Entries tagged with “French cinema”.


What a delight! I remember having seen Le Samouraï as a teenager 50 years ago, during the short few years of ideological and artistic de-icing of the Romanian communist regime between 1964 and 1968, when some of the world cinema crossed the Iron Curtain and hopes to re-connect Romania and Eastern Europe with the rest of the world were growing high. These hopes were cut short by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the melting of the Iron Curtain postponed by more than 20 years. Yet, in that period, a few fine movies were allowed to be seen in the East (some of them ‘shortened’ the scissors of censorship) and this lot included this fine gangster movie, a capitalist product with no moral message, not one that could be explained to the revolutionary masses in any case.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062229

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062229

 

Half a century later I had the feeling to live again some of the sensations at the first screening. I remembered the dark room, the smoke of the cigarette, the tweets of the bird, the raincoat and the hat. ‘s look. ‘s sex appeal. ‘s mystery. The Citroen car and the garage where number plates were switched. The streets of Paris which for me at that time looked like a city from another planet, a place I will never be able to put the feet in.

 

(video source astraydogfilm)

 

Of course, I have learned a few things about cinema in this period of time. I can now trace the predecessors of Le Samouraï in the American gangster movies of the 30s and I know that the raincoat was inherited from Humphrey Bogart. I can also identify countless successors that were inspired by this film. ‘s work aged beautifully and this is due to the minimalist approach that reduces details to the exact amount necessary to create the suspense and describe the situations, to a story which is smart, complex and makes sense from all angles you analyze it, to the magnetic power of the principal actors and to the cool chemistry constructed between them. A film noir for eternity.

 

Thanks to ARTE TV I could see now ‘s ‘film noir’ Tchao Pantin (or So Long, Stooge in its English version) starring in the lead role. The film was made in 1983, at a time when I was busy with changing the course of my life, and no wonder I missed it. It represents a milestone in the career of both Claude Berri who after this film took a three years break in order to create his two best known films – Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring – very different in subject and style, and also in the career of Coluche who assumes here a more ‘classical’ and fully dramatic role which could have been a changing point in his career. One year later however, Coluche will die in a motorcycle accident, and this film includes involuntarily kind of a premonitory coincidence as motorcycles and death play a key role in it.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086420/mediaviewer/rm4069560832

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086420/mediaviewer/rm4069560832

 

The story is quite a typical ‘film noir’ intrigue, with the key characters – a drunkard gas petrol pump seller who hides secrets of a previous tragic life and a loser type of small drug dealer of Moroccan origin who hides his own secrets among which a shelve full of books he claims to have read all, are getting together in a world were there is not much to attach to but maybe a peer similarly broken soul. There is also a girl in the film, a punk girl (we are in the early 80s, remember) but her role will become more clear only in the second part, after the younger character is murdered and the quiet and withdrawn older man engages on the path of finding the killers and revenging his friends. Typical intrigue, as I said, which has little chances to end otherwise than it ends.

 

(video source Criips Buldo)

 

As a reader of the ‘serie noir’ books since childhood I cannot avoid falling under the charm of such stories, especially when they take place in Paris, here a Paris of decrepit houses, or messy small flats, of dangerous streets and dubious bars where everything is trafficked. I was not that surprised to find out that the cinematography belongs to Bruno Nuytten the director of Camille Claudel which I have also seen and written about recently, a film that had an amazing cinematographic look. Coluche seems in this film like having taken inspiration from other Big Silent tough guys in the history of the French cinema, his role could have been played in other times and other periods of their respective careers by screen monsters like Michel Simon or Jean Gabin. I liked the performance of as the young punk girl whose profile and appearance seems to announce a quarter a century early the character of  Lisbeth Salander in the Scandinavian ‘Millennium’ saga. While the story has been played too many times before and after this film to surprise anybody nowadays, there are many good reasons to watch or watch again this movie.

 

 

The year is 2017, Camille Claudel is back in town and she seems to go through a revival and reevaluation of her work and short artistic career. A museum dedicated to her life and art opened in March in the small French town of Nogent-sur-Seine, and the museum includes many of the works that survived the agitated 20th century and the destruction by the artist’s own hands. Books are being written about her, and art history starts to take her seriously into account. Before this however, there were the films, and especially this one  Camille Claudel  from 1988. It is not exaggerated to say, I believe, that the film prepared her comeback to the world of arts.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094828/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094828/

 

Camille Claudel deals more with the character of Camille Claudel, her love story with Auguste Rodin, her relationship with her brother Paul, one of the important French poets of the first half of the 20th century than with her art. Actually one of the few critical observations one may have about the visual part of the film is that there is so little art in it, and from the film we cannot make to ourselves an idea about how good she was. We see an artist fighting with her material, we see a woman fighting prejudice in a world and at a time when women were far from being recognized as equal professionally to men, even less in arts. We see the young woman and artist falling under the fascination of her master and being torn between love and admiration for him, and the need to express herself, to be herself. We see her falling down the spiral of vanity and then madness, and it’s up to us to judge whether the roots of her fall are in the social environment, in the attitude of her lover who may be a great artist but is also a womanizer and small human being in terms of relations, or in her own vanity and narcissism. Add to this the ambiguity of the relationship to her brother, and we can now understand the willingly or not, the focus of the script and director was on her personal path rather than on her art.

 

(video source Diego Correa)

 

For this was the first film as director, but he already had in 1988 a long career as cinematographer, including a few superb films by . Not everything works or better said, not everything stood the almost 30 years since the film was made. is superb, beautiful and ambitious, a fighter but fragile at the same time, turn between love and vanity. This is one of her best roles. is very fit to Rodin’s role, at that time his physical qualities were also perfect and added to his huge talent. The cinematography of the film (signed by Pierre Lhomme ) is excellent, and there are many scenes to remember – in the studio where Rodin and Claudel are shown fighting with the material from which they extracted their works, and out in the nature with clear allusions to the period of the Impressionists when this film is set. On the other hand the soundtrack is horrible. The use of violin music which would have been exaggerated even for a melodrama made in 1938, it’s simply a disaster for this film about art and artists made in 1988. Add to this the poor quality of the sound (at least in the copy screened by ARTE TV) which makes half of the dialog incomprehensible even when it is not covered by violins. Maybe digital sound re-working will sometimes in the future save this film. It is highly deserved.

 

There are so many reasons to like this film. First, the cast includes two of the lead actresses of two different generations – the priceless and prize covered and one of the top performers of the younger generation , who after having started and made herself a name in blockbusters took a turn into her career to more profound and fulfilling roles. Then, it’s a story with multiple threads and subtext, but centered around the show (more specifically theater) business where the two actresses live and breathe. Last but not least, it’s a movie that while well told as a story leaves enough room for mystery and imagination. I am just surprised by the relative low impact the film had in festivals and even with the public – and I suspect that some distribution problems were involved.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2452254/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2452254/

 

The story written and brought to screen by is said to have been tailored and designed for , and these fine actress really deserves it and makes the best of it. It’s a story about a theater actress who debuted two decades before the action takes place as the younger pole of a feminine couple in a play that is about power fight between ages and a love story built out of that confrontation. She’s now the age of the older woman in the couple and is asked to play the other other on stage, just after the playwright and mentor has passed away. She accepts half-heartily and starts repeating the role in the cottage located in the Swiss mountains that belonged to the author, together with her young assistant (). Is the relation in life a replica of the one in the play? The borders between the two are blurred away more and more as the story advances … and I will tell no more in order to avoid spoiling any ounce of the pleasure of watching one of the most intelligent and sensitive dialogues and intriguing story line I have seen recently on screens.  I will just say that both actresses are magnificent and that the film tells a lot about relations, friendship, art, the borders between art and life, show business cruel rules and the role that ‘smart’ communications play in our lives.

 

(video source IFC Films)

 

And then we have Switzerland, and its landscapes which play such an important role in the aesthetics and in the drama, maybe exactly because of their beauty and apparent tranquility. I loved the threatening metaphor of the snake that gives the name of the play-in-the-film and shows up only once at a key moment. Or maybe it does not, because there is much that is not told in this movie which is exactly the reason some may not like it, and some other will love it and will continue to be haunted by it after the screening ends. I belong to the later category.

 

is close to 80 years old. I was unaware about this biographical detail until reading his bio on IMDB. I thought about him as being much younger, and the reasons are to be found in his films. Verhoeven is a director who does not avoid controversy, from picking his themes and sources of inspiration to bringing to screen strong and special characters (especially feminine ones) who deal with their fate and their sexuality in a very unconventional manner. The director of RoboCop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Showgirls, Starship Troopers, Black Book may be drawing to the end of the 8th decade of his life, but Elle continues to position him as a strong and different kind of director, and does not look at all as a slowing down or concluding film of any kind.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3716530

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3716530

 

The film starts with an ugly and violent rape scene, which sets the main theme the movie deals with, but the way the subject is approached by the main heroine and the director is quite different than expected. The victim is a business woman leading a video games company which produces violent games and has a troubled history of herself. Her father was a serial killer imprisoned for perpetuity (there is no death penalty in France) and his name and dark fame was not forgotten by the public, the blame being reflected on his family as well. The whole family is troubled, relationships are broken or hard to keep, side affairs are managed more or less in the open. No-one seems capable to tell the truth or face truth. Police cannot be involved and the threat of the return of the rapist seems to put pressure on the lead character.

 

(video source FilmIsNow Movie Trailers International)

 

The combination of psychological thriller with dark erotics works well because the story is well written, twists and changes surprise the viewers at many moments, and each of the characters (lead and supporting) has a distinct identity and good reasons to act as they do, although their motives may become clear only late in the story. is the perfect casting for the role of Michele Leblanc, a woman who has seen so many and suffered so much in her life, who tries to find appeasement in sex, but do not expect Verhoeven to present some conventional type of relationship. Michele’s connections with men are all episodes of power fights between sexes, where the apparently stronger side does not always win. At the end, there is no moral in the story, maybe just an anti-moral conclusion. Trying to tell the truth does not pay up for the the hero of this story. Her short tentative to stop lying and fooling around (with herself first of all) fails and resorting back to the smaller or bigger lies is the only way to re-establish the balance for the heroes of the story. Or at least for those heroes who survive by the end of the story.

 

The centennial anniversary of the breaking of WWI was an opportunity for several books to be written and films to be made (most of them documentaries) not only about the war itself, but also about the years that preceded it. Those were the finals years of a period that had started at the end of the Franco – Prussian war in 1870 and had seen a period of more than four decades of peace, never encountered in the written history of Europe. For many people living it those times La Belle Epoque seemed to signal an apparent stability based on the balance between the power of a few Empires and Republics. A middle class appeared in Europe allowing for economic development, arts flourished, and life was good for many. Yet, the political tensions were present at the level of the relations between the big powers in Europe, and many of the national societies were sick. Which is exactly the theme of ‘s film ‘Ma Loute’.

 

source http://collider.com/ma-loute-slack-bay-review-cannes-2016/

source http://collider.com/ma-loute-slack-bay-review-cannes-2016/

 

Dumont is one of the masters of a cinema sub-genre which I will call ‘films about degenerated people’ (or social, or family relations, or a combination of these). and  ‘s Delicatessen is another example of the genre, so is Dogtooth by Greek director . ‘Ma Loute’ not only takes the genre one step ahead because of the quality of the execution, but also provides political and historical dimensions by locating the story of mysterious disappearances, social conflict between the rich tourists and the poor fishermen and a love story which is impossible for many reasons in a precise place – the North-West of France close to Calais and time – the end of La Belle Epoque.

 

(video source S. Ü.)

 

Viewers should be warned that this is no easy film to watch. 5% of the audience walked out the theater I was in. Among those who stayed I suspect that half disliked what they have seen, with the negative reactions between considering the theme disgusting to ridiculous. The acting style is also very heavily and intentionally exaggerated. It is the description of sick families, of hateful relations between classes, of a non-functional society at all levels. The fact that all these seem to get some rational explanation may satisfy for a moment, but then the film slides in a combination of grotesque and fantastic (the levitation scenes) that is close to genial. Watching fine actors as , ,or   is of course a delight but do not expect them to act like in any other movies that you have seen with them in the past. The young couple acted by and both at their first film add some level of innocence, but all is under the sign of the deformed mirrors here.

‘Ma Louche’ is a very different kind of cinema experience, viewers take risks watching it, and they are rewarded with a surprise which according to taste and approach can be very good or very unpleasant.

I am fascinated by . In more than 30 years he made just a handful of long films, but what films these are. Each of them reminds me when I get to see them why I love and I am fascinated by cinema, and what an art film making can be under the hands of a director who knows the secrets and ingredients of turning each film, and each scene in his films in something different, something that charms, shocks, can be enjoyable or repulsive, but cannot leave us indifferent.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091497/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091497/

 

Mauvais Sang (Bad Blood is the literal translation) will be 30 years old next year. Yet it is not only as fresh as it was made yesterday, but it also has the quality that will make it relevant 30, 60, and 90 years from now (I do not make bets about future that extend between one century :-) ). It’s a gangster story in the
French tradition, Melville’s movies come to mind immediately, and the fact that some of the bad guys are American is actually also a French noir films tradition. Although the making of the film is closer to David Lynch’s peak period, Mauvais Sang precludes the best of what Tarantino will make 10 or 15 years later. I actually have almost no doubt that both Lynch and Tarantino saw this film several times and were deeply inspired by it. It is however more – it is a double love story, or two love stories which are sensitive and beautifully told. And then, the final scene makes – so it seems to me – a reverence to ‘Casablanca’.

 

(video source Carlotta Films US)

 

What gives such quality to Mauvais Sang? First, the actors. - at the edge of seniority, playing the gangster – combinator whose combines not always succeed best. Breathtakingly beautiful and young in one of her first major roles. And, of course, , Caras’s best acting asset ever. Then the cinematography. I do not know how much we owe to Caras and how much to the director of cinematography Jean-Yves Escoffier but almost each shot is a piece of art, and the colors combinations are sublime and uniquely expressive – just watch the repeated combinations of blue, white and red! There are the ingredients, but the ultimate merit belongs without doubt to Leos Carax, a master chef of the French cinema.

 

Winning WWII was to a large extent the merit of women – many kept the economy and the households working, many other served in different tasks in the armed forces, and yes – a few fought in secret missions. Cinema did not avoid the theme either and some may remember ‘Babette s’en va-t-en guerre‘ the 1959 film by with Brigitte Bardot . That film was fun. Unfortunately I hardly can say the same about ‘Les Femmes de l’ombre‘ written and directed almost half a century later by . The peak of fun but yet respectful movies about WWII is with no doubt Inglorious Basterds made one year after ‘Les femmes…’ . And yet, Christian-Jaque’s film of 1959 is much closer to the spirit of Tarantino.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0824330

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0824330

 

Les Femmes de l’ombre not only follows on the path of so many other films about ‘la Resistance’ and parachuted agents in occupied France but also borrows some of the worst cliches. The story of a team of amateur women assembled in a matter of three days to save the invasion in Normandy can possibly overcome the lack of credibility of the premises only if it is treated in a spirited easy comic manner, or if it adds some high thrill or emotional drama. ‘Les femmes de l’ombre’ does none of these, but rather takes a piously traditional approach to tell a story that is filled by too many expected moments. The action and drama that happens on screen never really got me interested.

 

(video source mckflz)

 

There are a few good intentions that cross the screen but they are not enough. Sophie Marceau is a fine actress and her character took shape despite the melodramatic touches. The other actresses succeeded to build each her own distinct character. On the other hand Moritz Bleibtreu was a less credible SS bastard – he looked too young, and, yes, too likable for the role. Director Salome chose a cautious conservative approach  which buried the interesting aspects of the theme. Despite the initial promises my feeling at the end of the screening was that I have seen once again a story told several times.

 

The music in the opening scene of this French movie should give a strong hint to the viewer about what to expect. It’s a soul song which combines oddly with the first shots of an apparently idyllic gathering in the French countryside. What follows is however all but idyllic. It’s a complex thriller drama about a murder that happened eight years before, a love story and a disappearance that refuses to heal. One of the most intelligent and most sensitive stories in the genre that I have seen lately.

 

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0362225/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0362225/

 

It may come as a surprise that the film is French, but inspired by a novel and a story written by Harlan Coben. The fine author of mystery novels and thrillers had amazingly few encounters with the movies, this being as far as I know his only novel brought to the big screens. The approach taken by director places the story in France (of course) but none of the characters belongs to any specific localization. Beyond the love story and beyond the sophisticated detective story that is smartly and consistently built, there is a quality of the making that keeps the interest (both intellectual and emotional) awake for the duration of the more than two hours that the film lasts (another Hollywood influence?).

 

(video source peanutspowa)

 

Much of the quality can be attributed to the excellent team of actors, and first among equally good – one of these actors who make you feel their emotions without any apparent effort, just by being himself. The hand of the director is light, he just does professionally his job enjoying the fine team of actors and the intelligent script he has at hands and making us enjoy the story as well. Now I just hope that the studios in Hollywood will not reclaim back this film for an American remake.

 

Writing the review of a movie two weeks later is an exercise that I should try more often. ‘Casee-tete Chinois’ is one of the two movies I have seen before I went to a vacation where other priorities pushed aside writing about movies. The last installment in the series of director Cedric Klapisch , starring ,   and Cecile De France was the least memorable of the two lighter summer comedies that I found appropriate for the mood and the times.

 

sursa www.imdb.com/title/tt1937118/

sursa www.imdb.com/title/tt1937118/

 

The film does have a lot of ingredients that would possibly make a success possible and even probable. A team of actors that now should not only know each other so well that the director needs only to raise an eyebrow in order to make things happen but who obviously enjoy acting together, and bringing on screen the romantic issues of their generation. A couple of kids who like almost any couple of kids steal the show as long as they are on screen and provide an emotional justification for the plot. Paris for a bit and Manhattan for most of the time – allegedly the best background for movies that directors and viewers could ask for.

And yet, the result is only half satisfying.

 

(video source STUDIOCANAL France)

 

It may be that the plot of the French immigrant trying to settle in New York was brought to screen once too many? I can remember a few other such features (yes, some of the candidates to America may not have been French) starting with ‘Green Card’ starring , and back in 1990. If the theme is back on screen maybe what is missing is some new and fresh angle in the infinite possibilities of approaching cultural gaps. Variations is a legitimate musical or cinematographic genre, but it needs to bring something new to be special. This film starts with a divorce, ends with a wedding, I am so happy to see Audrey Tautou happy and denying with a new film her intentions to quit acting, but the result is unconvincing entertainment. Maybe too many ingredients for a feel-good movie brought together do not necessarily make a good feel-good movie.