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Entries in Francophile (76)


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) of the greatest films of all time
HERO (2002) ...for the ravishing color and action


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 ...


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?


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?

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Producers Guild Wins for Spielberg and Actors Behind the Cameras

Another day, another awards ceremony. Who can keep up?!?

Last night The Producers Guild of America gave their big prize, a transparent glassy gargantuan paperweight, to the man who helped The Artist come into being, Thomas Langmann. One thing that's not being much noted -- since behind the screen forces rarely get attention -- is that Langmann was once a regular presence in front of the camera in France and he's actually the son of director Claude Berri (of Jean de Florette/Manon of the Springs fame!). Of course right at the moment he's best known Stateside as 'that guy who was trying to tell his heartfelt story at the Golden Globes while Uggie was doing his tricks' and distracting the television cameras... as discussed on the most recent podcast. Another actor turned producer, Michael Rapaport was also honored (along with his co-producers) for the documentary Beats, Rhymes and Life.

Finally, Steven Spielberg was honored twice. He got a career-tribute and also won for The Adventures of Tin Tin because in Hollywood they like to re-reward the already abundantly successful people. (Notice how honorary Oscars often go to people who've already won Oscars instead of people who never won! Such a strange impulse. Perhaps it's a bit like paying tithing or making sacrifices to your gods?)

Winners List
Motion Picture The Artist
Motion Picture, Animated The Adventures of Tintin
Motion Picture, Documentary Beats, Rhymes and Life

Brangelina at the PGA. Sans cane!

TV, Long Form Downton Abbey
TV, Drama Boardwalk Empire
TV, Comedy Modern Family
TV, Competition Amazing Race 
(speaking of rewarding the same things over and over again...) 

TV, Non Fiction American Masters
TV, Live Entertainment/Talk The Colbert Report

Tobey and The Bening were among the many big names presenting

Vanguard Award Stan Lee (the award was presented by Spider-Man himself Tobey Maguire)
David O Selznick Award Steven Spielberg 
Stanley Kramer Award Angelina Jolie for In the Land of Blood and Honey.
For young Oscar obsessives in training out there Stanley Kramer was famous for "message movie" staples like Inherit the Wind, Judgement at Nuremberg, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, and the like)
Milestone Award CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves 


This &That: Makeup Finals, Foreign Beauties, Rule Changes

So I spent all of last night exuberantly "Oh No You Maggie Smith'nt!"* with friends over the 2 hour season premiere of Downton Abbey. Then I spent the better part of today at a table full of Oscar voters picking their brains (in a polite conversational way, mind you) at a luncheon for The Artist. More on both of those events soon but between last night and today, so many OscarQuakes or at least golden tremors.

*joke stolen from Patton Oswalt

Let's discuss four of them immediately! 

1. Hunger Games beauty Jennifer Lawrence will announce the Oscar nominations.
Usually people dress somewhat sedately for that super AM event but we're hoping Jennifer pulls out another one of those va va voom numbers she kept finding for last year's awards circus. The nomination event happens so early in the morning and if Jennifer wears skin tight white or form fitting red again, that's better than a pot of steaming coffee as an eye opener.

P.S. Is the publicity team behind Hunger Games the hardest working team in showbiz? You know this is all part of that evil world domination blitz. 

2. Documentary Rule Changes
Michael Moore and others proposed some Oscar Rule changes to the Academy and they've been adopted. The most controversial one, which we're totally fine with, involves requiring a review from the Los Angeles or the New York Times. The idea behind this rule is that the papers have a policy of reviewing each film that opens for a full week engagement. But it seems silly to stipulate that a review is required when the whole point is to get the movie in theaters for a full week. Why not just say "must play a week in Los Angeles and New York City to qualify?" Seems strange to put the qualification requirement on newspapers. According to Michael Cieply at the New York Times documentarians are not on board with these changes which would drastically reduce the number of qualifying entries.

I take a rather hard stance on this topic all the time and I assure you that it is not an anti-filmmaker stance. My stance is only a pro audience stance. I do not believe that films should be eligible for awards if they are not playing for the public. I'm tired of this elitist film culture where people only show their films in very discreet ways for very select audiences and hope that they'll win awards by which they will then try to lure paying audiences. On an individual case by case basis it's easy to see why the vast majority of pundits and filmmakers side with filmmakers on this topic and back these rules that make peekaboo engagements possible. But if you back up and look at the full picture it is much healthier for the survival of cinema if theatrical engagements are required and the audience is included. If movies aren't made to be seen there is no point in making them. If you want an engaged audience you have to create one. And to create one you've got to get the films out there in the marketplace. 

3. Makeup Citations
The bakeoff for Oscar's continually confounding Best Makeup category has finally happened and seven films are moving on to compete for the 3 wide nomination list. I've never found any reasonable explanation as to why this category has such a tiny amount of nominees given that a huge portion of movies require wig and makeup and prosthetics work but it is what it is. Despite "Best" often equating with "Most" J. Edgar and Green Lantern did not make the cut. Neither did that much talked about Michelle-to-Marilyn transformation wow them.

So your finalists go like so...


  • Albert Nobbs
  • Anonymous
  • The Artist
  • Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  • Hugo
  • The Iron Lady

I am not remotely a fan of The Iron Lady but I think it'd be a very deserving nomination in that category since the makeup work on Streep is just flawless / transformative. The rest of the field I don't have strong opinions of. Do you? It's worth noting that no Harry Potter film has ever been nominated for Makeup though a few of the previous films have made it to pre-nomination lists like this one. 

4. Foreign Film Finalists Will Be Announced on... TBA?
I wish I knew when. If so I could plan better. Every day I wake up in fear that I will miss my chance to tell you how much I liked movie A or B before Oscar cuts them in the winnowing process, he says pessimistically. And every day I run out of time. I need a deadline! Last year they announced a week ahead of the regular nominations so I guess that gives me... 5 or so more days?

Left (France's Declaration of War) Right (Denmark's SuperClásico with the always awesome Paprika Steen)

For the record in case I get no other chance to say it should the Academy not respond well to them the 'Movie A' in question is France's cancer dramedy Declaration of War which is super lively, passionate, funny, and tearful (Take that 50/50... You are nothing to me now!) and the 'Movie B' in question is Denmark's divorce comedy SuperClásico starring the inimitable Paprika Steen (Applause) who you already know I 'stan for whenever I get the chance.

I interviewed her recently (we'll get to that eventually) and much to my delight she dubbed me a "nerdy film blogger!" Her exact words! Now I love her even more. I wish American directors would hire her because she speaks English fluently and is a great actress who can do both intense drama and spiky comedy. What more do they need? Why should the Nykqvists, Mikkelsens and Skarsgaards be the only Scandinavian actors Hollywood has on speed dial? Paprika can act circles around so many people. Get on that, Hollywood! Time is a wasting.


Interview: Jessica Chastain's Big Year / Big Future

Jessica Chastain was in Morocco when we spoke, jurying on a film festival. Or was she in Toronto filming a movie? No, maybe she was right here in New York City or in Los Angeles for a premiere or event? Who can say. It's been a dizzying year. Her definition of "staying put", I quickly discover, is staying in one place for a whole week. "I don't think this is a normal year for an actor," she says understating the case.

Chastain reigns over 2011's movies

She sounds bright and cheerful and ready for more movies, believe it or not, though she admits that the year has been tough on her personal life. This past summer she starred in two of the most talked about films of the year (The Tree of Life and The Help) and in the fall she was doing press for four more (The Debt, Take Shelter, Coriolanus, The Texas Killling Fields). 

Though her characters are already multiple, she is but one woman. The movies we're seeing all at once she made over the span of a few years and she helpfully provided the order when asked:

  • Wilde Salome ("My first film. It hasn't come out yet")
  • Jolene 
  • Stolen ("very small role")
  • The Tree of Life
  • The Debt
  • Coriolanus
  • Texas Killing Fields
  • Take Shelter
  • The Help ("I went straight from the set of Take Shelter")

I figure her sudden ubiquity is a good place to start the conversation...

"I'm fine right here" 

Nathaniel R: It's almost like you've sprung full grown from the head of Zeus for moviegoers.

JESSICA CHASTAIN: Which is so funny because I've been working so long!  But it does feel like this year with people starting to see my films they're asking "Where did you come from?" Well, I trained. I have been working for a long time.  You guys are just getting caught up . I didn't come out of nowhere.

NR: It just feels that way for us! I want to ask you about Take Shelter first. Long suffering wives of male leads -- how shall I put this? This type of part always runs the risk of feeling like a thankless stock role. How did you make it feel as specific as it does? That marriage is so vivid.

JC: It's funny. I think I teased Jeff [writer/director Jeff Nichols] quite a bit when we first started working together. I'm sure they were like "oh no…" because I do a lot of work before i show up on set. My script, it's not necessarily filled with answers but there are a lot of questions that I write down. In a scene in Take Shelter I might write down 'When's the last time he told me he loved me?'  Something like that which gets me thinking 'hmmmm, okay...'

For that movie I did that throughout the whole script. I had to make it so specific because my entire subtext in that film is "what's wrong with you?" but I can't say that the same way in every scene so I had to look for what's happened before each scene to make it as specific as possible. I really wanted to grasp it so much that on our first day I really embarrassed Jeff and Mike [Michael Shannon]. We're at lunch. The three of us sat down and I've got some questions. I looked at Jeff and said 'When do they have sex? I just wanna know.' Mike's mouth opened up, Jeff turns beet red.

'what's wrong with you?' Now, ask it in multiple unspoken ways.

[The Help, The Tree of Life and Chastain's future plans after the jump.]

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