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Short Takes: France
Posted: Tue Aug 09, 2005 12:59 am
In this thread I'll be adding brief reviews of new French films. Please feel free to do the same. If a film gets revisited in detail (either by me or anyone else), then an individual film thread will be started.
INDEX (in order reviewed)
Page 1 :
FRESH BAIT (Bertrand Tavernier / 1995)
NOCE BLANCHE (Jean-Claude Brisseau / 1989)
TOMORROW WE MOVE (Chantal Akerman / 2004)
L'ENNUI (Cdric Kahn / 1998)
SEVENTH HEAVEN (Benot Jacquot / 1997)
RAJA (Jacques Doillon / 2003)
L'EQUIPIER (Philippe Lioret / 2004)
FOR EVER MOZART (Jean-Luc Godard / 1996)
WILD SIDE (Sbastien Lifshitz / 2004)
PETITS FRERES (Jacques Doillon / 1999)
THE LAST MITTERRAND (Robert Gudiguian / 2005)
Page 2 :
APRES VOUS (Pierre Salvadori / 2003)
SHE'S ONE OF US (Siegrid Alnoy / 2003)
EXILES (Tony Gatlif / 2004)
LA PETITE LILI (Claude Miller / 2003)
10TH DISTRICT COURT (Raymond Depardon / 2004)
LOOK AT ME (Agns Jaoui / 2004)
LOIN (Andr Tchin / 2001)
HOLY LOLA (Bertrand Tavernier / 2004)
BAD SPELLING (Jean-Jacques Zilbermann / 2004)
CRUSTACES ET COQUILLAGES (Ducastel & Martineau / 2005)
NELLY & MONSIEUR ARNAUD (Claude Sautet / 1995)
BETTY FISHER ET AUTRES HISTOIRES (Claude Miller / 2001)
SALE COMME UN ANGE (Catherine Breillat / 1991)
POURQUOI PAS MOI? (Stphane Giusti / 1999)
MY WIFE IS AN ACTRESS (Yvan Attal / 2001)
THE DINNER GAME (Francis Veber / 1998)
UP AND DOWN (Luc Moullet / 1992)
*For more French film reviews, please visit our European Index.
Re: Short Takes: France
Posted: Tue Aug 09, 2005 1:02 am
FRESH BAIT (1995)
Fresh Bait (L'appt) is a hugely disappointing effort from the usually dependable French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier (A Sunday in the Country , L.627 , Safe Conduct ). Based on a true story, the film tries to document the hollow lives of three criminally hopeless French youths, but the depiction is rather shallow and unobservant, not to mention its not something one hasnt come across before. Nathalie (Marie Gillain) is an attractive young "salesgirl-model," as she likes to call herself, who doesnt shy away from offering her "services" to the wealthy clientele at a local club for some money, and especially for a hope of a big break. She lives with her shiftless boyfriend, Eric (Olivier Sitruk), and his dimwitted buddy, Bruno (Bruno Putzulu). After Eric comes up with a plan of making some quick money for the clothing boutique he wants to open in the U.S., he asks for Nathalies assistance; the plan involves sexual luring of her previous patrons so the other two can come up to their apartments and rob them. Needless to say, things dont go as well as planned, and the trio slowly start to get frustrated with mistakes along the way.
Tavernier has shot Fresh Bait hand-held, but instead of going with DV, hes used film which is a curious aesthetical choice for this sort of a story; there are swooping camera-movements that signify absolutely nothing. It almost seems like the director wanted to throw his hat in the ring by attempting a post-Tarantino era crime-drama filled with "cool" pop-culture references, musical montages, crude and corny renderings etc., but like most others, hes failed on almost every level. Theres something to be said about consciously observing the unconscionable, although its surprising to see Tavernier, on more than one occasion, partaking in the same sort of behavior hes trying to comment on. The most shocking thing about this effort is that it actually won the Golden Bear (Best Picture) at the Berlin film festival in 1995, however, if one were to go over the other competition entries then perhaps it doesnt seem that much of a stretch (the two brilliant American films in competition, Before Sunrise and Smoke, also won prizes). Taverniers compatriot, the great Claire Denis, also made a film in the early nineties using a true crime story, but her piece, I Cant Sleep (1994), was a masterpiece of subversive alienation and misplaced humanism. Fresh Bait, on the other hand, shares many of the worst traits of Larry Clark, which is too bad considering that it couldve easily pursued the best of them.
*FRESH BAIT was recently released on DVD in the U.S.
Re: Short Takes: France
Posted: Tue Aug 09, 2005 6:04 am
Noce blanche (1989) White Wedding
Directed by Jean-Claude Brisseau
Starring Vanessa Paradis, Bruno Cremer
A taboo breaking romantic drama.
Middle aged philosophy teacher "Franois" makes a connection with a 17 year old pupil "Mathilde" who although late for lessons when she bothers to turn up at all shows a real flair for philosophy and psychology but has a cynical attitude towards life. Mathilde is a problem case that most of the teachers want out of the school but thanks to the determination of Franois she is given a last chance.
Franois starts tutoring Mathilde at her home and the inevitable happens, he is seduced by her prodigeous intelligence, then by her beauty and youth. Despite the fact that hes married with a very attractive wife and that as her tutor he knows what they are doing is wrong she brings out the youth in him and he fails to resist.
Gradually Franois learns some frightening facts about Mathildes past and family, with this knowledge and his wifes threats to leave him he tries to cool the affair down. Silent phone calls are made to his house day and night and the shop run by his wife is vandalised. Mathilde sets out to make him jealous until he loses his temper, drags her into an empty classroom where he bawls her out for all the trouble shes causing but they end up caught in an intimate embrace and caught out by the Head of the school.
He is posted to a school in Dunkirk, his wife unsurprisingly leaves him and he settles into his new life until..........!
Convincing acting from the leads, you could understand him falling for this girl that hes already put on a pedestal (plus of course its Vanessa Paradis). There are no sex scenes but I was surprised at the amount of nudity (not exploitative) because according to IMDB Vanessa Paradis was 17 when the film was made.
The story actually had more depth than I would have expected and thankfully didnt turn into a bunny boiler type movie. This was Vanessa Paradiss first leading role and luckily she was perfect for the part, she played a similar character in the film Eliza several years later but with a very different plot line and conclusion.
Recommended for the performances and interesting (although certainly not unique) story line.
BBFC rated 15.
Re: Short Takes: France
Posted: Tue Aug 16, 2005 3:30 am
TOMORROW WE MOVE (2004)
Born in Brussels in 1950, Chantal Akerman made her film debut with a short in 1968 at the tender age of 18 after she was heavily influenced by JLGs Pierrot le fou which she saw at 15 (she has also spoken highly of Michael Snow and Stan Brakhage who she came across during her time in NY in the early 70s). Since then, shes gone on to make such films as Je, tu, il, elle (1974), Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1976), Les Rendez-vous d'Anna (1978) , DEst (1993) and La Captive (2000). All along, however, one thing shes maintained is that she doesnt like repeating herself even though most want more of the same from herand its hard to blame them. So, her oeuvre also includes works like A Couch in New York (1996) and De l'autre ct (2002); and when time permitted, shes also been involved in various art projects including video installations.
Her latest film, Tomorrow We Move (Demain on dmnage), may seem like a bit of an anomaly at first, but ultimately, its streak of feminism renders it equivalent. In this offbeat and often goofy comedy, a mother and daughter are united again after the death of their husband and father. The chain-smoking daughter, played by Sylvie Testud, is a writer whos been assigned a pornographic piece, but her work is often stymied by her mothers rekindled passion for piano lessons. The Mother, played by Aurore Clment, has also cluttered her already congested apartment, thus making it difficult for her to think clearly; however, when she suffers a writers block, the mother casually tells her to spice the piece up with words like "prick," " @#%$," and "ass." Most of the rather lackadaisical first half revolves around their unique relationship but things do pick up once they decide to move. After the apartment gets appointed for sale, the endless succession of prospective buyers make life quite interesting for both of them (and for us), and unknowingly, they even help out with the writing piece. Akerman has described herself as a "bit of Chaplinesque figure," and Testuds character is supposedly her alter ego, but while this might be a personal film for this auteur, its far from a satisfying viewing experience. There isnt enough material to fill this almost 2-hr film, so many ideas and idiosyncrasies are repeated. Tested, who also starred in Akerman's previous film (the Proust adaptation, La Captive) is fine once again, and there are some strong turns by veterans like Natacha Rgnier, Dominique Reymond and Elsa Zylberstein.
*TOMORROW WE MOVE was recently released on DVD in the U.S.
Re: Short Takes: France
Posted: Wed Aug 24, 2005 3:37 pm
L`ennui (1998 / France, Portugal / Cdric Kahn)
After having seen this film my belief that french cinema of the last ten years is a s alive as ever has again been reassured. Many claims have been made, that french films aren`t what they used to be (which they of course aren`t, as time changes), even that the quality of french film production has fallen into mediocrity. But as Jonathan Rosenbaum pointed out already during the 90s in his essay on Les Voleurs (1996 / Andre Techine), a film I thoroughly recommend, is that most critics only consider what they get to see from french films, whixh is very little. If they were really interested and would dig a bit deeper into every years production on their own, they would find many rough diamonds along with some polished ones.
Cedric kahn is a young director, and according to this film a most promising one. We have the Story of a middle-aged philosophy teacher who falls for a 17 year old girl (Haven't I read this somewhere before? ), but this isn`t your typical older man falls for a Lolita femme-fatale type of film. In fact I got so bored after about 15 minutes, because of the lurid but seemingly empty pace of the movie and the contrived dialogue, that I started switching channels on my TV, but when I returned to the same scene I had left a few seconds later, I knew I was finally onto something.
The film begins with a rapid pace showing a disturbed Charles Berling (who had one year earlier starred in Anne Fontaines brilliant social study Nettoyage a sec, but may be best known for the leading role in Patrice Leconte's Ridicule) who has entered a cocktail party of his ex-wife Sophie, with the intention to speak to her (they seem to be separated for a short time only), but doesnt succeed as she seems to be more concerned with making the impression that she has her life under control, though we see that shes very far away from this goal. It is never explicitely mentioned in the film, but
there are numerous great scenes that indicate that the marriage has left deep wounds in Sophie's heart and mind, and probably also in Berling's character, though he isn't for analizing situations, when it comes to himself. At the party he is "offered" a young student who admires him for the night, but he shows not a hint of interest. He even explains to Sophie, that he hasn't had sex for the last six months, and intends to go on this way, in order to write a new book. After having left, he wonders aimlessly through the night when he encounters a painter who gives him his adress after a rescue by Berling from a difficult situation. When he visits the painters house the next day, he discovers that he has died during sexual intercourse with his 17 year old student he was obsessed with. After meeting her, Berling steps in the same "trap". he starts a sexual relationship with her, that gets more and more dramatic until end of the film, and the final climax.
The theme of the film is obssession, and it reminded me at times of Zulawskis movie of the same name, though it isn`t as notorious or deliric. A case study of the protagonists neuroses getting the best of him, and his entanglement into an illusion of his own making. The fascinating object of desire is Cecilia (debut by Sophie Guillemin), who in no way corresponds with a young femme fatale. Quite on the contrary. She is a bit fat, small, is aware of her sexuality but doesn`t use it as a tool, she is rather introverted and makes no real attempt at seducing anybody. More than anything else she is like an object waiting to be used, though only if it pleases her (which it seems to do quite often though). And that becomes the crucial point. No active relationship develops between the two besides a sexual one, which is neither demanding nor boring. Just plain ordinary sex, which is shown several times, and is over fast. Cecilia seems to be oblivious to ambition, the need to small-talk with people, or communicate on any other level than sexually. She seems to have no real needs nor desires, living in the moment, and with a day to day time-table, that`s pretty schematic.
The protagonist now starts to interpret this blank canvas, and instead of writing his book, he begins to wonder what`s going on in Cecilia`s mind, begins projecting his own fears on her. He thinks she is cheating, she`s lying, she doesn`t love him, etc. as he becomes more and more possessive. As his desparate attempts to possess her even sexually don`t find a satisfiying conclusion his paranoia takes on a clinical state.
More and more he turns into a victim to his desire for love and closeness, which he can`t possibly find in Cecilia, but instead of letting it go, he degrades himself even more.
The strength of the film lies in its director`s ability to carry things to the extreme, to let its protagonist go not just to the borders, but clearly over everything socially acceptible. He shows the utter ridiculousness of the protagonists behaviour, without ridiculing him, and even in the most degrading and unbelievable scenes the direction never falters on what is a very small line between seriousness and absurdity, maintaining the films credibility, and most of all its sincerity, through which every character of the film is primarily his own, keeping his dignity. This rare accomplishment by Cdric Kahn is most promising for a young director more interested in the process of self-discovery and redemption of his characters, than in any bleak nihilism or apocalyptic vision of mankind and relationships.. The ending beautifully underscores his humanist standpoint.
The film is available on DVD in North America and Great Britain. The UK release is by Artificial Eye, from which the above screencap has been taken.
Re: Short Takes: France
Posted: Wed Oct 05, 2005 2:00 am
After spending much of the 90s on films that inclined toward problems faced by the youth, director Jacques Doillon went back to the psychologically complex turf of his earlier films with Raja, a subtle yet evocative romance between two individuals caught within a social and cultural tug-of-war. Like many Doillon films, Raja picks up its characters at a nondescript moment in their lives and then drops them off without much noise thus emphasizing the overall linearity of life. The titular character is a 19-year-old tomboy (Najat Benssalam) whos been through some rough patches as an orphan in Morocco. While working in the garden of a wealthy French intellectual, Fred (Pascal Greggory), she catches his eye. Fred is leading a rather dreary life after being separated from his wife; however, what he does have is time and money and he gets the inclination of using them, perhaps to get a hold of a branch for just a while before being engulfed by old age. Raja isnt the most beautiful girl working at his posh compound but he feels invigorated by her vitality and dynamism. Fred tries to buy her in different ways but isnt able to make a proper connection due to cultural and language barriers. He underestimates her individuality, but more importantly, hes unable to sort out the base of his own feeling for her. Eventually, he learns that she belongs to a local pimp (Hassan Khissal) who has plans of marrying her. There are hints of a post-colonial outlook with the proceedings but Doillons characters are too emotionally damaged to be involved in any sort of an allegorical premise. The constant shifting of feelings that are beautifully incorporated by Doillons screenplay and mise-en-scne add numerous layers to this otherwise simple film. And those shifts wouldve felt ordinary if it wasnt for the intelligent performances of Greggory and Benssalam, especially the young Moroccan actress who allows us to see the other side of her character which initially seemed quite narrow. By bypassing all the differences that exist between the two characters, Raja is ultimately about their biggest yet most basic difference of all that of a Man and a Woman.
*RAJA premiered in France in 2003 and it went on to play at various festivals including Venice, Toronto and NY. The film was released theatrically and on DVD by Film Movement last year in the U.S.
Re: Short Takes: France
Posted: Thu Oct 06, 2005 5:57 am
Hi to all
which of the following is a MUST watch?
Re: Short Takes: France
Posted: Thu Oct 06, 2005 6:16 am
Based on a true story, L'Equipier ("The Light") is a wonderful, old-fashioned French drama featuring excellent performances and especially an acute sense of milieu which is a rarity nowadays. Set in Ouessant, a remote island off the coast of Brittany, the film starts off with a young woman who returns to the island to sell her family home. She soon learns about a man who came to this island in 1963 and changed things forever. The film goes back in time and we witness that an Algerian war vet, Antoine (Grgori Derangre Bon Voyage), has arrived in this close-knit community to replace a deceased lighthouse operator, much to the chagrin of the other workers. While it doesnt take long for him to become the object of infatuation for a local beauty (milie Dequenne Rosetta), he only has eyes for Mab (Sandrine Bonnaire Vagabond), the wife of his co-worker, Yvon (Philippe Torreton Une nouvelle vie). Beautifully paced from the very start, L'Equipier gradually unfolds as we discover the complex sentiments of these characters simply trying to cope with life. The off-putting Yvon eventually finds a liking to Antoine, and so does his wife. However, others arent so willing, and would prefer if his stay isnt very long. Nominated for 3 Csar Awards (French "Oscars") -- Best Actor (Torreton), Best Supporting Actress (Dequenne), and Best Music (Nicola Piovani) -- L'Equipier is directed by Philippe Lioret, a longtime veteran of the industry. His moody and richly metaphoric visuals add much to the proceedings by heightening the film from its conventional structure (it certainly helps that the film was shot entirely on location). But ultimately its the nuanced emotions displayed by these characters that make us feel like weve known these people for a lot longer than we actually have.
*English subs are included on the French DVD which was released in May.
It's an intriguing mix of films.
L'Esquive shouldn't be missed. Same goes for Son frre and Strayed. (I think I've posted about a couple of them on this site, if not I'll add 'em.) However, I wouldn't classify these films as "crowd pleasers." I saw Banlieue 13 in Toronto, wasn't impressed.
To Paint or to make love actuallly played in-competition this year at Cannes, not in Directors' Fortnight as it is listed there.
Joyeux Nol will probably become a big hit everywhere.
Re: Short Takes: France
Posted: Thu Oct 06, 2005 6:18 am
Re: Short Takes: France
Posted: Sat Oct 08, 2005 11:30 am
I recommend His Brother and L`esquive, both masterpieces imo.