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Thread: Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2022

  1. #1
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    Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2022

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-04-2023 at 10:14 AM.

  2. #2
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    Poetry of madness

    There is assurance of style in every frame of this austere, grim movie not unworthy of Dreyer or Bresson. This is a manner that suits the single-minded, devout, intensely troubled young protagonist with a compulsion to kill and equally well a more general theme: poverty in early 1900's France. As with those masters there is a severe, unifying beauty hiding behind the bleakness. Thus the soft autobiographical voiceover is a kind of plaintive song. The whole look of people, clothes, and the real settings is superb. Vincent Le Port, who is 36, using actual texts, has made an impressive feature film debut about this historical person, who, at seventeen, fulfilling a dream (or giving way to a compulsion) that had grown over many years and that he had resisted in vain, murdered and decapitated a boy of thirteen, then turned himself in to authorities.

    This event and the desperation of Bruno's thoughts is not shirked but faced head-on by the filmmaker, with distinction. It's mistaken to perceive anything exploitative here. Not excessive but necessary also is these early criminologists and psychologists' extensive explorations of Bruno's sexuality, central to his case. Bruno's hateful, murderous thoughts of other boys date from a very early age. He's taught to masturbate traumatically by a shepherd who sexually molests him. Another primal experience is witnessing the slaughtering of a pig, an annual event of the villagers in Raulhac, in the Cantal in southeastern France where all this transpires. He runs away with hands over ears to shut out the screaming of the pig. Shortly after he hears of a man being killed and realizes that not just pigs, but men can be slaughtered. His hatred of other boys is a kind of violent envy - or desire - and he stimulates himself to masturbate, often many times a day, by imagining violent actions against them.

    In the opening frames we glimpse young Bruno Reidal (excellent newcomer Dimitri Doré) committing the murder. From then on the focus is on his relation to a panel of psychologist-criminologists who interview him (this framework is a bit stiff, a convention we must accept). Since he was an excellent student, they ask Bruno to write about himself in prison and the words of this autobiography, spoken by him, form the voiceover for the rest of the film, a series of flashbacks tracing Bruno's life up to the murder and its immediate aftermath. Doré is fine, and also Alex Fanguin, as Bruno at six, and Roman Villedieu, who plays him at ten; and the two younger boys bear a remarkable resemblance to Doré. Also notable is Jean-Luc Vincent as the chief investigator, the memorably mustachioed Professeur Lacassagne, the French pioneer in criminal anthropology.

    Bruno is weak, frail, and stunted looking, or seems so at first. The impression must be corrected somewhat, though, because this is no simple example of "failure to thrive." The boy was first in his class, or would be if he'd had better handwriting (it's little and pinched, but spreads smoothly across the page in well-spaced lines). In the last, crucial year of the story Bruno attends the minor seminary school of Saint Flour on a scholarship paid by neighbors of the impoverished farmer family from which he comes (and he is always dressed poorly than any of the other boys, whom he regards as beautiful but also hates. He is a misfit and loner as before, but at Saint Flour, working very hard to control his sexuality (and surely to succeed, to use his intellect), he wins seven prizes and is his happiest. And some of the other boys are friendly to him, notably Blondel (Tino Vigier), who comes to borrow a Latin dictionary during the, for Bruno, very difficult summer vacation, and comes back to go on a scholarly walk. Bruno wants to kill Blondel, but cannot do it. Rather than wait, he chooses a smaller boy, Francois (Tristan Chiodetti), who, also handsome and confident in Bruno's eyes as well as smaller and less able to resist, qualities almost equally well for the deed that Bruno is compelled to do.

    All the while Bruno, as played by Doré, expresses himself in a style that's literary, formal, and poetic. It's almost as if he's seeking in speech and writing to reshape his unhappy, distorted intellect into something that, when looked at through words, is transformed into poetry, a killer poem, a poetry of madness and sickness. His devoutness makes him not a bad choice for a seminary. He long considered suicide, he tells his investigators, but chose murder because for that he could repent; after suicide he wouldn't be able to.

    Allan Hunter at Cannes (July 13, 2021 ) in Screen Daily saw all the beauty and accomplishment of this severe, off-putting film (which some reviewers imperceptively, if in a way understandably, mistake for exploitative or one-note). Hunter calls this a "riveting debut feature," and praises the way Le Port takes a "true crime case" and changes it into something both "chilling" and "utterly compelling" as a "journey through the mind" of the young killer. He notes the "extraordinary central performance" of newcomer Doré that is essential to the (I'm talking here) soft sweetness of this troubled, sensitive, intelligent killer, whose formally elegant prose Le Port worked with in developing his script. Hunter's absolutely right when he notes how "the images of workers in the fields and farm life could have come from a painting by Pissarro or Jean-Francois Millet" - noting the achieved authenticity of all the visual aspects; but also the literary resonance, because "Reidal and his family could be characters from the pages of Victor Hugo or Emile Zola." An analogy I wasn't aware of that Hunter points to Rene Allio’s 1976 Moi, Pierre Riviere (1976); the subject matter and narrative sources of the two films indeed seem to have have parallels worth following up on. Bruno Reidal is trapped in a mental aberration he cannot control and his final speech in the film is the quiet, almost detached admission, "Quoique je fasse, des scènes de meurtre sont pour moi pleine de charme," Scenes of murder for me are full of charm." (The sparingly used score comes from the hand of Olivier Messiaen and Charles Ives.)

    This is a story that is a search for understanding. The criminologists who are examining Bruno episodically through his own written text and their in-person interrogations conclude with a diagnosis that the final intertitles explain. If the film works for you as it emphatically did for me, the result will be insight into an alien being. This is a classic style masterpiece, but it may take some time to be recognized. There are detractors who mistake if to an exploitive film. It's certainly not an easy watch but it is a rewarding one, and Vincent Le Port and Dimitri Doré are both worth watching for in future. Le Port has received prizes (including the Jean Vigo award and a César for best short film) for his earlier short work. Doré who was born in Lithuania and brought to Paris at age one and is now 24, was heralded by France Culture in January 2018 as "the young prodigy of the theatrical scene." The French Wikipedia article on Doré shows that his acting career has exploded in the past few years. He will be remembered for this role if for no other.

    Bruno Reidal, Confession of a Murderer /Bruno Reidal, confession d'un meutrier, 101 mins., coproduced with logo Capricci by Arte, debuted Jul. 12, 2021 at Cannes International Critics' Week, nominated there for the Camera d'Or and Queer Palm; Angers (Prix Jean Carmet for best actor for Dmitri Doré), Jerusalem, Merlinka, Reykjavik, all with nominations; also Bari, Paris (Chéries-Chéris Paris Gay Film Festival) and London (BFI Flare LGBTQ+ Festival). Scheduled for release Mar. 23, 2022 in France, it is included in the joint UniFrance and Lincoln Center series Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (Mar. 3-13, 2022). After release the AlloCiné press rating was 4.1 (82%).
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-30-2022 at 10:06 PM.

  3. #3
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    OUR MEN/MON LEGIONAIRE (Rachel Lang 2021)




    A woman's gaze on professional military life and its domestic toll

    Louis Garrel stars as a second lieutenant in the French Foreign Legion leading a counter insurgency mission in Mali in this woman's look at professional military life and its toll on relationships. Costarring as his wife Céline is Camille Cottin of "Call My Agent. Rachel Lang, who wrote and directed and served in the army herself, follows two linked military couples in this cool and at times documentary-realistic exploration of French Foreign Legion life that closed the Cannes 2021 Directors’ Fortnight section. It's a nice outing for Garrel, a new direction for which he seems to have beefed up and gotten into great shape. Though some of the action puts men in mortal danger, there's a sunny lightness about many of the scenes; the contrast reflects a disconnect and an underlying weakness.

    Peter Bradshaw gave it four our of five stars and spoke glowingly of the film's "intelligence, candor and unaffected artistry," acknowledging the "clear, cool lens" that leaves the action "almost drained of dramatic inflection or emphasis," omitting music (he means no score: there are rousing military choruses), closeups, climactic scenes or monologues, yet remaining nonetheless "entirely engrossing." As he says, through the "cool lens" we nonetheless provided with vivid glimpses of "Fear, death, violence, sex and infidelity," as well as brawny bare male torsos and repeated dark silhouettes of Garrel bathing frontally nude. But the film winds up feeling perhaps just a little too detached, none of those elements fully grabbing the audience, making it seem, despite some snappy military action, that Lang is more telling than showing, more commenting than bringing to life.

    The exoticism of the legendary Legion comes through in languages, Russian, Corsican, French, Bambara. Corsica provides the Legion's beautiful if isolated training ground and HQ where also the wives live. Nika (Ina Marija Bartaité) and Vlad (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) are the secondary couple to Maxime (Garrel) and Céline's main one. Vlad is a tightly-wound soldier in Maxime's command. Maxime think's "worried" is good, for him, "Otherwise it becomes routine; that's the trap" (le piège). Nika, Vlad's fiancée, who has come from Ukraine to be with him, languishes at home where she meets Céline and begins to babysit their little boy, Paul (Léo Lévy), while Céline works as a lawyer. The fact that she wants her own child and Vlad doesn't makes Nika's lonely eyes wander to local men, including a soulful driving instructor (Jean Michelangeli). A key line comes when challenged by other military wives: "If I can't have a child, at least I can have friends." They become more than that, of course.

    When leave comes midway, Maxime expresses frustration to Céline with a four-month mission that was withdrawn too soon "to do things right," he tells her. Lang gets across that while the mostly male military unit (there's a female superior officer) is having an exciting time on mission, coming back to home base still eager for more, the wives and kids at home, including lawyer Céline and Paul (who listens to a song about a soldier dad who dies), are bored, lonely, and worried. A little like William James, Jeremy Renner's sapper in Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, Maxime is drained and not quite present on leave, and Vlad has too short a fuse for domestic life. The Hurt Locker is about a military maniac and that would overstate the case, but it's a film whose intensity and artistry puts this one to shame.

    It's clear where Rachel Lang is going with this, a little too clear: though she's not ultimately that into the military operations, she recognizes the discipline, the challenges, the danger of Foreign Legion life on active mission is damned exciting, but the politics behind such a career can be faulted, and for sure it's hell on domestic life. In fact this is so well acted out that despite impeccable mise-en-scène, casting, and acting and some nice individual scenes the storyline never quite builds up much emotional value. Even the death of one of the main characters feels remote. Lang rounds things out artistically with a brief homoerotic fantasy sequence of Maxime's unit tussling shirtless in combative slow motion duos to a background of French rap, a sequence obviously reminiscent of the mother of all female-directed French Foreign Legion films, Claire Denis' Beau Travail. But it feels tacked on, too late to raise the military side of this binary picture to a higher level either emotional or aesthetic.

    Garrel has actually been in ten films since this one already, two of which (The Crusade/La croisade and L'Innocent) he directed, and the recent film one in which he appears that I still would most like to see is J'Accuse/An Officer and a Spy, the highly acclaimed if (because by Polanski) controversial account of the Dreyfus Affair, another earlier and better film in which Louis Garrel, as Alfred Dreyfus, got to dress up in a military uniform.

    Our Men/Mon légionnaire, 106 mins., debuted in Cannes Directors Fortnight Jul. 15, 2021, showing also at 'Angoulême, Jerusalem, Naumur, BFI London, Stockholm, and in Jan. 2022 Rotterdam (virtual). It opened theatrically in France Oct. 6, 2021 (AlloCiné press 3.3, public 2.9), and is included in the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema of UniFrance and Film at Lincoln Center Mar. 3-13, 2022.

    *Sadly Ina Marija Bartaité was run over and killed while riding a bike on Apr. 7, 2021, aged 24.

    AlloCiné press rating 3.3 (66%).
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-03-2022 at 06:04 PM.

  4. #4
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    MADELEINE COLLINS (Antoine Barraud 2021)



    The excitement of living crazy

    Antoine Barrau's accomplished new film (coauthored with Hélena Klotz of Atomic Age) is about a woman who is trying to live two lives and two identities, one in Switzerland and one in Paris, and who is deceiving herself that nobody knows she is doing this but herself. What exactly she is doing and how she is doing it unfolds for us, the audience, only gradually, so at first the film is an intriguing mystery. As the deception begins to unravel and she struggles to save it, we enter thriller territory. And it's a psychological thriller as we wonder what is going on in her mind that led to this. All the while there is the delicious excitement of something exciting and mad, a little like entering the mind of someone who is manic. There's the hint of association with spies or criminals - the Bonds, the Ripleys, who do this sort of thing for a dangerous purpose, which makes this a bit of a genre-shifter. The beautiful Virgnie Efira, the star, has an inimitable and cozy gloss of glamor and hysteria that carries it all along. Her character pretends to be liberated - she justifies her being too-much absent from both families every week as she shiftily commutes between them as the right of a woman to be just as career-obsessed as a man. But her freedom is a prison whose protective wall we see starting to crumble.

    French critics agree that in this film Efira (Victoria, Elle, Sibyl, Benedetta) returns to form and, more internationally famous now through starring in Verhoeven's lurid nun drama, finds a role equal to her immense talent; that she is the only French - well, francophone (Belgian) - actress of her generation who could do what she does here. Everything revolves tensely and deliciously around her and the two men and the children whose lives she separately shares.

    In Switzerland it's Abdel Soriano (Catalan actor Quim Gutierrez, in his first major French-speaking role), who is a mover, and their little daughter, Ninon (Loïse Benguerel). In Paris she has a much more glamorous life as the wife of conductor on the rise Melvil Fauvet (Bruno Salomone), with whom she has two boys a little older than Ninon. To justify her back-and-forths she claims to be going to separate gigs in her work as an English-to-French interpreter, to Warsaw, to Spain (Ninon wants to be taken along; she's fragile and not at the age when being left alone to her dad every week is easy to take.) She is not going to Warsaw or Spain or anywhere of course but between Switzerland and Paris.

    More and more the deceptions crack, the separate identities, Judith or Jude in Switzerland and Margot in Paris, getting confused as fake ID's fail to pass muster with traffic cops, friends who know her by different names run into each other at a concert hall, and children, who have instinct, start to suspect things they hear her say into her smartphone - and, as the French blurb says on AlloCiné, "Caught in a trap, Judith chooses to escape into a headlong flight."

    Arguably as things unravel so does the glamor and the film loses some of its attraction. But a teasing prologue sequence that runs absorbingly during the opening credits sets things up very neatly. It is a piece whose place in the puzzle is revealed only later, but that little failing, fainting spells that Judith-Margot suffers in public places neatly link with and remind us of. The other key elements in the success of Madeleine Collins (another name, another identity, incidentally, whose meaning will be unveiled in the final frames) are the solid ones of the separate family members. These include Thomas Gioria, the young lead from the French domestic hit thriller Custody, as Margot's older son with Melvil, and Ninon's grandparents, played by Jacqueline Bisset and François Rostain, and other strong supporting players including director and comedienne Valérie Donzelli as Madeleine Reynal, a major collaborator with conductor Melvil, and a shifty character called Kurt played with conviction by Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid of Synonymes, that flashy shape-shifter tale set in Paris with whose protagonist Lapid has confessed a certain personal identification.

    Madeleine Collins leaves a pleasant glow of giddy thrills that's heightened by a sense of unease, something of the same excitement that makes Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley novels so enjoyable - the uneasy pleasure of entering intimately into the mind and world of someone crazy and wrong. Except that Efira's busy character isn't a criminal; the only harm she is doing is to those close around her and to herself - and to our own mental ease. This film gives pleasure while, for a while at least, also undermining our own sense of identify and psychic balance. It's all wonderfully cinematic.

    Madeleine Collins, 102 mins., debuted at Venice Giornate degli Autori Sept. 2, 2021, with only four other festivals listed on IMDb including Chicago and Philadelphia. It was in a hurry to be a Christmas present for the French, opening in Paris theaters Dec. 22, 2021 and receiving an AlloCiné press rating of 3.7 (74%). It is included in the Mar. 3-13, 2022 UniFrance-Film at Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-15-2022 at 09:13 AM.

  5. #5
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    MAGNETIC BEATS/LES MAGNETIQUES (Vincent Maël Cardona 2021)



    The boom of youth

    In this engaging film Philippe (the winning Thimotée Robart) is a bizarre, but also grand and mignon (tall and cute) young Eighties Breton French everyman imbued with extravagant sound-studio skills, the kind to make a pirate radio station sparkle and crackle. These are the last days of analogue technology before digital came to dominate. The film revels in the tapes and mikes as much as a very different movie celebrating this era for film, Stirckland's Berberian Sound Sdudios. (Tall Timouthé and stubby Toby Jones: now there's an odd couple.) It also revels of course in the music of the era.

    For a little while in this swift-flowing tale there are lots of guys around, lots of music and dancing. Mitterrand, the socialist, has just won, and that provides hope also for most of the boy.s Working at their feisty father's garage, "Philou" is never far from his confident, mustachioed older brother Jérôme (Joseph Olivennes, son of Kristen Scott Thomas) and the two of them love playing and broadcasting music at their pirate radio station installed in the attic of a bar. That's what this coming-of-age tale entails: growing into personal flowering during the pirate radio renaissance of the period, after the usual bouts with love, sex, the army, and fraternal rivalry for a girl. More interested in the charismatic Jérôme, she's called Marianne (Marie Colomb), and has come from Paris for a stage in hairdressing, at which she's yet a novice. At pouting and teasing she's a pro. Philou longs for Marianne, but is rather overshadowed by Jérôme in that as at the broadcasting. He has no confidence in his voice. This film is about how he finds it. For now, he lets Jérôme talk into the mike and is content just to "push the buttons."

    This is the work of half a dozen writers, and this time that works well. The sense of small-town community and collective energy pervades the busy scenes. A year of military service is still mandatory and will be till 2001 - unless you can get out of it. All his pals seem to land a P 4 (mental) release but a clever ruse of the army examiners, drawing out Philippe's humanity, shows he's only faking and off he goes - to Berlin.

    There, away from the town guys and Jérôme, Philippe begins to bloom, meeting the first real friend of his own, Edouard (Antoine Pelletin), who introduces him to British Overseas Radio, whereby he'll avoid early curfew and other onerous military things. His effort to show off a knowledge of spoken English to gain admission is unimpressive - but it doesn't matter after he goes into a display of improvisatory sound sculpture, whipping tapes in and out of slots, flipping switches, weaving sound magic. This scene, a triumph, is one of several dazzling set pieces that make you forget this is the kind of low budget film whose depiction of barracks life has to content itself with the corner of a room and some two-tiered beds. This is the spirit of bricolage, the kind of inspired improvisation and magic-weaving at which Derek Jarman excelled. Magnetic Beats is a movie that reminds you cinema can be at its best when it's hints and suggestion. Look at the voiceovers, where Phliippe's recounting to Jérôme after the fact how it all was. They're a conventional touch whose meaning, not so obvious, is revealed in the final minutes. It's then we come to understand how thoroughly Philippe has become a full-on animaterur, a show emcee, taking on the voice that was once only his brother's, addressing the micro bravely now, at last, in his own voice. For Cardona (and his coauthors) animateur sort of means auteur.

    Philippe gets his chops and takes on his own voice at the Berlin British radio broadcasts. Back at home after his year of service, rejecting Édouard's invitation to Paris, other major figures in Philippe's life must depart for this to continue. The drunken Jérôme speeds off toward Spain, and, surprisingly, perhaps - the action keeps you guessing for a while what he will do - Philippe doesn't jump in the car to follow Marianne, who has introduced him, in the flashing rays of a car headlight, to the ways of love. He remains in the little Breton town to run the pirate radio station and become, in his small way, famous.

    Given the references to that leading figure of late-Seventies, early-Eighties music Ian Curtis of Joy Division, referred to here as "a young god who departed early," it's hard not to think of him and of Anton Corbijn's splendid black-and-white ode to him, his debut film Control. But Philippe's disposition is sunny, and so is Cardona's film, which folds away rough moments in swift transitions and makes good use of Thimotée Robart's physicality. With his tall frame and baby face, he seems like he's been thrust unawares into life and surprised but not unhappy with what he sees. He's a bit passive, but that seems to protect him and save him for his pirate radio career that begins as the film ends. Often framed at the middle distance, we see him and others in semi-silhouette, picaresque heroes in small genre scenes enjoyed with pleased detachment. Yes, Les magnétiques wallows in retrophilia, and its voiceovers and its basic structure (the rival bros, the love triangle) are conventional. Bit it's a lyrical, joyous nostalgia, in a film that flows with a light touch and a distinctive visual style. Deft and sure, it's a great debut both for the director and for his star.

    Magnetic Beats/Les magnétiques, 98 mins., debuted at Cannes Directors' Fortnight (Quinzaine des Réalizateurs), Jul. 9, 2021. It was in festivals at Deauville, Namur, Busan, Leiden, Taipei and Singapore. Released in France Nov. 17, 2021 (AlloCiné press rating 3.7 (74%). It was included in and is reviewed here as part of the Mar. 3-13, 2022 UniFrance-Film at Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-15-2022 at 09:11 AM.

  6. #6
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    GUERMANTES (Christophe Honoré 2021)


    Between the scenes of a play that. . . almost wasn't?

    Though this film has been a bit better received by the French critics, it's something from director Christophe Honoré like his 2014 Metamorphoses(R-V 2015) that takes him out of his usual zone, with different subject matter and cast, sketchy structure, and limited success. This one is indirectly about the pandemic, as well as a foray into impressionistic documentary territory. It also shows a side of Honoré the French know but his Anglophone fans are unaware of.: besides being a filmmaker he's also a novelist, playwright and theater director. He's shown his attraction to literary classics before. His film La Belle Personne is a modern adaptation of the 17th century novel by Madame de La Fayette, La Princesse de Clèves. Other plays he's authored include the 2012 Nouveau Roman, which brings to life novelists of that school; and Les Idoles, which celebrates writers who died of AIDS. They may be interesting, and so may Honoree's Proust play. But this film, despite its ostensible celebration of a large cast of actors, has the feel of a directorial vanity project.

    The title Guermantes refers to a stage adaptation based around volume three of Marcel Proust's seven volume In Search of Lost Time, Guermantes Way (Le Côté de Guermantes). Honoré was brought in as a guest director at the French national theater, the Comédie Française, to put on his work. A New York Times article (Oct. 8, 2020) shows it was performed (from September 30 to November 14, 2020, as a web page of the Comédie Française also indicates. But in the film, rehearsals have been interrupted by lockdowns and reversals only to have a council of the theater vote for it to be permanently shut down. In the film, the cast members, or some of them, elect to camp out in the Théatre Marigny, where the Comédie Française had been temporarily moved during renovation of its main stage, and continue rehearsing, just for the experience.

    The film purports to be an impressionistic, meandering (and a little over-long) record of this confusing experience for the actors, in which Honoré partly participates. There are a few moments from the play itself, notably the death of an old lady, which is hard on the actress doing the dying; a conversation between two men where a young third man manipulates a boom mike, with Honoré carefully managing the arrangement of the three figures. And there is a big, rather drunken outdoor picnic at a long table using plates stolen from the theater where various actors "act out." Though hardly any anecdote carries from scene to scene, we get ample evidence of the esprit de corps that binds these formidable performers and also the petty backstabbing and games they play.

    From the relatively few glimpses we get of it, it's clear Honoré's Proust adaptation is modern and inventive and makes use of cinematic effects. Personal stuff is going on with actors. An actress is overheard in an emotional phone farewell, which the other cast members think is her resignation from the company. But when this is spread about she tells them they're wrong, that it was her longtime psychiatrist she was ending the relationship with. There are also some interesting moments with Honoré, who seems a kind of cherished outsider among the privileged actors. Not surprisingly, there's some gay stuff, involving him and others, including an older actor's much younger guy called Léolo (Léolo Victor-Pujebet). At the boisterous picnic Honoré withdraws, huddled on the floor (as he sometimes is), and asks one of the actors to say goodbye to the actors because he doesn't want to rejoin them. At a candid moment he says he never attends performances because he feels jealous of the public's being allowed to share an experience that previously was for him alone.

    In what AlloCiné ranks as the most favorable review of this film, by Jean-Marc Lalianne in Les Inrockuptibles (Sept. 28, 2020), the writer declares "Christophe Honoré has created a beautiful poetic essay on the endangerment and resistance of art in times of health catastrophe." He asks "Is rehearsing a show that you know will never be performed in public, continuing the work just for the sake of it, a waste of time? And what is the point?" Honoré, he says, was "making a film of the tumult encountered by his show on Proust caught between two confinements." And he declares the director here "orchestrates a reconquest, an endless expansion of the powers of representation spreading its euphoric seeds over our sick world." He acknowledges that Honoré is "playing himself" - that this is an improvisatory fiction using cast members, not a documentary.

    Generally Proust has defeated all adaptors, and that's arguably what has happened again here. But the Proust adaptation is only local color, making way for the main focus which is - what? As somewhat naive fan of Proust and his famous long novel, I might have preferred a film that was simply a transcription the play itself, to this glamorous but sketchy invention of actors playing actors. Perhaps in some future time when the pandemic is finally a thing of the past we may welcome a poetic evocation like this, of a period when time was "lost" in senses different from Proust's and much more mundane. But that would be with a total reedit.

    Guermantes, 139 mins., debuted at Deauville Sept.11;, 2021 and was broadcast on French TV Sept. 24. It was included in the Mar. 3-13, 2022 UniFrance-Film at Lincoln Center Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-25-2022 at 11:14 PM.

  7. #7
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    SECRET NAME/LA PLACE D'UNE AUTRE (Aurélia Georges 2021)



    Fond deception

    Drawn from Wilkie Collins novel The New Magdalen, Aurélia Georges' Secret Name/La place d'une autre is a Victorian melodrama that becomes a thriller and ends with emotional sweetness. The picaresque protagonist Nélie Laborde (the quietly protean Lyna Khoudri) starts as a guttersnipe, goes from streetwalker to maid and back, then, urged by a lesbian recruiter, joins the Red Cross and braves the front as a litter-bearer and nurse's aide in the early days of World War I. It is there the thriller begins when she encounters Rose Juillet (Maud Wyler), a penniless Swiss woman of gentle birth whose dying father has given her a letter of introduction to a wealthy French woman, to whom she is going to offer her services as a live-in reader. When Rose is apparently struck dead by a mortar wound, Nélie becomes Rose and is allowed free passage as a Swiss to join Eléonore de Lengwil (Sabine Azéma), a rich lady in provincial France. Later, Rose will turn out not to have been so dead after all.

    How can the guttersnipe Nélie become the well-born Rose? Perhaps Rose's being from Switzerland, where Eléonore has not traveled, covers any roughnesses of accent; but above all, Nélie has always been, in fact, a great reader, and so her vocabulary and knowledge are good. She arrives with Victor Hugo in her little satchel, and her literacy wins over Eléonore, who will be ever more in her thrall.

    We must add that this is a film that uses its budget well. The scenes all are richly realized. One of the stars is Eléonore's big rectangular ivy-draped mansion. When she stages a social with a pianist and singer, the fine dresses of the ladies, a matter of laces and overlays, are subtly magnificent. No matter that they may look all designed by the same stylist, costume designer Agnès Noden. Nélie, now "Rose," dresses simply, but Khoudri (I said she was protean) now has a proper late-Victorian look - and body-shape. Azéma, after all those Rivette films with wildly flaming hair, now wears a tight network of blonde-gray braids and a mild expression, but her face becomes a mirror or altering moods when we learn to read it, mostly pleasure and approval as she grows to dote on Rose.

    Being a melodrama means emotions never stop being on edge and the tension never lags. Aurélia Georges, whose script with Maud Amneline is most attentive not only to the significance of class but to the vulnerable position of women in World War I Europe, directs a distinctive group of supporting male cast members, especially the relatively unfamiliar Laurent Poitrenaux as Julien, the local minister and Eleanor's nephew, whose comings and goings grow worrisome for "Rose" because as his sermons show, he sees the complexities of things. Poitrenaux is a pleasingly odd and ambiguous figure. So is a plump, insecure police commissioner (Olivier Broche) later on.

    But it's the women who count. Azéma impresses for her warmth and subtlety as the goodhearted but stern woman of wealth, and Khoudri is continually relatable as the female picaresque gutter-to-posh-to-gutter heroine whose intelligence, good looks, and proclivity for reading enable her to step into the role of an impoverished young woman of good birth. Before we find this implausible we must consider that lonely rich old ladies may often be subconsciously crying out to be duped by the right person; people are conned because they want to be. Rose," who never does or says anything unkind or devious, likes Eléanore, and above all loves living in the security and comfort of Eléanore's ample home.

    Cahiers du Cinéma, with the most enthusiastic review according to AlloCiné, admires the film for its "classicism" and a narrative structure whose straightforward "linearity" produces a "pure emotion" in the viewer. Indeed everything narrows down to the sentimentalism of loving sympathy in Eléonore de Lengwil, who wants to adopt Nellie even when she knows she is an imposter.

    Is this, finally, a study of class, of morality, of identity, or just a suspenseful crime story? With Collins' tale and still with this updated period adaptation, it's all working together. In his Variety review ("An Imposter Shakes Class Hierarchy"), Jay Weissberg argues that due to the decreased importance of class today, Georges is obliged to subordinate Collins' original theme of class to the moral issue: Nellie's willful exploitation of the kind rich lady, Eleonore, who trusts her and loves her so much in her pose as "Rose." He also finds the complete success of the deception somewhat implausible.

    Actually Nellie's success as "Rose" is shown to be very much a matter of luck. She and Eleanore click. "Rose" discovers a natural ability to slip into a new, higher role - we've seen her go through a lot of changes early on - and Eléanore wants this new relationship to be right and true. And thus the impersonation works beyond "Rose's" wildest expectations. This heightens the suspense, because we know it's too good to be true.

    It's clear that the distinction of the film owes a lot not only to the classy mise-en-scène, costumes, and World War I era atmosphere, but landing Sabine Azéma in the key role of Eléonore de Lengwil, the well-off lady the gutter-born young Nellie (Lyna Khoudri) deceives. Khoudri, the at-risk picaaresque heroine, has a neutral, willing, cuddliness it's easy to identify with. Notice the tremendously suspenseful scene (though it's not completed with total deftness) where she's seen from behind, naked, vulnerable, and beautiful, in a bath waiting for hot water to be brought to her, and the real Rose approaches.

    There is a deep irony too about the real Rose and the vicissitudes she encounters when she attempts to challenge her impersonator in the face of "Rose's" firmly established position of the darling of the lady of the house - a sequence that eventually drags us into the vagaries of the pre-war era mental health treatment scene. Individual scenes in multiple milieux sparkle because of the film's assured mise-en-scène. Wait for the long alley Rose, now back to Nélie, traverses with a gleaming white car parked at the end of it. It's a beautifully set up emotional climax and surprise framed with shiny hardware and dramatic space.

    Secret Name/lLa place d'une autre, 112 mins., debuted at Locarno Aug. 8, 2021 (reviewed there by Weissberg), shown at a few small European festivals. French theatrical release Jan. 19, 2022 (AlloCiné press rating 3.4.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-03-2022 at 06:25 PM.

  8. #8
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    ROBUST/ROBUSTE (Constance Meyer 2021)



    Waltz of sleepy titans

    The obvious appeal of Constance Meyer's debut feature is that it dares to be understated and to have little in the way of an evident agenda. We can relax and enjoy little details, get lost in it the way one does in a familiar classic. It could be considered unambitious, but the director has taken on two heavy hitters for her two-hander relationship portrait, a French mega-star and a powerful up-and-comer.

    But Depardieu is just being a version of himself (though he's called "Georges," as cover). Déborah Lukumuena, who costarred in the excellent Divines, here as Aïssa, Georges' temporary minder while his regular man Friday is away for a few weeks, is a powerhouse but plays it very low-keyed.

    So nothing is happening, except the usual things: Georges is bored with being in movies; frequently loses scripts; eats all the time; shows up late, drunk; hangs out and feels lonely and isolated in his unique, luxurious house; has attacks of terrifying (real or imagined) tachycardia. He gives his little boy a cute puppy, but then the boy's mother won't let him keep it at her house and Georges is stuck with it. Aïssa goes about her wrestling practice, and has a match. She hangs with a woman friend and she has a friend with benefits, Eddy (Lucas Mortier). And in following these activities we hang with this odd couple and see them get comfortable with each other until, when it's time for Aïssa to let Lalou (Steve Tientcheu) take over minder duties again, George doesn't want her to go.

    There is no central action or climactic moment to remember. One remembers instead some moments, like the bad scene in the Asian restaurant with Eddy and Aïssa, who were starting to have a good time when Georges, drunk, somewhat implausibly arrives to get the house key he has lost, and sits down and wears out a welcome he never had: this discomfort of this. One remembers Aïssa's bulk, because Déborah Lukumuena is big too, strong enough to knock Georges back with a punch and pull his whole frame back to relieve his tachycardia, another image remembered, because repeated. I remember Eddy's face, shown repeatedly in closeup, changeable yet basically blank. Unfortunately - because this is the only element that's unnecessary - one remembers George's huge deep-blue tank containing rare fish that live in total darkness. This flowery bit of decor seems a bit de trop, but it's the only thing that is.

    Jessica Kiang in Variety, one of many generous reviews of the film, begins with very broad irony saying the main character, "an aging movie star with a reputation for uninsurable off-set shenanigans" is "played in a staggering coup of against-type casting" by Depardieu. Yes it is obvious, and the actor has played himself before. But he doesn't always and it's not necessarily easy, or anything you can do without a lot of experience. As for Déborah Lukumuena, there is something curiously alive and magnetic about her, warm, expectant, coiled, genial, humorous. She is very relaxed but a flick of her eyes can be memorable. Above all, since this is necessary for a movie "about nothing," both these great actors are constantly fun to watch.

    And so indeed Robust (thanks, for once, for an English title that doesn't reinvent) is a most promising debut - even though it risks feeling a little ho-hum, a little anticlimactic. But this is a wise and promising film.

    Robust/Robuste, 95 mins., opening film at Cannes Critics' Week July 7, 2021. Only a few other festivals (Bari, Chicago), French theatrical release Mar. 2, 2022 (AlloCiné press rating 3.6 (72%). Screened for this review as part of the FLC-UniFrance Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (Mar. 3-13, 2022).
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-03-2022 at 06:36 PM.

  9. #9
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    PETITE SOLANGE (Allexe Ropert 2021)



    Ropert's drama of a teen's sufferings from her parents' divorce is a misfire

    Axelle Ropert is esteemed by some French film fans for her work with her partner, oddball writer-director and actor Serge Bozon (La France, Tip Top), Her two first significant features as a director, The Wolberg Family and Miss and the Doctors are odd but interesting and also beautiful, with good scores and cinematography by Celine Bozon (Serge’s sister); her new one, Petite Solange lacks these virtues and is mostly just odd and surreal. Viewers/critics who simply find it a touching portrait of a teen girl's sufferings at her parents' breakup seem to be seeing the film they want to see, ignoring many oddities, wrong notes, and failures to connect. The costumes are off and the score is conventional and intrusive. Axelle Ropert has gone astray here.

    Solange (Jade Springer) is a 13-year-old girl who lives with her older brother Romain (Grégoire Montana-Haroche) and her parents. Mum Aurelia (Léa Drucker) is an actress. Dad Antoine (Philippe Katherine) has a guitar shop. After 20 years of marriage, however, the parents' love seems to be fading. They quarrel, and eventually Antoine, terribly sad, starts sleeping on the living room couch. He assures Solange it's temporary; it isn't. In the course of a year, the couple decides to divorce and sell the house.

    When the fighting stats, brother Roman sees the trouble coming and goes on a long trip to Spain. Solange hasn't that option and just stays in the heart of the family and suffers silently.

    In the way Ropert illustrates these conventional developments she is even odder and more surreal than before. The casting signals this. Léa Drucker, who resembles a lower keyed Sandrine Kimberlain, plays her role of a moderately successful actress in the provincial world of Nantes as always cheerful and hopeful but a little insecure. Philippe Katherine is a peculiar dad. Jay Weissberg who reviews this film for Variety ("No Surprise That Divorce Is Hard on Teens in French Drama") thinks the actor resembles David Crosby; but if so, he's David Crosby coming apart at the seams, always seeming on the verge of tears. He is only safe among his guitars. His speech early on at the couple's 20th anniversary celebration is peculiar: notably, his description of his two kids bears no relation to reality. The problem with Jade Springer is that she has a sad, drawn look from the start, so her decline holds no surprise and awakens no sympathy. She's a sad sack who gets sadder.

    Jade is held in check by the filmmaker and the examples of her coming apart are feeble. She tries to connect with a cool boy with long hair who Solange and her best friend Lili (Marthe Léon) both long for. He noodles around on an electric keyboard at school and they agree they don't like the noodling but they like him. Solange talks to him a few times and longs to get him a deal on a keyboard for home from her dad. But this goes nowhere. Solange shoplifts a red brassiere much too large for her (this awkwardly calls attention to how flat-chested she is) and successfully begs off the shop attendant from calling her parents.

    The climax (though it's a letdown) comes when she's made to read a Verlaine poem aloud in French class and stumbles doing it and looks even more pathetic than usual. Later the teacher even calls her parents to tell them their daughter has started weeping while reading Verlaine. But in the scene, she does not appear to weep. The film is full of little disconnects like this. And again, so what? Maybe she's just moved by poetry.

    The final sequence, where Solange declares, very unconvincingly, that she has come to terms with her parents' being apart now, may be the strangest of all. It seems Solange has been somewhere else but this is not made clear. She shows up at the now sold, near-empty house and sits in the patio with her brother and parents. They say she should not have come. Why they would say that and what's been going on must be on the cutting-room floor.

    As several reviewers have pointed out, notably Weissberg, the film's time is out of joint. That is, while its current status is signaled by cell phones and other contemporary details, the get-up of the people is reminiscent of the eighties, when Ropert grew up - perhaps signaling, awkwardly, an autobiographical element. It's just another way the film is off-kilter.

    This is a stilted, airless, disjointed film that appears conventional on the surface but just a little below is slightly off key. The coming-of-age plot-line lacks the interesting twists and turns of Ropert's more complex earlier films to drive toward a simplistic message about teen life, yet that message is weakly conveyed because the teen in question doesn't change strongly or visibly enough. And why is the family's name Maserai, which Solange tells someone is the mark of an Italian luxury car? It's just another of the film's inexplicable red herrings.

    Petite Solange, 86 mins., debuted at the fest of odd flicks, Locarno, Aug. 21, 2021, showing also at Vienna. It opened in France Feb. 2, 2021 and was screened for this review as part of the UniFrance-FLC Rendez-Vous series (Mar. 7, 2022 showing). No Metascore yet but the average so far is 63%. AlloCiné press rating 3.6 (72%); audience rating 2.7 (54%).
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-15-2022 at 09:06 AM.

  10. #10
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    HOLD ME TIGHT/SERRE MOI FORT (Matthieu Amalric 2021)



    This melodrama is a showcase of editing tricks

    SPOILER ALERT: From the review by Marin Gérard in Criticat (translated from the French): "From the outset, the film takes the form of a sometimes incomprehensible whirlwind of more or less connected vignettes, but it really comes into its own when, after about forty minutes, we learn what it is all about: an impossible mourning."

    Matthieu Amalric still will always be primarily remembered as an actor both in American blockbusters and in art films by Arnaud Desplechin, but with a lot of short films under his belt, he's also assembled some admirable and celebrated outings as a director, including On Tour , which won him the Best Actor award at Cannes, and the beautiful,, dreamy homage to a French songstress, Barbara. Hold Me Tight, surprisingly, since it's so cinematic, adapted by Amalric himself from a play (Je reviens de loin by Claudine Galea), stars the actress Vicky Krieps, who came to notice with Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread and seems to be the It Girl of late, having featured in Mia Hansen-Love's much-admired Bergman Island also last year. She has the perfect blend here, it would seem, of fire and ice. Clarice, her character lost and wracked with stifled emotional pain, running away from her life, but protesting it was not she who fled.

    What is she talking about? Well, the "impossible mourning" mentioned above. One can love this film and yet find its central emotions leave one unmoved. This I think is because of two things. The subtlety of the puzzle-composition of those "more or less connected vignettes," which include past, present, and imagined, only temporarily masks a conventional weepy melodrama. Second, the emotion fades because the film is not so much in love with Clarisse, her family, and her grief as with its own facile artistry, its beautiful score, the complexity of its editing, the interweaving of threads, the overlay of voices.

    Marc (Belgian actor Arieh Worthalter), Clarisse's husband, works in a factory, but mostly is at home, where his wife and his son Paul (Sacha Ardilly), who as a teenager ( Aurèle Grzesik) savors his dad's new tattoos, and has him sketch one on him; the camera and Clarisse admire his hairy chest. Paul is a regular boy, who gets a tree house approached by pulley. His older sister Lucie (Anne-Sophie Bowen-Chatet; later Juliette Benveniste) is another story, a talented pianist, whose ambitions form a central thread of the interwoven "whirlwind" of "more or less connected vignettes."

    The only other central character is the family's late-70's maroon station wagon, flowing through many scenes and never aging - which gets its moment, appropriately at an imposing gas station, its pumps spaced wide apart, where another customer admires it. "What about me?" says Clarisse. "What am I, a stuffed tomato?" "Cars are just my thing," the innocent fellow protests.

    It appears the girls are doing at least a good deal of their own piano playing. Somewhere at some point on TV there appears by chance a film about Martha Argerich, surely the most important woman pianist and a force of nature and worthy inspiration for any girl with talented fingers. Does Lucie flaunt a mop of grey-dyed hair later in homage? Are there rapid teasing references about mothers and daughters of pianist blending Martha and Clarisse? This film, complex and cerebral to a fault, is in love with its own cleverness. It is glamorous and sexy about tragedy, as movies can be. One can enjoy its initially quite incomprehensible flow, and identify a tiny bit with Vicky Krieps, but then one may find the cleverness has buried the people, events, and emotion that have turned into the filmmakers' playthings.

    Hold Me Tight/Serre moi fort, 97 mins., debuted in the Premières section at Cannes Jul. 21, 2021 and was included in a half dozen important international festivals, Jerusalem, Brussels, Hamburg, Busan, Vienna, and Rotterdam. Screened for this review as part of the Mar. 2022 UniFrance-FLC Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. Its FRench theatrical release Sept. 8, 2021 led to a generally favorable reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.8, 76%).
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-07-2022 at 02:45 PM.

  11. #11
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    PARIS, 13TH DISTRICT/LES OLYMPIADES, PARIS 13e (Jacques Audiard 2021)



    Émilie meets Camille who is attracted to Nora, who crosses paths with Amber. But it's more than that. . .

    Audiard undercuts - a bit - the effect of his film about young thirty-somethings as involving entertainment by doing an anthology picture - shot in classic, romantic black and white - with four or five different stories linked by a common - built up, high rise, unglamorous - arrondissement of Paris, the 13th, in the outer south-east segment of the city. But by this structure the film provides more of what it seeks, perhaps: a panorama of a younger generation of French people.

    And this tradeoff isn't as limiting as it might be because the skilled writers, headed by scenarist-director Céline Sciamma, working with the graphic novels of Japanese-American artist Adrian Tomine, provide story lines that intermingle: the two characters introduced at first are threaded through the whole. These are Émilie Wong (Lucie Zhang) and Camille Germain (Makita Samba), an Asian woman raised in France with Taiwanese family background and a young black man respectively (wherever his people are from, his father, played by Pol White, speaks fluent, idiomatic French too).

    Émilie takes in Camille as a flatmate, and they promptly start having energetic sex; then things slough off and coolness begins on her part when he, who's busy with his university studies, says "Not tonight." Then we meet the cheerful Nora, from Bordeaux like one of the co-writers, Léa Mysius, a white woman, very enthusiastic to have found an apartment 10 minutes from the faculty of law of a branch of the Sorbonne. Nora is played by Noémie Merlant, star of Sciamma's 2019 Cannes Best Screenplay and Queer Palm winner Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

    Basically Camille tries to penetrate Nora's frigidity; she becomes his "project," which Émilie mocks him for. She is a bystander of this process, because she and Camille sort-of-love each other and stay in regular touch. A curious adventure of Nora fills a middle section, drawn from Tomie's graphic novel ideas. She goes to a riotous, giant, widely promoted "Spring Break" dance party (the name in English) in a skimpy, skin-tight dress and wearing a blonde wig. There, she is mistaken for a famous online porno figure known as Amber Sweet (Jenny Beth, who composed the score of Ex Machina). Cell-phone photos of her taken at the club go online and are spread around at the Faculty of Law and she becomes a laughing stock, and drops out of school. She meets Camille applying for a real estate agent job to him as he's running the little agency of a family member. His studies are now on hold because he needs to raise money. Émilie has been fired from her telemarketing job and now is a waitress in a big Asian restaurant, while pursuing anonymous sex via a hookup app.

    Nora and Camille amusingly pretend to be formal and correct as real estate business associates but that quickly breaks down and their intense but abortive sexual relationship begins. Is it because Nora is frigid; a virgin; just out of practice; or a lesbian that makes Camille's warm and adept love-making efforts fail to awaken Nora's sexuality or give her an orgasm? Émilie hears about this with amusement. Meanwhile there are little scenes between Camille and Eponine (Camille Léon-Fucien), his sister, a large young woman with a stutter whose love is standup and who loses her stutter when she's on stage. And there are also several scenes showing Émilie and relatives, notably her grandmother (Xing Xing Cheng), who is slipping into dementia. Émilie can't handle this and is neglectful, even though her grandmother's care center is not far away.

    Nora contacts Amber Sweet - it's easy to have a private session with her, if you pay - and this odd relationship becomes a satisfying and "real" one for both of them, so they start connecting frequently on Skype and finally meet up in person. The relationship is meant to be touching but always feels a bit far-fetched.

    If you're been paying attention to the frequent hints you'll not be surprised that the film will end with Émilie and Camille back together and acknowledging their mutual affection. Zhang and Samba are relaxed and sympathetic actors. Zhang is very good at rendering the cynical, at bottom forgiving, frankness of her character. Samba is tall, not particularly handsome, but good natured-seeming, with a ready smile. With his convincing sexual action, reading glasses, and pleasant way with dialogue, he makes a new kind of French leading man (appealing also for some of us because his character has been a schoolteacher and plans to return to that work). Zhang makes a new kind of main secondary character in a French film. She's Asian, and has the family and the Chinese language skills to prove it, but she often comes off as just as French as anybody else.

    This is a new direction for Jacques Audiard, who got his start with genre-mixing films that reached a brilliant peak with the stunning remake of James Toback's debut film Fingers, The Beat That My Heart Skipped, which made Romain Duris into a bigger, more serious star, and the gangster coming-of-age epic A Prophet, which made nobody Tahar Rahim into an offbeat heartthrob. Rust and Bone, which came next, was also compelling; but I was not quite sure I wasn't praising it because the previous two films had been so great. The director triumphed critically with his Tamil immigrant drama Dheepan (though it felt to me like a bit of a letdown). He seemed to be floundering with his stab at an English-language comic Western, The Sisters Brothers.

    Paris, 13th District doesn't try for the excitement of The Beat My Heart Skipped or the grandeur of A Prophet or the seriousness of Dheepan but it's remarkably fluid, fluent, specific, and entertaining. The narrative flourishes, sometimes far-fetched, don't go terribly deep. It seems the character of Nora is singularly unappealing, and it's not clear if that is intentional or not. Wang and Samba in contrast are extremely likeable actors and one hopes to see more of them. If you look at the usual run of current popular French romantic/sexual comedies, this film is massively more real, specific, and intelligent. That's despite its essential superficiality, which reflects the commitment-averse millennial generation it depicts. Shooting in this unglamorous dramatically un-Haussmannian part of Paris and in black and white and with unusually graphic sex are effective ways of clearly setting the film apart from the usual glossy French rom-com product.

    Paris, 13th District/Les Olympiades, Paris 13e, 105 mins., debuted in Competition at Cannes Jul. 2021. Numerous Cannes and César nominations. Over two dozen other festivals including four in the us, Chicago, Philadelphia, AFI, and Frameline. Screened for this review as part of the NYC Mar. 3-13, 2022 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. AlloCiné press rating 3.7 (74%). Metacritic rating 78%. US release Apr. 15, 2022. On that date chief New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane published a rave rievew.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-14-2022 at 09:52 PM.

  12. #12
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    RISE/EN CORPS (Cédric Klapisch 2022)



    An up-and-coming ballet star gets injured and saves her career by switching from classical to less demanding modern dance in this visually enjoyable but cinematically clichéd new feature from Cédric Klapisch.

    Let's make a feature film about dance, thought Klapisch, who the year before did a documentary about the Paris Opera Ballet. He indeed provides some gorgeous early classical dance shots early on and some soulful, relaxed modern dance ones later on. The dialogue rings false or is cliched throughout; Klapisch and his co-writer Santiago Amigorena don't seem to have gone to great trouble to construct a wholly credible, un-cliched plot. The subject has seemed to lend itself to lurid conceptions like Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan: the early scenes bear out the notion that classical ballet is exquisite torture, combined with emotional suffering, since Elise, KLapisch's lead, played by the very winning Marion Barbeau, herself a dancer both classical and modern, pointedly learns she's been dumped by her dance company boyfriend just before she slips; the dumping is either a portent or a cause. Her "kiné", plaayed by It Boy François Civil, who featured in several previous Klapisch features, mouths a lot of nonsense about body and mind and magically restoring her: actually he's just got the hots for her, of course, and is hoping to get her on the double-rebound, having just been dumped himself, as he shows by a comically exaggerated fit of crying.

    But though Yann's man-bun and granny glasses are adorable, Elise is more interested in a partner in her new thing, the modern dance company she just happens to fall into while on a trip to her native Brittany to help out a cook at an arts center. One male interest is Robinson (Robinson Cassarino), Elise's new dancing partner. Another man in her life is Loïc, the arts center's virtuoso chef, played by busy actor Pio Marmaï. But the guy she's interested in now is Mehdi (Mehdi Baki), also in the modern dance company. When Yann learns this after returning from Goa and come to Brittany just to see Elise, he has another fit of weeping, this time off stage. Action at the arts center is grounded by its director, Josiane, a Simone Signoret type with a limp and crutch played by Muriel Robin who spouts wisdom about life.

    Elise's annoying and unsympathetic father is effortlessly performed by the prolific Denis Podalydès. It's a perfunctory role as well as performance that arouses little interest in the viewer.

    Since Klapisch wanted to make a movie about dance, it has to be full of dancers - real ones, and here, the film shiines. Notable is the person who plays himself more or less as Hofesh, the director of the modern dance company Elise falls into, Israeli choreographer, dancer and composer Hofesh Shechter, director of his own titular company based in London, whose reputation there is signaled by his OBE (order of the British Empire). (He received a 2016 Tony nomination for the choreography in Bartlett Sher's revival of Fiddler on the Roof.) He talks to his dancers in English. They practice and develop ideas at the Breton arts center, where Elise joins in, and they have a climactic Paris performance, in which Elise triumphantly performs. By now her injury seems miraculously cured, aided by the psychological and physical benefits of dancing and love-making.

    Letterboxd review: leno
    Review by leno ★★★ (translated from the French):
    i think the adjective to describe this film is nice. it's a nice film. we laugh at François Civil and Pio Marmaï, we're a little moved, we find it beautiful, it's nice. then it's about dancing so it's impossible for me to be insensitive to it...
    The [3/5-star rating is] for the dialogue which sounded very false I find, very personal development, seen and seen again, and the color+costumes of the film which gave a rendering much more aesthetic than realistic. It was very similar to [Someone, Somewhere/Deux Moi, his previous film, in that respect.
    The dance performances are to die for.
    I feel a bit mean writing my review because there were some great actors and great scenes (the one with Muriel Robin and the pear!)
    Rise (its French title is a bit of untranslatable word play) seems more enjoyable than Klapisch's previous feature, the drawn-out meet-cute Someone, Somewhere/Deux moi (R-V 2020)(2019), which seemed just a glib conceptual tease. Here there is lots of warm, engaging action and above all, lots of dancing. The actual fictional structure is rather perfunctory, however; this isn't up to his best work but it gives some engaging actors something to do. One is kept well amused till one realizes how conventional and perfunctory the story arc has turned out to be.

    Rise/En corps, 117 mins., debuted at Paris Cinema Club Jan. 31, 2022; its second appearance, where it was screened for this review, was at NYC's UniFrance-FLC Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (Mar. 3-13) on Mar. 9, 2022. The French theatrical release was Mar. 30, 2022; the AlloCiné press rating was 3.5 (70%) and the spectators' rating was 4.0 (80%).
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-29-2023 at 06:14 AM.

  13. #13
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    Messy love

    Also known as Both Sides of the Blade, this is a love triangle film centered on Juliette Binoche, whose longtime lover is Vincent Lindon, but who is blindsided when she runs into former lover Grégoire Colin. This is considerably further complicated when François (Colin) contacts Jean (Lindon) and proposes they work together in a sports management agency (Jean is a former pro rugby player) as they had before Jean served a prison sentence. Sara (Binoche) and Jean tell each other this is going to be fine. But in private Sara is emotionally disturbed; her world has suddenly turned upside down. Soon Jean leaves her to her small but ship-shape modern Paris flat, no doubt funded by Sara's successful job as a government radio presenter, where a lot of the indoor action transpires, and returns to his mother (Bulle Ogier) in the banlieue of Vitry where she has been raising his fifteen-year-old mixed-blood son Marcus (Issa Perica).

    Another deeply visceral and erotic film from the great Clair Denis.

    Further details will be published at the time of the film's local theatrical release via IFC Films.

    Fire/Avec amour et acharnement ("With Love and Relentlessness") 116 mins., debuted at the Berlinale Feb. 12, 2022 where Denis won Best Director; a few festival showings since then, mostly in the US, Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Sun Valley, Florida, Wisconsin, San Francisco (SFIFF). US theatrical release Jul. 8, 2022, French release Aug. 31, 2022.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-10-2022 at 08:35 PM.

  14. #14
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    SF Bay Area




    Portrait of a handful on the way out

    François Ozon's prolific output is on the lightweight side, but its level of seriousness may vary. Look at his campy recent Peter von Kant, this year, and his gaudy, pretty-boy adaptation of a melodramatic YA novel in 2020, Summer of 85.. But then consider the surprisingly significant 2018 By the Grace of God, about French pedophile priests and the toll their abuse takes on men's lives. Everything Went Fine is pretty serious too, but it's got it's funny moments. John Waters made it No 3 on his ten best of 2022 list and said: "Assisted suicide for the elderly has never been so madcap. So I Love Lucy. So feel-so-bad-you’ll-feel-good." This is a bum trip that's a trip, and it feels real too.

    Everything Went Fine concerns an 85-year-old man who has had a fairly serious stroke, called an "AVC," accident vasculaire cérébral in French, who is stuck in a wheelchair, and he's painfully dissatisfied with his life the way it is now. He's a stubborn, difficult, rather rich and successful man used to having his way, who's also gay, though his two grown, married daughters play a large part. It's Emmanuèle Bernheim, a successful novelist (excellently played by Sophie Marceau), the daughter he pressed into playing the larger part and someone Ozon knew, , who wrote the book from which the film was adapted. by the versatile Ozon. It's a portrait of this obnoxious, selfish, yet somehow partly lovable man. The movie is as much about this quirky character as it is about the many social, psychological, legal and moral issues involved.

    The portrait is a deft one but it is so good partly at least because this man, André Bernheim, is played by the great André Dusollier. The film is a collaboration between Ozon and Dusollier, who appears transformed with makeup, prostetics, and a loud, feeble-whiny voice and is unrecognizable. At first, anyway; the night before he goes to Bern to be offed by the special agency there when he has a celebratory dinner at the Restaurant Voltaire, eating and drinking with relish, Dusollier begins to look like Dusollier.

    Why play such a part? Dusollier has made clear that it was a juicy role he welcomed. He camps it up a bit: his high-pitched hammyness is borderline homophobic - but he can't ever be anything but wonderful and this man comes richly to life, his misery, his egotism, his honesty, his passion: it all comes out. One wouldn't want to change anything, and he has said Ozon always brought out the funny moments. A suicide puts those near to the person through a horrible experience, but there is nothing maudlin here at all. I came to this film expecting a grim duty, perhaps, and wound up so involved in the suspense and drama of the story it went by quickly.

    And, icing on the cake (lightly applied) there is, if only briefly seen, the iconic Charlotte Rampling as his stone-faced, still beautiful wife who has been depressed forever and had Parkinson's for a decade. She is too ill herself to be involved much. More icing: Hanna Schygulla (who's also in Peter van Kamp) as "La dame suisse," the Swiss lady who comes to Paris to confer about arrangements and conducts the procedure in Bern and calls Emmanuèlle in Paris from there to report on it. It's her last words, "Tout c'est bien passé," It all went well, that end the film.

    My own father was not gay (or Jewish as Bernheim also was) but he too was peevish, stubborn, outwardly cowardly, and a sensualist and Dusollier's André Bernheim reminded me of him after his stroke, though I don't think his beliefs would have allowed him to consider assisted suicide, not possible where he lived anyway. The voice, melodramatic as it seems, reminded me of my father in his latter days: it's that good. It is a strange pleasure to watch Dusollier as Bernheim. You sort of wonder what he will do next. You sympathize with his disappointment but not with the selfishness. You may understand, if incompletely, his unstable relationship with the semi-rejected, disliked former lover Gérard (Grégory Gadebois), whom the daughters Emmanuèle and Pascale (Géraldine Pailhas) call "Grosse-Merde," Shithead, and the way he favors males, his Voltaire waiter Thierry, his musical grandson Raphael, Emmanuelle's husband Serge (Éric Caravaca), and even the ambulance drivers for the final ride to Bern whom he thinks are "cute."

    It's a feast of acting by Dusollier, even though Emmanuèlle Bernheim has not provided a detailed portrait of her father's life otherwise. At one point André says privately to Pascale not to say so now, but all this would make something good for Emmanuèlle to write about, and that's what she did write about, "all this," the tormenting experience of what ironically Pascale tells her is a dream come true, because when she was young her father was so mean to Emannuelle she wished him dead. Now she is able to bring it about. Voilà.

    Everything Went Fine/Tout c'est bien passé, 113 mins., whose shoot was delayed four months due to the pandemic in 2020, debuted in Competition at Cannes, was shown Jul. 7, 2021 and opened in France Sept. 22. AlloCiné press rating 3.4 (68%). Numerous other festivals including Zurich, Vancouver, Busan, Vienna, Leiden, Stockholm, Taipei. It was shown in the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center Mar. 7, 2022. To be released in the US by Cohen Media Group.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-29-2023 at 06:20 AM.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    Lost illusions/illusions perdues (xavier giannoli 2021)



    Great expectations, then downfall, à la Balzac, updated

    The most celebrated French film of the year in France, with a raft of 2022 César nominations and awards, Lost Illusions is a return to Cinéma de qualité - the kind of formally elaborate, conventional French movie that was made before the Nouvelle Vague shook everything up. It is accordingly lushly entertaining but without the strong mark of an "auteur." And yet, ironically it works overtime trying to be "relevant" to today, to media corruption, social networks, money triumphing over commitment, and "fake news." It's fun, it shocks a little (one memorable penis next to a wad of cash), it thrills, it enchants, it absorbs, and then it disappoints. You should still see it though, if you like well-made costume movies and if you appreciate French cinema.

    Illusions perdues (the original French title) is a rather controversial adaptation - controversial because many French critics feel it twists the original much too violently in search of the contemporary relevance of Balzac's eponymous six-year-in-the-releasing serial novel about an ambitious young naive poet from the provinces (Angoulême) who comes to Paris, is corrupted, thrives, and is destroyed. There's a five-star cast headed by Benjamin Voisin, Cécille de France, Xavier Dolan, Gérard Depardieu, and more; gorgeous cinematography by Christophe Beaucarne; a long run-time that holds the attention because it teams with action, throbs with sweeping string music by Vivaldi, Haydn, Mozart, and its mise en scène recreates the world of early 19th-century Paris, the time of the Bourbon royalist restoration, with a restrained, satisfying vivacity.

    The prelude is a little wan, and its conventionality almost overwhelms it, but if it works it makes us fall in love with Lucien (Benjamin Voisin, who shone in François Ozon's period gay YA tragedy Summer of 85), the slim, pretty young aspiring poet in Angoulême who works at a print shop. His slim volume of verses, as pretty as himself, is called Marguerites ("Daisies") - a title which his hard-nosed new comrades in Paris will mock, but with which he seduces a lonely, beautiful, sad noblewoman, Louise de Bargeton (Cécile de France, gray and palely beautiful throughout: she does not change, and there is none of the vivacity that supercharged L'Auberge Espagnole). Louise and Lucien romp in a field. He reads his poetry at a salon at which she presides and, alas, the provincial gentry snicker. They don't appreciate the finer things.

    This early section, and the transition from the provinces to Paris, is a dose of Balzacian social reality. Lucian aspires to finer things, rejecting his father's petty bourgeois family name of Chardon and calling himself after his well-connected mother, "Lucien de Rubempré," though snobs constantly remind him his name is Lucien Chardon. (No matter: Lucien de Rubempré becomes accepted as his pen name.) He and Louise, who rejects her boring much older husband, go to Paris in a carriage together. In a virtuoso sequence Giannoli depicts them attending the opera with Louise's aristocratic cousin and now sponsor and hostess, the Marquise d'Espard (Jeanne Balibar, whom English-language critics admire in this role: she is always distinctive, but she seems out of tune with everything else). This is Lucien's first big comeuppance. Word goes around the theater that he's a commoner and should not be in the box with these ladies. The way he has dolled himself up and puffed out his hair, people think he must be the Marquise's coiffeur. The Marquise tells Louise riding alone with him to Paris in the carriage was a terrible faux pas. She starts to distance herself from him.

    Later, Lucien applies to get his claim to nobility officially approved. But like any young unformed hero, he's pulled in different directions. And the best scenes are those involving Vincent Lacoste, who grabs his juicy role as Lousteau, the cynical young journalist and has great fun with it. Surely this is an exaggerated picture of things and of Balzac, but we get a picture of a world that is mind-blowingly up for grabs to the highest bidder. Reviews for books are bought. You can get a good one or a pan for money, and that goes for everything. The tie-in with contemporary politics is obvious. Likewise with theater. A man named Singali (Jean-François Stévenin) is in charge of "claques" that, for pay, can make or destroy a new play by cheering or booing.

    With Lousteau's hilarious descriptions of how Paris life can be gamed, Lucien starts not just to smile again but to laugh a lot. The two guys turn into bros. Are they just bros? You sort of wonder with Nathan d'Anastazio being nearby, a composite figure played by the openly gay French Canadian director Xavier Dolan, who also turns out to be the omnipresent narrator. The prevalence of voiceover narration has been much criticized in this film, but it has also been pointed out that Balzac's social panorama could not have been filled in cinematically without such a device. There are lots of other characters, notably the publishing impresario played by Gérard Depardieu, Dauriat who - get this - is illiterate; and another important media figure, Finot, played by Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, the lead in Mia Hansen-Løve's lovely film, The Father of My Children. There are specifics about the papers - more scandal sheets than anything else now - and good visuals depicting them and the advertising and posters of the period, which were monochromatic and had not reached the technicolor richness Toulouse Lautrec was to bring to them. The color is in the clothes. The men are peacocks, none more so than Voisin as Lucien, and his girlfriend becomes famous for her red stockings.

    Lousteau harnesses Lucien's writing skill to pen, and we mean pen, articles for his paper, each one paid for - instant gratification - at the end of the day. Lucien meets and falls in love with a guttersnipe actress, the ample Coralie (Salomé Dewaels). He thrives, and partakes of the constant drinking and eventually the hash smoking, which Lousteau partakes of freely. One of the film's most voluptuous sounds is the slow explosion of the big matches he uses to light his hash pipe. Writing routinely begins with a flute of champagne. As in the heyday of American newspapers, journalists are hard livers. Lucien lives an exciting, busy, hard-working, dissolute life. He reads for a living, not for culture. He stops writing poetry. He engages in a "rivalry" with frenemy Nathan (Dolan), each sniping and stroking the other; and one again wonders, are they just frenemies, or....?

    With the preposterous explosion of bought journalism and Lucien's brief triumph as a prolific producer of satirical squibs for pay, Giannoli's movie really blooms, but in the sadder decline segments in the latter half the bloom wilts and things get to be, inevitably, a drag. This is where we start to wonder, "Is this really real? Did this even happen in Balzac?" And it all starts to seem like a big glorious costume bonanza of nothing so much. That's the point, maybe, because Lousteau, who is the raisonneur of the piece, despite the omnipresent slightly stolid voice of Xavier Dolan's neutral narrator, declares to Lucien at one point that everything they do will be forgotten, they are producers of ephemera.

    This may wind up despite its twelve Césars (that's a lot) seeming ephemera too, compared to more deeply felt movies like Giannoli's own lovely and touching 2006 The Singer/Quand j'étis chanteur, starring Gérard Depardieu and Cécile de France.
    That had more of an auteur about it, as did Giannoli's oddball In the Beginning/À l'origine (with Depardieu again, and the inimitable Emmenuelle Devos). The Singer is about an art also that is ephemeral, but one that its practitioner loves. There's not much love in Lost Illusions. Shouldn't there be?

    Lost Illusions/Illusions perdues, 149 mins., debuted at Venice Sept. 5, 2021, showing at many other festivals including Rendez-Vous with French Cinema Mar. 8, 2022. French theatrical release Oct. 20, 2021, AlloCiné press rating 4.0 (80%), and the spectator rating is 4.3. June 10, 2022 US limited release. Watched online for this review. Metascore: 81%.


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