Geneva Anderson digs into art

French Cinema Now, starts Wednesday and offers a week of the best new French film, at San Francisco at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema

In French-Swiss director Ursula Meier’s “Sister” (L’enfant d’en haut), self-absorbed Louise (Léa Seydoux) is supported by her crafty twelve-year-old brother (Kacey Mottet Klein) who steals ski equipment from wealthy tourists at a posh ski chalet and re-sells it. The film won the Silver Bear at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival and screens on Tuesday, October 30, 2012, closing French Cinema now. Image courtesy: SFFS.

When it comes to French film, nothing beats French Cinema Now, the San Francisco Film Society’s annual October homage to Francophile cinema. This year, the week-long festival screens 10 films and begins on Wednesday, October 24, and runs through Tuesday, October 30, 2012.  Programming runs in the evenings on weekdays and starts in the afternoon on Friday through Sunday.

Opening Night kicks off with Noémie Lvovsky’s comedy Camille Rewinds (Camille redouble), the wry French reply to our Peggy Sue Got Married, which has stressed out 40-something Camille being informed by her husband of 25 years, Éric (Samir Guesmi), that he’s done with their marriage. When Camille passes out drunk, she wakes up in a hospital room back in 1985 and appears to everyone as a 15-year-old girl but she has the consciousness and memories of her 40-year-old self. She revels in being reunited with her deceased parents and finds high school a hoot (walkmen but no cell phones).  Despite knowing everything that will happen and should be avoided, like a fist kiss with her first love, her husband to be, this gentle comedy has her going ahead anyway. Director Noémie Lvovsky will attend.  Following the screening, the festival officially opens with a party at Credo, open to the public.

The festival closes with French-Swiss director Ursula Meier’s Sister (L’enfant d’en haut), the winner of the Silver Bear at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival and Switzerland’s official nominee for Oscar consideration.  The film set in Le Valais, a French-speaking part of Switzerland where the mountains serve as a seasonal retreat for affluent skiers and the village below the poor who are supported by tourism.  Scrappy 12-year-old Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein) supports himself and his older sister Louise (Léa Seydoux) by stealing ski equipment on the slopes and re-selling it.   Meir, who directed young Klein in a supporting role in Home (2009), excels at family dynamics and coaxes naturalistic and interesting performances out of Klein and Seydoux, who for all purposes seem a screwed up sibling match made in heaven.  While Seydoux needs no introduction after starring next to Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) , her riveting performance as a palace servant to Diane Kruger’s Marie Antoinette in Benoît Jacquot’s lush historical drama Farewell, My Queen, (Les adieux à la reine) (2012) (screened at SFIFF 55) demonstrated her emotional resonance as one of France’s leading young actresses. This young woman, capable of mesmerizing glances, is not to be missed. But in all fairness, the film gains all its pop from young Kacey Mottet, who plays the hustling young urchin with such intensity and bravado, you’ll want to go home and watch him as a 9-year-old in Home (Maison) on Netflix, for which he won the Swiss Film Award for best Emerging Actor.   Meier will be in attendance.

ARThound recommends:  

Salome Blechmans experiences religious visions about crucifixion in Djinn Carrenard’s “DONOMA,” playing at French Cinema Now, October 24 – 30 at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema.

Donoma: Haitian-born, Paris-based filmmaker Dijnn Carrénard’s breakout first feature, rumored to be shot with 150 euros (and a lot of goodwill) is one of the reasons this film festival exists—it captures the French cinema right now.  Winner of the prestigious Louis Delluc Prize (Prix Louis-Delluc) for 2011, it has a fascinating storyline that dissects love, faith and identity through a series of intersecting multicultural relationships of teens and youngish twenty-somethings, all teetering on implosion.  If Sister sounds good, this gem offers an equally dark, but far more raw portrait of modern life that takes place outside the confines of family.  And there’s something very intriguing about the intimacies transgressed upon.Opening the film is a young couple who at first seem pretty normal—Salma’s (Salome Blechmans) the daughter of rich parents and Dacio (Vincent Perez) is poor and they get into it when he comes on to her and she refuses him.  We soon discover she’s got problems that money can’t solve—disturbing visions about crucifixion.  There’s a teacher (Emilia Derou-Bernal) in a Spanish foreign language school who comes on to Dacio, who is her student and third story involving a shy photographer and recent immigrant from Ghana (Laura Kpegli) who uses her camera voyeuristically to fall in love.  A lot of the dialogue, conducted in Gallic  inner-city slang— 30 minutes of which could be cut—feels improvised but it’s very real and gets right into the gritty mess of human communication and emotions which can flip back and forth on a euro.  The up-close camerawork itself feels fresh. Rich color saturation and graininess  heighten the drama of these intensely human moments.  Anyone who’s ever crashed and burned and then done something stupid to add further fuel to the fire (and who hasn’t?) will find something to relate to.  (2010, 140 min, in French and Spanish with English subtitles)  To watch a great trailer, click here.  (Screens Wednesday, October 24 at 6:30 p.m.)

For the full film descriptions, visit
6:30 Camille Rewinds – DIRECTOR IN PERSON
9:00 Opening Night Party
9:15 Donoma

6:30 Aliyah
8:45 My Worst Nightmare (pictured)

4:00 All Together
6:30 Mobile Home – DIRECTOR IN PERSON
9:15 A World Without Women

1:15 All Together
3:30 Camille Rewinds – DIRECTOR IN PERSON
6:30 My Worst Nightmare (pictured)
9:00 Hors Satan

1:30 Donoma
4:30 Louise Wimmer
6:30 A World Without Women
9:00 Mobile Home – DIRECTOR IN PERSON

6:15 Hors Satan
9:00 Aliyah

9:00 Louise Wimmer

Details:  All films screen at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco.  Tickets are $13 per film general admission; $12 student/senior/disabled.  Click here to buy tickets online.  Advance ticket purchase recommended as the festival is very popular.  Park at One Embarcadero Center for up to 4 hours for $2, with validation from cinema. Otherwise $3/hour from 5 p.m.- midnight.  Garage entrance will be on your immediate left-hand side, right after crossing Sacramento Street.  If crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, allow ample time for southbound traffic congestion leading up to GG bridge and to get to destination and park.
When it comes to French film, nothing beats French Cinema Now, the San Francisco Film Society’s annual October homage to Francophile cinema.  This year, the week long festival screens 9 films and begins on Wednesday, October 24 and runs through Tuesday, October 30, 2012.  Programming runs in the evenings on weekdays and starts in the afternoon on Friday through Sunday.

October 23, 2012 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment