The 18th Edition of this New York tradition, Rendez-Vous with French
Cinema unveils perhaps their most diverse line-up in years. This range
includes grand and engaging entertainments such as Régis Roinsard's Populaire
(Opening Night film with its stars Romain Duris and Deborah François attending), uncompromising auteurs such as Jean-Claude Brisseau and
Damien Odoul, rising independent voices including Héléna Klotz and
Shalimar Preuss, and master filmmakers François Ozon, Patrice Leconte,
Raymond Depardon, Nicolas Philibert and the late Claude Miller.
Here are some of the titles I had a privilege to have a sneak peek at:
Silly me, I never made the connection between Renoir the painter and Jean Renoir the filmmaker all these years. Anyway, Renoir
recounts the last days of Pierre-Auguste
Renoir's life in the sun drenched French Riviera. Even though
wheelchair-bound and in obvious physical decline with two of his three
sons in trenches of WWI, Renoir is as productive as ever, churning out
those unmistakeable colorful nudes of round, apple breasted figures,
thanks to the recent arrival of young redheaded model named Andrée
(played by radiant Christa Theret). The old man tells her flatly that
it's all about young women's velvety skin that seems to absorb sunlight.
It's all about beauty, because nothing else lasts. Enter his 21 yr old,
second oldest son, Jean, wounded in battle and on leave for
recuperation. Jean falls for the young, libertine model who teaches him
the meaning of carpe diem.
is a shamelessly pretty picture. There are dark undertones hinted
here and there- Renoir the elder lives in a room full of maids, all of
whom may or may not have been his models turned maids and vice versa. The
youngest son, a mere child (here played by Thomas Doret from The Kid
with a Bike
) who has a tendency to play with dead things is generally
creepy. But these very underdeveloped negative aspects never overtake
the hopefulness and sunny disposition of the film. DANS LA MASON/IN THE HOUSE
In typical Francois Ozon fashion, In The House
deliciously perverse. It would make a great double feature with his
. Fabrice Luchini is perfect as a failed writer and High School writing teacher, so is Kristen Scott Thomas as his passionless
wife/gallery owner as is Emmanuelle Seigner as a bored 'middle class'
The film is very good at keeping you on your toes. It starts out like a
High School drama about a teacher/pupil relationship, with notebook line
title sequence and everything. Then it becomes something else. Not that I
didn't know it was directed by Ozon, but it still caught me off guard. When I realized it, it was too late. The film pulled me in and it
was a totally engaging movie going experience.
TROIS MONDES/THREE WORLDS
A turgid morality play involving a car accident. Al (Raphaël
Personnaz) is a young car salesman moving up on the social ladder, about
to marry his boss's daughter. On the rawdy drunken night of the
bachelor party, he accidentally runs over an illegal Moldavian worker, which is witnessed by Juliette (Clotilde Hesme) from her balcony. Despite
Personnaz's soulful performance as the guilt ridden young man trying to
do right and beautiful Arta Dobroshi giving the widow of the victim some
dignity, the film is full of melodrama and not enough substance.
LA RICHESSE DU LOUP/RICH IS THE WOLF
The movie follows a nameless beautiful woman (Marie-Eve Nadeau) going
through hundreds of hours of videotapes left behind by her lover of 7 years, who
disappeared without a trace, trying to reconstruct the man that she
thought she knew. This self-reflexive visual essay by Damien Odoul is at
once puzzling and engrossing. The seemingly random, grainy video
footages- nature, reflections, driving, people, day, night are beautiful
at first. Then a slight story begins to emerge around the man's past,
mostly narrated by the woman. Then it becomes more coherent by the end
as it tinkers with the notion of death.
TU SERAS MON FILS/YOU WILL BE MY SON
Niels Arestrup eschews every scene
he's in as an overbearing father/owner of a reputable vineyard in
France. The tragedy here is of Shakespearean proportions, supported by a great
cast, including nebbish Lorant Deutsch as a
never-good-enough-in-his-fathers-eyes son, Anne Marivin as a supportive
wife and a father-in-law defying, sexy hothead and Nicolas Bridet as
the-son-you-never-had-but-always-wished. With his stop-on-your-tracks stare and
the lion's mane, the film belongs to singular ruthlessness of Arestrup.
Others films in the series I am very interested in seeing, are a remake of Jacques Rivette's The Nun, starring lovely Pauline Etienne (Restless), Raymond Depardon and Claudine Nougaret's documentary Journal de France and two animated features, The Day of Crows and The Suicide Shop.
series runs 2/28 - 3/10 at The Film Society of Lincoln Center, The IFC Center and BAM. Please visit Rendez-Vous with French Cinema
website for the complete rundown.
Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musing and opinions on the world can be found at www.dustinchang.com