Brother and Sister - Desplechin
Arnaud Desplechin, one of the most literary minded film directors of our time, comes with Brother and Sister, a family drama rich with beautifully written characters. It stars Marion Cortillard and Melvin Poupaud as Alice and Louis, estranged siblings who are coming to terms with their differences after a fatal car accident involving their elderly parents.
It starts out with a flashback at the wake of the young son of Louis and Faunia (Golshifteh Faranahi), where Alice and her husband are turned away at the doorstep by an angry Louis. The film goes back and forth, peppered with flashbacks, giving the fraught sibling relationship its necessary context. It turns out that Alice, now a famous stage actress, resented her younger brother's success as a writer. After many years of books by Louis writing about their thinly veiled relationship, they are not on speaking terms.
Things get very awkward while both parents are hospitalized, because the siblings tiptoe around their visits, trying not to cross paths, while their partners, other siblings and friends encourage and discourage their possible encounters. Both Cortillard and Poupaud are marvelous as they act out the beautifully written script by Desplechin. It's the most emotionally resonant Desplechin film in years.
The Night of the 12th - Moll *Winner of 6 César Awards
Gilles Marchant and Dominik Moll, the writer-director team known for tight Hichcockian psychological thrillers over the years, come with The Night of the 12th. It's a policier in the same vein as Memories of Murder and Zodiac.
In a picturesque small alpine village near Grenoble on the night of October 12, a young woman is torched to death with a gasoline fluid and a lighter. It devastates the whole town and stumps its police department, headed by young captain Vivés (Bastien Bouillon) with lack of concrete leads. Moll deftly examines inherent sexism rampant in French society and generational differences in approaching romance and relationship.
With its economical storytelling and sharply drawn characters, The Night of the 12th is an immensely watchable crime film.
The Five Devils - Mysius
Léa Mysius's follow-up to her stunning debut, Ava, is a time-traveling queer love story starring Adèle Exachopoulos. The title refers to a small town overlooking the rugged mountain peaks in the southeast region of France. Exachopoulos plays Joanne, a swim teacher at a local pool, living a mundane life with Jimmy, her firefighter husband, and their adorable daughter, Vicky.
Vicky, bullied constantly for her big afro, lives in her own world mostly and has a keen sense of smell of all things. She collects objects in jars to preserve their smells and has visions of the past. Things get shaken up when Julia, Jimmy's sister and Joanne's former flame returns to town.
The Five Devils turns into a poignant story about prejudices and acceptance, with black girl magic elements.
Winter Boy - Honoré
Winter Boy tells a story of Lucas, a 17-year-old gay high school student trying to come to terms with the sudden death of his father (played briefly by director Christophe Honoré), which might have been suicide. After the funeral, he tags along with his older brother Quentin (Vincent Lacoste) who is a burgeoning artist in Paris for a week.
There, Lucas experiments with anonymous sexual encounters. He also falls for Lilo (Erwan Kepoa Falé), Quentin's roommate. Quentin gets furious when he finds out about his sexual shenanigans and sends him home. Lucas then cuts his wrists while with his concerned mother, played by Juliette Binoche, and ends up in rehab.
The film is set up like a confessional, with both Lucas and, later, his mom talking to a dead father, as they try to deal with grief and the absence of a loved one. Like many Honoré films, Winter Boy is a beautifully drawn, melancholic film dealing with truthful emotions when life hits you like waves.
The living can't stay mad at the dead. We have living to do, even with a hole in our heart.
Saturn Bowling - Mazuy
Shocking in its depiction of violence against women, Patricia Mazuy's serial killer noir is extremely disturbing and uncompromising as it examines the origin of violence in our patriarchal society.
Half-brothers Guilaume and Armand reunites after their father dies. Guillaume is a cop and just inherited a bowling alley from his dad. The bowling alley is a hub of his dad's big game hunter friends, who want to keep things as they are. Guillaume doesn't want to deal with the business, so he offers it to Armand, so he run the place. Armand reluctantly accepts.
But it turns out Armand is a violent serial killer who preys on young women who frequent the bowling alley. He uses his dad's pad to have sex and kill them there. Bodies mount and unsuspecting Guillaume gets frustrated with the investigation. To complicate things, his love interest is an animal rights activist who doesn't see things eye-to-eye with the big-game hunting crowds.
With its deliberate pacing, simmering nighttime photography and daring perspective shifts, the film has a peculiar way to get under your skin while condemning male tendencies and desire to kill. Making a point in a most brutal and succinct manner, Saturn Bowling is one of the most daring and unflinching film I've seen in a long while.