Author Archives: french

Panique

Critically lambasted and shunned by postwar French audiences upon its
release in 1947, Julien Duvivier’s Panique has since come to be recognized as
a long overlooked treasure of French film noir. The film was the first of several
adaptations of Mr. Hire’s Engagement, one of the finest novels by legendary
Belgian crime writer Georges Simenon, a coal-black tale of the scapegoating
of the eccentric bachelor Mr. Hire following the murder of a woman in his Paris
neighborhood: Mr. Hire has the double misfortune of knowing too much for his
own good and falling for the real murderer’s girlfriend… Yet as played by the
towering, stony-faced Michel Simon, the prim and proper oddball is anything
but meek and pathetic: Simon’s Mr. Hire is an enigma, but also the film’s moral
center. Viviane Romance, one of France’s brightest stars of the period, gives
a chilling performance as Alice, the hard-luck woman whose blind love for
an unscrupulous crook leads her to become a ruthless femme fatale and
frame Mr. Hire. While Panique is first and foremost a thrilling movie, both for
its iconic performances and Duvivier’s confident use of set pieces (several
scenes in a fair, a desperate rooftop escape), it also provides deep insight into
the mentality of the lynch mob and the pessimistic world view that existed in
the immediate aftermath of World War II.

DIRECTOR
Julien Duvivier

SCREENPLAY
Julien Duvivier & Charles Spaak
Based on the novel Mr. Hire’s
Engagement by Georges Simenon

CAST
Michel Simon
Viviane Romance
Paul Bernard

DETAILS
Drama
French
91 min.
France, 1947
DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Rialto Pictures

PRICE RANGE
$350 – DVD
$450 – DCP

La Noire de… / Black Girl (with short: Borom Sarret)

The first film by Senegalese master Ousmane Sembène and the first feature
produced in sub-Saharan Africa, Black Girl is the story of Diouana, an illiterate
nursemaid from Dakar who follows her French employers to the Côte d’Azur
with dreams of discovering France. But once in Antibes, she finds herself
enslaved, trapped in the couple’s well-appointed holiday apartment and
on the receiving end of their domestic frustrations. Her ensuing rebellion is
both a desperate act and one of the great cries of cinematic outrage. Despite
its short running time, Black Girl is an extraordinarily dense film, packed
with unexpected narrative turns and human and political insight. The rage
at its heart is concealed by the clean lines of Sembène’s black and white
photography of the south of France and Dakar, his seductive montage, and the
hum of Senegalese pop music on the soundtrack. But make no mistake: this is
a work of subversion, a human-scaled tragedy for the age of anti-colonialism.
As an on-the-ground analysis of the cause and effects of domination, it
has few rivals. As a powerful example of cinema’s ability to give voice to the
disenfranchised, it stands alone as a painfully timely, masterful work of art.

DIRECTOR
Ousmane Sembène

SCREENPLAY
Ousmane Sembène

CAST
M’Bissine Thérèse Diop
Anne-Marie Jelinek
Robert Fontaine
Momar Nar Sene

DETAILS
Drama
French, Wolof
Black Girl (1966) – 59 min.
Borom Sarret (1963) – 30 min.
France, Senegal
Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Janus Films

PRICE RANGE
$200 – DVD
$250 – Blu-Ray
$300 – DCP

Marius / Fanny / César

Marcel Pagnol’s Marseille trilogy is one of the towering achievements of
French cinema, and one of the best-loved: though deeply anchored in regional
particularities, it is a love story of universal reach that achieves lyrical heights
with local vernacular and never deviates from the wry humanism that made
Pagnol one of the leading playwrights of the pre-war period. The trilogy opens
with Marius, in which the titular character and son of César, the owner of a
café on Marseille’s harbor, must decide between marrying his childhood
sweetheart Fanny and fulfilling his dream of being a sailor. Fanny, the second
film in the trilogy, relates Fanny’s wedding to the shopkeeper Panisse and
the birth of her son with Marius. Life follows its quiet course until Marius
returns from the high seas. The final film, César, picks up twenty years later,
when Marius and Fanny are finally reunited. A triumph of closely observed,
lovingly mocking characterization that is epic in its scope but rarely strays
from Marseille’s waterfront, this romance also features one of the great film
performances: as the old-fashioned but warmhearted patriarch César, Raimu
started the line of burly but vulnerable French leading men that includes
Michel Simon and Gérard Depardieu.

DIRECTOR
MARIUS (Alexander Korda)
FANNY (Marc Allégret)
CESAR (Marcel Pagnol)

SCREENPLAY
Marcel Pagnol

CAST
Pierre Fresnay
Orane Demazis
Fernand Charpin
Raimu

DETAILS
Drama
French
MARIUS (1931) – 127 min.
FANNY (1932) – 127 min.
CESAR (1936) – 142 min.
France
Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Janus Films

PRICE RANGE
Individual Titles:
$200 DVD/$250 Blu-Ray/ $300 DCP
Package:
$300 DVD/$400 Blu-Ray/$500 DCP

La Belle et la Bête / Beauty and the Beast

When the beautiful Belle volunteers to take her ruined father’s place as the
prisoner of a mysterious Beast who lives in a castle on the other side of the
forest, an unexpected romance blossoms between the reclusive monster and
the innocent maiden. Soon the question arises whether the real monster is
the Beast or Belle’s avaricious siblings…especially since the Beast is actually
a cursed Prince (played by the uncannily handsome Jean Marais). A defining
influence on filmmakers as different as Ingmar Bergman and François Truffaut,
this adaptation of the classic fairy tale by iconoclastic novelist, playwright,
artist, and filmmaker Jean Cocteau is that rare film that truly deserves to be
called “magical,” a deeply ambiguous yet supremely romantic work that turns
cinema into a spectacular conjurer’s trick, full of magic mirrors and golden
keys, misty woods and ominous palaces. Shot in atmospheric black and white
by the great cinematographer Henri Alekan, Beauty and the Beast is rightly
considered one of the absolute masterpieces of French cinema, a film fantasy
that Cocteau said was “for grown-ups who haven’t lost their childhood” …or for
children ready to marvel at the best that cinema can offer.

DIRECTOR
Jean Cocteau

SCREENPLAY
Jean Cocteau

CAST
Jean Marais
Josette Day
Mila Parély
Nane Germon
Michel Auclair
Raoul Marco
Marcel André

DETAILS
Drama, Fantasy
French
93 min.
France, 1946
Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Janus Films

PRICE RANGE
$200 – DVD
$250 – Blu-Ray
$300 – DCP

A peine j’ouvre les yeux / As I Open my Eyes

Tunis, 2010. Fresh out of high school, eighteen-year-old Farah is butting
heads with her mother over her all-night, beer-fueled outings with a new
boyfriend and her refusal to enroll at medical school so she can pursue her
dream of singing in a band. All this would be chalked up to growing pains if
the setting were not Tunisia in the last months of the Ben Ali dictatorship and
Farah’s irrepressible thirst for life and justice did not come out in politically
charged concerts that draw the attention of the country’s notoriously corrupt
authorities. As such, Leyla Bouzid’s powerful debut feature is not only a
striking portrait of a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, but a deeply
insightful, complex look at life under a repressive political regime, with its
compromises, commitments, and corrosive effects on personal relationships.
While the film does not directly refer to the events of the Tunisian revolution of
December 2010, Farah clearly embodies the spirit of youthful revolt that drove
the Arab Spring. As portrayed by beginner Baya Medhaffar, who performs her
own vocals in several riveting concert sequences, Farah is utterly relatable,
a fragile but seemingly unbreakable young woman as eager for fun as she is
committed to honesty.

DIRECTOR
Leyla Bouzid

SCREENPLAY
Leyla Bouzid & Marie-Sophie
Chambon

CAST
Marwen Soltana
Youssef Soltana
Deena Abdelwahed
Lassaad Jamoussi
Aymen Omrani
Montassar Ayari
Ghalia Benali
Baya Medhaffar

DETAILS
Drama, Musical
Arabic
102 min.
Belgium, France, Tunisia, 2015
Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Kino Lorber

PRICE RANGE
$500

Avril et le monde truqué / April and the Extraordinary World

This one-of-a-kind animated adventure film ushers the viewer into an
alternate reality in which the Bonapartes still rule France, electricity was
never discovered, trees are a distant memory, and a steam-driven cable car
connects Paris to Berlin. In this dystopic steampunk landscape, scientists
have mysteriously disappeared for decades and April Franklin, the brilliant
young descendant of a long line of chemists is in danger of being next. With
the help of a shady drifter called Julius and her talking cat Darwin, April sets
off to find her missing parents, while trying to keep the “invincibility serum”
she has developed out of the hands of the imperial police—and those of a
nefarious group of intelligent Komodo dragons! Based on the unmistakable
blend of urban grit and historical fantasy found in the drawings of Jacques
Tardi, one of France’s most influential graphic novelists of the last half
century, April and the Extraordinary World is not only an engrossing, wildly
imaginative entertainment for the whole family but a slyly feminist statement,
an ode to science, and an earnest plea for world peace. It is also one of the
finest showcases for the visionary work being done in contemporary French
animation.

DIRECTOR
Christian Desmares & Franck Ekinci

SCREENPLAY
Franck Ekinci & Benjamin Legrand

CAST (Voices)
FRENCH Version:
Marion Cotillard
Jean Rochefort
Oliver Gourmet
Marc-Andre Grondin
Bouli Lanners

ENGLISH Version:
Angela Galuppo
Tony Hale
Paul Giamatti
Susan Sarandon
JK Simmons

DETAILS
Adventure, Animation, Family
French
103 min.
Belgium, Canada, France, 2015
Blu-Ray

DISTRIBUTOR
GKIDS

PRICE RANGE
$300

Dernières nouvelles du Cosmos / Latest News from the Cosmos

Hélène Nicolas is a severely autistic thirty-year-old woman who cannot
communicate verbally or hold a pen, let alone use a laptop. Yet she is also
an extraordinarily gifted writer under the pseudonym Babouillec, composing
startlingly original, lucid poetic texts with a set of cardboard letters provided
by her mother. This compelling documentary is an intimate portrait of Hélène
in everyday life and in rehearsals for a play based on her writings and directed
by major French theater director Pierre Meunier. It is also a portrait of her
mother, a woman who chose to give up her career as an equestrian to teach
her daughter to communicate and discovered when Hélène was twenty that
she could write perfectly grammatical, deeply poetic sentences despite the
fact that she had never been to school or read a book. Asked by a journalist
how she learned to write, Hélène answers: “By playing with each of the secret
places in my pickle of a brain.” While this heartening personal story is a deeply
enlightening study of autism, it is above all an endlessly fascinating meditation
on a mystery of cosmic proportions. Following School of Babel (Tournées Film
Festival 2016/2017), Latest News from the Cosmos confirms Julie Bertucelli’s
place as one of the great humanist documentary filmmakers of the moment,
a director committed to making ethical decisions while allowing the viewer
remarkably revealing access to her subjects.

DIRECTOR
Julie Bertuccelli

SCREENPLAY
Julie Bertuccelli

CAST
Hélène Nicolas

DETAILS
Documentary
French
105 min.
France, 2016
Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Icarus Films

PRICE RANGE
$200 discounted Tournées Film
Festival rate for one screening

Elle

The first French film by Paul Verhoeven, the Dutch provocateur behind such
sneakily subversive Hollywood fare as Robocop and Basic Instinct, Elle is a work
of startling moral complexity, a constantly surprising narrative that provides
an in-depth, occasionally uncomfortable portrait of a well-do-do Paris woman
with more than a few secrets. The film begins when Michèle Leblanc, the coowner
of a successful video game company, is sexually assaulted by a masked
man in her own home. Through Michèle’s unusual response to her assault and
eventual discovery of the culprit, the viewer learns about her past and comes
to understand what has shaped her blunt, sometimes shocking personality.
Elle explores the dark, mystifying sides of the psyche, but with a light touch
and fast pace that allow Verhoeven to make the most of his characters’ comic
foibles. One only has to compare Elle’s bumbling men to its powerful heroine
to realize that this is a feminist film, one that furthers the discussion on rape
and trauma, but, most importantly, portrays women in positions of strength.
Nominated for a 2017 Academy Award for her work in Elle, Isabelle Huppert
delivers another brave, illuminating performance. As Verhoeven has stated
in interviews, one always sees what Michèle is thinking in Huppert’s eyes.
In a film that plumbs the depths of human complexity, this access to the
intricacies of the mind is nothing short of riveting.

DIRECTOR
Paul Verhoeven

SCREENPLAY
David Birke
Based on the novel Oh…
by Philippe Djian

CAST
Isabelle Huppert
Laurent Lafitte
Anne Consigny
Charles Berling
Virginie Efira
Judith Magre

DETAILS
Psychological thriller
French
130 min.
France, Germany, 2016
DCP

DISTRIBUTOR
Sony Pictures Classic

PRICE RANGE
$500

Examen d’État / National Diploma

In the Congo, passing the national baccalaureate exam can save a young
person from a life of manual labor and open the doors to university and a
career. To fail the exam is to be fated to struggle for survival through menial
work. As Congolese filmmaker Dieudo Hamadi’s documentary National
Diploma so powerfully shows, the path to success in the national exam is
full of challenges. We see a school principal come into a prep classroom and
summon those students who have not paid their fees to pay up now or leave.
Those who stay aren’t much better off: the teachers are striking because they
haven’t been paid. So an enterprising group of students rents a house to cram
for the exam. Yet Hamadi’s fly-on-the-wall camera reveals study methods that
are as surprising to Western eyes as they are endemic in the Congo: students
visit marabouts for medicinal plants, get preachers to bless their pens or
exorcize them, and, most importantly, pay recent graduates for cheat sheets.
Working in classic cinema vérité style, Hamadi follows the group of students
through the exam to the nerve-wracking announcement of the results,
providing an indelible portrait of the role of education in Congolese society.

DIRECTOR
Dieudo Hamadi

SCREENPLAY
Dieudo Hamadi

CAST
Joël, Jonathan, Roger, Florence,
Honoré

DETAILS
Documentary
French
92 min.
Congo, France, 2014
Blu-Ray, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Icarus Films

PRICE RANGE
$200 discounted Tournées Film
Festival rate for one screening

Fatima

Writer-director Philippe Faucon’s long-running project of making films
about those members of the French population traditionally left off-screen
reaches a state of grace in Fatima, perfectly balancing sharp observation
of the harsh realities of the immigrant experience with an inspiring story of
individual resilience. Fatima is a middle-aged, divorced Algerian woman living
in a French suburb, cleaning houses and offices from dawn to dusk to provide
her spirited teenage daughters with a better future. It takes a workplace
accident for Fatima to finally pay attention to her own needs and discover a
powerful means of expressing them through poetry. Working with tremendous
economy, Faucon brings the eye of an anthropologist and the feeling of a
true artist to a story that touches on a variety of essential issues: everyday
racism, illiteracy, the challenges of the French university system, and the
clash between traditional, older immigrant generations and their assimilating
children. Loosely based on a true story and featuring a superbly crafted, stoic
performance by real-life cleaning lady Soria Zeroual, Fatima was awarded the
French film industry’s two highest distinctions for 2015, the Prix Louis Delluc
and the César for best film of the year.

DIRECTOR
Philippe Faucon

SCREENPLAY
Philippe Faucon, Aziza Boudjellal,
Mustapha Kharmoudi, Yasmina
Nini-Faucon, Fatima Elayoubi

CAST
Chawki Amari
Kenza Noah Aiche
Zita Hanrot
Soria Zeroual

DETAILS
Drama
French & Arabic
79 min.
France, 2016
Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Kino Lorber

PRICE RANGE
$500