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Entries in Francophile (74)

Wednesday
Jan282015

From Sils Maria to Timbuktu, France Celebrates the César Awards

Glenn here while Nathaniel is travelling back from the wonders of Sundance. I do so enjoy looking at national awards since they paint such a gloriously global view of the film world that most of the American award bodies simply do not even attempt. They're always a good way of finding out about films that may otherwise go unnoticed in the ever-expanding world of film festivals (increasingly the only way to see many of these films, anyway) and a great way of finding the next big thing to which you can tell your friends and colleagues, "I saw them first in that tiny foreign film."

This year's César Awards from France have announced their nominations and it's a handsome looking bunch, even if I've only seen a few of the actual nominees (again, blame those tricky new age distribution methods and diminishing foreign indie market). I was super happy to see Bertrand Bonello's Saint Laurent, France's unsuccessful 2014 Oscar submission, in the mix across the board since I flipped for it at NYFF last August. I certainly enjoyed it more than Nathaniel, and when it finally gets a release across the oceans I'll be more than pleased to beg people to go and see it. Curiously, it will compete against last year's second biopic of the famed fashion designer, Jalil Lespert's less well-received Yves Saint Laurent, in several acting and technical categories.

Elsewhere Abderrahmane Sissako's exceptional France-Mauritania copro Timbuktu adds a collection of César nods to its net of successes including that historic Oscar nomination. Another Oscar nominee, Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night, also snagged a nomination, which is hardly surprising, but the acclaimed Dardennes brothers' film missed out in every other category except foreign film, so I suspect there's some eligibility tango being played there. Is she eligible because she's French, but the film isn't because it's Belgian? If anybody can enlighten us that would be fabulous. Wim Wenders' The Salt of the Earth, his Oscar-nominated documentary about anthropological photographer Sebastião Salgado, also made the César list and we'll have a discussion on that film and the other doc nominees soon.

The last film I need to mention is one that American audiences will finally get the chance to see in April. Olivier Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria - simply Sils Maria in France - which had a very successful day despite leaving last year's Cannes Film Festival with no prizes and some questionable buzz. I'm going to assume the César embrace of a French film performed predominantly in English is rare, but don't want to claim it as fact. What I do know is that it's excellent and I'm worried about some of the write-ups it will get when released in America. Nevertheless, the nomination for Kristen Stewart is particularly sweet given how easy it would be for a French organisation to push her to the side and focus on Juliette Binoche. She's the best thing in it after all. Who needs a sequel to Snow White and The Huntsman, am I right?

Following is the entire list of nominees. Which ones have you been lucky enough to see?

Click to read more ...

Friday
Dec262014

The Animated Feature contenders: Minuscule - Valley of the Lost Ants

Tim here. Our journey through the list of films submitted for the Best Animated Feature Oscar now takes us to France and Belgium and the utterly beguiling children’s film Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants. Cumbersome title notwithstanding, it’s a light and breezy little lark, with a simple fairy tale-esque story so elemental in its particulars – an infant ladybug separated from her parents falls in with a colony of black ants and helps them in their war against aggressive red ants - that the movie can get away without having a single word of dialogue to be found anywhere in its running time.

Writer-directors Thomas Szabo & Hélène Giraud have adapted the movie from their television series Minuscule (which I understand to be terrifically popular in places that aren’t the United States), made up of 6-minute comic shorts in which a variety of insects get into comic scrapes. Expanding from such a brief running time up to almost an hour and a half is not for the faint-hearted and Szabo & Giraud haven’t done it flawlessly: the film suffers some redundancy and stretched-out plot developments.

But at the same time, the filmmakers fully exploit the scope of a feature, both visually and in terms of story ambition. There are wide shots all throughout the whole length of the movie that present the ants’ valley as a series of endless vistas of woods and mountains, giving Minuscule the feel of a limitless universe of a sort that only shows up in the very best fantasies...

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Tuesday
Nov042014

The Honoraries: Jean-Claude Carrière, Part 1

Our 2014 Honorary Oscar tribute series continues with a two-part look at the long fascinating career of Jean-Claude Carrière. Here's Amir with Part One.

Here at The Film Experience, we are normally opposed to the idea of past winners receiving honorary Oscars. This, after all, is an honor bestowed on a recipient whose career not only merits the attention, but also lacks it. When there are so many giants of the medium that the Academy hasn't recognized, why double dip with already rewarded names? But there is something incredibly satisfying about seeing three time nominee and one time winner, Jean-Claude Carrière, receive an honorary Oscar this year. His is one of the most fascinating careers in film history, and one that has lasted six decades and spanned several countries and languages. 

Carrière started as a novelist, his first work published in 1957, five years prior to winning an Oscar in the best short film category for Heaureux Anniversaire. In the intervening fifty-three years between his two golden statues, he's worked with filmmakers as varied as Jean-Luc Godard, Andrzej Wajda, Louis Malle, Jonathan Glazer and, most recently, Abbas Kiarostami who penned him a short but memorable role in Certified Copy.

His most fruitful collaboration, one that still arguably defines his career still today, was cultivated in the 1960s. [More...]

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Tuesday
Sep302014

NYFF: Saint Laurent is Über-Stylish but...

Our NYFF coverage continues with Nathaniel on France's Oscar submission Saint Laurent.

If you're going to make a biopic of one of the great fashion designers, it better damn well be stylish. Saint Laurent one of two new biopics tackling the iconic French designer Yves Saint Laurent assures you of its gifts in this area almost immediately. There's nary a frame, at least for the first two thirds of the film, that you couldn't frame and admire for aesthetic reasons: rich decadent colors, gorgeous actors as gorgeous people, carefully composed shots in elaborately decorated homes, dark exclusive clubs, and interiors of stores that that are so beautiful in their rigidity that they look more like institutional museums after hours, free of consumers but full of art. Even the daring full frontal nudity is stylish, whether it's employed for confrontational queer desire or for humor as in a memorable sequence late in the picture between a clothed woman and naked one. The scene plays like unintentional comedy for a moment until you discern that it's actual comedy, a meta joke about overdetermined STYLE and the fashion world's self mythologizing nature within a movie positively dripping with style and self-mythologizing.

The director Bertrand Bonello (House of Tolerance, The Pornographer) has chosen the right form for his movie -- at least in part, telling the story visually first and foremost, and lushly and creatively at that. Would that I had a photographic memory to recount the many fine choices but there are three that stuck with me, all from the first and second acts...

dangerous gay players & beautiful dress-up muses after the jump...

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Tuesday
Sep302014

NYFF: Blue Is The Lukewarmest Color

Our coverage of The New York Film Festival continues with Jason's take on actor-director Mathieu Amalric's The Blue Room.

The ordinary afternoon street-scene beyond an open window half-illuminates a hotel room, letting in a miniature horde of visitors - refracted sunlight, a honeybee, a cool breeze, the implacable face of somebody's unexpected husband - all inclined to land upon the sweat-strewn backs of the bed's entangled bodies in one way or another. In Mathieu Amalric's The Blue Room the lovers inside dare this space, their nudity displayed openly, to crash down around them - the bee makes a pretty picture, the breeze cuts the sticky air, and the husband, well, he'll have his day too.

The Blue Room is based on a 1964 book by Georges Simenon, a writer who's been described by some as the French Patricia Highsmith, and much like we've come to expect from adaptations of that writer this story is obsessed with crime and sex and where the twain shall tragically meet - the "criss cross" of Highsmith's Strangers on a Train especially sneaks to mind. Simenon seems less interested in Bruno & Guy's kind of repression though; he and Amalric's concerns seem to blossom off passion's full expression. So sweat and blood roll down parted lips and Amalric lingers upon the contents of that room as if they themselves hold all the answers. Time and again we flash back to the lovers, often frozen as post-coital still-life, flushed and spent - what happens when those moments can't stay contained?

Amalric's film tries to have it both ways, running simultaneously cold and hot - the frame square as an ice-box, the strings lush with heat, a court-room drama told through lurid tales of windswept outdoor encounters - but it tends to meet in the middle more often than not, lukewarm when it should boil and tepid when it should chill to the bone. The fractured timeline structure robs us of too much emotional investment - it becomes more a what-happened than a why; an assortment of mostly unknowable glances piled up and posed.

 

The Blue Room screens tonight Sept 30th (9 PM)

Thursday
Sep252014

NYFF: Entering the Third Dimension with 'Goodbye to Language'

The New York Film Festival is finally about to begin and here is Glenn on one of the must-sees of the fest, Jean-Luc Godard's Goodbye to Language.

Much like the film itself, you’ll have to bear with me here. If I get lost or end up on tangents then don’t worry – it’s not only to be expected, but probably the intent. This will probably be messy, but this is a film titled Goodbye to Language so I feel it’s a safe zone, yes? You see, there is a lot to talk about. How about the use of 3D that is perhaps the best I have ever seen. And then there’s the bravura directions that director Jean-Luc Godard goes even once you think you may have his shtick down. And that’s before we get into the concept of subjectivity of ideas. For all I know, the various ideas that I took from Goodbye to Language might not be at all what Godard intended. But therein lies at least part of the film’s brilliance and the wonder of art: you don’t necessarily have to be right to be valid.

Many people won’t like this movie, and even somebody like me who thinks the film is an incredible example of filmmaking has to see their point of view. It’s a tough film if you’re not on its wavelength, but that very instinctual desire to mess with audience expectations is part of why I loved it so much. I have not seen any of the director’s recent cinematic experiments (in fact, the most recent film of his I have seen is King Lear with Woody Allen, Molly Ringwald, Leos Carax and Julie Delpy from way back in 1987), but the title alone suggests something along the lines of Film Socialisme which took a liberal stance on the use of subtitles, and audiences would be smart to know what they’re getting themselves in for before sitting down rather than complaining about the film and its director. This is an experimental film by its most pure definition. Godard is experimenting with the concept of narrative and if viewed and critiqued in the same way as a more traditional film then people are doing not only themselves a disservice, but the film as well.

You can't imagine how amazing this shot is in 3D!

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