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Soundtracking: Hustlers

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Directors of For Sama

Lulu Wang (The Farewell)
Ritesh Batra (Photograph)
Schmidt & Abrantes (Diamantino)
Wanuri Kahiu (Rafiki)
Jia Zhang-ke (Ash is Purest White)

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Entries in Mia Hansen Love (5)


Three Games for the News: Denzel and the Mias

by Murtada

News is coming at us so fast from the 70th Cannes, currently unspooling, that we can hardly keep up. Let’s then take a moment then to ruminate on a film that might screen at the 72nd edition in May of 2019...

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NYFF: "Things To Come" with Isabelle Huppert

Jason reporting from the NYFF on the new film from director Mia Hansen-Løve, currently scheduled to open in limited release on December 2nd

At about the midpoint of Things to Come Nathalie (Isabelle Huppert) says to a friend that she's "found freedom" but we know better. We've been watching freedom thrust upon her in disorienting spasms, as her husband's left her and her publishing house has tossed her old-fashioned intellectualism aside (one of them hurls out the word "classy" like it's going to burn her hands). And in truth Nathalie doesn't quite know what to make of it, this "found" freedom of hers. "Extraordinary," is what she calls it, and that approaches the thing, but not quite the way she's selling it at that moment...

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Berlin: Fire at Sea Wins the Golden Bear

 Amir Soltani is covering the Berlin International Film Festival.

The Berlinale officially closes today. Although we’re not yet finished with our coverage – a couple of interviews still to come – it’s the perfect time to look back and discuss the festival’s awards. In my review of Gianfranco Rosi’s exquisite new film, Fire at Sea, I noted that it would be a shock for the film to leave the Berlinale empty-handed. Lo and behold, the festival’s jury, headed by Meryl Streep, agreed with the sentiment, and rightly awarded the competition’s best film with the Golden Bear.

The festival’s unofficial theme – repeated across press releases and around the festival hub – was refugees and immigrants. Much as Rosi’s impressive constructed, morally compelling and profoundly moving film might have benefited from that, however, it was hard to ignore the fact that its reception by critics and audiences simply towered above any other film playing in any program in Berlin. The theory among critics was that if another film were to win, it would be Mia Hansen-Løve’s L’Avenir would be it. With critics near-unanimously calling it the director’s best work yet, and with four women on a jury of seven, the Isabel Huppert vehicle was likely to find favour, and indeed it nabbed the best director prize. [More...]

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Berlin: The Latest from Mia Hansen-Løve and André Téchiné

 Amir Soltani is covering the Berlin International Film Festival, TFE's first time at Berlinale! Here are the two French films from the festival’s Competition section (the group of film's Meryl Streep & jury are seeing).

L’AVENIR (Mia Hansen-Løve)
Mia Hansen-Løve has established herself as one of world cinema’s most exciting young filmmakers in the past few years. Her latest, L’Avenir (Things to Come) came to Berlinale as one of the festival’s most anticipated films. Starring Isabelle Huppert as Nathalie, a middle-aged philosophy teacher on the verge of significant changes in her personal and professional life, L’Avenir is an intimate, life-affirming character study with a superb star turn from Huppert...

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NYFF: 'Goodbye First Love'

Kurt here. Whereas the NYFF title My Week with Marilyn finds it necessary to blatantly announce that “first love is such sweet despair,” French writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve's third feature, Goodbye First Love, offers the same sentiment in a kind of long whisper, stretching out its meaning over 110 minutes and eight long years. The film would be even stronger if the whisper were fainter still, and if Hansen-Løve (The Father of My Children) were a touch less eager to reach out a helping hand, but as it stands, it's an earthy, sprightly, intuitive expression of how an indelible romance can affect the shape of a life.

Its chief subject is Camille (Brittany Murphy lookalike Lola Créton), a shy young lass not unlike a number of girls I know, who've had to redefine themselves after leaving the man who defined them. At the start of the film, 15-year-old Camille is inseparable from Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky), the boyfriend who rules her heart but, more importantly, helps her make sense to herself. Things start to rapidly unravel as the day approaches when Sullivan will leave Paris for a 10-month trek through South America, the kind of worldview-enhancing, coming-of-age adventure he wishes Camille would have on her own (he attacks her childish ignorance with married-couple tough love). But that's an unfathomable thing for the heroine at the outset, as is the thought of Sullivan leaving, which creates such fear in Camille it's almost as if she starts seeing the whole natural world around her as a threat, with wind and spiders and the buzz of insects cruelly heralding Sullivan's drift into the wilderness (much of the film, including almost all of the first act, takes place in a remote cottage surrounded by nature).

And drift Sullivan does, first physically, and then entirely, after giving up trying to communicate with a bitter and depressed Camille via snail mail (“I won't call,” he says in memorable voiceover, “because every detail hurts you, like my experiences are insults to us”). With one forcedly symbolic winter and a passing reference to Candide (“is this the best of all possible worlds?”), Hansen-Løve then shifts matters to a very sharply defined second act, wherein Camille gets a haircut, gets a new job, and goes to school. Supporting a running metaphor that yields many rewards despite (again) pushing a tad too hard, Camille studies architecture, and in her earlier classes, we see that her restrictive heartache is manifesting in her work – high-rises with tiny rooms, moat-like ponds that hinder exploration. But, of course, this also becomes Camille's outlet to rebuild herself and her life, and it opens up a world of opportunity for the director in terms of atmosphere, with Camille and her classmates visiting and examining all sorts of interesting structures.

And yet, nature keeps creeping in amid all the man-made marvels, specifically water, as Hansen-Løve makes swimming the ultimate pastime in an effort to establish an ongoing rinse cycle. Camille moves on, begins to make a name for herself in the architectural world, and even sparks up the old cliché relationship with a teacher decades her senior (she's nearly 23 as the film winds down). But Sullivan indeed returns to the picture, with feelings that are indeed still reciprocated, only to leave again. And with the recurring scenes of swimming, Hansen-Løve implies that Camille isn't continually baptizing herself anew, she's refreshing her tender, but also toxic, devotion to her first love, the one that “lives inside her like a disease.” When we finally leave Camille, she is, once again, taking a dip in the river. And though Sullivan's hat, which she brings along for the afternoon, is knowingly swept away and taken by the current, the scene expresses one thing most of all: Rinse. Repeat.