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Entries in Francophile (90)

Saturday
Feb272016

César Winners: Mustang, Fatima, Michael Douglas and More...

Busy awards weekend, huh? The Spirit Awards commence this evening (Murtada will graciously live blog so yours truly can reserve last fumes of energy for Oscar night) but France's own Oscars, the Césars were already held. (We discussed their nominations earlier right here.)

<-- The glorious Juliette Binoche graced the poster for the big event and also presented best picture. Michael Douglas was the honorary winner (they love their Hollywood stars at the Césars in that particular way).

It turned out to be quite a Ladies Night as three films about women battled it out for supremacy: Fatima, an immigrant drama was the surprise Best Picture winner; Marguerite an operatic musical/comedy (based on the same story as Meryl Streep's forthcoming Florence Foster Jenkins) was the nomination leader and won multiple tech trophies and Best Actress; and, finally, the great Mustang (France's Turkish-language Oscar nominee and on my top ten list) took Screenplay, First Film and Editing prizes

The full list of winners and ceremony photos are after this amazing picture of 3 giants of French cinema: Kristin Scott Thomas, Juliette Binoche, and Emmanuel Béart

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jan272016

César Noms: Mustang, Marguerite, Melanie, and More...

Kristen Stewart's César win last year for Clouds of Sils Maria was historicThis year's César nominations (i.e. The French Oscars) have been announced. Due to the oddities of release schedules statesides, especially when it comes to subtitled pictures, many of the French films we've been discussing as "best ofs" like Girlhood, Saint Laurent, and Clouds of Sils Maria were 2014 features in France and honored accordingly. The only real crossovers with our current awards season are Denis Gamze Erguven's Oscar nominated Mustang (now playing in very limited release in the States) which is all over their nominations and two of their "Foreign Film Nominees" Hungary's Son of Saul and Italy's Youth which will compete with last year's US Best Picture winner Birdman.

Their nominations were led by the prestige vehicle Marguerite (which is "loosely based" on the story of Florence Foster Jenkins who is getting her own American biopic starring Meryl Streep this year) and Arnaud Desplechin's My Golden Days which are both expected to receive US theatrical releases in 2016. (If you see a link, it goes to our review of the picture, or past articles about the actor or director)

BEST FILM 

  • Dheepan, Jacques Audiard
  • Fatima, Philippe Faucon
  • The Measure of a Man, Stephane Brize
  • Marguerite, Xavier Giannoli
  • Mon Roi, Maïwenn
  • Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven
  • Standing Tall, Emmanuelle Bercot
  • My Golden Days, Arnaud Desplechin

Let's discuss their nominations and various beautiful Frenchies after the jump. 

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Dec242015

Women's Pictures - Celine Sciamma's Tomboy

A young boy moves to a new town with his family. He's a goofball, a caring older sibling, and a shy kid. On his first day on the block, he runs into a girl and introduces himself as Mikael. She introduces herself as Lisa, and invites him to play a game of tag with her friends. Later, as he's taking a bath with his younger sister, his mother calls him Laure. She laughs and tells them: "Girls, get out of the bath!" It's almost 20 minutes into the movie before Celine Sciamma upends the expectations of her audience. In Tomboy, Sciamma examines how identity is constructed through performance in childhood, specifically in regards to gender.

The main character of Sciamma's 2011 film is still in that period before hormones kick in when all kids are basically agender in appearance. What separates genders from each other is how they move and how they present themselves.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Dec172015

Women's Pictures - Celine Sciamma's Water Lilies

Those who say, "I wish I was young," probably don't remember just how painful being young can be. French female filmmaker Celine Sciamma remembers, and she brings the hopes and pains of early teenagers to the screen in her 2007 directorial debut. Water Lilies is an uncomfortable movie to watch as an adult. Teenagers are sometimes naked and often sexual; two things American try to avoid in our mainstream depictions of 14 and 15 year old girls. However, though Water Lilies is about young female sexuality, the young females are not sexualized. At least, not by Celine Sciamma's camera. It's an important distinction, because the film will be uncomfortably familiar to anyone who remembers their first friends, first loves, first lusts, and the heartbreaks that come from each.

Water Lilies circles around the awakening of two girls from the French suburbs. Anne (Louise Blachere) is a big-boned synchronized swimmer whose weight and clumsiness put her in the lowest ranks of the team, socially and competitively. Her best friend is Marie (Pauline Acquart), a slight, mousy tomboy who says little but watches everything. They play with Happy Meals with toy spyglasses and spit water at each other for fun like kids do, but they're also beginning to develop feelings: Anne for Francois, the captain of the boy's water polo team, and Marie for the star of the synchronized swimmers, a beautiful girl with a bad reputation named Floriane (Adele Haenel). Unlike Marie and Anne, Floriane understands what desire is, or at least how to recognize when someone desires her. She's known since the adult swim coach started chasing her around the room. What Floriane doesn't know is what she herself wants.  [More...]

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Nov122015

Foreign Quickies: Mustang, El Club, Ixcanul

Three quick takes on foreign film competitors from the long list of eligible titles, all screened at AFI.

Mustang (France) Opens November 20th in select cities. Cohen Media Group.
Given that 2015's loudest topic may well be the need for fresh cinematic female voices, the French/Turkish production Mustang deserves $100 million blockbuster status instead of art house ghettoization with a $300,000 gross which is what they're infinitely more likely to get. Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven and screenwriter Alice Winocour, two very talented women, team up to tell the riveting story of five spirited sisters living with their hands-off grandma who keep colliding with the confines, literal and metaphoric, of the patriarchy. An innocent 'schools out for the summer' beach romp prompts the end of their adolescent abandon as their horrified conservative uncle steps in to shape them up, train them to be subservient wives, and marry them off to respectable families. Though the premise is reminiscent of Sofia Coppola's elegiac and dreamy Virgin Suicides, the execution is not. Ergüven and Winocour are more physically grounded and rambunctous in their presentation and there is no distancing conceit of viewing the sisters through the eyes of boys. Mustang has successfully rowdy comedic moments, an earthy non-exploitive sensuality, often clever visual framing, and even a hard-won scrappy optimism to balance out its tough reality checks. In short: it's excellent. Let's hope the Foreign Film Oscar Committee agrees. A- 
(See also: Amir's TIFF Review)

 

Ixcanul (Guatemala) -Kino Lorber will distribute in the US. Dates TBA
At the well attended premiere of this memorable Guatemalan Oscar submission (their first!), the director brought out, not one of the actresses, but an older woman dressed in South American finery who was some kind of public official/icon (the applause was so loud I missed her title/name). The takeaway of the intro was that Guatemala has a tiny but newly excited film industry and they're extremely proud of this little movie. As well they should be. Ixcanul (or Volcano) looks at a poverty-stricken Kaqchikel family, living next to an active volcano and working on a coffee plantation. The volcano, in addition to being a beautiful and alien visual backdrop for a movie is also a monolithic wall, blocking their view of the rest of the world; Mexico and the United States, to the North, are more myth than reality. The family hopes to marry their sexually curious daughter off to their comparatively rich boss and thereby lift all their futures. Needless to say, things don't go as planned. While the actions of nearly all the characters are often enraging, Ixcanul is never mean spirited, condemning the exploitation of their ignorance rather than the ignorance itself. (One heartbreaking emergy trip to a nearby city shows the family utterly at the mercy of an untrustworthy translator since they don't even speak Spanish in the mountains.) Bustamante's well crafted film is authentically steeped in a nearly alien culture but its humanity is entirely familiar. B

 

El Club (Chile) - Music Box Films will distribute in the US. Dates TBA
My first encounter with the acclaimed director Pablo Larrain was the violent Tony Manero, a film about a Chilean sociopath obsessed with winning a Saturday Night Fever lookalike contest. It was altogether unsavory and though the director's command was evident I couldn't wait for it to end. The second was the wondrous No, starring Gael García Bernal as an unlikely hero who helps rid his country of their dictator through an unlikely ad campaign. Though not without its necessarily dark moments -- all the Larrain films I've seen take place during the Pinochet era in Chile -- it was an exuberant, moving, and technically amazing film which I was happy to champion; it went on to be nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. The third encounter is, sadly, more reminiscent of the first in its absolute mandate to rub your face, artfully, in brutal shit.

The film begins deceptively as a mellow observational drama about a strange retirement community in a yellow house by the sea. Shortly, though, the curtain of ambiguity is lifted by an uninvited drunk stranger who stands outside the house spewing a hostel tirade of obscenities. The house, you immediately realize, is a shelter/prison for criminal priests that the Catholic Church is hiding away and the man shouting was one of their victims, repeatedly raped as a young boy. The depressing reveal deepens when you realizes that there are houses like this all over the world. 

Fans of disturbing cinema might admire Larraîn's chutzpah but everyone else should steer clear. Though the film has strong performances, particularly Antonia Zegers as a despicable nun and Marcelo Alonso as a remarkably stone-faced priest sent to assess the inhabitants of the house, it's a tough sit through spiritual rationalization, disturbing psychologies, and actual brutality [SPOILER WARNING] Animals are viciously killed in the film -- albeit just barely off camera -- and I never would have seen it if I had known. [/SPOILER]. Even the resolution, which could be read as spiritually uplifting is ambiguous; it played for me more like a sick pitch-black joke about "penance" and "redemption". (I will be wary of seeing another Larraîn film despite my love for No.) No Rating.

Thursday
Oct292015

Interview: Gaspar Noé on Shooting in 3D and How 'Love' is Like a Musical


Karl Glusman and Aomi Muyock star in "Love"

Jose here. When I show up to meet Gaspar Noé, he offers me a cigarette. I gladly accept it and we sit by a window where we puff the smoke to the beat of the sounds of a construction site below us. For a moment I feel like a teenager and remember having to wait to have the house all to myself so I could watchIrréversible when I was 16, without having people constantly interrupt me. For all its provocation and controversy, Noé’s oeuvre isn’t as much about shock value as it is about finding deep connections between people. This is a filmmaker who literally goes under the skin to uncover the miracle of life, how we’re made, how similar we are to each other.

In Love, he takes this concept to a place of utter sublimity as he chronicles the ups and downs of the relationship between Murphy (Karl Glusman) and Electra (Aomi Muyock), two young people who despite being enraptured by all-consuming passion, grow apart due to jealousy and secrets. To bring us closer to the characters Noé shot the film in 3D and he uses the medium playfully and sensually. Squeamish audience members might find themselves wishing they’d brought a poncho during some of the film’s most explicit moments, but Noé also finds true beauty in the curves of breasts, the pearls of sweat that appear on the backs of lovers during intercourse, and in the alien-like quality of tongues tangled in a kiss. As much as his films shock and alienate people, he just wants us to get closer. As we sit by the window he says “we’re in closer company because of the cigarette”, then he smiles.

More on Love after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Oct042015

NYFF: In the Shadow of Women

Manuel here eating a baguette furiously hoping you’ll pay attention to him as he tackles this French film about wounded masculinity.

While I worried I would only catch films dealing with death throughout the entirety of the 53rd iteration of the New York Film Festival, I chanced upon Philippe Garrel’s In the Shadow of Women, a black-and-white film about infidelity. The film centers on Pierre and Manon (Stanislas Merhar and Clotilde Courau), a married couple who work together on his documentary film projects. We slowly see their routine slowly getting rusty and so it comes as no surprise when Pierre falls for a young intern (Lena Paugam) working at the same film archives our couple frequents. The affair and its subsequent shattering effect on the marriage plays out pretty much how you’d expect, with few of Garrel’s choices coming from left-field though never quite steering far from the narrative and character beats all too common in films about broken marriages.

I have to admit, I’m a sucker for this genre. Closer. Unfaithful. Gone Girl. Little Children. I love me a good “our relationship is falling apart” film. [More...]

Click to read more ...