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Thread: SFFS French Cinema Now Series November 6-9, 2014

  1. #1
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    SFFS French Cinema Now Series November 6-9, 2014

    San Francisco Film Society French Cinema Now Series.

    Paris Follies/La Ritournelle (Marc Fitoussi 2014)
    Appearing onscreen together for the first time, Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Pierre Darroussin embody the earthy chemistry of long-married spouses in this story of a cattle farmer and his restless wife. (11 June French release; AlloCiné press rating 3.4.)
    November 6, 2014, 7:00 p.m.
    November 8, 2014, 4:15 p.m.

    The Last Diamond/Le dernier diamant (Eric Barbier 2014)
    Simon is fresh out of jail but can’t resist a chance at a soon-to-be auctioned 137-carat gem. He poses as a security consultant to get close to Julia, the woman in charge of the jewel’s upcoming sale. (30 Apr. French release; AlloCiné press rating 3.1.)
    November 6, 2014, 9:30 p.m.

    Girlhood/Bande de filles (Céline Sciamma 2014)
    Director Céline Sciamma once again examines the way young women define and present themselves in this engaging look at 16-year-old Marieme, who finds herself involved a girl gang in the projects of suburban Paris. (23 Oct. French release; AlloCiné press rating: 3.8.)
    November 7, 2014, 6:30 p.m.

    Love at First Fight/Les combattants[ (Thomas Cailley 2014)
    In this idiosyncratic romantic comedy, Arnaud is literally knocked off his feet when he ends up wrestling with, and nearly losing to, an intense young woman at an army recruitment event. FIPRESCI Prize, Director's Fortnight, Cannes. (20 Aug. French release; AlloCiné press rating 4.1.)
    November 7, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

    The Good Life/La belle vie (Jean Denizot 2014) [REVIEWED]
    Sylvain, his brother Pierre and their father Yves lead a rustic existence, in harmony with nature, away from society. But when missing children flyers appear in the nearby town, the boys realize that something’s afoot. (9 Apr. French release; AlloCiné press rating 3.4.)
    November 8, 2014, 2:00 p.m.

    Two Days, One Night/Deux jours, une nuit (Jean-Pierre, Luc Dardenne 2014) [REVIEWED--NYFF]
    The Dardennes brothers have created a humanist thriller that focuses on one woman’s quest to survive while grappling with humble dreams, the daily strains of the working class and the devastating effects of a downsized culture. (21 May French release; AlloCiné press rating 4.1.)
    November 8, 2014, 7:00 p.m.

    Love Is the Perfect Crime/L'Amour est un crime parfait (A., J-M. Larrieu 2013) [REVIEWED--R-V]
    When one of Marc’s students (and recent romantic conquests) vanishes, he finds himself juggling his attraction to the girl’s beautiful stepmother, the advances of another young student, and paranoia about his possible role in the disappearance. (15 Jan. French release; AlloCiné press rating 3.2.)
    November 8, 2014, 9:30 p.m.

    Three Men to Kill (Jacques Deray 1980--restoration) [REVIEWED]
    While on his way to a high-stakes card game, gambler Michel Gerfaut comes across a solo car wreck on a country road. But this crash is no accident, and Michel soon finds himself the target of ruthless arms dealers.
    November 9, 2014, 1:00 p.m.

    One of a Kind/Mon âme par toi guérie (François Dupeyron 2013) [REVIEWED]
    Though he would like to deny it, Frédi has a gift for healing. One night, an accident compels him to use his talents and soon, much to his chagrin, patients start lining up outside his trailer door. (25 Sept. French release; AlloCiné press rating 3.5.)
    November 9, 2014, 3:15 p.m.

    The Easy Way Out/L'art de la fugue (Brice Cauvin 2014) [PREVIEW]
    The romantic travails of three brothers are dissected with heart and humor in Brice Cauvin’s charming feature. The brothers, all in different stages of falling in or out of love, are played by some of the finest actors in France today including Agnès Jaoui, Guy Marchand. (8 March 2015 French release.)
    November 9, 2014, 6:00 p.m.

    Clouds of Sils Maria (Oivier Assayas 2014)) [REVIEWED, NYFF]
    Mysterious and exhilarating, Olivier Assayas’s new film starring Juliette Binoche and Kristin Stewart is a triumph of precision acting and a snaking study of sexuality, acting, aging, ambition and the intermingling of art and experience. (20 Aug. French release; AlloCineé press rating 3.8.)
    November 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 11-09-2014 at 10:20 PM.

  2. #2
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    THE GOOD LIFE (Jean Denizot 2014)



    Living outside convention, for a while

    In Jean Denizot's first feature loosely based on the story of Xavier Fortin, arrested in the Pyrenees in 2009, Sylvain (Zacharie Chasseriaud, who resembles Emile Hirsch) and Pierre (Jules Pelissier), 16 and 18, live an idyllic life in the country with their father Yves (Nicolas Bouchaud) close to nature, free, not bothering to go to school. But not so free -- it turns out he abducted them during a bitter custody battle, and has been traveling around on the lam with them for eleven years. When the police seem to be closing in, evidently not for the first time, Pierre gets fed up with the situation, desperate for sex, a car, and a life of his own, disappears without a word. As Sylvain and his father go on hiding, the younger boy, the center of the action, also feels the confinement of the situation -- heightened when he meets a girl, Gilda (Solène Rigot ), and they become attached. Gilda has hard times too: she's had to grow up alone with her father, an alcoholic doctor, functional at work but a disaster at home. Both have had very bittersweet childhoods.

    The situation parallels that of Sidney Lumet's classic 1988 River Phoenix vehicle Running on Empty, except that those kids are in school, and the parents are joined by principle, radicals hiding from the FBI. Phoenix's character chooses to step away from them despite a fierce loyalty (felt also by Sylvain and Pierre), because his remarkable musical talent requires nurturing. But in both cases, being on the run becomes an impossible limit on a youth's fulfillment.

    In some ways this French movie is more enthusiastically American than Lumet's. It begins with nature-boy scenes accompanied by an US country song; before his disappearance, Pierre is reading a French translation of Huckeleberry Finn, peruses by Syvain after he's run off, and later Yves and Sylvain are running down a river on a sort of raft. Country music comes again to bring a larky feel, balancing humor and danger as some Westerns do. Gilda reels Sylvain in for a lighthearted meet-cute: fishing, she catches the undershorts he's lost skinny dipping and is madly swimming in search of. This Americanism may be a bit obvious, and the action winds up feeling a little too low-keyed for its own good, the Mark Twain references a bit obvious. Anyway, the danger vanishes in the jaunty sounds of blue grass, which Justin Chang damningly but not inaccurately calls in his Variety review "laying on a thick glaze of faux Americana with a trowel."

    "To be kidnapped by your own father represents both a nightmare and a total fusion with your model," Denizot has commented. As with Running on Empty, Sylvain and Pierre's father in his way lives by idealistic rules, and Denizot has noted how "intelligent and cultured" the two boys where when they were interviewed on the radio, despite their not having gone to school. Well, maybe so. But despite a suggestion that Sylvain has given some critical thought to religion, The Good Life can't match either the complexity of Running on Empty nor the memorable, emotional performances. Nor can the rather bland scenes between Sylvain and Gilda compete with the the ironies and intensities of River Phoenix and real-life girlfriend Martha Plimpton. What The Good Life does have is a wild outdoorsy feel and handsome photography of rural France by Elin Kirschfink. And Chasseriaud and Rigot are natural together. The film's best moments are near the end when Sylvain is torn between his father, his girlfriend, and joining his brother. It's Pierre who has found "the good life" -- being his own man, with a job, independent. The final scenes have their own strong emotion. The last shot is a zinger.

    The Good Life/La belle vie, 93 mins., debuted at Venice; showed in a few other festivals. French theatrical release from 9 April 2014. AlloCiné press rating 3.4. Screened for this review as part of the San Francisco Film Society's French Cinema Now series, November 6-9, 2014.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-19-2015 at 08:53 PM.

  3. #3
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    ONE OF A KIND (François Dupeyron 2014)



    Healing people, wandering without a clue

    Françcois Dupeyron is on the lookout for uplift, but he tries quite different ways to get at it. None more obvious, perhaps, or more unlikely than Frédi (a superb Grégory Gadebois) a chunky, inarticulate man who lives in a trailer and rides motor bikes. Frédi has a gift for healing inherited from his mother, recently deceased. He lives with his widowed, depressed father ( sad-faced veteran actor Jean-Pierre Darroussin), has epilepsy, but, incongruously, works as a tree surgeon. He has a skimpy teenage daughter, none too happy either, who comes and goes. A drunken ride, an injured boy, and Frédi, guilt-ridden, tries to muster his healing powers. Then, people begin to beat a path to his humble door. But who can heal Frédi?

    One of a Kind takes the risk of meandering, and its action is hit or miss; I wish it did not have to be punctuated by bluesy American songs. But thanks precisely to its measured pace, expressive use of widescreen lensing, and Gadebois' skill at seeming not to be acting, Dupeyron, who knows how to frame a scene, captures a lived-in feel and offers some surprises. I'm of two minds about Nina, the wealthy alcoholic Frédo fallls for and seeks to save, and in so doing saves himself. But in playing Nina to the hilt, Céline Sallette makes every minute count, as for that matter, in his offhand way, does Gadebois. If ever an actor could anchor a movie, he can. At times his simple brutish decency and quiet accesses to healing achieve a melding of the animal and the transcendent worthy of Bruno Dumont -- surprising coming from a director most known for celebrating the friendship of a mellow muslim and a cute oversexed Jewish boy.

    The film is set on the French Riviera in winter, and the golden sunlight invades the wide screen with its own healing but incomprehensible force. Poverty, sorrow, and disease are still afflictions however pretty the light. "I dreamed that Heaven looked on me and I was afraid," says Frédo. His father, who goes fishing, then finds a new girlfriend, says these dreams are all conneries, nonsense. Frédo, who understands nothing and knows it, looks for a sign that never comes. He is like those Hollywood film noir heros, a French critic wrote, such as Robert Mithum or John Garfield, who "wants to live in peace but is always caught up by destiny." Gadebois and Dupeyron achieve something cinematic together; a protagonist who just simply is. Dupeyron's heroically humble protagonist may just be, in its own small way, a bit of a a fresh angle on the mysteries of the universe.

    One of a Kind/Mon âme par toi guérie, 123 mins., debuted Sept. 2013 at Donostia-San Sebastián, French release at that time. AlloCiné press rating 3.5. It was a nominee for the Prix Goncourt du Cinéma. Previously reviewed: With a Little Help from Myself (2008) and Monsieur Ibrahim (2003).

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 11-07-2014 at 10:16 AM.

  4. #4
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    THE EASY WAY OUT (Brice Cauvin 2014)



    Brice Cauvin and his collaborators, including Agnès Jaoui, have taken Stephen (The Object of My Affection, ) McCauley's novel of American family disfunction and turned it into a more French ronde of alternately blasé and bothered brothers and their eccentric dysfunctional elders.

    "The romantic travails of three brothers are dissected with heart and humor in Brice Cauvin’s charming feature. Antoine (Laurent Lafitte) is feeling the 10-year itch with his boyfriend Adar, sad-sack Gérard (Benjamin Biolay) is pining after his soon-to-be ex-wife and savvy businessman Louis (Nicolas Bedos) is getting cold feet over his engagement to his long-time girlfriend. These three men, all in different stages of falling in or out of love, are played by some of the finest actors in France today. The film’s source material is Stephen McCauley’s eponymous 1992 novel, but Cauvin and his cowriter transplant the scenario from Massachusetts to France, adding particularly Gallic foibles and eccentricities. With the delightful Agnès Jaoui as Antoine’s coworker and Gérard’s potential new love interest and the wonderful Guy Marchand and Marie-Christine Barrault as the boys’ parents, The Easy Way Out portrays familial dysfunction with effortless wit and humanity."

    "Co-written by Cauvin and Raphaëlle Desplechin (with Jaoui acting as consultant), the script centres on Antoine (Lafitte): his job as a tour operator, his partner with whom he is planning to buy a house, his colleague and friend Ariel (Jaoui), his brothers the neurotic Gérard and engaged-to-be-married Louis, his father with a heart condition and his cantankerous mother… Everything is going well, but nothing is right: he doesn’t want the house, Gérard can’t get over his ex-wife, Louis is cheating on his wife-to-be… And Ariel sweeps through this little world like a hurricane. Adept at the "art of finding a way out", Antoine will have to make a decision."--Jaoui-Bacri blog

    "Antoine n’en peut plus du spectacle de sa famille, engluée dans une débâcle permanente.
    Son grand frère chômeur, Gérard abruti par un mariage en pleine déroute, se laisse manipuler par des parents querelleurs et fantasques, propriétaires d'une boutique de vêtements hors d’âge à Saint Denis…
    Louis, son petit frère, sorti d'une école de commerce, est lui, incapable de résoudre l'équation entre le respect et l'amour... Abandonnant Julie la fiancée de toujours, aux bras de son père...
    Antoine, lui-même, coinçé entre un travail absurde, le chantage affectif de ses parents et un amant (trop) parfait, n’échappe à la spirale familiale, qu’en tentant de résoudre les problèmes de ses frères.
    Jusqu'au jour où Ariel, l'amie de toujours, s’immisce, corrigeant les équilibres instables de cette famille... Antoine élucubre alors des rêves, et tente ainsi de se soustraire à son propre naufrage… C'est tout l'art de la fugue..."--Synopsis on AlloCiné.

    The Easy Way Out/L'Art de la fugue, debuted 10 October 2014 (Festival du Film de la Réunion); French theatrical release 4 March 2015. Screened as part of the San Francisco Film Society series French Cinema Now, showing at the Vogue Theater, San Francisco, November 9, 2014, 6:00 p.m.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 11-09-2014 at 10:19 PM.

  5. #5
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    THREE MEN TO KILL (Jacques Deray 1980)



    Three Men to Kill/Trois hommes à abattre -- not-so-vintage Alain Delon

    Alain Delon is one of the best looking male movie stars in screen history, noted for the cold, elegant perfection of his face, a matinee idol with a French edge of mystery and danger; and he is still handsome and dignified today, in his seventies, as were Cooper and Peck. But Delon made his iconic films in the Sixties and Seventies. Indeed nothing can quite equal the excitement and sun-drenched beauty ofl Purple Noon (1960) René Clément's early version of Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley, in French, and Delon's acknowledged peak moment of ripe gorgeousness. The glamour continued with Rocco and His Brothers (poverty chic), L'Eclisse (ennui chic), The Leopard (aristocracy chic).

    But it was Jean-Pierre Melville who, starting with Le Samouraï, took Delon from a mysterious, dangerous object of beauty and transformed him into an austere film noir hero, a slick hit man, a suave robber. There were also gangster movies like The Sicilian Clan and (Delon's first film with Jacques Deray, and an international hit) Borsalino (with Belmondo and Delon). There were to be some others with Melville, and Delon was considered the "definitive" Melville actor, along with Belmondo (of his Le Doulos). Two more by Melville with Delon were to follow, Le Cercle Rouge and Un flic, the last Melville's last film (1972).

    Delon is one of those actors who had only a decade when the great roles came hot and heavy, and it may have ended with the death of Melville. But good roles were still to come, notably in Joseph Losey's Mr. Klein (1976), and the smaller part but inspired casting as the Baron Charlus in Volker Schlöndorff's Swann in Love. Still, there have been a lot of potboilers.

    Jacques deray made seven films with Alain Delon, the first La piscine (The Swimming Pool), with Romy Schneider, another bout of Mediterranean sunlight and good looks. Borsalino followed, a big hit. Three Men to Kill (3 hommes à abattre), being shown in a new print, was conceived primarily as a vehicle for Delon. We may see Deray as a sort of less distinctive Melville substitute. "People don't want me other than as they imagine me," declared Alain Delon in an interview granted the press in October 1980. "My new film is a return to this personality, a somewhat solitary hero, on the margin of everything, of men and of society, a kind of wolf plunged into a hostile jungle" (AlloCiné). In Three Men to Kill, the actor thus decides to return to his personal myth in playing the character of Michel Gerfaut, a man who, after rescuing an injured driver, becomes the target of killers for whom he has become an embarrassing witness.

    Or so they think anyway. The charm of Three Men is that Gerfaut, a professional gambler with a checkered but financially successful past, is much more on top of things than the inept agents of Emerich, the arms manufacturer whose goons are after him. But this is also a weakness of the film. There isn't much real conflict, and the plot fails to provide suspense. (There is our curiosity about why this guy Gerfaut took to the hospital got shot and why the shooters then turn on him.) There is a flashy car chase through Paris, and a shootout in a gas station ending with Gerfaut's glamorous and powerful Lancia in flames. There is a lovely much younger girlfriend, Béa (the very classy Italian born Dalila Di Lazzaro), whom Gerfaut treats with kindly condescension: she's tucked out of the way when things get dicey); and he has a mother he treats similarly. A trouble with the setup is that Delon's character doesn't really care about anyone, so nobody can get at him. But he lacks the austere mystique of Melville's films. He's just mysteriously adept at defending himself -- so much so that the gangsters assume he's a pro, and want to hire him on their side. Like these adversaries, he's inexplicably willing to kill anybody who gets in his way -- though he's neither a cop nor a crook. Who is he? He's just Alain Delon, playing a cool role in a mediocre film. For some of us that can be enough, though. And Three Men to Kill was a box office hit in France in its day. The "dangerous" Delon still had the glamour and spark in 1980, if not quite the mystique or the point.

    SFFS'S French Cinema Now, November 9, 2014, 1:00 p.m. New Restoration. Shown at the Vogue Theater, San Francisco.

    Three Men to Kill/Trois hommes à abattre, 93 mins., released in France 31 Octobert 1980, and in a number of other countries in 1981 and 1982; never released in the US.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 11-10-2014 at 09:18 PM.


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