Author Archives: french

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO


Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck’s brilliant documentary on racism in
America is an essential work for our era, drawing a clear line from the
Civil Rights struggle to today’s Black Lives Matter movement via the
thought of James Baldwin, one of the most lucid, fearless Ameri-
can thinkers on race (and many other matters). Based on Baldwin’s
unfinished manuscript Remember This House, which considered
the history of racism through memories of Baldwin’s friends the civil
rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers,
I Am Not Your Negro analyzes white denial and black experience of
racial oppression in a historical and contemporary context, bringing
Baldwin’s observations into the present through powerful juxtaposi-
tions of his words (read in voiceover by Samuel L. Jackson) and, for
instance, images of the Ferguson protests. Peck also generously culls
from archival sources, notably the extensive talk show appearance in
which Baldwin, an eloquent and spirited orator, publicly expresses that
the “negro” is a white construct, and anything but a definition of who
he is. By providing an impassioned, accessible introduction to James
Baldwin’s work and thought, Peck has given us a crucial reference to
address ongoing injustice in the United States.

DIRECTOR
Raoul Peck

SCREENPLAY
James Baldwin

DETAILS
Documentary
English
93 min.
France, 2017
DVD, Blu-ray

DISTRIBUTOR
Kino Lorber EDU

PRICE RANGE
$400

LE GRAND MÉCHANT RENARD ET AUTRES CONTES / THE BIG BAD FOX AND OTHER TALES

Adapted from an acclaimed series of comic books written and illus-
trated by co-director Benjamin Renner, The Big Bad Fox and Other
Tales is a delightful animated film, charmingly old-fashioned in its
graphics but sly and witty in its contents. Consisting of three stories
featuring a recurring cast of hapless farm animals, the film is present-
ed as a theatrical revue, with the “big bad” fox (who is in fact anything
but) appearing on a stage before each segment to introduce the
action. The first story features the adventures of a rabbit, a pig, and a
duck who take over for the stork when she gets sick and try to bring a
human baby to its parents. This is followed by the story of the fearful
fox who is so bad at being a predator that he winds up protecting three
chickadees from a wolf. The final story finds the rabbit and the duck
attempting to deliver presents on Christmas Eve after they destroy a
plastic Santa Claus and become convinced they’ve killed the real one.
Combining an infectious warmth and a surprising slapstick sensibility,
The Big Bad Fox is a treat for the whole family.

DIRECTOR
Benjamin Renner
Patrick Imbert

SCREENPLAY
Benjamin Renner
Jean Regnaud

CAST
Guillaume Darnault
Christophe Lemoine
Boris Rehlinger

DETAILS
Comedy, Family
English, French
83 min.
France, 2018
DCP, Blu-Ray

DISTRIBUTOR
GKIDS

PRICE RANGE
$300-$350

FÉLICITÉ

Félicité is a nightclub singer in a little bar in Kinshasa who lives alone
with her teenage son Samo. When Samo severely injures himself in a
motorcycle accident, Félicité must find a way to raise the money to pay
for an operation or allow her son’s leg to be amputated. The originality
and power of French-Senegalese director Alain Gomis’s fourth feature
lies in the way it transcends this simple against-the-clock narrative,
the kind of story that has driven films of social realism from Bicycle
Thieves to the Dardenne brothers, to create a shifting, complex portrait
of the struggles, joys, and imagination of a modern-day heroine—and
by extension, of the city she lives in. Filming in the Democratic Repub-
lic of Congo, a country previously unfamiliar to him, Gomis confirms
the tremendous promise of his earlier films, walking a porous line
between dream and waking life, magic and bureaucracy, observation
and fantasy, that at its best suggests a new cinematic language. Alive
with the diverse sounds of various Kinshasa musicians, Félicité is an
engrossing, deep dive into the days and, especially, nights of a city by
turns nightmarish and surprisingly radiant.

DIRECTOR
Alain Gomis

SCREENPLAY
Alain Gomis

CAST
Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu
Gaetan Claudia
Papi Mpaka

DETAILS
Musical/Drama
Lingala, French
129 min.
France, Belgium, Senegal,
Germany, Lebanon, 2017
DCP, Blu-Ray, DVD, ProRes

DISTRIBUTOR
Strand Releasing

PRICE RANGE
$250-$500

LES FANTOMES D’ISMAËL / ISMAEL’S GHOSTS

Arnaud Desplechin reunites with his faithful collaborator, the inim-
itable actor Mathieu Amalric, to offer another structurally daring,
emotionally intense, and hugely enjoyable portrait of a brilliant dandy
on the verge of madness. This time Amalric plays Ismael Vuillard, an
accomplished filmmaker who has lived for twenty years in the shadow
of the disappearance of his young wife Carlotta. One day, while Ismael
is working in his seaside house, his girlfriend Sylvie is approached by
a beautiful woman on the beach: she announces that she is Carlotta
and that she has returned to reclaim her husband. Ismael’s life soon
begins to fall apart. Desplechin contrasts this psychological drama
with scenes from the film Ismael is in the process of writing, an espio-
nage thriller set in Tajikistan and the Czech Republic and based on the
life of his own brother Ivan. The result is a dizzying self-portrait of the
filmmaker, a meditation on the creative process, laced with references
to cinema and literature, but primarily an infectiously energetic enter-
tainment. Contrary to what its title may suggest, Ismael’s Ghosts is a
film resolutely engaged with the present, featuring vivid performance
by some of French cinema’s greatest stars.

DIRECTOR
Arnaud Desplechin

SCREENPLAY
Julie Peyr
Léa Mysius

CAST
Mathieu Amalric
Marion Cotillard
Charlotte Gainsbourg

DETAILS
Drama
French
135 min.
France, 2017
DCP, Blu-Ray

DISTRIBUTOR
Magnolia Pictures

PRICE RANGE
Please contact Neal Block

L’ATELIER / THE WORKSHOP

In The Workshop, acclaimed writer-director Laurent Cantet takes an
illuminating approach to a variety of key issues haunting contemporary
France. Olivia, a successful Parisian novelist, has been hired to spend
the summer in La Ciotat, a beautiful but economically battered town
on the Mediterranean, teaching a writing workshop for a diverse group
of young people whose only common denominator, as is so often the
case among twentysomethings in the French provinces, is that they
are unemployed. Among them are an emancipated but religious Mus-
lim woman, students proud of their region’s strong but declining his-
tory of labor movements, recent immigrants, some hedonists focused
on the next party, and Antoine, a strikingly intelligent, confrontational
young man with affiliations to extreme right-wing groups. Through
class discussions and the conflicts that ensue, Cantet presents an
unflinching look at the delicate integration of conflicting religious and
cultural beliefs in a period plagued by the threat of terrorism. And as
Olivia attempts to understand what brought Antoine to embrace a rep-
rehensible ideology, The Workshop builds into a breathtaking thriller
that deftly avoids formulaic answers to provide startling insight into a
situation that applies far beyond France.

DIRECTOR
Laurent Cantet

SCREENPLAY
Robin Campillo
Laurent Cantet

CAST
Marina Foïs
Matthieu Lucci
Warda Rammach
Issam Talbi
Florian Beaujean
Mamadou Doumbia
Julien Souve
Mélissa Guilbert
Olivier Thouret
Lény Sellam

DETAILS
Drama, Thriller
French
113 min.
France, 2017
DCP, Blu-Ray, DVD, Pro-Res

DISTRIBUTOR
Strand Releasing

PRICE RANGE
$250-$500

L’AMANT D’UN JOUR / LOVER FOR A DAY

Lover for a Day closes Philippe Garrel’s magnificent trilogy of spare,
black and white films about love and romance in contemporary Paris.
The film begins one night when young Jeanne arrives in tears at her
father’s apartment after leaving her boyfriend. She discovers that
her father Gilles is living with Ariane, a woman her age. As the three
of them settle into forced cohabitation, Jeanne and Ariane become
close and Gilles and Ariane’s relationship is tested. While any film in
the loose trilogy might serve as a perfect introduction to a director
considered French cinema’s great poet, as well as its most inspired
craftsman, Lover for a Day has the added attraction of shifting per-
spective to that of its female characters. And more than fifty years
after he began making films as a teenager, Garrel remains a natural
at capturing young people on film—their way of talking, dressing, and
thinking about the world. But the beauty of Lover for a Day is in its way
of articulating the relationship between the young and their elders and
delicately observing the passage from one generation to the next. In
this modest but perfect film, Garrel is nothing less than a historian of
our feelings.

DIRECTOR
Philippe Garrel

SCREENPLAY
Philippe Garrel
Jean-Claude Carrière
Caroline Deruas-Garrel
Arlette Langmann

CAST
Éric Caravaca
Esther Garrel
Louise Chevillotte

DETAILS
Drama
French
76 min.
France, 2018
DCP, Blu-Ray, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
MUBI

PRICE RANGE
DVD/Blu-Ray: $300
DCP: $450

120 BATTEMENTS PAR MINUTE / BPM (BEATS PER MINUTE)


BPM is a fictionalized account of the history of Act Up-Paris, the
triumphant true story of some of the great heroes of our era: the men
and women who fought for the recognition and improved treatment
of HIV and AIDS patients at a time when a diagnosis was a death
sentence. As an original member of Act Up, writer-director Robin
Campillo brings a detailed, thoroughly researched authenticity to his
reconstruction of the activist organization’s politically and emotionally
charged group meetings, its colorful protests, and the intimate rela-
tionships that bound the tight-knit group together. Yet BPM is anything
but a dry history lesson: Campillo intelligently divides the film in two
sections, the first of which establishes Act Up’s historical importance
by focusing on its internal dynamics and political actions, while the
second delivers the emotional punch of its impact on individual fates
through a love story between two of its members, one of whom is
dying of AIDS. In crafting this remarkable elegy, Campillo achieves a
rare blend of celebration and outrage, remaining true to the activists’
determination, humor, and youthful vibrancy. Above all, BPM is a
remarkable testament to the power of regular citizens to effect change
by banding together to demand justice.

DIRECTOR
Robin Campillo

SCREENPLAY
Robin Campillo
Philippe Mangeot

CAST
Nahuel Pérez Biscayart
Arnaud Valois
Adèle Haenel
Antoine Reinartz
Ariel Borenstein
Félix Maritaud
Aloïse Sauvage
Simon Bourgade

DETAILS
Drama
French
143 min.
France, 2017
DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Passion River Films

PRICE RANGE
Starting at $350

12 JOURS / 12 DAYS

The French legal system calls for any individual who has been hospi-
talized in a psychiatric facility against his or her will to appear before
a specialized judge twelve days after being admitted. After discussing
the case with the patient and his or her counsel, the judge determines
whether the hospitalization should be prolonged. Raymond Depardon,
a master documentarian with extensive experience filming both the
French legal system and in hospitals, was given exceptional access to
several of these closed hearings at a facility near Lyon. The hearings
seen in 12 Days create an extraordinarily intimate set of portraits of
individuals in distress, expressing their frustrations, fears, hopes,
and, often, delusions. Facing them, a variety of judges are by turns
helpless, paternalistic, attentive and even tender. But 12 Days’ greatest
accomplishment is to reach beyond the individuals and address sys-
temic questions regarding mental health and French society at large:
in short, what is it about our contemporary world that drives us mad?
The case of one patient’s workplace harassment at a telecommuni-
cations firm sketches a terrifying picture of our vulnerability under
the reign of late capitalism. As always, Depardon remains a stoic but
empathetic witness to the world’s sorrows.

DIRECTOR
Raymond Depardon

SCREENPLAY
Raymond Depardon

DETAILS
Documentary
French
87 min.
France, 2017
DCP, Blu-Ray

DISTRIBUTOR
Distrib Films US

PRICE RANGE
$350 for screening + shipping

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