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Thread: Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2024

  1. #1
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    Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2024

    Unifrance and Film at Lincoln Center present


    ALL TO PLAY FOR /RIEN À PERDRE (Delphone Deloget 2023)
    AMA GLORIA (Marie Amachoukeli)
    ANIMAL KINGDOM, THE (Thomas Cailley)
    AUCTION (Pascal Bonitzer)
    BANEL & ADAMA (Ranata-Toulaye Sy)
    BOOK OF SOLUTIONS, THE (Michel Gondry)
    JUST TWO OF US (Valérie Donzelli)
    LITTLE GIRL BLUE (Mona Achache)
    NO LOVE LOST/LA FILLE DE SON PÈRE (Erwan le Duc 2023)
    ON THE ADAMANT (Nicolas Philipbert)
    RED ISLAND (Robin Campillo)
    SPIRIT OF ECSTASY (Hélena Klotz)
    TONI/TONI EN FAMILLE (Nathan Ambrosiani 2023)

    February 29- March 10, 2024

    Opening Night—New York Premiere of Thomas Cailley's The Animal Kingdom
    starring Romain Duris, with Cailley in person

    Featuring films starring Marion Cotillard (in person), Melvil Poupaud, Virginie Efira, Noée Abita, Laetitia Casta, Anders Danielsen Lie, Léa Drucker, Romain Duris, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Vincent Lacoste, Françoise Lebrun, Pierre Niney, Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, and Sofiane Zermani

    Little Girl Blue (Charades Films); All to Play For (Curiosa Films); The Animal Kingdom (Magnolia Pictures); Les Indésirables (Goodfellas); First Case (Be for Films)

    New York, NY (January 25, 2024) – Unifrance and Film at Lincoln Center announce the lineup for the 29th edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. Taking place from February 29 through March 10, this popular annual festival showcases the verve, creativity, and depth of contemporary French cinema in a variety of genres.

    The 2024 Opening Night selection is Thomas Cailley’s French box office hit The Animal Kingdom, the director’s long-awaited follow-up to Love at First Fight (a highlight of Rendez-Vous 2015) and most recently nominated for 12 César Awards, including Best Director and Best Film. Cailley, who most recently won Best Director at the 29th Lumière Awards, envisions a mysterious infection that selectively mutates the bodies of ordinary people into animal hybrids at unpredictable speeds in a darkly imaginative exploration of a human ecosystem undergoing inexplicable—but potentially liberating—transformation.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-16-2024 at 05:16 PM. Reason: E

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    2024 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema Opening night film, Feb. 29


    A father and son face species alteration


    The French have gotten into time travel and other sci fi transformations in TV series; this time Thomas Cailley has done a feature film about a France besieged by a wandering infection that makes humans turn into frightening animal hybrids. The country is ripped apart, and medical science isn't finding solutions fast enough. Our focus is on a father, François Marindaze, and his 16-year-old son Émile.

    The film at first might seem like no more than so-so M. Night Shyamalan. But look again. This is a French film, and therein lies the first essential difference. François is played by the popular star Romain Duris (L'Auberge Espagnole, 2002; The Beat My Heart Skipped, 2005) and Émile by impressive newcomer Paul Kircher, the son of Irène Jacob and Jérôme Kircher who starred in Christophe Honoré's recent Le lycéen/Winter Boy, playing an unusually autobiographical version of the writer-filmmker's younger self. In French cinematic terms, this is a heavy duo. They face chaos together, and apart, and it's a vivid, engaging struggle where the human values matter more than special effects, but we are plunged continually into a disorienting world. When you think of it Cailley was already doing this in his first film just by playing with conventions of the masculine and the feminine. This, ten years later, is his stunning sophomore effort.

    There may be comments about the special effects - notably of a dramatically species-altered man befriended by Émile called "Fix" who turns into a bird, played by Tom Mercier. The extraordinary part-French, part-Israeli actor Tom Mercier is a special effect in himself, and has been from when he burst on the scene with Nadav Lapid's 2019 Synonymes . Nonetheless the beauty of [IThe ]Animal Kingdom [/I] is how it maintains our credulity and excitement by not showing us much, just with the dismemberment of the back of an ambulance, the too-loud flutter of vast, barely seen wings.

    There is the immediate human interest, and then, more distantly, there are the not-so-subtle political implications. The line is drawn pretty much down the middle between the liberals and humanists who want to work out a means of coexistence with the new hybrids whom people unflatteringly refer to as "beasts" or "critters" (bestioles, créatures), and the right wingers, the rednecks and meatheads who just want to go out with rifles and rockets and destroy them wherever they turn up.

    Émile's mother has turned into one of them. But she is in medical care and a lot of them are to be transferred to the south (conveniently, where the rednecks live). François is fiercely loyal. He wants to protect her, and when Émile, very slowly, starts to turn, does all he can to protect him too. François, who is a cook, instantly gives up home and job and takes Emile south to be with his wife, Émile's "maman," putting Émile in a new school, where he has (with some difficulty) a girlfriend, and François must take a demotion to waiting table.

    The tension of the tale is between how fast things went wrong and keep getting worse for mom (if these transformations are a degeneration and not just a change, which may be kept a little open) and how slowly things diverge for Émile. The tease of that puts most of the focus on the boy - though it's not certain whether the action of this film is simple and colorful enough to make it suitable for a young audience.

    The smooth face and bee sting lips of Paul Kircher are never spoiled. His transformation is a nagging source of shame and covering up and a torment for him; but it's more subtle than the cases of his mom and Fix: more a matter of a rougher, higher ridge on his vertebral column, a light frizz of new body hair on his arms, odd excrescences on his fingernails. Something internal may be happening more rapidly, though. Where have you seen a sci-fi movie where you know someone has turned decisively into another, non-human species because he can't sign his name? But that's what happens here, and Cailley's writing is ingenious enough and his direction clear enough so that it works.

    We wouldn't have predicted much about Thomas Cailley's new feature from his larky, enjoyable first one, completed a decade ago and widely seen here - ecept for a similar taste for skirting boundaries between ordinary and strange. It was called Les combattants ("Love at First Fight") and featuring Adèle Haenel who was to win international fame and prizes at Cannes with Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) from the pen of her girlfriend (as we learned), the excellent Céline Sciamma. There's a strong woman in this one too, an officer of the Gendarmerie Nationale and almost-love interest for François called Julia played by another French star, Adèle Exarchopoulos. If we look at Cailley's 2018 TV series, film,"Ad Vitam," co-written and helmed with Sébastien Mounier, there he entered into the manipulated world of sci-fi we are plunged into with The Animal Kingdom.

    The muscular earthiness of Romain Duris and the disarming directness of Paul Kircher - they don't look much alike, but he seems to be taking after his mother - make an engaging, powerful combination anchoring the film as father and son here, kept continually alive by Thomas Cailley's constant, explosive action in this film. Animal Kingdom may seem at times to be teasing and playing with us too much, becoming a little repetitious in its treatments of the various crises, though François' final accepting solution is a satisfying one. But the emotions feel authentic, the action fresh. The film did very well in France and deserves a respectful look from fans of understated sci-fi fantasy everywhere. It takes genre to a level of humanism that is exceptional.

    The Animal Kingdom/Le regne animal, 128 mins., debuted at Cannes in Un Certain Regard May 17, 2023. Nominated for 12 César Awards including Best Director and Best Film, AlloCiné press rating 4.3 (86%), spectators 4.0 (80%). (This was perhaps the all-round best received French film in France last year.) It opens in theaters by Magnolia and on demand Mar. 15, 2024. Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, New York (Feb. 29-Mar. 10, 2024. Showtimes (Opening NIght):
    Thursday, February 29 at 6:00pm (Introduction with Thomas Cailley)
    Thursday, February 29 at 9:00pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-21-2024 at 09:09 AM.

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    THE TWO OF US/L'AMOUR ET LES FORÊTS (Valérie Donzelli 2023)



    Husband from hell

    Valérie Donzelli takes a new turn from lighter films she has acted in to putting the prolific and often charming Melvil Poupaud with the new "it" girl Virginie Efira in a dark tale of a woman's entrapment in a toxic and abusive marriage. It's an opportunity for both stars to do something new: Poupaud as a nightmarishly controlling and insanely jealous husband and Efira not only as his attractive victim Blanche but as her twin sister Rose who helps her finally escape. It's a tale that might have been interestingly treated by Douglas Sirk, or more colorfully by Brian Di Palma. Or Hitchcock, in a new world more focused on women's rights (seemingly the main guide here) might have turned it into a suspense crime drama. Or, come to think of it, Chabrol woild have had a better solution back in the day: having the wife murder her husband, and their two young children just for spite.

    This is a different kind of treatment, a more colorless and neutral one which we can only assume is meant to teach us how bad men can be. (Some of us already knew.) The film is conventionally told as a story in flashback of Blanche (Efira) recounting her marriage for the benefit of her Advocate (Dominique Reymond), the woman attorney who will defend Blanche when she sues Grégoire Lamoureux (Poupaud), her odious husband, for divorce. The Advocate intervenes from time to time in the narrative to urge Blanche just to tell it like it is, and assure her along the way that all she did was justified - or the best she could have done under the circumstances. There is no climax: the movie ends with lawyers and warring spouses finally walking into a courtroom.

    Justine Triet's Anatomy of a Fall/Anatomie d'une chute, another 2023 French film and an Oscar nominee for Best Film, is a current example of how wildly entertaining a courtroom drama can be. But The Two of Us/L'Amour et les forêts eschews the courtroom and instead plunges us in the sheer torture of this bad marriage with no satisfying follow-up of justice done.

    First there is the meet-cute, which itself eschews originality for a straightforward, no-prelims come-on, where Gregoire practically proposes to Blanche as he introduces himself at a party. One slow dance, some wet kissing, and it's a done deal. Nothing cute or imaginative about this. But he's charming, goodlooking, and works at a bank. She's a lycée French teacher who loves her work. She should have seen through the condescension of the man's too-fast approach and utter lack of imagination. But she gives in. His quotes from literature satisfy her. Later she gets named favorite French teacher by her lycée students, but she hasn't learned much from literature.

    The switcheroo comes at 35 minutes when they've married. He abruptly moves them up to the northwest corner of France to Metz, and she learns shortly after from his boss that he was not transferred but asked to be transferred. It's the sticks, and it's far from sister Rose. And he's not too pleased by her finding a new teaching job as a substitute. That's only the beginning. They have two kids right away, a girl and boy. Seven years go by in which Grégoire becomes more and more controlling, imposing a joint account and sharply restricting Blanche's movements. He's horrified when a wise Rose gives Blanche her car so she can have some mobility.

    This leads to the big moment of infidelity. Blanche goes to meet a man she has connected with online and has not met before who lives in a forest. This seems implausible. Who would do that? But it's perhaps a sign that at this point she is already suicidally desperate, and if she didn't, Éric Reinhardt's 2014 novel "L'Amour et les Forêts" on which all this is based would not have a title. In the event the man (Philippe Uchan) proves trustworthy and interested and skilled at archery, at which Blanche is an instant success. They also hit it off in bed, he washes her hair - big mistake, because it pokes holes in her alibi to Grégoire. From this one-day affair, Blanche's life becomes a nightmare.

    The way in which Grégoire's repeated, torturous interrogations of Blanche are presented in the film is heavy-handed. (I have not read the popular book.) We get it: this man is a shit. So what? It seems uncertain why Poupaud took this role. Perhaps out of boredom? To serve the French branch of #MeToo that Catherine Deneuve joined more than 100 other Frenchwomen in entertainment, publishing and academic fields in signing a letter to denounce? French men, you have been served. But did you deserve this crude portrait?

    Also by Donzelli I have reviewed Queen of Hearts (2009) and Declaration of War (2011), in which Donzelli also acts. Here she turns things over to French star of the moment Virginie Efira (who earned my love first in 2016 with the very funny Victoria, with Vincent Lacoste and Melvil Poupaud) and Poupaud again here (a favorite since Rohmer's great Conte d'Eté in 1996). Both have done better.

    Speaking of Éric Rohmer, his star Marie Rivière plays the twins' mother, and we also see Virginie Ledoyen and Romaine Bohringer in the film. Would that it had been another film.

    Just the Two of Us/L'Amour et les forêts ("Love and the forests"), 105 mins., debuted in the Premiere section at Cannes May 24, 2023 and opened in Paris that day. AlloCiné press rating 3.8 (76%), spectators 3.9 (78%). Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, New York (Feb. 29-Mar. 10, 2024. Showtimes:
    Sunday, March 3 at 6:15pm (Q&A with Valérie Donzelli)
    Tuesday, March 5 at 9:15pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-16-2024 at 05:27 PM.

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    ON THE ADAMANT/SUR L'ADAMANT (Nicolas Philipbert 2023)





    The Adamant is the name of a barge on the banks of the Seine in central Paris that's also a day care facility for neurodivergent adults. That term is used for people on the autism spectrum, but the net is cast wider. Some of the people we hear from in Nicolas Philibert's new documentary speak plainly of long having been mentally ill, and more than one says that without their meds they would not function at all.

    So that may be one of the problems of this engaging and loosely slung film (at least one of the people speaks of his connection with the Sixties and Seventies and we hear original musical compositions, one song, and see a lot of painting and drawing being done): we don't know enough about who these people are. What is the "spectrum" of people who spend time here? This is a vagueness that makes the film different from Philibert's wonderful and most famous one, the deeply touching 2002 <A HREF="">To Be and To Have/Être et avoir</a>, about a year at a tiny grade school in in rural Issoire, in the center of France, with a single, loving teacher; or the 2010 Nénette, about a world-weary 40-year-old imprisoned orangutan, first from the visitors' point of view, then from his.

    What comes through is Phlibert's special kindness and patience, simply in the way his camera and his microphone listens to the unheard and sees the unseen. The thing that's different about the Adamant, someone says, is that the people come here of their own free will. The visitors have evidently dealt with medical facilities all their lives, institutions. Here they come more for enjoyment and participation a meal, a good cup of coffee, to hang out. As the blurb says, it's "a haven of community and caretaking." There are somewhat mysterious sessions at doing accounts, not much fun, but no doubt useful. There is a film group, which holds discussions. There are the opportunities to play keyboard music or the guitar or to dance. There are the drawing sessions, though one discussion of a painting shows the usual pointless external comments, perhaps from a nurse or other consultant - but no worse than you'd probably get in any art class!

    In the middle of a world of mental institutions, Philibert has found a forgiving, even fun place. And he reminds us at the outset and the finale that it's made of shuttered wood, looks rather spiffy, and is on the Seine. This may not be one of the director's best films, but it could be an eye-opener for many, a view of how institutions for the mentally "different" could be softened and warmed.

    However casual-seeming,Life on the Adamant nonetheless not without limits. When one 'visitor' who says she has been coming for years makes a lengthy and rambling appeal to be allowed to 'teach' a dance class, a young employee says inmates being given teaching jobs is not a policy of the place.

    There is the gentleness, but perhaps not as much intimate attention as To Be and to Have. Philibert's 2013 film about he French government House of Radio similarly was attentive, but somehow failed to pull things together, to orient us. But he's still a great documentary flmmaker.

    On the Adamant/Sur l'adamant, 109 mins. debuted at the Berlinale Feb. 24, 2023, where it was awarded the Golden Bear, and opening theatrically in France Apr. 19, 2023, receiving a César nomination and AlloCiné ratings of 4.2 (84% for the press and 3.9 (78%) from spectators. A US Kino Lorber release.

    Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, New York (Feb. 29-Mar. 10, 2024. Showtimes:
    Monday, March 4 at 6:00pm (Q&A with Nicolas Philibert)
    Friday, March 8 at 3:45pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-16-2024 at 09:46 PM.

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    AUCTION/LE TABLEAU VOLé (Pascal Bonitzer 2023)



    Discovery of a long lost Egon Schiele painting leads to excitement

    In Auction/Le tableau volé,an appraiser of the French Hôtel Drouot auction house, André Masson (Alex Lutz), gets the information that a factory worker in Mullhouse who lives with his widowed mother has come across what he thinks is a lost painting by Egon Schiele last recorded in 1939, when it was seized from its Jewish collector by Nazi officials.

    It's the sharp dialogue and the testy personal relations that keep us watching, though, and make this not only an art thriller but a study in human nature. Masson is at the center, and beside him his odd new assistant Aurore (Louise Chevillotte), who may not have Bruce Chatwin's famous "eye" but is devious, a liar, and has up her sleeve some very ingenious high level techniques of gaming the auction system. One of the concrete "actions" of the early scenes is her finding a handsome, stylish fur and leather short coat for herself for 150 euros on sale in the house. It would be worth more like 20 thousand, but fur is dead on the market, and the dealer who has a bid on it is cheap. Thus the skillful Bonitzer, who wrote for Jacques Rivette and for Cahiers du Cinéma, knows how to weave sophistication and status consciousness into writing about a world that can't be brought to life without them.

    Masson reveals to the trainee that despite his glamorous car and box full of luxury watches, he, like her, like the new possessor of the Egon Schiele, comes from the sticks.

    Masson has a cordial relationship with his ex-wife (Léa Drucker), who's been ex- for a decade. Something makes Masson and his ex-wife think this supposed Egon Schiele is worth a trip to Mulhouse, and since he still loves collectible cars, she suspects he'll enjoy the quite marvelous museum of those there, of which we get a tempting glimpse.

    When they see the painting, they immediately know it's authentic. This moment vies with the moment of the auction sale for focusing the greatest excitement that the search for lost art treasures can bring.

    A cornerstone of the tale is the boyish, sensitive young factory worker (Arcadi Radeff), who is thirty going on nineteen. The discovery of the painting brings about immediate trouble with his potes, his buddies, with one of whom he gets into an intense physical struggle after the other guy wants to turn over the painting and see the back. A charm of the latter part of the film is seeing the young man, who has refused to put on a tie for the auction house people's visit, go with his provincial lawyer representative (Nora Hamzawi), and be put up by Hôtel Drouot at a large, posh hotel with a view almost on top of the Eiffel Tower, to attend the auction dressed in a well cut suit. He disappears for a while thereafter, wandering off, and is found hunched on the paving, crying. Later, members of the Jewish family of the original owners gather and applaud the boy and shake his hand. Rich now, he buys his mother a new house but returns to his factory job and his potes.

    But before this can happen there is an obstacle to the brisk 25 million euro auction sale: the wealthy representative of the now American Jewish family of the original collector is manipulated by his French lawyer into vastly underestimating the value of the painting and deciding on selling it for cheap. He has to be skillfully blocked from doing this. This is where Masson's dicey assistant Aurore comes in, with an ingenious ploy to save the painting for auction and bring it in closer to its real value.

    It's all wonderfully tricky and fascinating, and a Variety preview explains Bonitzer had originally envisioned this as a TV series: there's so much material one can see why. On the other hand, this makes an unusually layered feature, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again. The relationship between Masson and Aurore prickles and sparkles throughout the film. Before she comes to a drunk and hopeless Masson, five "single malts" to the wind, gives him a script to address the American Jewish collector representative and change his mind about a cheap sale, she has already become so angry and insulted by Masson she has quit and walked out. But a lost Egon Schiele is the kind of thing that makes personal issues dwindle.

    A bit of conventionality in the writing comes with the usual overhead plotting. Right after the auction conducted by Masson in which the painting has sold for 25 million euros (possibly too little, given that Klimt's The Kiss went for 135 mil) Masson's boss (Francis Vierville) has edged out the company's chairman and now puts him in his place, thus shuffling Masson to a desk job away from the excitement and suggesting he too may be soon offed, so he decides to go out on his own.

    I'm not sure all the details make sense, or that I understand fully how profits of the auction are divided up. I've mentioned the likelihood that the auction sale price is too low. It also seems, though it's not clear perhaps, that the sale has been scheduled too soon. Masson has mentioned the need to prime the market early on.

    In the end none of these questions detract from what a very sharp, exciting, and entertaining film this is.

    Auction/Le tableau volé, ]91 mins., has its French release May 1, 2024. No other information. Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, New York (Feb. 29-Mar. 10, 2024. Showtimes:
    Friday, March 1 at 9:00pm (Q&A with Pascal Bonitzer)
    Sunday, March 10 at 6:30p
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-23-2024 at 11:58 AM.

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    A talented young French filmmakers goes off his meds

    Michel Gondry is a talented and original French filmmaker who has seemed to wander off the rails more than once. Many think his sophomore effort, the collaboration with Charlie Kaufmann Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was his high point as a director, not equalled despite seven films since. This new work, an examination of a young filmmaker, played by PIerre Niney, going off the rails, chronicles an emergency reedit done at the director's aunt's house in the country. The production company meeting in Paris has decided the movie is taking too long and going badly and takes it away from Gondry - er, Marc Becker (Niney). Becker calls his faithful staff and activates "Plan B." They seize the film and cart it to the aunt's house. The film is shot from here in a house belonging to Gondry's own late aunt Suzanne (profiled in his 2009 documentary The Thorn in the Heart, R-V 2010).

    This revolt inspires Marc to throw away his daily meds. He essentially goes manic, entering into one wild scheme after another, forgetting ever to look at the actual film he's working on. He shows it, what there is of it, to the assembled town, but during this event he photographs the villagers - mostly sleeping - and forgets to review the film.

    We must remember that this is a comedy, and some do find it funny, though neither the French press ratings nor the spectators' reflects wild enthusiasm (see below).

    We might as well also note that when Owen Gleiberman reviewed the film for Variety at Venice where it debuted, the headline was "'The Book of Solutions' Review: When Did the Talented Michel Gondry Become the World’s Most Annoying Filmmaker?" This is unusually negative for a Variety review, and not typical of the general French response reflected on the website AlloCiné. On the contrary, they generally saw The Book of Solutions as a success.

    What Gondry is doing here, apparently referring somewhat to what happened with him during the making of his Boris Vian adaptation Mood Indigo (Rendez-Vous 2014) - which might help explain its impenetrable denseness of invention - is letting his fondness for artisanal, unconventional, off-the-grid filmmaking show to the max. Some of that came out more sweetly and playfully in his last film (2015), the boyhood adventure tale Microbe & Gasoline, where two kids build an improvised "car" to travel across the country during their summer holidays. But in The Book of Solutions Gondry doesn't quite come to terms with the mental derangement aspect - or that the repetitive whimsy of Becker's often nutty inventions may pall after a while.

    A colleague expert in the history of advertising tells me about the pioneering role Gondry played in the use of CGI in film adverts and music videos. (Others have made this leap, including Spike Jonze and David Fincher.) Sometimes artists have trouble making transitions from short to longer forms. But The Book of Solutions may rather stand as some kind of ultimate statement about a filmmaker off the rails and off his meds going wild with bricolage in the provinces.

    Here one can appreciate the unique Françoise Lebrun as aunt Denise, as well as Blanche Gardin as a loyal editor.

    See Filmleaf September 2023 Venice note.

    Also released at Venice Sept. 4 was François Nemeta's 80-min. documentary about the filmmaker, Michel Gondry, Do It Yourself! (IMDb).

    The Book of Solutions/Le Livre de solutions, 103 mins., debuted at Camnes Directors Fortnight May 23, 2023. Limited French release Jun. 7. AlloCiné Press rating: 3.8 (76%) spectators 3.0 (60%).
    Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, New York (Feb. 29-Mar. 10, 2024. Showtimes:
    Thursday, March 7 at 6:00pm
    Sunday, March 10 at 4:00pm
    Sunday, March 10 at 6:30pm

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-23-2024 at 10:42 AM.

  7. #7
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    LITTLE GIRL BLUE (Mona Achache 2023)


    Marion Cotillard in a hybrid doc about the filmmaker's gifted mother

    This intense relived portrait of the filmmaker's artistic mother tells of a Fifites and Sixties generation that was inventive and avantgardist more than normal, and also delved into drugs and experienced exceptional disfunction and abuse. A very mixed bag, then, and I confess that the 99 minutes seemed unusually long. This despite remarkable details fully justifying such hybrid documentary portraiture.

    And the heart of the latter is the dramatized portrait of Carole, the director's mother and the subject of the film, as a slim woman, embodied by the great Marion Cotillard. The most memorable sequence is the opening one in which Cotillard sits at a desk with the filmmaker, who gives her slacks, blouse, wig, necklace, rings, glasses, even brown contact lenses to alter her eye color from blue to Carole's, and she slowly dons these and ritually, magically, becomes her subject.

    It is unsurprising that this film was César-nominated.

    It is, however, depressing to learn in detail of the mother's abuse by her father and by the writer Jean Genet, a family friend who was close to her when she was quite young. Further depressing to learn of her drug-addled move with her father, or one of the abusive "Jeans" in her life, and turning to prostitution because they had arrived in New York penniless. In the creativity it is hard sometimes to find positive values.

    Little Girl Blue 99 mins., debuted at Cannes May 31, 2023, Paris premiere Jun. 20, 2023. Many other international festivals including Telluride. AlloCiné press 4.0 (80%), spectators 3.4 (68%). Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, New York (Feb. 29-Mar. 10, 2024. Showtimes:
    Friday, March 1 at 6:15pm (Q&A with Mona Achache and Marion Cotillard)
    Wednesday, March 6 at 8:30pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-23-2024 at 10:40 AM.

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    A non-binary look at high finance

    This is a leap forward for Héléna Klotz from her debut The Atomic Age/L'âge atomique. Much of the success and mesmerizing originality of the film, which Vogue France calls "le choc féministe et esthétique de 2023," can be attributed to the use of the pop musician Pomme, Claire Pommet. Her character is called Jeanne Francoeur, and she is the support of a motherless family with two small kids, where the dad, Adrien (Grégoire Colin) is a member of the gendarmerie who can't quite make ends meet. They live on a military base that seems like a high class white cité. It's safe, but you can see why she'd want to get away from it, though she doesn't want to abandon those who depend on her. On the other hand she is wildly ambitious. Or does she just do a great job of pretending to be? Everything about Jeanne is both tentative and bold, evident and mysterious. The whole film has an excitement and a glow.

    Jeanne is often passive or unresponsive, but that is the way this 23-year old intern at an investment firm is being now. She's in blurbs called "non-binary" but I'd rather call her "gender-questioning," and the arc of the action reflects that. I was reminded strongly of one of my inspirations of recent years, the short-lived HBO series "We Are Who We Are" directed by Luca Guadagnino (which I've referred to also in connection with the R-V film Red Island). It focuses on a 14-year-old gender-questioning boy and girl. He is Fraser Wilson (Jack Dylan Grazer), son of the new lesbian commander of a US military base in Chioggia, Italy (played by Chloë Sevigny), who has come with her wife. She is Caitlin Poythress, (Jordan Kristine Seamón ), daughter of one of the African American NCO's, who doesn't like the new commander.

    These dependents of Jeanne suddenly turn out, strangely, to include Augustin (Niels Schneider), her handsome and sweet former beau, a Dragon (member of the French Dragoon Regiment) who has been on maneuvers in Africa for four years. We hear him give inquiring locals a candid description of the experience. Augustin now returns expecting to resume the relationship with Jeanne he has naively treasured while she has been trashing it in her mind, seeing their coming together as non-consensual because the male took the lead.

    The action almost reverses itself, following a shocking disappointment. Professionally, Jeanne dreams of being high up in the world of high finance - investment banking or hedge funds - despite the fact that she is rather new to the practice of the game, following two years at Saint-Cyr military academy and several years in a state school of finance. Trying to become a quantitative analyst (or "quant"), Jeanne binds her breasts and wears a mannish suit, while still using her female name. By spotting an error in computer code, she instantly parlays her role as an intern into a desirable job offer from her boss, Farès (Sofiane Zermani, the Algerian-descent French rapper). Farès next impulsively offers Jeanne a high paying quant position in Singapore, where he is about to go. "I need brilliant people around me and I thought of you." He will take her with him. Or will he?

    Don't read what follows if you don't want to know.

    In the event, Farès screws her over, we don't know what for. Then she returns with nothing, as fast and light as she had gone out, and rejoins her father and siblings. She also rejoins Augustin, whom she has left without any promises. He helps her shave her head (recalling a key sequence in "We Are Who We Are"), but, that gender-misdirection notwithstanding, they seem to be in each other's arms.

    She didn't tell Farès she was trans. When he asks, "You're lesbian, right?" she told him she was non-sexual, "neutral, like numbers." Was her sexuality on hold? Did the rebuff of her kiss by the baritone-voiced woman head of the World Aid ecology fundraising firm Elia Müller (Anna Mouglalis) of which Mathieu Amalric is a patron, turn her off to lesbianism? All we know is that after a period of selling expensive watches, she is applying for a high finance quant job again.

    Along the way, she has taken as her symbol the "Venus of Money/Vénus d'argent," the hood ornament of the Rolls Royce.

    This film seems wildly experimental in retrospect and even while watching it seems fantastical many steps of the way, but this is what makes this fast-moving tale so interesting and fun. We are swept into Jeanne's exciting world. Or I was - the French critics and spectators weren't universally sold on it. French Vogue notes the alternating yellow and blue color scheme of the cinematographer, Victor Seguin, and the "enveloping" score by the director's younger brother, Ulysse. Certainly an attractive package, irresistibly anchored by the riveting presence of Pomme.

    Spirit of Ecstasy/Le Vénus d'argent, 95 mins. AlloCiné press and spectators ratings both 3.0 (60%). Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, New York (Feb. 29-Mar. 10, 2024. Showtimes:
    Monday, March 4 at 9:00pm
    Friday, March 8 at 6:15pm (Q&A with Héléna Klotz)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-23-2024 at 10:39 AM.

  9. #9
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    Jul 2002
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    BANEL & ADAMA/BANEL E ADAMA (Ranata-Toulaye Sy 2023)



    Love in a dry climate

    Though consciously artificial, this Senegalese tale about a remote, sandy village plagued by drought and wind and a young loving but troubled couple - Banel (Khady Mane), the wife, with cropped hair and a determined air; Adama (Mamadou Diallo), tall, handsome, beautifully dressed even just for minding cattle - makes for a striking, beautiful film, in the tradition yet elegantly original, that whirls us away in a great sand storm as if it was all a dream. Comparisons have been made with Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, and indeed this is the most stylized, poetic filmmaking. It's also Africa, distilled into freely flowing outdoor theater of a striking purity. There are no visions or flashbacks, by the way. Every meeting hovers between symbol and direct token.

    As usual in movies about traditional African villages, individuals are part of a tight network of religion, laws, tradition, and inheritance. Adama and Banel have always loved each other, but Banel had to marry someone else, who died. Then they could marry. But a chieftain has perished and by inheritance, Adama must become chief, though he is only nineteen. (When we hear that, and then look into his face, we realize he is, despite his statuesque beauty, very young - and without much experience.). He nonetheless stoutly refuses to become chieftain. He does not want to do it. And he does not do it.

    Banel is in revolt too. she says that she works from dawn to dusk every day, but she balks at her formidable mother (Binta Racine Sy) in her urgings that she do laundry, or other household tasks. Later she even declares that she does not want to have children. Though there is nothing modern here, she is non-traditional. And a prologue scene as well as her cropped hair suggest she likes women as well as Adama. She likes to kill birds with a slingshot Who is this woman? That is the beauty of it: we don't know.

    Banel and Adama have made a plan to dig out the houses on the edge of the village that are buried in sand and live in one, to be by themselves. Adama goes there sometimes by himself and one day returns to tell Banel as if he has seen a vision that he has found what will be their bedroom, a vast room that gives a great sense of freedom. It's like a dream, a new ideal life in sight.

    But it will remain only a dream because a gradual slow plague of heat comes upon them. Adama goes out every day to tend the cattle herd because it is in danger. Some of the cattle have died from the heat. Banel protests that he is never there and she never sees him. To a young woman she cynically describes a woman's life as one long round of duties and all the men as interchangeable. Where is the love gone? Onto the sheets of paper, where she writes "Banel & Adama" over and over like a schoolgirl learning cursive, and she says the words too over and over, like an incantation.

    More cattle die. Then all the cattle die. And then men leave because there is no life for them here. Some reviews have felt that Sy fumbles the ending, and indeed it is the buildup that is best. Jessica Kiang wrote sympathetically of Banel & Adama in her Cannes Variety review. "Sy’s film," she says, "is a curious little fable, not quite fully formed in its final stages, and occasionally so sedate and opaque, under Bachar Mar-Khalifé’s melodic, piano-forward score, that it feels like it is drowsing." She also spoke of the images, "Glorying in the impressionistic prettiness of DP Amine Berrada’s camerawork, with its signature images of sun flares and sand dunes." She concludes that desite limitations "it’s a striking debut nonetheless, especially as it revolves, with graceful poetry around the inner experiences of such a curious, unknowable woman." Yes. This is a fresh, fable-like entry in the African cinema of village life. The young, beautiful dirctor (see her shine at the Cannes Q&A) was born in France of Senegalese parents. Northern Senegal, familiar from regular holiday visits, was a palate for her to paint with. She has drawn, among other things, a tale of global warming.

    Banel & Adama/Banel e Adama,, 87 mins., Pulaar with English subtitles, debuted in competition at Cannes May 20, 2023, showing also at Munich, Melbourne, London and other international festivals. Rleased in France Aug. 30, 2023, it received an AlloCiné press rating of 3.0 (60%) and spectators' rating of 3.2 (64%). A Kino Lorber release. Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, New York (Feb. 29-Mar. 10, 2024. Showtimes:
    Sunday, March 3 at 1:00pm (Q&A with Ramata-Toulaye Sy)
    Wednesday, March 6 at 3:45pm

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-23-2024 at 10:39 AM.

  10. #10
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    Jul 2002
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    Ladj Ly issues another powerful cinematic blast against political inequality in France

    In his sophomore feature, Les Indésirables/Bâtiment 5, Malian-born filmmaker Ladj Ly follows up on his 2019 Cannes Jury Prize-winning Les Misérables with another turbulent depiction of Parisian social inequality. The new film surges powerfully and excels technically, with its fires, explosions and movements of masses of people. This is the work of an angry man (and in fact actual convictions show Ly is that). It draws its political and moral lines and acts out its Manichean oppositions with brute force.

    But the new film rushes to its bad results so fast Ly's message loses the subtlety he had in the first film. Viewers certainly may end impressed or moved. The incessant action sweeps you along. But you may wind up feeling manipulated. Sadly, since in its way this is a powerful and well-made, and certainly a deeply felt film, in the end not much has been added to the French cinematic literature about the joys and woes of the banlieue. If we look back at Les Misérables, despite the anger, there was more complexity - more characters, more incidents, a slower accumulation of meaning. Though the cops were hated, interestingly Les Misérables' story was told from their point of view.

    The opening scene of the new film is a blast, literally. City officials stand on a podium waiting for old public housing towers to be demolished by an explosion and cut the ribbons on new construction. But the explosions were badly placed or excessive and as the building goes down the clouds and reactions endanger the gathered officials. In the shock, the mayor collapses and can't be revived.

    Pediatrician Pierre Forges (Alexis Manenti), who continues his practice, gets quickly appointed as interim mayor to replace the fallen one. His wife Nathalie (Aurélia Petit) warns him he'll be in trouble; that he'll be dealing with areas and their inhabitants strange to him. He insists politics is his thing. He immediately turns into an avenger for the right with no sympathy for the downtrodden, coldly rebuffing anyone who approaches him with a personal appeal, and he carries out a series of cruel actions, first having unlicensed mechanics forcibly removed from the open space they've occupied for years. The inhabitants of the cité are scheduled to be relocated, but it turns out the plans for new locations provide no accommodations for big families. This is where the black sub-mayor in unsympathetic.

    But it gets much wosrse than that. Ultimately when there's a fire in an unlicensed restaurant in the titular housing estate, he has its entire population suddenly evicted on the grounds that it is now structurally unsound, so they're unsafe. Making hundreds of people homeless to "protect them" is a spectacular outrage, and of course completely illegal and against procedures, as the black assistant mayor points out, to no avail. This really happened to the housing block Ladj Ly grew up in, and it was called "Bâtiment 5," the original film title; Ly collaborated with artist and photographer JR’s Chronicles Of Clichy Montfermeil project depicting the actual event (see the Deadline article and interview on this).

    For a while it looks like the film will focus more on multiple viewpoints, certainly including the assimilated black assistant in the mayor's office and a Syrian immigrant family recently arrived. Ultimately besides the heartless interim mayor, though, there is just Haby Keita (Anta Diaw) and Blaz (Aristote Luyindula). She has decided to run for mayor against the unelected Forges, and starts a campaign with lots of signs, murals, and posters to publicize herself, but not many political speeches. She and Blaz are close. But while she is working slowly to enter politics, he impulsively resorts to violent action, and gives the movie its crudely satisfying revenge. Nothing is going to restore the evicted residents whose lives have been trashed.

    The film, though largely true, reads as bold agitprop that may make you angry, but one may ask if artistry is not discarded in the interest of shaking up the viewer. A great deal of time is spent on the eviction, on the turbulent crowd and the visual enactment of beds and furniture `and possessions lowered or tossed out of windows in a tragic effort to save them, of kids searching for their plushies, of a few struggling to go back in for lost items, and the cops, a hostile force full of the adrenalin of an avenging army, brutally moving them out. Ly achieves impressive ensemble acton here. And this is of course his main subject: to recreate a personal trauma: this recreation is something he had to do. It may seem excessive; but Carlos Aguilar suggests in his Toronto Variety review that this is "the rare instance" when Ly "allows the images to speak for themselves" rather than have a character "instructively claim why we must care."

    The climax is a sudden, shocking solitary action of revenge against the mayor by the desperate Blaz, who terrorizes his family and destroys his Christmas decorations, in the process terrorizing the Syrian family the mayor has invited in for the celebration, as if vicariously to "convert" them. (Someone earlier has mentioned a rumor that for Muslims, celebrating Christmas may be haram or unlawful. But the Syrians have gotten short shrift here.)

    Haby's warmth and simple charisma provide some hope of a voice for the voiceless. But the violence leaves you shattered: the abrupt revenge finale highlights that this, a much shorter film than Les Misérables, cuts corners to be that way. It's telling that Ly, the Cannes darling of four years ago, this time debuted at Toronto. Gael Golhen, reviewing for French Première, expressed some of the French criticisms in this quote: "Didactic (Haby's role), artificial in the sequence of situations and caricatural in the writing of characters and the performances (particularly that of Manenti), Bâtiment 5 is driven by good feelings, agitprop and the desire to settle scores. This is legitimate, but it renders the drama Manichean and ineffective."

    Ly is a passionate director and an ambitious and driven one, and he surely will continue to draw attention. Hopefully he will work out a subtler balance between showing and telling, message and artistry, passion and analysis in future work.

    Les Indésirables/Bâtiment 5, 105 mins., debuted Sept. 6, 2023 at Toronto, also showing at Zurich and London BFI. It opened theatrically in France Dec. 6, 2023. AlloCiné press rating 3.0 (60%) , spectators 2.7 (54%).

    Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, New York (Feb. 29-Mar. 10, 2024. Showtimes:
    Saturday, March 2 at 9:15pm (Q&A with Ladj Ly)
    Thursday, March 7 at 8:30pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-23-2024 at 10:39 AM.

  11. #11
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    Jul 2002
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    RED ISLAND/L'ÎLE ROUGE (Robin Campillo 2023)




    Welcome to Madagascar, 1972, "le lieu de tous les plaisirs" - and then farewell

    These are embroidered and colorful autobiographical memories of a childhood period spent in a French colonial paradise. Though technically Madagascar became independent in 1960, twelve years later France is still being very paternalistic. The island has yet to liberate itself fully - as will be made evident by the revolt of the indigenous Malagsy people at the end. Sly eight-year-old Thomas Lopez (Charlie Vauselle) is the writer-director's alter ego, the hidden eye in many adult scenes he shouldn't be seeing and doesn't fully understand. His mother Colette is played by bee-sting-lipped Nadia Tereszkiewicz of Forever Young and Rosalie, his father Robert, alpha male of the group, by Spanish-born Quim Gutiérrez.

    Peter Bradshaw was effusive about this movie, giving it a 5 our of 5 stars in the Guardian. (See his review for descriptions of many of the film's "glorious setpieces.") It is beautiful, but calmed and distanced by nostalgia - not as arresting and emotionally vivid as his gay-themed two previous films, Eastern Boys and 120 BPM.

    Nor has it the psychological detail and realism of "We Are Who We Are," Luca Guadagnino's adventurous 8-hour HBO miniseries set on an American military base today near the Venetian suburb of Chioggia, where two gender-questioning fourteen-year-olds come of age. Campillo does however set his barely post-colonial world in sharp perspective, with fantasy interludes based on Thomas' comic book readings. There is a lot of good material, and images whose richly saturated color is a delight to the eye. The indirect way so much is represented puts us at one emotional remove, though, and the revolutionary finale is an odd new direction - though the filmmaker has shown a penchant for strong narrative shifts before, in the twists and surprises of Eastern Boys.

    Thomas's school friend is a Vietnamese girl called Suzanne (Cathy Pham), who announces that to talking, she prefers "observing people." That's fine by him. They both adore the fictional girl Fantômette. Eventually Thomas takes to dressing up like her in tights, cape, and mask for his spying exploits. Suzanne thinks it would be fun to be an orphan like her "sometimes," to see what it's like. Some interludes end with Thomas being found hiding under the table or behind a wall. But others go into so much detail, the child-framing is lost. This is true both in the dramatic finale of the Malagsy demonstrators, and the marital breakdown of a new young couple on base, Bernard (Hugues Delamarlière) and Odile (Luna Carpiaux), and when Odile can't stand "abroad" and disappears and Bernard has an alcohol breakdown at a grand party given for the general, and a scandalous affair with a Miangaly brothal woman (Amely Rakotoarimalala). Thomas couldn't have seen all that. Still, the scenes between Suzanne and Thomas are wonderfully delicate, and their busy flights by small bicycle from place to place pull the film's episodes together.

    Described in more conventional visual terms are events like macho dad Robert's rash gifting of three baby crocodiles to the three boys (Thomas' brothers aren't much identified, though the bigger, with his dramatic eyebrows, is vividly shown) - leaving to trouble and a reprimand from the commandeer when the older brother puts them in the public pool; of Thomas'' purchase of two gemstones from a traveling salesman that Robert - urning artistic - designs a striking ring for, to give to Colette.

    The most memorable of the scenes are the parties and the air missions. Robert is involved in an airdrop of several dozen native parachutists to put down a revolt of agriculturalists. The French soldiers are here for this, but don't get directly involved. At parties a jovial and mustachioed fellow aviator declares what a "place of all pleasures" this island is, "le lieu de tous les plaisirs." It's evident the French have plenty of leisure to enjoy their status as colonial remnants in a lovely tropical place. But there are goings on fed by idleness, such as the wife-swapping or rivalries shown when one man dances flirtily with Colette, and Robert then dances flirtily with that man's wife. When someone comes with photos of sexual native statues, the blasé French parents don't mind Thomas glimpsing them. It's an indulgent and sophisticated world. But as Bradshaw says, Thomas is never used as a go-between, nor do we get direct images, till the end, of the "other" world of the local, indigenous, ostensibly now in charge people, or what they may think.

    There is a farewell sequence, when all the French are preparing to leave this last base on the island. Suzanne tells Thomas she is not leaving, and says goodbye to him. He pouts for a long time, sitting on the ground, refusing to pose for a goodbye-to-all-that family photograph his father stages - though eventually he is coaxed into it and poses in front of the group, his father squatting and embracing him with both arms. But Thomas is bitter: he has said he wished he'd never come here, because he must leave.

    There is nothing of the native point of view, that is, until Barnard's brothel girlfriend is with his restaurant coworker at the place they work, after hours, drinking good champagne. Thomas dozes off; and she says this is the time when you can relax with a white man, when he falls asleep - a memorable remark that suddenly puts everything in perspective.

    In the final interlude - which we can't quite imagine Thomas as witnessing - local demonstrators who have been arrested and sent by he Malagasy governor to a penal colony, then in a surprise, and welcome, reversal brought back by plane and set free. Emerging one by one, three of the rebel political leaders stand outside the plane one by one, grasp a portable loudspeaker, and give an inspiring speech. It's a whole statement about how a young ex-colonial nation should find itself. An interesting, and highly relevant set of ideas. But however well-staged, this sequence can't help seeming tacked on. In its way Red Island is wonderful filmmaking and as personal as Campillo's previous two films Eastern Boys and BPM/120 battements par minute., but there is something relatively a little quaint and frozen in amber about it, but this is a beautiful, well-made film.

    Red Island/L'Île rouge, 116 mins., released theatrically in France May 31, 2023, also showed at the Cannes/Le Chesnay, London, San Sebastián and Goteborg festivals. AlloCiné press rating 3.5=70%, spectators 2.7=54%. Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, New York (Feb. 29-Mar. 10, 2024. Showtimes:
    Tuesday, March 5 at 3:45pm
    Saturday, March 9 at 6:15pm (Q&A with Robin Campillo)

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-23-2024 at 10:38 AM.

  12. #12
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    Jul 2002
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    ÀMA GLOIRA (Marie Amachoukeli 2013)




    Nanny love

    In this sweetly emotional but deceptively complex film, Marie Amachoukeli goes deep in exploring the relationship between a six-year-old French girl, Cléo (Louise Mauroy-Panzani), and her Cape Verdean nanny, Gloria (Ilça Moreno Zego), whom she will have to give up, even though she still needs a nanny and will get a new one.

    We see how close they are, how they delight in each other. Then, Gloria gets a call that summons her back to the islands - for good, because her own mother has died and she is needed to raise her own still-young son, César (Fredy Gomes Tavares), and be there to help her grown daughter, Nanda (Abnara Gomes Varela), who is soon going to give birth. The separation is difficult for both Gloria and Cléo. Cléo has taken the place of César and, from the look of things later, was easier and more a delight than César might have been.

    At the parting Cléo's papa, Arnaud (Arnaud Rebotini) has perhaps rashly said he will think about the possibility of letting the little girl go and visit Gloria in the summertime. Cléo is a curly-haired, bespectacled waif who makes little impression at first. The young actress, Mauroy-Panzani, reveals remarkable presence and range. There is already fire in Cléo's loins as she plays her. Cléo's rapport with her father is easygoing and warm. But he succumbs to her rage at the suspicion of a betrayed promise.

    He didn't promise; he said he'd think about it. But things progress rapidly with a girl who's main love has been her nanny. And so she goes. How does the father of a six-year-old French girl send her off by herself to an archipelago off the coast of West Africa?

    This remarkable visit is the focus here. Nanda has her baby, a boy named Santiago: we see his christening, see César hold him, hear him cry - a lot. We meet lots of others, including the boys who play soccer and run around on the beach. Another thing: there is a cliff, and the boys dive off it. The bank at shore is so steep a younger boy returning from his first dive thinks he won't be able to climb out.

    The events in Cape Verde start gradually to show the darker, more dangerous side of Cléo's intensity. It's not simple, this story. Cléo looks nerdy, and is cut off a little by her thick glasses, but she's very outgoing and not only stubborn but fearless. She tries to join the boys playing soccer, and that isn't the only one of their games she eventually joins.

    César doesn't say so much, but what he says bites. He lets slip how much he not only resents Cléo but also Gloria, the mother he was deprived of and the child who received the attention and affection due to him, for money. Yes, for money; but the love between child and nanny seems untainted by the financial transaction.

    And yet there is something possessive, arguably colonial, in Cléo's intense claim on Gloria. But that is also partly a falsification because her feelings are loving and pure. It's just the external aspect of the relationship, the status, that is contractual and financial at base, and what it develops into has seemed authentic and warmly felt. Wait till Cléo leaves Cape Verde for Gloria's reaction and you'll see. It's complicated.

    César, who is already trying to join the sharp, adventurous boys who seem to grow up so fast here, is no villain. As proof, when Santiago comes, he's happy, and we begin to see a bright smile, even toward Cléo. The film does a pretty good job in its short runtime of showing how much Cléo adapts to the tropical world, and the places where she remains outside it; the accumulation of strange experiences, the playing boys, the crying baby, the christening, that Cléo will treasure but will also separate her, make her begin to accept that Gloria doesn't belong to her, any more than the lullaby sung to Santiago does, though it was once sung to her. And other things are going on with Gloria too. She is having a hotel built that she needs finished for the tourist season. (It isn't going so well; but she finds a solution.)

    As Jessica Kiang says in her Cannes Variety review, the loose, pleasingly rough brush-painted animations seem a bit superfluous, till at a key moment toward the end they provide a useful, perhaps even essential, function to lighten a moment and keep it from being something out of an action thriller and more from the world of childhood fantasy and passion that Cléo belongs to.

    This is an unusually full look at the world of a child, one in which the child is as real and earthy as sunburn and sweat. The camera of Inès Tabarin is essential in creating the sense of closeness and smallness, things happening closer to the ground, though the emotions soar.

    Àma Gloria (originally [i]àma Gloria[/i[), 84 mins., debuted in Cannes Critics' Week May 17, 2023, showing also at Brussels, Jerusalem, New Zealand, Melbourne, Zurich, London, and other international festivals including Sundance Jan. 2024. The French theatrical release was on Aug. 30, 2023, with AlloCiné press rating 4.0 (80%); spectators 3.8 (76%). Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, New York (Feb. 29-Mar. 10, 2024. Showtimes:
    Saturday, March 2 at 3:45pm (Q&A with Marie Amachoukeli)
    Thursday, March 7 at 1:30pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-15-2024 at 04:35 PM.

  13. #13
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    Jul 2002
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    ALL TO PLAY FOR /RIEN À PERDRE (Delphone Deloget 2023)



    An indictment of the French foster care system

    This film can be seen different ways. It's impossible to view it dispassionately. It is set in Brest, in extreme northwestern France, focused on a single mother - dad died when the elder of the two boys, a teen, was two - who's inability to cope leads to the younger son, Sofiane (an explosive Alexis Tonetti), being put into foster care. She has a short fuse, and this makes her less able to "be calm," the standard French admonition. And that in turn leads her to making things worse.

    There is a risk of miserablism here. We're in a world of one trouble after another, and the participants making things worse. But there is a secret weapon: the big new French movie star of the moment, Virginie Efira, who is blonde, who is beautiful, who is soulful, and who is versatile as all get out. This is a chance for her to get into the world of hard knocks and she takes us with her, with a passionately loving mother who does not ever turn against her sons and never gives up the fight to get the younger one back from the clutches of the system.

    Director Delphone Deloget and her cowriters Olivier Demangel and Camille Fontaine give us the predictable bureaucratic roadblocks to childcare when a family becomes unstable. But they have some surprises up their sleeve and do not accept governmental solutions.

    One way of looking at the action is as an argument "against a country’s sometimes overbearing and Kafkaesque social system," as Jordan Mintzer puts it in Hollywood Reporter which as he adds is "a rare thing in French movies" since they "tend to be funded with state money." True, every encounter Sylvie has with child protection, police, or a judge it's a losing battle. But she can't even get along with her support group: director Delphone Deloget makes every scene, from the opening where the kid has severely burned himself making "frites" in the middle of the night when Mom was working her bartending job, into a roiling mini-nightmare.

    Solfiane himeslf has impulse control issues, and eventually trashes a room at the foster home. Sylvie keeps walking out on things and shouting at bureaucrats. Who is at fault? The system, yes. But these folks are unruly. As Mintzer says, the director "pushes her heroine to the brink." Efira, who can be funny, repressed, or regal - every film is something new - never ceases to be soulful and watchable and real whatever she does. But Sylvie is so much a danger to herself, you may find your sympathies stripped down only to teenage son Jean-Jacques (a fine Félix Lefebvre of Summer of 85, who deglamorizes, putting on 20 Kilos for the role), who is drawn to mastering the trumpet, then training as a pastry chef, and just somehow trying to live through this mess of a family life.

    But this is a collective and family affair. Sylvie has no time for a boyfriend, but her brothers Hervé (Arieh Worthalter) and Alain (Mathieu Demy) are frequently involved, along with welfare workers like Mme Henry (India Hair) and her overtaxed attorney Asna (Audrey Mikondo). The support group Sylvie can't accept; she finds them too passive and only wants ways to fight the system, not deal with it.

    The screenplay, not too surprisingly, leads us to a finale where Sylvie reaches what Mitzer calls an "awful decision" between putting motherly love above all else or just accepting the reality of the situation. Her choice is risky and uncertain - but makes a kind of happy ending that the French social welfare system isn't programmed for. It takes rather a long time to get there.

    All to Play For/Rien à perdre, 112 mins., debuted as an official selection at Cannes May 25, 2023; also Al Gouna and Warsaw. Opening theatrically in France Nov. 22, 2023 it received moderate reviews: AlloCiné press rating 3.5: 70%,, spectators 3.8: 76%). Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (Feb. 29-Mar. 10, 2024) where it shows at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center. Showtimes:
    Friday, March 1 at 1:30pm
    Friday, March 8 at 9:00pm (Q&A with Delphine Deloget)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-15-2024 at 02:53 PM.

  14. #14
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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area




    A playful drama about continuity and change

    Nahuel Perez Biscayart, the César-winning Argentinian-born star of Robin Campillo's 120 BPM, is at the center of this film, and three women revolve around him, Valérie, Hélène, and Rosa, and as Étienne, a frenetic amateur soccer (football) coach, he is like a stick figure with emotions, jaunty and fast. Erwan Le Duc tells his story in a spare, playful cinematic style that has something of the Nouvelle Vague about it, never more than in the first ten minutes when, in an inventively shot montage, Étienne and Valérie (Mercedes Dassy) meet cute over a painted soccer ball (she's an activist with a pot of red paint; his ball goes astray); cops break up a demo and he gets arrested; she leads him in a daring escape on foot and by motorboat; she gets pregnant and has a baby, and she disappears, leaving Étienne and his parents to raise baby Rosa.

    Then jump forward seventeen years. Étienne is now 37 (Biscayart's real age: but his slim boyishness is ageless). He lives with Hélène (the somewhat underused Maud Wyler) now, and grown-up Rosa (the statuesque Céleste Brunnquell), whose big, colorful, loosely figurative paintings already fill the house.

    "Mild pain, cracked gaiety: Buster Keaton and Kaurismäki have a cousin": thus Sophie Grassin of the French journal L'Obs summed up this spare little film about a man and his three loves. It plays with sadness at one remove, uncertain whether its characters can or cannot deal with change.

    Rosa has "passed her Bac," and her results get her admitted to the art academy of Metz. Etienne drives up to look it over with her, and it's uncertain he will let ever quite her out of his sight. He brags of her to a teacher and precisely times the drives back and forth. In case we don't get how frenetic and bossy he is, there's scene with the miscellaneous soccer players in which Biscayart gets to do a hilarious mimicry of an over-jealous coach, all over the field, shouting instructions to every player.

    But the French title, "Her Father's Daughter," has at least two meanings. She is her father's daughter because she has no mother. But she's also his daughter because she is like him, though we don't completely find out how much. The film doesn't tie things up: it ends with a new beginning.

    A charming interlude is provided by Rosa's boyfriend, Youssef Horlaville (Mohammed Louridi), a handsome, rali-thin poet at work on an epic about Étienne, his tragedy, and his life now. It is Youssef who points out that there's a tragedy in Valérie's abandonment. (And Youssef is an "Arab" character who happily defies all stereotypes.) Étienne has avoided looking at that and so never dealt with it. Rosa holds back from Youssef, who climbs up to Rosa's bedroom from outside "to seem more of an adventurer" and sleeps in bed with her without touching. There is a rather too on-the-nose discussion between Étienne and Youssef about the latter's jerking off in the bathroom to deal with this situation. (It's not a permanent one.)

    On a darker note, the famous writer-director Noémie Lvovsky, in a guest appearance, appears as the town Mayor to tell Étienne he's going to lose his municipal playing field. It is a sharply drawn cameo, her meanness and condescension out of tune with the rest. The news is a great shock for our hero. Still another big turnaround comes when Étienne spots Hélène - yes, he's quite sure it's she - on a TV program about a town on the Portuguese coast that has the world's highest waves. I was hoping we'd see Biscayart turn into a big-wave surfer. Instead he and Rosa have an argument and he falls down the stairs and gets an MRI and an overnight in hospital. He and Rosa both wind up in Portugal nonetheless. Watch Biscayart do another frenetic turn running nearly all the way from the hospital, with a drip stand, back home.

    There is a throwaway confrontation of Étienne, Rosa, and Valérie on the beach in Portugal. It's saved from seeming a copout because the film has already established its strong mime element. (Remember "Buster Keaton and Kaurismäki have a cousin.") The Screen Daily critic calls this film "profoundly whimsical," not meant favorably. But I agree with Paris Match (not a rave) that says it seems about to lose its way but always lands on its feet because of its confident sui generis style. A very original film, a bit on the cool side but with moments of real charm.

    No Love Lost/La Fille de son père, 91 mins., the director's sophomore feature, debuted as the Closing Film at Cannes Critics Week, May, 2023. Released in French theaters Dec. 20, 2023, it got an AlloCiné press rating 3.9 (78%) spectators 3.4 (68%).
    Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, New York (Feb. 29-Mar. 10, 2024. Showtimes:
    Monday, March 4 at 1:15pm
    Saturday, March 9 at 1:00pm (Q&A with Erwan Le Duc and Maud Wyler)

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-23-2024 at 10:37 AM. Reason: E

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    TONI/TONI EN FAMILLE (Nathan Ambrosiani 2023)


    Single mom with five, seeks a life

    Everyone is brave in this touching study of a single mom, Toni (Camille Cottin of "Call My Agent" fame) raising five teenagers, three girls and two boys. She was once a TV pop singer but that was long ago. Two are about to leave the nest: Mathilde (Léa Lopez) is joining a dance company in Hungary; Marcus (Thmas Gioria), who's a vlogger and influencer, is off to the University of Lyon. That still leaves three young'uns. High schooler Camille (Louise Labèque), makes a surprise declaration at dinner that helps ruin Marcus' self-filmed gay coming-out, which becomes "How my family ruined my coming out." Timothée (Oscar Pauleau), in middle school, has his moment of high drama. It's hard to tell if it's a suicide attempt or alcohol poisoning, but he's rushed to hospital. When he comes to, the way his siblings all hug him shows how much they love each other. Afterwards he starts seeing a therapist again as he did when young. His need to visit dad at the cemetery hints just a little further at his special lacks and needs. Olivia (Juliane Lepoureau), the smallest, doesn't seem to be much trouble - until, of course it comes, a conflict with Timothée at school.

    While each of Toni's children gets a moment, part of the point is that she hasn't found the time to feel each of them fully, so those moments don't sing. The ones that do are collective ones, which is where Toni admits she focuses. The trailer sequence par excellence is the one in the car that literally sings, when a radio station plays one of Toni's old hits and six voices are joined in wildly enthusiastic song: all you had to do was film it. Another, much more subtle, is just the six of them sitting in blue darkness watching TV and munching pizza after Mathilde's, for her, turbulent audition and doubt-riddled, tear-drenched hot shower aftermath. Marcus' failed coming out is a memorable small moment of truth and humor, of course, but its point is how flat it turns out to be. The film is full of things like this, and surges with togetherness. But in his effort to do what's necessary, the director finds little time for the unexpected - those pauses and surprises that make a film not just touching but memorable. What Toni en famille does is condense a whole TV series into a short feature film, which is remarkable, but also rather impossible - yet still fun.

    Toni's university application is this film's ostensible goal, but it's an undercurrent, shyly gesturing to be let out: her lost personhood, her other, non-mom self, to be expressed, should it still be possible, through the tough process of going to university not only as a women in her forties, but with three kids and a house still to look after. Telling the kids isn't easy, and when she does, they show little enthusiasm. Her mom who pushed her into the TV singer role and wants to push her back (Catherine Mouchet) is even less understanding, a bad memory returned.

    Success comes only at the end, when Toni learns she has been accepted, and we go to a special interview alongside her with a university officer who informs her of material provided online at home, plus extra course work and a tutor that are added, and warns her that a high proportion of the students like her don't finish. The final touching moment is her first day. The climax, a small beginning: when she calls one of her daughters to get talked into the courage to get out of the car and head toward the castle-like turrets of a college, in a stream of younger men and women. But for us, the viewers, this is just one thread, and the emotional center of the film has been life as a parent and the many dramas that come with having five teenagers in the house. An engaging, well-acted film.

    Ambrosiani is something of a wunderkind, having directed his previous film at age 18, a horror film called Hostile at 14, and this one at 22. Toni shows him well on his way to mainstream success.

    Toni/Toni en famille, 96 mins., debuted at a number of local french festivals in the summer of 2023, opening in French theaters Sept. 6. AlloCiné press rating 3.9 (78%), spectators 3.8 (76%). A DistribFilms release. Screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, New York (Feb. 29-Mar. 10, 2024. Showtimes:
    Saturday, March 2 at 1:00pm (Q&A with Nathan Ambrosioni)
    Sunday, March 10 at 8:45pm

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-23-2024 at 10:38 AM.


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