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Entries in Francophile (72)

Thursday
Jun282012

Best Shot: Isabelle Adjani in "The Story of Adele H"

Previously on Season 3 of Hit Me With Your Best Shot...

Today we're officially back to weekly "Best Shot" posts with François Truffaut's biotragedy THE STORY OF ADELE H (1975). For nearly thirty years French beauty Isabelle Adjani held the record for the Youngest Best Actress Nominee of all time; she was 20 when Adele H made her an international star. To add to Adjani's Oscar Curio factor, she still holds another record: she's the only actor or actress ever nominated twice for French language performances. Nomination #2 came for another biotragedy Camille Claudel (1988). [Marion Cotillard surely hopes to tie that particular Best Actress record later this year in Rust and Bone (2012).]

Adjani all but vanished from screens round about the time she and Daniel Day-Lewis procreated and split. The sensational Queen Margot (1994) and the reviled Diabolique (1996) with Sharon Stone were her last big draws so I assume many readers are unfamiliar and that this Best Shot subject would be a fresh choice. I did not however make the connection that post-Possessed this meant two movies back-to-back featuring women who utterly debase themselves for the love of a playboy who does, in his defense, try to warn her crazy away. Even though both films belong to my favorite subgenre Women Who Lie To Themselves™ it was a disconcerting double feature. 

Adele H doesn't just lie to herself though. She lies to virtually everyone in her relentless pursuit of her former lover Lt. Albert Pinson (Bruce Robinson) who she intends to marry. She prides herself repeatedly on her willingness to cross the Ocean for him, a big deal in 1863.

Though I'd argue that François Truffaut's marriage of traditional costume drama and nouvelle vague experimentation is sometimes an awkward one, I do love the film's take on letters which Adele mostly reads aloud as she writes, sometimes directly to the camera as in this gorgeous passage when Adele recites an entire letter to daddy while the camera actually crosses the Ocean (and then some maps) to deliver it.

She's Written A Letter To Daddy... (my second choice for "best shot")

My dear parents,
I have just married Lieutenant Pinson. The ceremony took place Saturday in a church in Halifax. I need money for my trousseau. I must have 300 francs immediately... in addition to my allowance. If you'd taken care of my music as I've asked you 100 times that would bring me in some money and I wouldn't have to behave like a beggar. 

It's in the letter readings where Adjani earns the historic Oscar nomination. Her lies are so proud and delivered with such entitled petulance that she almost seems thrilled to be reciting them. What's false is true and Adele believes this with religious conviction. And nost just Sunday only conviction but a tent-revival sort of fanaticism. Similarly perverse beats occur when she seems turned on by Lt. Pinson's sexual interest in everyone but her. Adjani is also excellent at delineating Adele's complex relationship to her family name ("H" being the clue and part of the reason I chose the movie at this time) whether she's embracing it, hiding it, or using it as dangling carrot.

Great Moments in Costuming #317,201

But for the Best Shot prize, I choose a shot that falls within a far more typically Oscar-baity context. Toward the end of the film, the inevitable occurs and Adele's internal madness is acutely externalized. After a dog bites at her heels, tearing her dress, she wanders the streets.

In an 18 second unbroken shot she approaches oblivious to the camera she's often looking at. The camera  briefly focuses on the ragged hem of her once rich gown as she passes us by before it pans up again to a bookstore window where Adele's lonely never-suitor stares at his former friend, now utterly alien. She spins about in the street muttering (inaudible) nonsense to herself. She's always spoken nonsense but now that everyone can hear it for what it is, there's no point in listening.

best shot

Don't Believe Her Lies!!!
Antagony & Ecstacy ...thinks it a damn good movie.
Film Actually... on a soldier's indifference
Cinesnatch... 'for the man you claim to be her father'
Okinawa Assault [SPOILERS] talks downward spirals and dusty mirrors

Next Thursday Night: Kim Novak and William Holden get all hot and bothered in the Oscar favorite PICNIC (1955), which I've never seen! Bring your own blankets and sandwiches (and blog posts)

Tuesday
Jun192012

Take Three: Cécile De France

Craig here with this week's Take Three. Today: Cécile De France


Take One: Haute tension/Switchblade Romance (2004)
De France brings an entirely new meaning to the term ‘Final Girl’ in Alexandre Aja’s Haute tension (or, to give it its more exploitation-happy title, Switchblade Romance). Spoiler Alert: Although we see Philippe Nahon doing the relentless butchering throughout the film, it emerges toward the end that he’s merely a projection of De France’s Marie’s imagination; he’s the product of pent-up sexual urge in Marie to create a marauding male monster in her mind. It all gets very muddy before becoming incredibly bloody. We witness the farmhouse massacre (the central setting for the film) alongside Marie, and place misguided hopes onto De France to ‘save the day’. With close-cropped hair and slightly (deliberately?) awkward mannerisms suggesting ambiguous duplicity, she's a a striking presence. Some careful direction and judicious editing make the film’s ruse work and ably assist De France to communicate the exact amount of required fear. Her peril is entirely believable when she’s tucked away in a closet ostensibly watching Nahon murder the mother of the house. This high (barbed) wire is even more remarkable after the fact in retrospect. She conveys the final act slide into libido-charged maniacal force with just the right amount of desperate, perplexed kinkiness. Her’s is a three-tiered act in one: she’s victim, saviour and perpetrator. De France physically and emotionally wrenched turn works hard to cautiously hint to one aspect whilst juggling the other two. How many men in horror movies have had to spin those kinds of performance plates? 

two more takes after the jump

Click to read more ...

Friday
May042012

Maggie Cheung, DJ?

 Every once in a while I remember to miss Maggie Cheung muchly. But she's been gone so long now. We haven't seen her onscreen since 2004 when she cameo'ed in 2046 and grunged her way through Clean as a drug addicted wife in the rock scene. I understand she returned to screens briefly for two Chinese films in 2010 but neither of them crossed the pond. 

Well yesterday in Taipei she cut the ribbon at the new Louis Vitton flagship and look how fresh and kicky she looks ===>

Tony, one of my most trusted reader sources for international film star news, pointed this story out to me and translated a bit of the attached video. I'll let him explain from here:

She even served as DJ of the evening! Wouldn't you just LOVE to know
what kind of music she plays?!

 The host of the event very tentatively asks her about when we might see her on the big screen again. Her answer: 'When the right script comes along, I don't rule out the possibility to work again.'

Arrrrg. Somebody send Ms. Cheung the RIGHT script, please!!!"

I second that. It doesn't even need to be in Chinese, filmmakers. What the hell are all you auteurs waiting for? She speaks English and French (witness her fine work for Olivier Assayas in Clean and Irma Vep) as well as Cantonese and Mandarin so there are a LOT of filmmakers who are missing out and failing us.

Get on it, people. 

If you've never experienced the Maggie Magic here's your quintuple feature assignment. Program yourself a mini Maggie fest:

THE HEROIC TRIO (1993)... because it's insane
COMRADES: ALMOST A LOVE STORY (1996)... melancholy swooning
IRMA VEP (1996) ...Maggie plays herself
IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2001) ...one of the greatest films of all time
HERO (2002) ...for the ravishing color and action

Thursday
Apr192012

Cannes: The Usual Suspects

Jose here to discuss the lineup for this year's Cannes Film Festival. I know what I'm about to say isn't "cool" but aren't you tired of Cannes being Oscar's equally traditional but way more highbrow cousin? Why, you ask? During the past decade or so, it's become equally predictable to know what'll be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and what films will show up in the official Cannes lineup.

You don't believe me?  

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Apr142012

Artist & Muse via Robert Doisneau

Today marks the centennial of the great French photography Robert Doisneau and though he wasn't a celebrity photographer --  the kind we obviously have the greatest use for as film obsessives -- he did them on occassion. I love this shot of one of the great auteur/muse pairings (both onscreen and off) actor Jean Marais (left) and Jean Cocteau (right). 

Here's another of Pablo Picasso and Françoise Gilot.

Remember when Anthony Hopkins and Natasha McElhone pretended to be them? I know I know. No one saw Surviving Picasso (1996)... but I did because Julianne Moore was Dora Maar (another Picasso victim... excuse me, lover!) and with Julianne I martyr myself to completism. 

If you could photograph one auteur/muse pairing, who would it be?

Friday
Jan272012

Hail "César"s. France's Favorite Pictures

If by some stroke of bad luck or homegrown Hollywood love for The Descendants or Hugo The Artist is derailed at the Oscars on February 26th, it could still take home double handfuls of trophies at the Césars. While I'm sure all countries hate their own awards being called "_____'s Oscars", it's easy shorthand. Oscar was first, after all, thus laying the groundwork for all of this "Best Movie This, Best Movie That" until the end of time. 

France's Best Picture lineup has homegrown hits, successful exports and their Oscar submission

The Artist is up for 10 awards at the Césars... same number as the Oscars! The Cesars allow more than 5 nominees a category so it seems a bit like everyone is nominated. Other favorites from the French industry are two female-helmed films: Valerie Donzelli's gutsy vivid memory piece War is Declared (opening today in the States. Highly recommended!) and another actress turned director Mäiwenn's Polisse. (I always feel the need to remind people that Mäiwenn was the blue opera diva in The Fifth Element.) 

Film Experience favorite Carmen Maura is also up for a statue for her work in Women on the Sixth Floor.

Finally, in this quick take, we always get a kick out of the "foreign film" categories across the oceans when things are suddenly flipped and Hollywood itself is the foreign entity. Incredibly, The King's Speech is still with us (ARGH!) and it's up against other previous / current Oscar nominees like Black Swan, Incendies, and A Separation as well as films that were far too auteurist or contemporary for Oscar like Melancholia and Drive. Rounding out their foreign category is The Dardenne Brothers The Kid With the Bicycle. Great lineup, eh?

Full list of nominations after the jump and sexy pictures of a few "newcomer" nominations, since we love the French and we love eye candy. Who would you love to run into if you had a ticket to the Césars?

Click to read more ...

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