Series Preview: Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2017

Lead Critic; Brooklyn, New York (@floatingartist)

In its 22nd edition, Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at FSLC remains one of the main attractions for cinephiles in a crowded New York spring film event season.

This year's lineup features 23 films from established filmmakers and newcomers alike, including François Ozon, Bertrand Bonello, Bruno Dumont, Rebecca Zlotowski, Jérome Salle, Christophe Honoré, and the list goes on.

In conjunction with Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, FIAF presents Agnès Varda: Life as Art, taking place February 28–March 21.

A special exhibition imported from the esteemed photography festival Les Rencontres d’Arles will be on view in the Walter Reade Theater’s Furman Gallery throughout the festival, displaying newly discovered color photos from behind the scenes of Fellini’s black-and-white masterpiece 8 1/2, shot by the late Paul Ronald and accompanied by recollections from the film’s co-star Anouk Aimée.

And, for the first time, a Film Comment magazine presentation within Rendez-Vous with French Cinema: Julia Ducournau’s cannibal thriller Raw (read Shelagh's review here), which titillated audiences at Toronto and Cannes.

The series runs March 1 - 12. Visit FSLC website for tickets and more info. And here are my samplings this year:


Breakfast Club meets Dawn of the Dead. Bonello's controversy seeking cinematic stunt is all looks and no substance. First half is unbelievably tense, almost silent film as a group of twenty-something Parisians orchestrate terror attacks and an assassination of political and economical targets (head of HSBC France, a big glass office building, Ministry of Interior and the gold statue of Jean d'Arc).

After most of them successfully retreat to their meeting point - a large lux department store, things slow down significantly, as they have to hole up for the night. A bit hesitant at first, then they try on brand name clothes and drink wine while dancing to bad rap and electronica while avoiding the news on the big screen TVs. Are they avoiding their inevitable doom or are they that clueless?

Adele Haenel makes a cameo, to deliver the line Nocturama is built upon, as a girl on a bike in the middle of the night, as David, one of the babyfaced terrorist sneaks out of the department store out of boredom to smoke a cigarette, runs into her and talks to her. "It had to happen. And now it did."

In the wake of the Berlin terror attack and the assassination of the Russian Ambassador in Turkey, Haenel's statement surely reflects the mood and tension of not just France but the whole European continent. It's the anger and frustrations being bottled up not only in immigrants but every single Parisians, Bonello tells us, as he fuzzes up these young people's motivations or directions.

But then again, Nocturama is just an abashedly entertaining, slick moviemaking. I wish Bonello reflecting the mood and violence on the street in this movie is the extent of bottled up anger and blowing off steam are true and the extent of it. If only. But we all know that the world we are living in now is much darker and much more sinister place, unfortunately.

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