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Entries in Francophile (81)

Friday
Jun262015

Posterized: Matthias Schoenaerts

With the Kate Winslet romantic drama A Little Chaos in select theaters and on VOD, we're seeing Matthias Schoenaerts as the Romance Novel Ready Cover Boy twice over this year since Far From the Madding Crowd already passed us by. If they ever release Suite Française in which he co-stars with Michelle Williams we'll have three swoony Schoenaerts fantasies in one year in which he falls for beautiful recent Best Actress nominees.

So how familiar you are with Belgium's greatest export? He first came to our attention in the Oscar nominated Belgian drama Bullhead (2011) though in truth we had seen him before in Paul Verhoeven's undervalued Dutch WWII thriller Black Book. (2006). But since that movie was all about Carice Van Houten & Michel Huisman erotic fantasies (at least it was for yours truly -- they were both later coopted by Game of Thrones as Melisandre and Dario Naharis, respectively) I'll admit that I didn't glom on to him right then.

Did I ever tell you I met him? That story and movie posters after the jump...

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Thursday
Jun112015

Women's Pictures: Agnes Varda's Cléo From 5 to 7

 Cléo from 5 to 7 is easily Agnes Varda's most famous film. In a retrospective honoring Varda at the 2013 AFI Fest - my introduction to the dimunitive director - iconic photos of Corinne Marchand, ice cold in her black shades, were spread across signs and billboards on Hollywood Blvd. The highlight of the festival was a discussion with Varda before a screening of the film. During the discussion, Varda expressed disappointment that, of all her films, Cleo from 5 to 7 was the best-remembered. In a way, it's not so surprising. As Varda herself noted, the film was the result of a request by some of the New Wave directors that she make another fiction film in 1962. As a result, Cléo from 5 to 7 is actually the most easily categorizable film in Varda's ouvre. This is pure French New Wave, cerebral and cinematic, but containing those artistic flourishes that can only belong to Agnes Varda.

Cléo from 5 to 7 takes place over the course of a single afternoon, as a young singer (the eponymous heroine played by Corinne Marchand) waits to hear the results of a biopsy. Cleo is shallow, vain, and beautiful, kept by a rich gentleman who visits infrequently, and surrounded by sycophantic showpeople, superstitious assistants, and equally shallow friends. The mundanities of Cleo's life gain sudden symbolic importance with the shadow of death looming over her. A pop song becomes an anthem of discovery. A hat becomes an emblem of vanity. A walk down the street becomes a war between observer and observed. [More...]

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Wednesday
May202015

For Amélie, Silence is Golden

For The Lusty Month of May, we're looking at sex scene each night. Here's Denny...

Our favorite little Parisian pixie, Amélie Poulain, lives a quiet life. She amuses herself by posing silly questions...such as: How many couples are having sex at this very moment? 

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Thursday
May142015

Tim's Toons: Biking through Belleville

Tim here, to celebrate National Bike to Work Week in the only way I possibly could. Because when it comes to animated movies about bikes, there's nothing that can top 2003's The Triplets of Belleville, Sylvain Chomet's lightly mocking love letter to the most quintessential elements of French and American culture. Wine and frog-eating on the one side, obesity and urban rudeness on the other, and most importantly for our current purposes, the Tour de France, the most famous bike race in the world.

The bubbly, convoluted story pivots on Champion, raised by his grandmother, whose only interest as a lonely child was in biking. This translates, years later, into his competition in the Tour, from which he's kidnapped by the French mafia as part of their underground gambling ring, from which his grandmother can only rescue him with the help of a trio of elderly cabaret performers. I said "convoluted", right? Because that's a nice word to describe how random and weird Triplets of Belleville can be in its pileup of absurd plot developments. But also, always, delightful and beguiling.

Chomet's tribute to the bike culture in France is, like everything else, predicated on outrageous grotesquerie: in a movie where the entire cast have impossible, distorted body shapes, Champion himself is one of the most extreme examples.

It only takes one glance at his rail-thin body and enormous legs to grasp that this is what a lifetime of single-minded dedication to competitive bike-riding looks like. It might seem like a nasty-minded commentary on athletes destroying their bodies, except that the whole film is based on exaggerated caricature; we could just as easily say that Champion's malformed body is the expression of a soul-consuming passion that's so important to him that he doesn't even realize when the mafia has him chained in front of a movie screen, biking on an endless loop.

That went and got a little nihilistic on me, so let me switch tracks over to the film's other big biking-related sequence: the Tour de France itself, a beautiful little parody of the over-the-top, carnivalesque enthusiasm that crops up when a small town has a great big national event to celebrate, going out of its way to realign everything around this one chance to shine.

And on the more generous side of things, the film also shows off the undulating beauty of its animated countryside, a tribute to the landscape of France that wonderfully shows off the justification for having an internationally well-known biking tour all throughout that country in the first place. The films resting state is to be sardonic as all hell, as often as possible, but it doesn't lack for heart, or even a kind of sentimental affection for the textures of rural France.

The fair concession to make is that The Triplets of Belleville isn't really "about" biking in any sustained way; it's not about any one thing at all. But those things it chooses to glance at get treated with quite a lot of imagination and flair. This might not be cinema's most probing, deep consideration of bikes and the Tour de France, but it's certainly one of the most memorable.

Wednesday
Apr222015

Cannes Lineups: Director's Fortnight

Previously in Cannes news
The Coen Bros led Jury and the Lineups for Competition and Un Certain Regard 

While the competition & un certain regard films are the "star headliners" as it were, they aren't always the ones that garner the most critical buzz or sales or what not. So let's look at what's coming in the Director's Fortnight sidebar. While this section is non competitive, the films are eligible for the Camera D'Or prize if they are among the first films in a director's career, though that's tough to win since they're competing with first films in other sections, too. The last few winners of this prize were: Beasts of the Southern Wild (Oscar nominee Best Picture), Ilo Ilo (Oscar submission Best Foreign Film) and France's Party Girl.

Opening Film

In the Shadow of Women

In the Shadow of Women (France) dir: Philippe Garrel. 
A romantic drama about documentary filmmakers in Paris 

Closing Film

Dope (US) dir: Rick Famuyiwa
This action comedy about high school hip-hop fans who get caught up in a drug deal gone wrong was a huge hit at Sundance (our quick take). It has supposedly been edited since then, which would probably only strengthen it. It's very funny but a bit bloated. 

The Rest of the Lineup is after the jump

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Saturday
Feb212015

César Winners: Kristen Stewart (!!!), Timbuktu, and More

Can Timbuktu upset IDA for foreign film at the Oscars? The big winner of the 40th annual César Awards (aka the French Oscars) was the Oscar-nominated foreign language film from Mauritania, Timbuktu. It took home seven prizes but despite the excitable headlines 'round the web it wasn't quite a clean sweep and not quite super dominant since it had no acting nominations. But it did terrifically well, all told, losing only one of its 8 nominations, Set Decoration, to another retelling of The Beauty and the Beast starring new TFE obsession Léa Seydoux. Can we please get that one stateside?

Saint Laurent, France's Oscar submission this season (mixed reviewed but also loved by Team Experience) won only Costumes. If it had such restrained love at home, one wonders why France submitted it as it was not typical Oscar bait - way too gay/risque for AMPAS.

The history-making news is that Kristen Stewart became the first American woman to win a competitive César for acting (Adrien Brody won for The Pianist previously). The César Awards often give American stars tributes and honoraries (like Scarlett Johansson last year and Sean Penn this time) but they don't regularly compete and they certainy don't win. The prize was Best Supporting Actress for Clouds of Sils Maria. We can vouch that she's just fantastic in it as the close confidante / personal assistant of Juliette Binoche's diva actress. Their chemistry is, as Margaret said, "insane".  

Which is why this part of Kristen's acceptance speech is so great...

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