that keeps them from providing the kind of help they have in mind for their charges. However, Petit falters also in his depiction of the social workers, making the picture overwrought and containing unnecessary plot lines like a younger brother who lacks the courage to propose to his girlfriend, and a ditsy bourgeois wife who steals from her house to supply material for the training course.

    It all takes place in a gray and unspecified northern French city. Once the social workers move their homeless women to the clandestine location, they seek aggressively to train and inspire them to become hirable, because the claim was that without at hires, the SDF's showed evidence of stagnation, and without progress, the center did not prove its right to exist.

    It's the custom to allow the ladies to take pseudonyms so many are called names like "Edith Piaf," "Simone Weil," "La Ciciollina," 'Salma Hayek," "Vanessa Paradis," or "Brigitte Macron." First among the homeless women is Chantal (Adolpha Van Meerhaeghe) , who's learned carpentry, electronics, and other things while in prison for the murder of her husband. Her fix-it skills make her potentially hirable, but she keeps blabbing about where she learned her skills and why she was there to every potential employer. It takes Audrey (Audrey Lamy), Manu (Corinne Masiero), Hélène (Noémy Lvovsky) and Angélique (Déborah Lukumuena) a long time to make Chantal understand that not revealing derogatory information that you don't need to reveal is not "lying," and therefore is okay.

    Many other colorful women with varied stories emerge in what come across as a series of intense improv sessions, some of which are enlightening, some just goofy. In the end, it is pleasing to see many of the women gain self respect through self-formed training programs at the warehouse, and one by one, some of them becoming hirable. But the actual path by which SDV's might reach this goal doesn't seem so clear, as all is lost in the play-acting and the bypaths exploring the social workers' backgrounds.

    Invisibles/Les Invisibles 102 mins., debuted Aug. 2018 at Angoulême; also several other francophone festivals. French theatrical release 9 Jan. 2019 to good reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.5; viewers, 4.2). Screened for this review as part of the 2018 UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.

    There is an article about the film in Variety by Ben Croll; and reviews by Jordan Mintzer in Hollywood Reporter, Lisa Nesselson in Screen Daily, and Kurt Brokow in The Independent. For a view close to mine, see Christophe Foltzer in Écran Large.

    Rendez-Vous showtimes
    Thurs. Mar. 7 at 6:15 PM
    Q&A with Louis-Julien Peti &, Deborah Lukumuen
    Friday, Mar. 8 at 1:30 PM
    Thursday, March 7, 6:15pm
    Friday, March 8, 1:30pm

    Invisibles/Les Invisibles 102 mins., debuted at Angoulême; also at the festival of Saint-Jean-de Luz. French theatrical release 9 Jan. 2019, receiving above-average reviews (AlloCiné 3.6). Screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Mar. 2019.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-09-2019 at 11:02 AM.

  4. #19
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area




    A cruel system and a fraught friendship

    For the third time Thomas Lilti, whose hospital drama Hippocrates: Diary of a French Doctor played in the 2015 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, draws on his medical background again for an intense, no-nonsense recreation of the experience of French medical students going through the grueling "first year" of the national system. He brings back Vincent Lacoste, who, less known five years ago, played a clumsy hospital intern in Hippocrates, and this time goes back in time a bit to play Antoine, who is beginning his third attempt at first year, which ends in an entrance exam that's an obstacle in the way of actual medical specialization in France.

    Antoine meets Benjamin (William Lebghil) this time as classes begin, a boy who's more at ease because growing up in a medical family makes him more comfortable than Antoine with the whole idea of these studies and concepts. They join up as pals and study buddies, entering the whirlwind of rote learning and personal confusion about vocational goals. Clearly Antoine passionately desires to continue medical school, but the dry material doesn't come easily to him, and this third effort drives him to the brink. Benjamin's father is a doctor and his family is one of privilege. He is relaxed about the whole process, it comes easily. And yet it's not certain that he cares. His father's withholding of encouragement is a clear factor in his apparent uncertainty.

    Lilti is faced with the issue of how to make a story consisting largely of cramming abstruse medical lore interesting to a general audience, and he doesn't try. To begin with of course he saves us from making this process utterly lonely by focusing on the study pals, Antoine and Benjamin, and their relationship. Nonetheless we get fed a large quantity of incomprehensible medical factoids, and most scenes are of library or study and of memorizing data.

    In his Hollywood reporter review Boyd van Hoeij calls this film "Lilti lite" and describes it as "a rambling and semi-impressionistic account" and "exercise in nostalgia" that will "mostly be of interest to doctors or doctors-turned-directors." But while he may be right that it's "less likely to play well abroad" than Lilti's intern drama and "conspicuously absent from the fall festival calendar," there are raucous moments of pressured students letting off steam, but "lite" it is not. The piles of material the first-year students are faced with cramming put them under grim pressure that never lets up.

    French critics have noted this is actually the most heavy and serious of Lilti's medical trilogy. It's also by clear implication a strong indictment of the current French system that allows only a tiny fraction of hopefuls into medical training and rejects over 85% every year with a brutal exam favoring rote learning.

    Lilti's second medical feature Country Doctor/Médecin de campagne (2016), which I haven't seen, was just as popular as Hippocrates, without winning the raft of French award nominations Hippocrates received. The Freshman did very well with both French critics and public, who were inspired with national concern about the Draconian first-year filtering system and the toll it takes on young aspirants and touched by the intensity and social implications of the fraught relationship between Antoine and Benjamin. Ultimately viewer patience with the repetitive material will pay off. The toll on Antoine and the trajectory of the boys' relationship becomes absorbing to watch. But the the sui generis selection process may not play as well in non-French arthouses. It will do best with those whose memories of grueling university days are still vivid.

    The Frenshman/Première annéee, 92 mins., premiered 30 May 2018 in France, in Lille. It made it to one French festival, Angoulême (30 Aug.). French theatrical release 12 Sept. yielded an AlloCiné press rating of 3.7. Screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Mar. 2019.

    Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, NYC:
    ]Thursday, March 7, 9:00pm

    Saturday, March 9, 3:45pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-28-2019 at 11:31 AM.

  5. #20
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    SCHIOOL'S OUT/L'HEURE DE LA SORTIE (Sebastien Marnier 2018)



    Class of nowhere

    You may recall François Ozon's In the House (R-V 2012), in which "A high school French teacher is drawn into a precocious student's increasingly transgressive story about his relationship with a friend's family." The victim was played by Fabrice Lucchini. Other French films about teachers with difficult students led to grief for these actors: François Bégaudeau in Entre les murs (2008), Isabelle Adjani in La journée de la jupe (2008) and Isabelle Huppert in Madame Hyde (2018).*

    Well here is another one and it is a good one: Laurent Lafitte, an actor the French are taking a liking to (he's in another film in the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Paul Sanchez Is Back! ), in Sébastien Marnier's jazzy, beautiful, disturbing School's Out/L'Heure de la sortie. Pierre is a substitute called in temporarily to replace the French teacher of an exceptionally brilliant class of snotty élèves at the fancy St. Joseph school (have you ever seen classrooms as elegant as this?) when their regular prof has offed himself by jumping out the window. It doesn't take long for us to suspect that these students may have driven their prof to do himself in; may be fast on their way to driving Pierre in the same direction. They know how to put him down and ask impertinent, embarrassing questions. And give condescending answers. Kafka, who he's, at forty - isn't that old to be only a substitute? one asks - doing his late dissertation on? Yes of course they've all read him. They're doing next year's work. And they don't approach it that old way anymore.

    They soon have Pierre following them and spying on them as they do peculiar, scary things to each other and carry out odd rituals: this suggests Hitchcock and a Stephen King horror movie, but with an elegant, sun-kissed French look. And Laurent Lafitte is a big, tall muscled man with matching tattoos on both shoulders. He has an ex-boyfriend whose arms are covered with them, and is a tattoo artist. He's unattached and admits to a colleague he's afraid of attachment, and afraid of being afraid (or is it of people who are afraid?).

    And the students likewise. Where they are going we can only guess, but it's nowhere good. This is a movie full of surprises even as its genre aspects make it seem pleasingly familiar, but not quite. This is an excellent entertainment we can't spoil by talking about too much, and it relates to very contemporary issues, things that make the younger generation see nothing but doom in their futures and feel nothing but anger and contempt toward their elders.

    Lafitte is a compelling presence. The kids are increasingly disquieting. The photography by Romain Carcanade sparkles. The production design by Guillaume Deviercy has a sticky glow. The music by the group Zombie Zombie is pleasingly doom-riven. In the face of all the creepy horror invading Pierre's digs and the apocalyptic and suicidal rituals of the kids, the double finales, though ambitious for a small French production, may feel somewhat climactic.

    School's Out/L'heure de la sortie, 107 mins., debuted at Venice Aug. 2018; shown at Austin Fantastic Fest. Sept. 2018. Opened theatrically in France 9 Jan. 2019 to excellent reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.7). Screened for this review as part of the 2018 UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.

    Rendez-Vous showtimes:
    Friday, March 8, 3:45pm
    Saturday, March 9, 8:30pm (Q&A with Sébastien Marnier)

    *See Louis Guichard, Télérama.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-09-2019 at 11:30 AM.

  6. #21
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area




    In search of an exhausted, hysterical imposter

    Patricia Mazuy's surprising police thriller - a laugh, a puzzler, and an adrenaline rush - takes us to a place we don't know, the warm, semi-mountainous region of Le Var, a completely unfashionable part of the Côte d'Azur. At first the action looks quite conventional: a police procedural involving bumbling provincial cops. But a lot of energy is generated with this simple, familiar raw material creating a mix of suspense, humor, sexiness, the penetration of a dark violent mind, and sustained mystery - even as we seem to be seeing all that's happening. The ending may be obvious - it's been telegraphed repeatedly - but still takes one aback. There is something crowd-pleasing, yet also almost conceptual, a flip-around of the genre. This shows the French are smart, even in recognizing how dumb they can be. It's all done with material that's universal, like celebrity killers, media madness, ambitious young people, and provincial desperation.

    Acknowledgement of stupidity focuses particularly on the true-blue rural French Gendarmerie. That's the proud crew we peer in on where we meet some key characters. Marion (Zita Hanrot) is the eager young woman on the staff who wants to work her way to the top and gain the admiration of her commander, and that's how she addresses him at every opportunity, "Mon Commandant" (Philippe Girard). The commander is a dry, reedy fellow, secure in his command and firm in his advocacy of tact and restraint. Things are quiet here, and he wants them to stay that way. The offices of the Gendarmerie are interesting. They are spiffy and up to date, yet nothing is going on. Somebody filming himself slashing Arab guys' tires and posting it on YouTube is a big story.

    Tact and restraint don't describe what Marion has just been doing, which is trying to arrest Johnny Depp for getting a blow job on the road, and then seizing his Porsche and driving it away. But while this famous person's name is being bandied about, up pops the name of the most ambitious young local journalist, Yohann Poulain de Var-Matin (Idir Chender), who wants to be famous. The commander wants to keep him far away from Johnny Depp's Porsche or any word of his recent behavior. But soon Yohann is there: nobody is far away.

    Word is going around HQ of another celebrity, suddenly sending emails and making phone calls to local people. He is the grizzly, long-gone local murderer, Paul Sahchez, "the Beast of Gévaudan, Jack the Ripper," who killed his wife and children and incinerated them and escaped a decade ago, and has never been caught. After sightings round the world but never being close to capture, word is he's suddenly, inexplicably, in Le Val. And he is, sort of, and his presence, real or imagined, is going to dominate the rest of the movie, and provide its mix of desperation and adrenaline, contrasting unhinged events with confusing coverage by contrasting local and national media.

    This was the last film I saw in the 2019 New York Rendez-Vous with French cinema, and confirmed that for me the discovery of the series was the male actor Laurent Lafitte, of the Comédie Française. Lafitte, a tall, muscularly built man with a dark, dour yet sympathetic face, surely should be hard to miss. But he has been hiding from me in plain sight, since he turns out to have sixty-two film credits (as well as no doubt many stage ones), including roles in such notable films as The Crimson Rivers, Tell No One and Elle. But the day before I saw him in this film, where he has the leading role, I saw him play the lead in Sébastien Marnier's elegantly edgy thriller, School's Out/L'heure de la sortie, where he memorably plays the role of Pierre, beleaguered substitute teacher of a class of maniacally brilliant and dangerous young teenagers.

    The producer of Paul Sanchez told us Laurent Lafitte is very famous in France. Now we know why. He is, once you notice him, a powerful presence. Let's forget the twenty-five-year-old rising star Vincent Lacoste for the moment - both star in two films of this year's Rendez-Vous - and focus on the forty-five-year-old Lafitte.

    Here, he plays Didier Gérard, a local guy who sells swimming pools, who has gone berserk and disappeared from his family. (Earlier, we have seen his wife come to the station to report his disappearance. Marion has told her not to worry, to get her hair done.) Evidently though Le Val isn't rich and fashionable, it has people who can afford pool constructions, along with the right climate for them. Soon we realize it's Didier Gérard (Laurent Lafitte), driving around in a gaudy, rather pathetic little company panel truck, failing in getting bank approval for a twenty-four thousand euro SUV, now calling Yohann and saying that he's Paul Sanchez, back in town, mulling over his past violence and contemplating more.

    As we follow the doings of Yohann and the police, we're also following Didier Gérard, who's a man increasingly wildly on the run. Whoever this man is - and we start to wonder - the film editing, plus Laurent Lafitte's presence, generates a hysterical, and yet also weary and desperate, energy.

    Yohann and Marion are excited, and drawn to each other. They seem the right couple. The weather is hot, the time is right. They get it on. Almost. But the phone calls are increasing. Yohann has to take one, just when they get naked: Marion knows who it is. Which is more exciting, sex or a notorious killer? Sadly, for this ambitious young couple, it's the killer. Or the chance of one.

    Marion's foolishness with Johnny Depp has hinted how unreliable, what a potential loose canon she is. And yet her energy suggests uprightness and duty. But the buffoonery of the Gendarmerie increases with the hysterical flight of "Paul Sanchez" through the region, trashing his own real identity, setting fire to it, hiding on Roquebrune rock, but sneaking into town to use the internet, stealing weapons. He frantically buys stuff to supply his hiding out, and a couple at a convenience store definitely confirm it: Paul Sanchez is back! They have seen him. This is all the commandant needs to conclude the rumor is true, to call out the gendarmerie and start combing the region.

    But Marion has an inside line, and she finds her way directly to him, and tries to keep him to herself. In the event, she will have none of Didier Gérard's protestation now: "I am not Paul Sanchez!"

    We can't reveal more; we've already revealed too much. But it will be just as much fun to watch it unreel nonetheless.

    Another note: just before the film was introduced to the audience, someone confided to me he'd been told this was the best film of the festival - because it was endorsed by Cahiers du Cinéma. An interesting endorsement. Cahiers certainly rarely likes a film. Generally their critics detest the films other critics most like. Worth considering.

    Cahiers is not wrong. Patricia Mazuy, here, does something admirable and enjoyable: there are pleasing genre elements but there is no genre predictability here. She takes convention and turns it on its head, providing fresh insights, an enjoyable watch, and non-stop energy. And she makes admirable use of the tall body and the dour, tired, slightly frightening face of a new idol already well known to the French: Laurent Lafitte of the Comédie Française.

    This is the rare Patricia Mazuy's fifth feature (she made only only four over the past 30 years). It's enlivened by a percussive, bracingly strange score by John Cale.

    Paul Sanchez Is Back!/Paul Sanchez est revenu!, 110 mins., opened theatrically in France 18 Jul. 2018; later Warsaw and Mar del Plata fest showings. A small number of very good French reviews were received (AlloCiné 3.3). Screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Mar. 2019.

    [b] Rendez-Vous showtimes:
    Friday, March 8, 8:30pm
    Saturday, March 9, 5:45pm\North American Premiere
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-14-2019 at 11:22 PM.

  7. #22
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    SINK OR SWIM (Gilles Lellouche 2018)


    Desperate pleasures

    Gilles Lelouche's movie Sink or Swim is a bold, crazy, satisfying tale and one of France's most popular movies of the year. It's about the empowerment and recognition of a small group of desperate men, à la Full Monty. They meet at their municipal swimming pool every week to train in a sport normally relegated to woman: synchronized swimming, an absurd activity for men, most would think, but one that lets them feel useful in a common pursuit and forget their worries. Camaraderie absorbs desperation. And eventually leads to triumph - because, with their two wildly energetic and equally eccentric female trainers (both desperate in their own way), they conceive, and execute, the absurd fantasy of competing in the world men's synchronized swimming competition in Norway. This film, a charmer at home perhaps, has little future in international competition itself: Guy Lodge called a "a mostly innocuous but unmemorable exercise" in his Cannes review for Variety.

    In this outlandish effort (movie and story) the filmmakers have elicited some of France's best known film actors, Matthieu Amalric (as Bertrand, who starts things off, at the pool to escape his two years of unemployment and depression and finding the notice of the team on the bulletin board), Guillaume Canet, Benoît Poelvoorde, Jean-Hugues Anglade, and Philippe Katerine, plus a couple of oddball unknowns to round out the group, and as their coaches the estimable Virginie Efira (of Justine Triet's In Bed with Victoria) and Leila Bekhti. These men are not handsome, for the most part they are not young, they're not in particularly good shape. They have all sorts of problems. But that doesn't stop them. One of the characters speaks only Sinhalese. Everyone understands. It's that kind of movie.

    This film succeeds, and is interesting, because of the constant unpredictable ways the tale of male empowerment is interrupted by the unpredictable and outlandish but also familiar and universal personal stories of Bertrand, Marcus, Simon, Laurent, Thierry, and the others. How well this plays outside francophone territories is uncertain. French comedy does not tend to translate ideally, and this is quintessentially almost a patriotic local crowd-pleaser. But there is, obviously, a strong visual element, most obviously in the glorious competition finale with its thrilling music and dazzling colors and lights. Lelouche shamelessly seeks to surprise us: nothing is allowed us to anticipate how brilliantly the little team will be able to perform in Norway, and that includes the team members themselves, who are desperately frightened and overwhelmed as they head toward the competition pool.

    This film is overstuffed, but its slightly over two-hour run time makes sense with so such disparate characters to develop in some depth. We explore Simon (Jean-Hugues Anglade), who works in the kitchen of his daughter's school, lives in a van, and has made over two dozen self-produced albums nobody listens to; Marcus (Benoît Poelvoorde)a man concealing mostly only from himself that his business is going under; Laurent (Guillaume Canet)m who has spectacular marital problems. Americans are unlikely to know Philippe Katerine (or that he played Boris Vian in Gainsburg: A Heroic Life), but as Thierry, he is a memorable eccentric who looks like Claes Oldenburg and acts like an energetic clown, more competent than he seems. Delphine (Efira), who shouts at the team (but not as brutally as Leïla Bekhti's wheelchair bound Amanda when Delphine's out of commission for a while in rehab) chain smokes and reads poetry as part of her instruction: she is a recovering drunk, two years sober, having lost control when her ace swimming career was derailed.

    You never know when a scene from one of these lives will intrude on the picture. It's that unpredictability that (at least intermittently) undercuts the feel-good obviousness of the self-realization tale. And from everything, Lellouche and his editor Simon Jacquet know how to take a complete break once in a while, most satisfyingly when, after the successful competition, the team stops in their van to stand in quiet awe and admiration before a glorious Nordic sunset.

    Sink or Swim/Le grand bain, 122 mins., debuted at Cannes 13 May 2018 out of competition. It opened 23 Oct. 2018 in France, receiving a 4.1 press rating and 3.9 public score on AlloCiné. It received ten César Award nominations, including Best Film, Director, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Screenplay, and Cinematography.equaled only by Xavier Legrand'sCustody (R-V 2018), the eventual Best Picture winner.Screened for this review as part of the 2019 UniFrance-Film Society of Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.

    Rendez-Vous showtimes:
    Saturday, March 2, 8:45pm
    Monday, March 4, 9:00pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-03-2019 at 08:51 AM.

  8. #23
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    A lot of the films seem to fall into either silly comedies or earnest social studies, with playful philosophical stories in between, which may also be love stories. And a bit of genre (would that there were more!).

    Silly comedies

    Obvious silly comedies are the opening night film, Pierre Salvadori's THE TROUBLE WITH YOU, Quentin Duprieux's consistently nutty AU POSTE! (the English title KEEP AN EYE OUT! is a witty bit of word play), Gilles Lellouche's grandly appealing feel-good ensemble comedy SINK OR SWIM/LE GRAND BAIN, and (why not?) Bruno Dumont's COINCOIN miniseries. That may be a very peculiar auteur silly comedy, but silly comedy it is. Within his own self-defined genre, Dumont reigns supreme. I would like to see him do a serious feature film again.

    Partly I feel these are brought into the series because they were very popular in France. But their success shows that actually, sometimes, a French comedy can make sense in English subtitles.


    Earnest issue films.

    Earnest "issue" films seem somehow more typical of French cinema, but it may be merely that they play better with the US arthouse audience. More of the Rendez-Vous fell into this category: Michaël Hers's AMANDA (about terrorism and grief), Thomas Lilti's THE FRESHMAN (about a cruel selection system), Eva Husson's GIRLS OF THE SUN (not a French story, but a woman director'e earnest war story). Jeanne Henry's IN SAFE HANDS/PUPILLE is about the fate of a baby. This might just be a TV movie here. But the French take their social issues seriously, so it's a good deal more.

    INVISIBLES is about homeless women and the social workers who bend the rules trying to help them. It combines feel-good social issues picture with silly comedy. In so doing, it loads on more than one movie can easily carry.

    THE TRUK/L'ENCAS is the reverse, a debut film so pared-down it leaves one cold. But its lead is charismatic and its storytelling impressively efficient.

    MAYA is about a war correspondent recovering from hostage trauma by traveling in India. This is sweetening the pill too. But it is also a Mia Hansen-Løve film, so it is unpredictable and complex even if the reliance on English dialogue and the exotic setting lead her astray.

    Vergil Vernier's willfully edgy SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS is about issues too, the issue of violence predominant. It's very serious, even if its prurience undercuts that and it fails to convince.


    Philosophical and playful love stories

    Good examples of these are Sophie Fillières' amusing MARGAUX MEETS MARGAUX/LA BELLE ET LA BELLE and Judith Davis' vivid WHATEVER HAPPENED TO MY REVOLUTION/TOUT CE QUI RESTE DE MA RÉVOLUTION. They're intellectual but also amorous studies. Romain Laguna METEORITES is a tale of young love - or a girls's sexual adventure - but it also has a mystical or spiritual element, hence the meteorites. This surely is an area in which the French excel.

    Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's THE SUMMER HOUSE/LES ESTIVANTS is bookended by the filmmaker's own character's abandonment by her man. In between there is all kinds of Checkovian family drama, and philosophy too, I'm sure.

    Genre films.

    A film festival is unlikely to include a pure genre film. But genre provides a welcome leavening of the mix. With SCHOOL'S OUT/L'HEURE DE LA SORTIE Sébastien Marnier delivers a mix of of horror and mystery within a familiar format: the teacher tormented and exploited by his students. Patricia Mazuy's PAUL SANCHEZ IS BACK!/PAUL SANCHEZ EST REVENU! is a genre-twister too, and both star the riveting Laurent Lafitte - the discovery, for me, of this year's Rendez-Vous.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-11-2019 at 12:19 AM.

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