Short Takes: France

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Re: Short Takes: France

Postby arsaib4 » Fri Apr 28, 2006 5:04 am

SHE'S ONE OF US (France / 2003)



Siegrid Alnoys striking debut feature, Shes One of Us (Elle est des ntres), is one of the great character studies French cinema has produced in recent years; at the same time, the film also functions as an assault on the prosaic rituals of a modern workplace. Deftly employing her highly evocative visual sense which brings to mind the works of such disparate filmmakers as Antonioni and Dumont (the latter served as an inspiration), Alnoy succinctly depicts the enigmatic world of her protagonist, Christine Blanc (a brilliant Sasha Andrs), a lanky and awkward -- not to mention socially inept -- thirty-something office temp whos struggling to find her niche. While Christines attempts to befriend her bosses often result in misunderstandings, she ends up developing a rapport with her temp agency supervisor (Catherine Mouchet). But that eventually requires her to expose herself, something she has never accomplished (quite possibly because she is incapable of doing so), which leads to an act that becomes revelationary for her.

If the film wasnt absorbing enough thus far, Alnoy deepens it with keen behavioral and psychological insights, making her protagonist at once intimate and distant. Christine, whose newfound vitality leads her to a new job and a boyfriend, now examines the world from a different viewpoint, yet her internal impulses persist. Shot in the Rhne-Alpes region in eastern France, which according to the director provided the perfect environment for Christines state of mind, Shes One of Us aptly features chilly, sterile visuals complemented by a sound design which makes good use of Mozarts "Requiem" amid sudden, devastating drops. Alnoys nearly-metaphysical renderings in the third-act might be a bit troublesome -- perhaps the reason why the film hasnt been granted the status of similar workplace anxiety dramas like Read My Lips (2001) and Time Out (2001) -- but her singular portrait is consistently compelling. And based on this film, its safe to say that she is more than capable of making a masterpiece in her next outing.

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*SHE'S ONE OF US premiered at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival (Critics' Week). The film was distributed in the U.S. during 2005. Now available on DVD.
arsaib4
 


Re: Short Takes: France

Postby A » Sat May 06, 2006 8:26 pm

Sounds intriguing. I'd already read a bit about it, but it didn't sound as interesting as you make it seem through your review. As my knowledge of recent french films is very limited 8apart from Ozon ), I hope this debut will also reach the german shores. They seem to be showing more french films in theaters again in the last years, after a decline in the mid-90s.
A
 

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby arsaib4 » Sat May 06, 2006 9:14 pm

I'd be interested in your opinion if you get an opportunity to watch it. It is certainly quite a unique effort.
arsaib4
 

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby arsaib4 » Tue May 09, 2006 5:24 am

EXILES (France / 2004)
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*A 2006 U.S. Release*



After exploring his gypsy roots in films such as Latcho Drom (1993) and The Crazy Stranger (1997), French filmmaker Tony Gatlif delves into his Algerian past with Exiles (Exils), a film for which he won the Best Director award at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. Gatlif, who was born in Algeria from a Roma mother and an Algerian father, favors an energetic, dynamic approach to his filmmaking, and that along with his musical prowess have produced a few visual and aural feasts in the past. Featuring many similar tendencies, Exiles stars Roman Duris as Zano, a young bohemian musician from a pied-noir family, who impulsively decides to take a trip to Algeria in order to locate his roots. Accompanying him on the journey is Naima (Lubna Azabal), his similarly unsettled girlfriend of N. African descent. As the couple travel through France, Andalucia, and Morocco on their way, they begin to discover themselves and each other, not to mention the way they are perceived by others. Naima, especially, is surprised by the interest her Muslim name often generates, though she chooses to remain oblivious of its nature. While Gatlifs attempts to connect and deepen the characters within the cultural/historical perspective produce mixed results, hes able to expose their lack of foundation, a fear that internally originates once they reach their destination. An instinctual filmmaker with Kusturician sensibilities, Gatlif has staged a few bravura musical sequences in the past, but none as exceptional nor important as the single 10-mintue shot near the end of the film, which goes a long way to prove that music truly is the food for the soul.

Grade: B+
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*EXILES premiered in-competition at Cannes '04. Now available on DVD in the U.S.

*Tony Gatlif's latest feature, Transylvania, has been selected as the closing night film at the upcoming Cannes festival.
arsaib4
 

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby trevor826 » Tue May 09, 2006 11:09 am

Great info as always arsaib4 but could you please list the dvd distributor as well, after all quite a few of the films you review are not available in the UK.

Cheers Trev.
trevor826
 

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby A » Tue May 09, 2006 4:56 pm

Another one I missed in the cinema, and another one I'll probably scold myself for not having seen on the big screen at the end of the year.
Keep the reviews coming, arsaib.
A
 

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby arsaib4 » Tue May 09, 2006 8:25 pm

Exiles was released on DVD by Homevision Entertainment. The company was dissolved recently after Image Ent. became Criterion's parent company. Disappointing because Homevision produced high-quality products; the DVD of Exiles is no exception.
arsaib4
 

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby arsaib4 » Thu May 25, 2006 3:22 am

LA PETITE LILI (France / 2003)

Claude Millers La Petite Lili is the latest and rather loose adaptation of Anton Chekhovs famous play "The Seagull." Chekhovs play dealt with the trials and tribulations faced by 19th century theatrical artists. Miller has set his work in the current day milieu he knows best: film world. While hes been able to carry over most of that four-act play, including many of the themes the great Russian playwright touched upon, he hasnt brought the nuances, not to mention the subtle complexity for which the characters were known for.

The stylishly-shot opening scene certainly raises a few flags, as its more Zalman King than Chekhov: a nubile beauty/aspiring actress (Ludivine Sagnier) takes off her red summer dress to @#%$ her boyfriend/edgy young filmmaker (Robinson Stvenin). Then we're taken to a French countryside, more specifically to the estate of a successful middle-aged actress (Nicole Garcia). Her lover (Bernard Giraudeau), an established filmmaker, is also there, along with her philosophizing older brother (Jean-Pierre Marielle). There are a few supporting characters present as well (whom Millers intertextual screenplay incorporates), and they include a doctor (Yves Jacques) who is having an affair with a local handymans wife (Anne Le Ny), whose daughter (Julie Depardieu) is also secretly in love.

So, this supposedly sets us up for some intriguing sexual and emotional politics, along with the differing ideologies of the filmmakers, but Millers screenplay is overdetermined and thus not particularly compelling. One thing which hes certainly done well here -- and who wouldnt have -- is to properly capture the beautiful vacation spot, Iles aux Moines, in all of its glory with his lightweight DV. When we leave the countryside and end up in Paris, this is where Miller tries to bring in elements of Day for Night (1973), which belongs to his mentor, Franois Truffaut. Unfortunately, he is not very ambitious in this case either, so a morose and lonely actress and a few on-set trials is as far as he goes.

La Petite Lili is exactly the kind of film Miller surprisingly criticized through one of his characters early on: its pretentious and is more or less made with an eye toward the bottom line. Only the old geezers, Marielle and the great Michel Piccoli, who plays the former in the film within the film, seem to be having any fun. Perhaps they recognize that this is mostly hogwash.

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*Available on DVD in the U.S. (First Run Features).
arsaib4
 

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby A » Fri May 26, 2006 6:05 pm

Hmm, hope to see this in the future. The first two films I saw by Claude Miller, were complex and sensitive character-studies, the over-the-top Mortelle randonne (1983) and La classe de neige (199 .
But the third one which also seems to aspire to this L'accompagnatrice is a rather flat and pretentious piece, quite a disappointment for me, though it's still on the positive side, and quite watchable because of a great Romane Bohringer. The problems seemed to me to come only through a heavy-handed, ponderous formal presentation, that took itself very serious, unlike the more lyrical and subdued La classe de neige
Which films of Miller have you seen arsaib, and what was your overall impression?
A
 

Re: Short Takes: France

Postby arsaib4 » Sat May 27, 2006 6:34 am

I believe that I've only seen a couple of films from Claude Miller: La Petite Lili and Alias Betty. The latter, a domestic thriller, was a much superior effort. I'll try to catch Mortelle randonne.
arsaib4
 

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