ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

French Cinema Now starts Thursday— 10 of the best new French-language films in a four-day series at San Francisco’s historic Clay Theatre

Claire Denis’ “Bastards” is a revenge drama and dark commentary on late capitalism, shot in Paris, with cinematography by Agnès Godard.  Vincent London plays a sea captain gone AWOL to avenge his brother-in-law’s suicide and rescue his family. Chiara Mastroianni (daughter of Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Denueve) plays Lisbon’s married lover who has trapped herself in a disturbing marriage for the sake of her child.  Screens Sunday at French Cinema Now, November 7 – 10, 2013, at Landmark's Clay Theatre in San Francisco. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

Claire Denis’ “Bastards” is a revenge drama and dark commentary on late capitalism, shot in Paris, with cinematography by Agnès Godard. Vincent London plays a sea captain gone AWOL to avenge his brother-in-law’s suicide and rescue his family. Chiara Mastroianni (daughter of Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Denueve) plays Lisbon’s married lover who has trapped herself in a disturbing marriage for the sake of her child. Screens Sunday at French Cinema Now, November 7 – 10, 2013, at Landmark’s Clay Theatre in San Francisco. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

The sixth annual French Cinema Now (FCN) series begins Thursday, November 7, at San Francisco’s Landmark Clay Theatre and offers four glorious days dedicated to significant new works of francophone cinema from France, Belgium, Quebec and anywhere else the sweet sound of the French language is heard. This year, FCN screens 10 films and includes an opening night post-screening soiree with French-inspired bites and wine at 1300 On Fillmore, known for Chef David Lawrence’s inspired soul food and its smooth jazz. The program eases into weekend by offering two films on both Thursday and Friday evenings and five films on both Saturday and Sunday, with some repeats on the weekend.

The four-day festival is organized by the San Francisco Film Society, in association with the French American Cultural Society, the Consulate General of France in San Francisco.  The selections were handled by Rachel Rosen, SFS, Director of Programming, whose choices for this series and the larger annual SFIFF (San Francisco International Film Festival) reflect keen intuition for mixing the unusual and the flavor of the moment with the timelessness of great storytelling and cinematography.  Several of these French films had their premieres
at Cannes and are being shown for the first (and only) time in the Bay Area.  The charming venue, the mighty Clay Theatre, situated on the busting Fillmore Street, was built in 1910 and is one of the oldest theatres in San Francisco (refurbished with comfortable new seats).

From the established talents of such notable filmmakers as Claire Denis, Nicolas Philibert and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi to new, emerging talent like Sébastien Betbeder, Katell Quillévéré and Axelle Ropert, French Cinema Now 2013 has something for cinephiles of all tastes.  Romantic triangles, unusual familial conflicts and examinations of sexuality—subjects French filmmakers are known for handling with particular skill—feature prominently, and Europe’s biggest stars such as Louis Garrel (A Castle in Italy), Vincent Lindon and Chiara Mastroianni (Bastards) appear with the region’s up-and-coming actors like Sara Forestier (Suzanne) and Vincent Macaigne (2 Autumns, 3 Winters).

OPENING NIGHT: THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7   

7:00 pm 2 Autumns, 3 Winters Sébastien Betbeder (2 automnes 3 hivers, France 2013)      Sébastien Betbeder, whose debut Nights with Theodore was the winner of the FIPRESCI prize at this spring’s SFIFF, returns with this offbeat story of thirty-somethings navigating whatever crisis comes between quarter- and mid-life. Arman and Benjamin are friends from art school. Arman first meets Amélie when he bumps into her, literally, while jogging. His casual attempts to meet her again fail until one night when dramatic circumstances reunite them, intertwining the lives of all three. Playfully told, despite the serious nature of some of its events, 2 Autumns, 3 Winters applies indie charm to the vagaries of life. Written by Sébastien Betbeder. Cinematography by Sylvain Verdet. With Vincent Macaigne, Maud Wyler, Bastien Bouillon. 93 min. In French with subtitles. Film Movement. 

A scene from Sébastien Betbeder's “2 Autumns, 3 Winters” which screens Thursday and opens French Cinema Now, November 7 – 10, 2013, at Landmark's Clay Theatre in San Francisco.  Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

A scene from Sébastien Betbeder’s “2 Autumns, 3 Winters” which screens Thursday and opens French Cinema Now, November 7 – 10, 2013, at Landmark’s Clay Theatre in San Francisco. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

9:15 pm Opening Night reception A post-screening soiree sponsored by TV5 Monde with French-inspired bites and sponsored wine at 1300 On Fillmore (1300 Fillmore at Eddy).

9:15 pm A Castle in Italy
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (Un château en Italie, France 2013)
In her third film, director, actress and writer Valeria Bruni Tedeschi continues to mine her own experience to portray the lives and crises of the bourgeoisie. Here she plays Louise, an actress tiring of her profession and longing for motherhood. When she runs into younger actor Nathan (VBT’s former real-life beau Louis Garrel) on a film set, he pursues her relentlessly, but he’s not particularly interested in fathering a child. As she has done in her prior work, Bruni Tedeschi presents the problems of the rich and famous without apology but with refreshing nuance and humor, and surrounds herself with a formidable cast. Written by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Agnès de Sacy, Noémie Lvovsky. Cinematography by Jeanne Lapoirie. With Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Louis Garrel, Filippo Timi. 104 min. In French and Italian with subtitles. Films Distribution.

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's “A Castle in Italy” is packed with raw emotion as it delves into the lives of the bourgeois.  The brother (Ludovic) is struggling with imminent death and the sister (Louise) is 43 and aching to have a child.   The family is selling off the castle, a tie to the deceased father.  Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s “A Castle in Italy” is packed with raw emotion as it delves into the lives of the bourgeois. The brother (Ludovic) is struggling with imminent death and the sister (Louise) is 43 and aching to have a child. The family is selling off the castle, a tie to the deceased father. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 8

7:00 pm Rendezvous in Kiruna
Anna Novion (Rendez-vous à Kiruna, France 2012)
Ernest is working on a major architectural project at his firm when he receives an unwanted call from Sweden. His biological son whom he has never met has died in a boating accident and, with the mother away, Ernest must come to Lapland and identify the body. Although he protests that he has no emotional connection to the dead youth, he ends up on a long drive north during which he picks up Magnus, a young Swedish man on his way to visit his grandfather. Director Anna Novion’s interest in Bergman and her own Swedish heritage add a quiet flair to this story of unavoidable emotional ties. Written by Olivier Massart, Anna Novion. Cinematography by Pierre Novion. With Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Anastasios Soulis. 97 min. In French, Swedish and English with subtitles. Pyramide International.

A scene from Anna Novion's “Rendezvous in Kiruna,” playing at French Cinema Now, November 7 - 10 at Landmark's Clay Theatre.  Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

In Anna Novion’s quiet drama, “Rendezvous in Kiruna,” a man receives an unwanted call from Sweden informing him that his biological son, whom he has never met, has died in an accident and he must identify the body. Screens at French Cinema Now on Friday and Sunday. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.


9:30 pm Michael Kohlhaas
Arnaud des Pallières (France/Germany 2013)
Arnaud des Pallières’ austere and visually splendid medieval-era drama tells the story of Michael Kohlhaas (Mads Mikkelsen), a horse trader who is one day forced by a ruthless Baron to give over two of his prize steeds. When the nobleman’s subsequent mistreatment of the horses is revealed, Kohlhaas demands justice. But when a nobility-favoring court rules against him, and the Baron and his henchmen commit other hideous acts, Kohlhaas turns to the sword and crossbow for his revenge. Though the themes and moral conflicts will be familiar to Game of Thrones fans, the remarkable style recalls Bresson’s Lancelot du Lac. Written by Christelle Berthevas, Arnaud des Pallières. Cinematography by Adrien Debackere, Jeanne Lapoirie. With Mads Mikkelsen, Delphine Chuillot, Bruno Ganz, Denis Lavant. 122 min. In French and German with subtitles. Music Box Films.  

In Arnaud des Pallieres' “Michael Kohlhaas,” a 16th century horse merchant (Mads Mikkelsen) is mistreated by those in power and seeks revenge and justice.  Screens Friday, Nov 8, at French Cinema Now at Landmark's Clay Theatre. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

In Arnaud des Pallieres’ “Michael Kohlhaas,” a 16th century horse merchant (Mads Mikkelsen) is mistreated by those in power and seeks revenge and justice. Screens Friday, Nov 8, at French Cinema Now at Landmark’s Clay Theatre. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

SATURDAY NOVEMBER 9

2:30 pm A Castle in Italy    (see Thursday, 11/7)

4:45 pm Miss and the Doctors   Axelle Ropert (Tirez la langue, mademoiselle, France 2013, 102 min)

7:00 pm Suzanne   Katell Quillévéré (France 2013, 91min)

9:30 pm Stranger by the Lake   Alain Guiraudie (L’inconnu du lac, France 2013, 97 min)

SUNDAY NOVEMBER 10

1:15 pm House of Radio
Nicolas Philibert (La maison de la radio, France/Japan 2013, 99 min)
Master documentarian Nicolas Philibert’s latest takes a delightful and surprisingly humorous look at public radio, French style. Inside an unusual round building in Paris is Radio France, comprised of several premiere stations. Luckily for us, these bustling offices are full of great characters both known (Umberto Eco in for an on-air interview) and unknown (a news manager who gleefully sorts through grisly news briefs, the director of a radio drama, a telephone operator who screens for a call-in show). Mixed in with the quiz shows, live musical performances and sports reporting, they form the fabric of a beautifully observed and pleasurable view of a public institution and beloved medium. Cinematography by Katell Djian. 99 min. In French with subtitles. Kino Lorber.


3:30 pm Rendezvous in Kiruna   (see Friday, 11/8)
6:00 pm Vic+Flo Saw a Bear  
Denis Côté (Vic+Flo ont vu un ours, Canada 2013, 95 min)
8:30 pm Bastards
Claire Denis (Les salauds, France 2013)
Claire Denis’ “Bastards” is a dark and elliptical revenge drama shot in Paris with cinematography by Agnès Godard.  It screens Sunday at French Cinema Now, November 7 – 10, 2013, at Landmark’s Clay Theatre in San Francisco. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

Claire Denis’ troubled and troubling new film, highlighted by Agnès Godard’s masterful cinematography and Stuart Staples’ (of Tindersticks) evocative score, begins with rain and death and rarely lets up from there. For reasons at first mysterious, a sea captain named Marco Silvestri (Vincent Lindon) arrives in Paris and rents an empty apartment. Living directly downstairs are business tycoon Edouard Laporte (Denis regular Michel Subor) and his mistress Raphaëlle (Chiara Mastroianni), whose lives will intersect with Marco’s in dark and devastating ways. Denis’ latest is an angry and upsetting film, detailing a world where money and the power it wields can have poisonous and far-reaching effects. Written by Jean-Pol Fargeau, Claire Denis. Cinematography by Agnès Godard. With Vincent Lindon, Chiara Mastroianni, Julie Bataille, Michel Subor, Lola Créton. 100 min. In French with subtitles. IFC Sundance Selects.

 

For full program information and scheduling for Saturday and Sunday, click here.

Details: French Cinema Now is November 7-10, 2013 at San Francisco’s Landmark Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore Street, San Francisco.  Film tickets $12 for SFFS members, $14 general, $13 seniors, students and persons with disabilities, $10 children (12 and under); Opening Night film and party tickets $20 for SFFS members, $25 general; Fall Season CineVoucher 10-Packs $110 for SFFS members, $130 general.  Purchase tickets online here.

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November 5, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

review–“The Beautiful Person” (“La Belle Personne”) even the angst of teen love plays better in French, San Francisco Film Society, Sept 4-10, 2009

Lea Seydoux as "Junie," the new girl in class in "La Belle Personne"

Léa Seydoux as "Junie," the new girl in class in Christophe Honoré's "La Belle Personne"

 “The Beautiful Person,” set in Paris, in an upscale high-school, made me contemplate the unthinkable—if I ever had to do high-school over again, how would it go?  How would I react to the various opportunities—amorous and otherwise– that unfold?  Loosely inspired by the scandalous 17th century novel La Princesse de Cleves by Madame de La Fayette, director Christophe Honoré (“Ma mère,” “Love Songs”) continues his exploration of French romantic intrigue.  Instead of Parisian aristocracy in the court of Henry II, Honoré and co-writer Gilles Taurand set their action in contemporary Paris in an upscale high school.  The students are interesting, beautiful, and unkempt– the teachers too–and they explore love and passion while trying to stay engaged with what seems a very loosely regimented but awesome program of poetry, humanities, Italian, English and math.  Junie (Léa Seydoux, “The Last Mistress”) is the new girl at school, a transfer student, who has come to live with her cousin Matthias just after the death of her mother.  Voluptuous, alabaster-skinned, with a tragic air, she becomes the object of male attention and is quickly welcomed into Matthias’ clique of school friends.  

Mild-mannered Otto (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet), falls hard for her and their first conversation sets up a loose plot.  Otto tells her that Junie is also Néron’s tormentor in Racine’s 17th  century tragic play “Brittancus” and they discuss how it ends badly for Junie who takes vows and never marries.  Later, egged on by his friends, Otto professes his love to Junie.  She tells him what she needs “Don’t lie to me and look after me, always.”   Otto agrees.  Junie French kisses him publicly in the school hall and the two become an item.   Junie is bursting with magnetic mystique ..she is photographed in the hallway by a student who is an amateur photographer; she is noticed by women as well.   At one point in the film, an evocative song on a jukebox plays lyrics that compliment what is going on throughout the film–  “She was so pretty that I didn’t dare love her.”

 When newbie Junie arrives in Italian class, a student is in the midst of a presentation about Donizetti’s opera Lucia di Lammermoor.   Junie sits down by the teacher Mr. Nemour (Louis Garrel) and the two eye each other nervously.  She abruptly walks out, in tears, during Maria Callas’ spellbinding aria, leaving her books behind.  After this brief encounter, Mr. Nemour too falls hard for Junie and even steals a picture of her from her notebook.  Nemour, a dark-eyed dreamy lothario, who barely looks like he is out of high school, is in the midst of two affairs–one with a colleague (Florence Perin) and the other with a student Catherine (Anaïs Demoustier).   Nemours breaks it off with both women and confesses his love for Junie to his colleague who advises him that “loving a student is too easy.”  “Not this one” Nemours replies “I’m a total love-sick mess.”  To which his friend insighftfully replies “You seem more disappointed in love than in the concept of love at first sight.”   Indeed the complexity, no mess, that ensues is overwhelming.

Louis Garrel and Lea Seydoux in Christophe Honore's "La Belle Personne"

Louis Garrel and Léa Seydoux in Christophe Honoré's "La Belle Personne"

 We get subtle hints that stalwart Junie is falling for Nemour but trying hard not to.  She is terribly afraid of giving in to what she assumes will be a grand, once in a life-time love and  denies herself Nemour but snacks on safe love with endearing Otto.  Meanwhile, a subplot emerges involving a love letter that is passed around and mistakenly thought to be Nemour’s but really involves Junie’s cousin Matthias (Esteban Carvajal-Alegria) and his affair with fellow student Martin (Martin Siméon).  Mathias has hidden his homosexuality and, in addition to Martin, has carried on with another student Henri (Simon Truxillo) who is in love with him and very vindictive.  The letter threatens to expose everything if the correct author and intended recipient are revealed.   But it’s all a mess.  The letter changes hands several times and when Junie reads it, she assumes that Nemour has written it to her and takes actions that push this volatile group into certain doom.

 This has all the makings of a great drama but falls short.  The performances of the lead characters lack real depth and it’s very hard to get inside their heads, with the exception of Otto.  Léa Seydoux and Louis Garrel are enthralling to look at…and, based on looks alone, we can certainly envision them in bed together, but how would that happen?  Their conversation is basically flat and they fail to connect naturally or with any tenderness…time after time.  Junie is cold or indifferent, sending Nemour into confusion after confusion.  By the time they finally come to an understanding, it is too late.  And even when it is too late, we don’t get any feeling of implosion.  Junie’s constraint, fear of succumbing to her passion, is what needs to be further explored.  The potential is there but there’s no spark.  Nicole (Chantal Neuwirth), a maternal and wise older woman who works at the local café where they all hang-out, takes a shine to Junie, and delivers one of the most authentic, but too brief, performances in the film.   The cinematography is marvelous, capturing gray, drizzly Paris and some candid close-ups.  The sountrack ranges from opera to Nick Drake , the lyrics tracking or accentuating the action in the film.  

Screens Sundance Kabuki Theatre, September 4-10, 2009: 2:05 pm, 4:05 pm, 7:15 pm, 9:35 pm. Saturday and Sunday matinees at 11:40 am.

August 30, 2009 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment