Short Takes: France

This is the place to talk about films from around the world.

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby arsaib4 » Sat May 27, 2006 6:36 am

10TH DISTRICT COURT (France / 2004)
*A 2006 U.S. Release*

For his fascinating yet only intermittently engaging courtroom documentary, 10th District Court (10e chambre - Instants d'audience), French filmmaker Raymond Depardon was able to get special permission to override a 1985 law which prohibits the filming of French civil trials. Under judge Michle Bernard-Requin, Depardon proceeded to document 169 cases in the Parisian 10th District Courthouse during the three months he was granted, ultimately selecting parts of 12 for the film. Since the French judicial system does not require a jury, its the presiding judge who renders the verdict after directly questioning the parties involved. (The prosecuting and defense counsel are present to elucidate legal concerns, and to ultimately read their versions of the sentence in order to convince the judge.)

With all due respect, a few of the cases depicted in 10th District Court are remarkably tepid and uninteresting: charges stemming from foul language, DUI, harassment cases are a constituent of civil courts all around the world. Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the "intriguing" cases involve minorities of North African and Middle Eastern descent. Needless to say, immigration matters are front and center. While Depardon should be credited for remaining as objective as possible throughout the proceedings (there are no voice-overs or title cards), by cutting between his two 16mm cameras installed in the courtroom, hes able to get certain reaction shots while at times even zooming in on the defendants.

"I think I may have more issues with the judge than with the defendants," Depardon recently stated, which he has the right to. But since judge Bernard-Requin cant be summoned to explain her verdicts, the documentary might leave a false impression of her efficiency and reasoning of the law. Depardon would've been better off digging deeper into the laws themselves, instead of merely collaging why and how theyre applied.

Grade: C+

*10TH DISTRICT COURT premiered at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. Now available in the U.S. on DVD (Koch Lorber Films).

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby arsaib4 » Tue May 30, 2006 10:24 pm

LOOK AT ME (France / 2004)

Look at Me is a disappointingly ordinary film from Agns Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri, the makers of The Taste of Others, a witty and charming comedy of manners which was released stateside in 2001. Look at Me isnt completely devoid of wit and allure, but those moments are too few and far between. The oft-repeated concepts of self-image and social expectations casually play out on our protagonist, a young over-weight woman named "Lolita" (Marilou Berry), who is the daughter of a rich and famous (and thus arrogant) novelist/publisher (Jean-Pierre Bacri). Lolita believes, and in many cases rightfully so, that people are only attracted to her because who her father is: her paranoia includes her two boyfriends, but not her choral teacher (Agns Jaoui), who in fact does behave differently towards her after discovering who she is for the sake of her glum husband/writer (Laurent Grvill). The obvious problem of Lolita is palpable early on (shes quite like her father), and the film repeats her predicament during various stretches for effect, While, in some cases, Look at Me plays against our expectations -- Lolitas statuesque stepmother adores her; it only flirts with being a merry-go-round of romances, etc. -- the characters still seem trapped by the innocuous screenplay. Bacri and Jaoui perform their parts admirably (which shouldnt be a surprise since they wrote them), but the rest of the cast members, including Marilou Berry, are only adequate at best. The performances by the choral group (and Mozart is also around), although repetitious, are a welcome addition, and some intriguing parallels start to develop near the end, but its too little too late. A film like Look at Me makes one truly appreciate a masterwork like Va Savoir (2001), in which Jacques Rivette so seamlessly blended in his world with ours.


*Available in the U.S. on DVD (Sony).

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby trevor826 » Tue Jun 20, 2006 1:31 pm

Previously posted on the Renault Film Festival thread.

Holy Lola (2004)

Directed by Bertrand Tavernier

Starring Jacques Gamblin (LEnfer), Isabelle Carr (He Loves Me. He Loves Me Not)

An emotional rollercoaster of the trials and tribulations of a French couples efforts to adopt an orphan baby in Cambodia.

Monsoon season, a husband and wife arrive in Cambodia having completed reams of paperwork back home in order to be able to adopt a baby, they end up at a hotel full of similar couples some of whom have already been there several weeks waiting for their chance.

For two hours or so we follow them around visiting orphanages, small villages and facing a steady stream of bribery and corruption in their attempt to obtain the one thing they feel will make their lives complete.

Heartache, joy, disappointment, frustration, the emotions soar and dive as an opportunity ends in an empty promise. Babies often stolen from their mothers are offered for a price, a phone call from an orphanage will end in bitterness because another (usually American) couple have used large amounts of cash to jump the queue and have taken the child.

Even when they eventually manage to find a beautiful orphan baby girl already rejected by another couple, the endless paperwork and bribes needed to complete even the simplest of tasks leads to arguments and despair. Physically, emotionally and financially drained, you wonder will they ever be able to leave Cambodia with the child of their dreams?

Handheld camerawork and totally naturalistic acting gives the film an almost documentary feel, the emotional highs and lows are so perfectly played that you could easily believe this is all for real. How real couples can handle this sort of situation, the faith, love and fortitude needed must be incredible.

This is no travelogue, you get the non tourist Cambodia including a visit to a large open garbage tip where hundreds of people from very young children to the very old eke out an existence scrabbling through other peoples waste. You also see the wards in the orphanages of the babies nobody wants, babies with Aids etc.

A very good film but with a couple of minor flaws, you lose a sense of time, I honestly couldnt say how long the search for the baby took? This along with the follow up frustration of sorting out all the paperwork to be able to take the baby back to France, it could have been weeks or even months, I honestly havent got a clue. The constant dashing from here to there, from hotel to orphanage to village etc leaves you feeling lost and in a sense frustrated as to why, but that does in a sense draw you into the same emotional state as the couple as each trip they make ends in more and more frustration.

All in all, not your typical film but if it does pique your interest, it will grab you and drag you along on a literally dizzying ride. It is tough going but I felt it was more than worth it to for the amazing performances (especially the main couple) and to get a real sense of life in Cambodia.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby trevor826 » Tue Jun 20, 2006 1:33 pm

Previously posted on the Renault Film Festival thread.

Bad Spelling (2004) Les Fautes d'orthographe

Directed by Jean-Jacques Zilbermann

Starring Carole Bouquet, Olivier Gourmet, Damien Jouillerot

Set in a similar boarding school/institution to the one in The Chorus but very dissimilar in tone, this film is set in 1960s France with revolution stirring in the air.

Damien Massu is a physically underdeveloped 14-year-old, mentally though he is way ahead of the other pupils especially in regard to scheming. His mother and father run the school which provides more than enough reason for the other kids to pick on him so Damien has learnt to rely and survive on his wits, providing favours but only in return for other favours.

As far as his education is concerned Damien has one problem, he cant spell, why? Its not explained but he circumnavigates the problem by getting his work rewritten by his classmates, a favour for a favour. Thanks to a couple of mishaps another boy, probably Damiens first true friend gets expelled. Despite pleading with his parents, they will not reinstate the boy so Damien takes matters into his own hands and after befriending a left wing student, he sets his plan for revolution in motion. What follows is a battle of wits between Damien and his parents as he brings the school to the brink of anarchy.

Well made, good performances especially from the leads and all the details feel right for the 1960s. A simple story but with enough scheming and complexities for a Shakespearean tragedy. If I had a complaint it would be that a lot of the students looked older than they were supposed to be, other than that it's a solid drama and comes recommended.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby trevor826 » Tue Jun 20, 2006 1:36 pm

Previously posted on the Renault Film Festival thread.

Crustaces et Coqillages (2005) Cote d'Azur aka Cockles and Mussels

Directed by Olivier Ducastel & Jacques Martineau

Starring Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (5x2), Gilbert Melki (Intimate Strangers)

Frothy French farce with quite a 1960s feel to it, bright and breezy and ultimately pretty disposable.

The story revolves around a family on holiday on the Cote d'Azur in a house inherited by the husband, each has secrets that will inevitably be revealed but of course being a light farce, everything ends on a happy note. Batrix and Marc are open-minded parents; they dont mind their daughter flitting off shortly after they arrive at their holiday home for a separate holiday with her boyfriend.

Shortly after, their son Charlys best friend Mathieu arrives and for some reason Batrix assumes they are gay lovers which of course being as open minded as she is doesnt worry her at all. Batrix has her own secret to keep, her lover has also arrived and strangely in a film with so many gay overtones he is by far the campest character and has a habit of suddenly appearing in various states of undress to carry on their affair.

Marc used to reside on the Cote d'Azur in his younger days and his past catches up with him in the form of a local plumber with whom he had something deeper than friendship. Mathieu who is openly gay does fancy Charly but knows hes straight, its also clear (at least in hindsight) that Mathieu knows that Marc is gay. Also very obvious is the fact that Mathieu has rekindled Marc's old urges, feelings that start to emerge well before he is reunited with his past.

Gradually everything comes to a head and everyones secrets are revealed leading to an all singing, all dancing finale with (of course) nobody hurt and everyone very happy.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Jun 20, 2006 9:24 pm

Thanks again, Trevor. As I remarked earlier, Holy Lola perhaps seems the most interesting, though it still remains without a U.S. distributor and I think the same is true for the U.K. (Btw, interesting choice of colors for the titles, especially for the last one. )

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby trevor826 » Tue Jun 20, 2006 10:50 pm

I must admit, I thought the colour and font for the last one "Crustaces et Coqillages" was perfect in relaying something about the film before reading a single word.

Cheers Trev.

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby trevor826 » Fri Jul 21, 2006 8:48 pm

Nelly & Monsieur Arnaud (1995)

Directed by Claude Sautet (Un coeur en hiver)

Starring Emmanuelle Bart (Strayed), Michel Serrault (Rien ne va plus)

A character driven movie that is very similar to quite a few other French films, relationships and their ensuing problems within a bourgeoisie framework.

So since this is just one of a multitude why does it deserve attention (if indeed it does). Quite simply its down to the wonderful performances of the titular characters, especially Emmanuelle Beart as Nelly.

Nelly has had enough, she slaves away in a variety of part time jobs while her husband lazes around their apartment watching T.V. too idle to look for work and living a free and easy life, all this despite the growing debts the couple face. After meeting Pierre Arnaud though, the future looks decidedly brighter. He gives her a no strings loan, enough to clear the existing debts but also enough to make her decide to end her marriage and find a small apartment studio just for herself.

M. Arnaud, a former judge and big time businessman is writing his memoirs, Nelly takes on the job of typing them up and helping to edit them ready for the publisher. The rest of the film covers the growing attachment between the pair and while this doesnt lead to any sort of romance; she definitely spurs him back into life. There are countless subsidiary characters and subplots but the films success hinges on the two central performances. Michel Serrault is excellent as a man who finally finds someone he can truly open up to and Emmanuelle Beart is utterly bewitching and captivating in her role where a simple expressive movement of her eyes can say more than a whole volume of words could.

Not essential viewing but a very well performed and polished character study.

Cheers Trev.

BBFC rated PG

R2 dvd available from Path, R1 dvd available from New Yorker Films.

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby A » Sat Jul 22, 2006 8:42 pm

Thanks for your review Trevor.
The film sounds very intriguing to my ears, and I'll try to watch it in the future. The descriptions I've read before hadn't spurred my interest in seeking it out.

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby trevor826 » Thu Aug 24, 2006 9:20 am

Alias Betty aka Betty Fisher and Other Stories (2001/ France) - Betty Fisher et autres histoires

Directed by Claude Miller (Class Trip)

Starring Sandrine Kiberlain, Nicole Garcia

Adaptations of Ruth Rendell stories are numerous and tend to appeal to French directors in particular. This one stands up well in comparison to most of the others though I do think Chabrol is better at selecting a cast that make a film more memorable.

Filmed in what could be described as a bookish style, the principal characters are seen generally but then expanded upon with their own chapters, a nice touch though not outstandingly original.

The story revolves around a writer who has recently returned to France from New York, the visit of her (not quite with it) mother and the untimely accidental death of her son. Betty's mother decides she can remedy the problem by heading into the projects (areas such as those that suffered from the recent riots) and stealing a child. She tells Betty that the boy belongs to family friends and that she's taking care of him while the parents go on holiday.

Unsurprisingly the abduction becomes big news and the story brings topics like racism and prejudice to the fore. Betty herself wants nothing to do with the boy at first but gradually becomes attached especially after seeing the bruising that has been inflicted on him. Each of the other principal characters has their own take on the truth and it is quite surprising how easily little things can be misconstrued leading to the wrong conclusions.

The viewer is almost glad that the child is eventually accepted by Betty in the end especially when you witness the type of lifestyle he would have lead. Dangerous ground in a way making such a heinous crime appear acceptable even beneficial. But this is just a story and in the end it's a story (or several stories) about people.

The film successfully juggles the players and their stories leading up to a finale where each part is played out. There is a little predictability about some of the situations, for instance, you feel you know what's going to happen when a petty crook is holding onto a case full of money in an airport but there are also situations where predictability is turned on its head, which certainly adds to the overall story.

Worth seeing, a successful adaptation of a Ruth Rendell story that stands up well in comparison to those of Chabrol, Almodvar etc.

Cheers Trev.

BBFC rated 15

R2 dvd available from Optimum Releasing, decent enough transfer but an unfortunate lack of extras.


Return to Film Talk

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest