Entries tagged with “French cinema”.


It’s one hundred year since the world entered in the final year of the first global conflict. WWI was a fractal event in history. It changed the world order that had been in place for the last century, it led to the crumbling of empires that had lasted for many centuries, it changed the map of the world, created new nations and countries, and gave birth to one of the most cruel totalitarian regime ever, seeding the seeds for the emergency of another less than 20 years later. Tens of million of people died, the lives of other tens of millions were shaken, shattered, destroyed. It also changed the course of the history of culture, art and literature. Artists caught in the turmoil of war reflected their experiences (mostly traumatic) in dramatic works – paintings, music, poems, novels, films. One hundred years later, the experience of WWI is still subject to novels and films. Some of them are outstanding and this is the case with the novel of which won the Goncourt Prize in 2013 and the film it inspired written and directed by . “See You Up There” (“Au revoir là-haut” is the original title) shows that we still try to understand the feelings and sufferings of the men caught in that war (or in any war), to make sense of the absurdity, to learn where there may be no lesson to be learned.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5258850/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5258850/

 

The trigger of the story in “Au revoir là-haut” takes place in the last days of WWI. Armistice is rumored to happen any moment, but there are still commanders who have a hard time putting aside their war toys and continue to fight absurd missions sending soldiers in the way of useless deaths and mutilations. One of the last victims of the war is private Edouard Pericourt, an artist whose talent and style allude to the works of Egon Schiele. He is badly wounded and disfigured, and for the rest of his life will wear masks that hide the mutilation but also express his moods and feelings.  spends much of the film behind masks that he created, and this is one more challenge for that he overcomes with superb talent. His friend and companion is an older soldier, Albert Maillard, (acted by himself). Pericourt refuses to return to his rich family, the old conflict with his severe and authoritarian father being part of the reason. He just wants to disappear as dead, to hide the identity and cut short the destiny brutally destroyed by war. The revenge he devises is not aiming personal benefit, it’s a revenge against the system and society that sent him and his whole generation to war and does not care about the living victims, the survivors traumatized physically but especially psychologically, and against the demagogues and the war profiteers who switched businesses from selling arms to building cemeteries and monuments of war.

 

(video source Gaumont)

 

I will not reveal more about the story to leave intact to the readers of this note the pleasure of viewing. It’s a very well written story (excepting maybe the final) with characters that succeed to be both original and credible. It’s beautifully filmed, with a cinematography work that is expressive and attractive, seeking permanently surprising angles that make the experience of seeing this film interesting at all moments. Art plays a special role, there is a lot of original art (drawings, masks) created for this film in the spirit of the immediate post-war artistic movements. As viewers we are delighted with a beautiful and authentic image of Paris in 1919 and of the evolution of art in the aftermath of the war, at the time art-deco artists were turning to Expressionism and Abstract to express their feelings.

One of the best films about and against war that I have ever seen.

Director ‘s “3 coeurs” (“3 Hearts”) gathers on screen a stellar cast. The three lead feminine roles are trusted to , the daughter of …,  and  , also the daughter of … and also the daughter of Deneuve in real life. Gainsbourg and Mastroianni play the roles of two sisters in whose life shows up a man – the role is played by , whom I have last time seen playing the role of … God in The Brand New Testament, a film which you should search to see if you happen to have missed. The names and fame of the actors were the principal reasons for which I chose to see this film, and probably also the main reasons for which I will remember it.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2822742

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2822742

 

Marc Beaulieu () is a tax inspector. A good one and probably even a man of integrity because we see him involved in valiantly handling a high-level corruption case (not really connected to the rest of the story). Numbers and determinism may be his profession, but hazard seems to reign in his personal life, which looks like a mess in which he attracts also the two sisters, one after the other. His heart is also feeble, the heart which is said to be for humans the center of noble emotions, but which also distracts and derails the paths of life when it physically malfunctions. Should we let hazard (or destiny) reign upon our lives, or should we try to fix its effects? Is this even possible?

 

(video source Movieclips Film Festivals & Indie Films)

 

The questions raised by the story in the film are interesting, the resulting film is not really up to the premises. The principal reason is the pace of the story, which lingers for long periods, to jump suddenly at some moments, without a good connection between the different episodes. Good acting cannot save the flaws of the story and especially of the story telling, and despite the promises “3 coeurs” ends by being just another love triangle movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The French invented cinema and the Americans turned it into a big industry. If Hollywood loves making films about Hollywood, why should not make the French also films about the French cinema? Especially if we are talking about a director () who already made a very successful film about Hollywood (“The Artist“). Here is his daring approach to a genre which is surprisingly new for the French cinema – movies about movies. “Le Redoubtable” is a daring endeavor because the subject is one year in the life of one of the most controversial film directors in the history – ., a complex artist and personality who is also still with us, making films and even commenting on films made about him.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5687334

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5687334

 

The year is also not any other year, but 1968, one of the milestones in the history of the 20th century, a crossroad also in the history of France. The revolts of the students that peaked in May of that year had several sources of inspiration – anarchist and Maoist ideloogies among them, but also works of philosophers like Jean Paul Sartre and, yes, movies, among which ‘s “La Chinoise“. The French director had gained fame in the decade before with some of the best known films of the French ‘Nouvelle Vague’. Some had ideological content, some other ‘just’ revolutionized (together with films by and a few other) the language of cinema. “La Chinoise” had marked the final of that period and the start of another, a much more politically oriented stage in his creation. It also marked the beginning of the relationship soon to turn into marriage with . (the second for Godard, after he had married and divorced Anna Karina). The implication of Godard in politics and the rocky marriage with Anne are the principal topics of “Le Redoubtable“. The Godard in the film does not come very clean from this historical re-evaluation on screen which is based on the novel-memoirs of his ex-wife. He appears as a ‘gauchist’ intellectual who sides with the revolt and hates police, but his behavior and way of life belong to the class he despises. His ideology seems more anarchist and quite remote from realities.  He fails to understand the totalitarian ways of his idols Mao and Che and is stupefied when “La Chinoise” is rejected by the Chinese embassy as ‘reactionary art’ and he is refused a promotion trip to China. His joining of the May 1968 revolts leads to confusing speeches in the meeting halls at Sorbonne, including an outrageous rant paralleling Jews and Nazis. He is, as many other before him, a victim of a revolution in march that devours its idols. Eventually he makes the right choice understanding that an artist can better serve the revolution by means of art, and for a while he looks better holding a camera on the streets of Paris in 1968, or founding the Djiga Vertov collective of politically active filmmakers. This may lead to another impasse, an artistic one, but that will not be part of the story in this film.

 

(video source TIFF Trailers)

I liked the film. uses a technique that he already successfully applied in “The Artist” – talking about a past period in the history of the cinema with the cinematographic tools specific to that era. He even added more nuances, as different episodes are filmed in different styles adapted to the content. We see the scenes with Paris on barricades filmed with ‘Nouvelle Vague’ hand-held camera. A trip by car in which a crowded mix of film-makers and actors get a speech from their driver about the simple taste in cinema of the masses, so remote from their experiences, is filmed in a static car, like in an American movie of the 30s or 40s. At the peak of the domestic crisis the unbearable soundtrack covers the voices of the disputing lovers.   created a Godard who oscillates between his (well deserved) ego and surprising moments of lack of confidence, who thinks in an ideological and doctrinaire manner but knows little about the people the ideology is supposed to serve, who models his life and art to politics and has little understanding or patience for his own adulating audiences. The relationship with Anne () is almost permanently one-directional, a crisis in building from the very first moments. Both actors do fine jobs, and they are placed in an environment that brings brilliantly to life the period for those spectators who lived it as well as for those who did not.

Focusing on politics and the stormy marriage between Jean-Luc and Anne, “Le Redoubtable” tells less about the cinema that he made – and 1968 was actually a very prolific year, as were the coming 3 or 4 years, although much of what he did was documentary of collective work within the Djiga Vertov group. The one scene that show him at work is filmed one year later, and hints to the fact that, at least for the coming period that was to last about another decade, Godard made a choice. Between art and revolution, he explicitly chose revolution. The final judgment about this period may have not been pronounced, and this film could be part of a re-opening of the discussions and more important – seeing again his films. Godard is Godard, and he never seems to accept to rest.

Destiny decided that and , the two wonderful lead actors of “L’homme du train” (“Man on the Train“) died a couple of months apart, at the end of 2017. Destiny or coincidence? This question is actually one of the key topics of this wonderful film directed by and made in 2002, 15 years before the disappearance of these two sacred monsters of French cinema (and music in the case of ).

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0301414

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0301414

 

 

This is the story of two men who meet by chance. Monsieur Manesquier () is a retired teacher of French literature who lives an old bachelor life in the bourgeois house where he was born and where he is supposed to die. Milan () is a bank robber who came to the small town to prepare the robbery of the local bank. One talks a lot, the other is a man of few words. We’ll get to know much about the previous life of the first, and almost nothing about the second who is a mysterious gangster figure on the line of characters like the one in ‘s “Le Samouraï“. They apparently have not too much in common, but they will discover soon not only consistent affinities, but also something more surprising: each of them yearn to the way of life of the other.

 

(video source e-cinema)

 

“L’homme du train” is flawlessly executed, starting with the well written script which builds the two characters from a well dosed mix of dialogs and silences, the set that recreates the small town house full of memories from other times, and the superb acting of the two actors.  also plays with cinematographic quotes like the Western-like beginning which brings the stranger to the remote small town to the gardener with the scythe scene reminding . There is a lot of charm in the relationship between the two men who get gradually to know each other, in the atmosphere that surrounds them with signs of the unexpected convergence of their fates. “L’homme du train” is a beautiful movie in the best tradition of the French minimalism combined with ‘film noir’. A gem that brings back to our attention that two great actors that the French cinema recently lost in one of the best films in their respective careers.

If anybody thought after seeing Amour and especially its ending that  turned to be a little bit softer towards its characters and show them some mercy, than his or her expectations will be definitely be contradicted by his most recent film ‘Happy End‘, which to many extends deals with the same theme – the end of the road that expects us all, death and how to cope with it.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5304464

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5304464

 

 

The high bourgeoisie class had already had its prime time in cinema.  is the first great director who comes to my mind, with his sharp and cynical visions in movies like ‘The Exterminating Angel‘ and ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie‘ . Their universe receives a deep and detailed description in this film, we are in the 21st century but the change seems to be more in technology rather than in morals, inner relations, or the way the upper classes relate to the world around – servants in the house, partners and employees in business, or the immigrants of different colors of skin who also populate the Europe of our times. The name of the film, ‘Happy End‘ may as well refer to the sunset of this social class or to the mercy killings of the old and suffering.

 

(video source Sony Pictures Classics)

 

We know from his previous films that is not concerned about breaking taboos. This film attacks several as well. Innocence of child is one of them, the young age being seen not that much as an ideal age, but rather as the period when seeds of evil are being sown. We have seen something similar in The White Ribbon. Respectability of the old age is another, and the character and interpretation of  is the proof. There is decency in his attitude, but it derives from a very different place than the usual convention. At some point it seems that the old Monsieur Laurent tells a story that happened to the character also played by in Amour. Themes are recurring, but what the attitude of the script writer and director is as non-conventional as ever. One new perspective in this film is the exposure to the Internet and to social networking. These play an important role in the story, part of the characters share their feelings and send their hidden messages in the apparent darkness of the digital networking. The sharp critic of the director towards the surrogates of human communication is evident, but he also borrows brilliantly the format of the smartphones screens and uses them to open and close his film.   ‘Happy End‘ is (almost) another masterpiece by .

I usually try to form my opinion about films based on how entertaining or interesting or enriching or none of these I felt that they were during the time spent watching them. Only afterwards I try to understand why I liked or disliked the film, what caused me to find it funny, what I had learned from it, whether I exited as a better being (or not) at the end of the film. In the case of ‘My Life to Live‘ (the original French title is ‘Vivre sa vie’ – ‘Living her own life’) going back to the roots of the pleasure of watching this movie also means placing it in the context of the cinema at the beginning of the 60s, and the extraordinary revolution brought by a handful of French directors was part of, in the way movies are made and the way spectators watch movies and relate to them.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056663

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056663

 

The story in ‘Vivre sa vie’ is pretty straight-forward and there are no explicit social or political messages as in other films by Godard or his colleagues. Nana () is a young woman trying to build a path for herself in the Big City, failing, and sliding slowly on the slope of prostitution. The film follows her unsuccessful attempts to meet ends, followed by a decision that mixes innocence and reluctance to engage in the oldest profession, while keeping alive her ingenuity and desire to live her life. There is no moral hesitation and no risks assessment in what she does. Godard approaches what can be otherwise described as a descent in hell with an apparent phlegmatic approach, almost as in a documentary or as in what we call nowadays a docu-drama. This is reflected in the places he is filming (more or less chic areas of Paris) and in the selection of his actors – the pimps and the customers of the sex trade look no different than any of the other guys next table in the brasserie.  There is only one violent incident in the story that could have been a warning about the dangers ahead, but it is dully ignored. The desire to live a good life prevails.

 

(video source janusfilms)

 

The choice of the actress may have been quite obvious, as had married the year before the film was made. The role may even have been written for her, but the way he directs the young actress is part of his manner of telling the story. ‘s Nana is beautiful and ingenue, she just makes her choice about the way she wants to live her life without awareness about the price to be paid. Is there a final realization of her mistake? Maybe she gets it in the last second of the film, but it’s mostly to the viewer to draw the conclusions.

There are so many cinematographic innovations in this film made at the beginning of the 60s that any list risks to be partial. Filming some of the dialogs without seeing the faces of the actors, using live and sometimes hand-held camera on the streets of Paris, inserting legal and documentary book texts to illustrate the decision of Nana at the key moment when her destiny takes a turn, using close plans of the actors faces to emphasize their feelings (some times with help from the wonderful music of Michel Legrand) are only part of these. I especially loved two scenes: the film in film screening of ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ which is a fascinating declaration of love for cinema, and the dance scene which predates by more than three decades what  will do in Pulp Fiction. No wonder, as  lists  as one of his idols. One element which may seem today experimental was not such actually – it’s the black-and-white film – that was the period of transition to color, which still was expensive and – luckily – the young French new wave directors and their producers could not afford it.

The final of the 12 chapters of the film includes a glimpse on the streets of Paris where people stand in line at the cinema house to see ‘s Jules and Jim. A reverence to his colleague of generation who broke through a few years before, and whose fame was soon to equal.

 

People who love wine will have a lot of reasons to like ‘ film ‘Ce qui nou lie‘ (the English title is ‘Back to Burgundy‘). The landscape of Burgundy beautifully filmed during all the seasons of the year is the setting of a story whose heroes are people who not only make a living from wine, but wine is all they know and want to do, a tradition that they inherited for many generations, on properties that pass from grandfather to father to son and daughters. It’s beautifully filmed, with a lot of technical and craft details, described with respect and dedication. I love wine, so I liked very much this facet of the film. Yet, ‘Ce qui nou lie‘ is more than this.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5247704

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5247704

 

Director   demonstrated in previous movies like (especially) L’auberge espagnole or Chinese Puzzle that he knows and likes to build family and relationship melodramas, with credible characters that he makes us care about. This is what he also tries to do here, but in this case he seems to gather too many intrigues that do not fit that well one with the other: we have an over-the-years brothers reunion, a father-son relation that keeps being strained over the years and even after the death of the father,  a land inheritance under pressure because of the decisions of the late father and taxes and economic pressure, generation conflicts and kids at the other side of the planet, etc. Some of these are better described, other are solved by sudden and less credible script writing tricks, my overall feeling was that none was that much important and you end asking yourself what was more important – the stories or the beautiful background and the style of life of the characters.

 

(video source FilmsActu)

 

Fortunately, the film is helped by splendid acting. The roles of the three siblings are trusted to three actors I know less or not at all, , , and and all three do a fine job. A few of the camera moves are really memorable (the departing silhouettes of the three brothers right after a flashback that showed them hugging together with their mother many years before, the bed scene with the elder brother and his girlfriend separated and brought together at the same time by their 5 years kid). Overall it’s a satisfying film, with charming moments, a little too long, but there are more reasons than the love of wine to go and see it.

 

 

 

Seeing the films of is a special experience, now, more than two decades since he stopped making films, and died soon after. The Polish director’s relative short life (he died at the age of 54) and career (less than two decases) is now turning into legend. Each of his films shows the quality and the emotion of a true master of the cinema. “The Double Life of Veronique” (or “La double vie de Véronique” in French) is one of his best known movies, made at the peak of his cinema career, between the Decalogue and the Three Colors trilogy. Somehow I missed it at release. Now, in the perspective of the life and death of the director, not only that it stays as a remarkable piece of cinema but it is enriched with new significance.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101765

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101765

 

Fate and identity are the two big topics of this film. Have you ever had the feeling that you are not alone or even unique in the Universe, that somewhere or maybe in some other time, a parallel destiny is shared with yours? Did you ever feel like your life is not the result of your own decisions, that higher forces manipulate you life, same as a puppeteer controls his marionettes? If you ever felt something like this or if you can understand or imagine such feelings, this story of two young women, living in two different parts of Europe, sharing talents, feelings and fate without their lives ever intersecting for more than a few seconds, this story should not seem strange at all.

Beautiful films (and books, and paintings, and musical works) have complex layers of meanings and a multitude of details that are revealed to the viewer, reader, listener. This is exactly the case with ”La double vie de Véronique”. One can use multiple keys to read the story. There is a political reading about the parallel destinies of the two women who are born and live on the two sides of the curtain that divided Europe and was just falling down by the time the film was made. There is a philosophical reading about destiny and about the controllers of the destiny (the puppeteer, the writer who creates characters and write about their destinies). There is a religious reading with multiple symbols that ask to be examined from the name of the main character to the music that is sung and played during the film.

 

(video source sexytzigane)

 

Each of the scenes includes details that support the multiple stories and have their place in it, in some cases relating to other scenes in the peer story. The only exception was the secondary thread about presumptive perjury by the French Veronique whose sense I could not decipher. Music plays an important role, as the two women are musicians, they sing and teach music that reflects their relation with fate and God. So does light, which is in some cases maneuvered by the characters. The mirrors also show up in many scenes, sometimes as a reflection of the self, in other cases as a gate to the other side, as in Lewis Carroll’s stories. Shades and mysteries follow the characters and the viewers at any corner and in any moment.

Kieslowski’s mastering of the art of cinema is matched by the superb acting of . She is strange and beautiful, sensitive and expressive. I can also wonder why her star paled after Kieslowski stopped making films, and why other film directors could not make better use of her beauty and talent. She is part of the same generation of French and French-speaking actresses as for example, but their post 1995 careers were so different. What a pity.

I am happy to have discovered “La double vie de Véronique”, even if so late. It’s a film to see and see again.

The assassination in Prague in 1942 of Reinhardt Heydrich – ‘protector’ of Bohemia and Moravia and one of the planners of the ‘final solution’ – was one of the most spectacular events of WWII. Although it did not change dramatically the fate of the war, it had a strong impact on the moral of both the German as well as the Czech and other nations fighting on the allies side, proving that the Nazi occupiers were not immortal and that punishment was to be inflicted on the heads of their regime. It also led to savage reprisals that destroyed any hope of cooperation between the German and the occupied Czech areas.  ‘The Man with the Iron Heart’ based on a novel by and directed by carefully describes the main characters of this historical drama as well as the events before and after the attack on Heydrich.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3296908

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3296908

 

A few weeks ago I have seen ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ which figured as central character the wife of a Polish Resistance hero who helped him in saving the lives of hundreds of Jews in occupied Poland. The first half of ‘The Man with the Iron Heart’ had the chance to develop as a ‘The Holocaust Planner Wife’ with a description of the biography and ascension to power of Reinhardt Heydrich, from an immoral officer in the German navy to the highest ranks of the SS under the influence of his wife. We are used to think positively about love stories, and this is a love story of a different kind, the one between two mean people, united by an ideology of hate, deeply corrupt despite the cultural polish of their education and hobbies.  This part of the story and the film is supported by the splendid actor work of , with also giving a convincing performance as the hateful and hated ReichProtektor. I liked less the ‘punk’ version of Himmler created by , it was supposed to be sarcastic, but hard to laugh about such an horrific historic character. Over all this part of the film is the best in my opinion, and maybe would have deserved to be developed more. The authors of the script however decided to cut the action in the middle and focus in the second part on the resistance fighters who prepared and executed the assassination, the consequences of their deeds and their fatal fate. It was not bad, but closer to the beaten paths.

 

(video source FilmTrailerZone)

 

Events of WWII like this one seem to continue to be a source of inspiration for film makers – best proof is that ’The Man with the Iron Heart’  is released less than one year away from ‘Anthropoid’. Each brings a different perspective, and some of them succeed in creating solid stories, with heroes we care about (sympathize or hate). It’s the case of this film as well, a film that I recommend.

After having seen last week the 2016 “Frantz” I continued yesterday my ( cure with “The Double Lover” (or “L’amant double” in original) the latest film of the French director, a film that was present also in the 2017 competition at the Cannes festival. Both movies deal with issues of identity, truth and deception and how these can impact relationships between men and women. This is were similarities stop. There are many differences and almost all in favor of the 2016 film.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6367558/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6367558/

 

The story which is ‘freely’ inspired by a novel by Joyce Carol Oates (which has already originated a movie by starts as the story about a relationship between a psychoanalyst and his patient that turns into a strange and uneasy love affair. While the relation between shrink and patient needs to be based on trust and truth, in this case the contrary happens, as each of the two characters avoids fully sharing their feelings, hides things from the past, speaks half truths or plain lies. They seem that they cannot work as a couple on any plan. The bad start of the relation develops to worse and the odd things that happen on screen are complicated by having them told in a mix of genres – French art film with Paris and a museum of disturbing modern art as background, erotic thriller, horror and guilt in the Hitchcock and Polanski traditions. All these get together in a ‘bouillion’ that becomes less and less credible, up to the point that the story cannot be solved but by explaining that all was some kind of dementia delirium with very prosaic physiological roots.  What should have been a sophisticated game of mirrors becomes a multiplication of images by mirrors disposed in a chaotic manner. To make things worse, the ending makes the mistake of explaining too much in sordid details. Hard to believe that the film with this ending comes in the filmography of Ozon just after “Frantz” with the wonderful ambiguity of its open ending.

 

(video source September Film Distribution)

 

Acting is also problematic. Ozon’s choice of actors seems sometimes odd (not only here) because they are characters that do not feel well in their own skins. In this case he chose (his discovery in  “Young & Beautiful “) for a role that needs more expressiveness and fragility than what the actress delivered on screen. There is no chemistry between her and either of the two selves (or twin brothers) played by  . I will never complain about seeing again in a film and I apreciate Ozon’s creating in every film of his strong and interesting feminine characters that break the stereotypes, but her role or maybe roles (another odd double) seem to be wasted talent here.

The Double Lover” never reaches at cinematographic level its ambitions. The jury at Cannes 2017 deserves an award for not giving – despite the names of the director and the cast – any award to this movie.