Author Archives: french

Phantom Boy


SYNOPSIS
Phantom Boy is the second animated feature from Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli, the team behind the Oscar-nominated smash A Cat in Paris. With Phantom Boy, Gagnol and Felicioli bring their charming style of handdrawn animation and whimsical narrative to New York to tell the story of the unlikely alliance between wheelchair-bound police officer Lieutenant Tanguy and Leo, a seriously ill eleven year-old. Thanks to Leo’s ability to send a ghost-like projection of himself flying through the city and some legwork from daredevil reporter Mary Delauney (voiced by Audrey Tautou), the duo are able to save New York from a disfigured maniac without ever leaving their hospital rooms. While Phantom Boy has enough action to appeal to the most hyperactive child, its serious core about childhood illness and its amusing play with the codes of the thriller and superhero genres, not to mention its winks at great local films and series such as Manhattan and The Sopranos, make for a sophisticated viewing experience. With drawings that literally pulse with life and a foreigner’s glee at depicting New York (the dialogue is in French), the film’s greatest assets are a tender blend of poetry and comedy and an idiosyncratic look in which the human touch is always apparent.

DIRECTOR
Alain Gagnol, Jean-Loup Felicioli

SCREENPLAY
Alain Gagnol

CAST
Audrey Tautou
Jean-Pierre Marielle
Edouard Baer
Jackie Berroyer
Gaspard Gagnol

DETAILS
Animation
French
84 min.
France, 2015
Blu-ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
GKIDS

PRICE RANGE
$300

Mustang


SYNOPSIS
Some have called Mustang the “Turkish Virgin Suicides.” While Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s extraordinary debut has striking thematic similarities to Sofia Coppola’s film, its spirit of revolt is all its own. Ergüven goes beyond evoking the mystery and marvels of the world of adolescent girls to decry the denial of women’s rights the world over. Mustang begins at the point when the childhoods of five orphaned sisters in the Turkish countryside come to an abrupt end: when their grandmother and uncle learn they have been seen splashing around in the sea with boys, they lock them up inside the house. From there, things only get worse: medical virginity checks, arranged marriages, suicide… But the film holds our interest and carries our hope through the unrelenting rebellion of the youngest sister, Lale, who will not accept to be deprived of attending her favorite soccer team’s game, just as she will not stand to watch yet another sister be forced into a stranger’s arms. Lale’s long-planned escape from oppression and the sisters’ unbreakable bonds and explosive liveliness in the face of a repressive society are the giddy counterbalances to a sobering account of a state of affairs that holds true for millions of young women. As such, Mustang, a French co-production and nominee for the 2015 Academy Award for best foreign film, is not only a profoundly enjoyable viewing experience, but an essential one.

DIRECTOR
Deniz Gamze Ergüven

SCREENPLAY
Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Alice Winocour

CAST
Gunes Sensoy
Doga Doguslu
Tugba Sunguroglu
Eit Iscan
Ilayda Akdogan

DETAILS
Turkish
94 min.
France, 2015
Blu-ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Cohen Media Group

PRICE RANGE
$300

Mon amie Victoria / My Friend Victoria


SYNOPSIS
In My Friend Victoria, writer-director Jean Paul Civeyrac shifts the action of Nobel prize-winning author Doris Lessing’s short story “Victoria and the Staveneys” from London to contemporary Paris, but otherwise remains faithful to Lessing’s tale of a young black woman’s uneasy relationship with a wealthy white family. Victoria (Guslagie Malanda) becomes fascinated with the family as a little girl, then later has a daughter out of wedlock with one of the sons. As she struggles both with a sense that she is losing her daughter to this bourgeois family and the growing resentment of her own son, who has a black father and does not enjoy the family’s attention, Victoria provides an unusual and welcome insight into the situation of foreigners in France today: in the most concrete terms, privilege is within her reach, but never truly hers. At first glance, My Friend Victoria is a departure for Civeyrac, a discreet but fascinating auteur whose films have sometimes flirted with the supernatural. Yet the character of Victoria and the subtle performance of Guslagie Malanda allow him to escape the clichés of social-message films and draw on the mysterious tone of his previous features to create a person whose silences open a world of questions.

DIRECTOR
Jean Paul Civeyrac

SCREENPLAY
Jean Paul Civeyrac

CAST
Guslagie Malanda
Nadia Moussa
Catherine Mouchet
Pascal Greggory

DETAILS
French
95 min.
France, 2014
Blu-ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Zeitgeist Films

PRICE RANGE
From $250, depending on the size of the venue

L’ombre des femmes / In the Shadow of Women


SYNOPSIS
Pierre and Manon are poor, but they have each other. They live in a shabby Paris apartment and take odd jobs to support themselves while they work on his documentary on the French Resistance. But when Pierre begins an affair with Elisabeth, a young film archivist, their marriage starts to fall apart. A mordant variation on the well-worn trope of the romantic triangle, In the Shadow of Women finds writer-director Philippe Garrel, the reigning master of intimate French cinema, reaching new heights by looking at love from the point of view of the women who were long his muses and creating a devastatingly frank but not unfeeling portrayal of masculine hypocrisy. Befittingly, the film provides veteran actress Clotilde Courau the opportunity to turn in a luminous, constantly surprising performance in the role of Manon and to prove once again that no director in the contemporary cinema is better with actors than Philippe Garrel. Shot on celluloid in striking black and white and running a taut 73 minutes, In the Shadow of Women is a lesson in cinematic economy and depth, packing in more genuine insight, wit, and beauty than most bloated prestige films twice its length. Pierre’s documentary on the Resistance provides a complex moral counterpoint to the central theme, as well as a rare opportunity to see extraordinary archival footage of street fighting in Paris in 1945.

DIRECTOR
Philippe Garrel

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

CAST
Clotilde Courau
Stanislas Merhar
Lena Paugam

DETAILS
French
73 min.
France, Switzerland, 2015
Blu-ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Distrib Films US

PRICE RANGE
$350

Loin des hommes / Far From Men


SYNOPSIS
Algeria, 1954. The War of Independence is rumbling into being. In a remote oneroom schoolhouse in the Atlas Mountains, Daru (Viggo Mortensen), the son of Spanish settlers, teaches Algerian children French. One day, local French police officers appear with Mohamed (Reda Kateb), an Algerian accused of murder, and charge Daru with escorting him to trial in the closest city while they continue to fight the growing insurrection. David Oelhoffen’s film starts off as an archetypal Western—two men thrown against each other as they traverse a barren landscape—but when Daru and Mohamed find themselves stuck between French troops and the rebel army, it turns into a gripping meditation on the fate of individuals tossed to and fro by sociopolitical forces beyond their control. Freely adapted from Albert Camus’s short story The Guest (from the collection Exile and the Kingdom), Far from Men has the classic sheen of the films of Hollywood’s Golden Age: big moral questions projected onto vast landscapes, steely performances from its two stars, and, most importantly, a universality grounded in the specific. While Far from Men is essential viewing for its insight into a conflict whose effects continue to be felt, it is first and foremost a universal story of civilians faced with the absurdity of war.

DIRECTOR
David Oelhoffen

SCREENPLAY
David Oelhoffen, Antoine Lacomblez
Based on The Guest by Albert Camus

CAST
Viggo Mortensen
Reda Kateb

DETAILS
French, Arabic, Spanish
101 min.
France, 2014
Blu-ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Tribeca Enterprises

PRICE RANGE
$350

Jauja


SYNOPSIS
Shot in glorious, color-saturated, 35mm film and framed in the classic academy ratio, Jauja takes a basic Western scenario—a man rides off into the desert looking for his kidnapped daughter—and follows it to a point that defies elucidation, where what felt archaic proves to be timeless and the horse opera becomes a fairy tale. The film begins in 1882, with Danish military engineer Captain Dinesen (Viggo Mortensen) searching for his missing daughter Ingeborg across the starkly changing, hostile wastelands of Patagonia, but soon grows into a meditation on the very nature of time, space, and reality. With the sublime Jauja, Argentine auteur Lisandro Alonso takes a bold leap beyond the minimalist hyperrealism that made him a festival favorite and Viggo Mortensen confirms his reputation as one of the most adventurous movie stars of our era. Together they have created an offbeat masterpiece grounded in the history of cinema but ultimately a thing unto itself. Part revisionist Western, part metaphysical puzzle, Jauja is as open to interpretation as its desert landscapes are to the wind. But what cannot be questioned is its sheer beauty and grandly theatrical manner of placing the human figure in an ecstatic wilderness.

DIRECTOR
Lisandro Alonso

SCREENPLAY
Lisandro Alonso, Fabián Casas

CAST
Viggo Mortensen
Viilbjørk Mallin Agger
Ghita Nørby
Adrian Fondar

DETAILS
Spanish, Danish
108 min.
France, 2014
Blu-ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
The Cinema Guild

PRICE RANGE
$350 for Blu-ray and DVD
$450 for DCP

Hippocrate / Hippocrates, Diary of a French Doctor


SYNOPSIS
Like an episode of ER directed by the Dardenne brothers, Hippocrates combines the human drama that surrounds medical emergencies with a hard-hitting
look at the situation of beleaguered French hospitals. Using young medical
student Benjamin (played by rising star Vincent Lacoste) as a guide, director
Thomas Lilti, himself a doctor by trade, takes the viewer on a “backstage” tour
of a labyrinthine Paris hospital where life and death decisions make fuses
run short. For his first internship, timorous Benjamin is assigned to the floor
run by his father. Here, he meets Abdel (Reda Kateb), an older, idealistic intern
who already practices medicine in his native Algeria but must be accredited in
France to make a better life for his family. When Benjamin’s negligence leads
to the death of a homeless patient, the two doctors clash and questions of
privilege arise. But they discover their shared values when they go against
the system to grant a terminally ill elderly patient’s last wishes. While the
film provides fascinating insight into the particularities of the French medical
complex—particularly in the dingy world of the doctors’ quarters, where one
marvels at the traditional bawdy murals and gallows humor—it remains
etched in the viewer’s mind for its candid and sometimes surprisingly funny
way of raising universal questions of human dignity and empathy.

DIRECTOR
Thomas Lilti

SCREENPLAY
Thomas Lilti, Baya Kasmi, Pierre Chosson, Julien Lilti

CAST
Vincent Lacoste
Reda Kateb
Jacques Gamblin

DETAILS
French
102 min.
France, 2014
Blu-ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Distrib Films US

PRICE RANGE
$350

Le grand homme / The Great Man


SYNOPSIS
Sarah Leonor’s The Great Man is a startlingly fresh take on the old tropes of interconnectedness and the mysteries of identity and responsibility. It begins like a contemporary fable, with the voice of a little boy telling the story of Hamilton and Markov, two best friends in the French Foreign Legion who go AWOL in Afghanistan to track an elusive leopard. The film then shifts gears to harsh reality: the two men are back in Paris, faced with PTSD, the need for employment, and the fact that Markov is not Markov at all, but Mourad Mossaev, an undocumented Chechen with an eleven year-old son he barely knows. To allow Mourad to secure a job, Hamilton offers to let him take his own real identity, that of Michaël Hernandez, a Frenchman in good standing. But when tragedy strikes, it is Hamilton who must face transformation and ask himself what it is to be a great man—a legendary leopard hunter or a good father? Deftly handling hot-button subjects such as immigration, integration, and European military involvement in Afghanistan, Leonor proves to be not only a storyteller of the first order, but a valuable observer of the ripple effects of apparently distant events on individual lives.

DIRECTOR
Sarah Leonor

SCREENPLAY
Emmanuelle Jacob, Sarah Leonor, Sarah Teper

CAST
Jérémie Renier
Surho Sugaipov
Ramzan Idiev

DETAILS
French
107 min.
France, 2014
Blu-ray, DCP

DISTRIBUTOR
Distrib Films US

PRICE RANGE
$350

Francophonia


SYNOPSIS
Francofonia is the great Russian filmmaker Alexander Sokurov’s heroically ambitious meditation on European culture and history as seen through the story of the Louvre museum in Paris, with a particular focus on its fortunes during World War II. Neither a straight documentary nor a standard work of fiction, the film achieves an essayistic density by moving between several narrative strands: there is Sokurov himself, talking via Skype with a cargo ship captain carrying part of the Louvre’s holdings through a deadly storm; France’s national symbol Marianne roaming the museum’s collections with Napoleon Bonaparte; and the true story of the friendship between the Louvre’s wartime French curator and the Nazis’ head of artistic preservation (or, perhaps more accurately, appropriation). In what may be the film’s most affecting sequence, Sokurov turns closer to home and compares the Louvre’s relatively benign wartime fate with that of the Hermitage Museum in besieged Leningrad. Sokurov’s voiceover directly addresses the characters in archival images and present-day footage shot in his distinctive palette of gold and beige, his ruminations aiming for nothing less than a history of the relationship between art and power in twentieth-century Europe. This exploration of savagery and civilization as seen through the treatment of artistic treasures proves once more that Sokurov is not only one of the most idiosyncratic artists of our age but one of its most passionate, a living witness to the fading dream of a Europe defined by its artistic grandeur.

DIRECTOR
Alexander Sokurov

SCREENPLAY
Alexander Sokurov

CAST
Louis-Do de Lencquesaing
Benjamin Utzerath

DETAILS
French, Russian, German
87 min.
France, Germany, Netherlands, 2015
Blu-ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Music Box Films

PRICE RANGE
$350

Fidelio, l’odysée d’Alice / Fidelio


SYNOPSIS
In Lucie Borleteau’s striking debut feature, the sailor setting off to sea and leaving behind a lonely lover is a woman: Alice, a young ship engineer who is called to replace a dead crew member on the cargo ship Fidelio. Once aboard, Alice realizes that Fidelio is the new name of the vessel she was trained on a decade earlier. And that the ship’s captain was once her first great love. As the Fidelio takes Alice away from her boyfriend Felix and exposes her to temptations great and small, Borleteau paints an unforgettable picture of shipboard life from the perspective of a woman who is one of the boys but faces the double standards that go with being the only girl in a world of men. Aside from its fascinatingly gritty and detailed account of work and play between ports of call in Senegal, France, and Poland, Fidelio is a thought provoking investigation of faithfulness and the nature of love and desire. In Alice (played by rising star Ariane Lebed) and the international mix of personalities surrounding her on board the Fidelio, Borleteau has created a cast of unusually complex, layered characters. Her greatest achievement here may be in successfully deflating stereotypes without entirely giving up on the romance of the sea.

DIRECTOR
Lucie Borleteau

SCREENPLAY
Lucie Borleteau, Clara Bourreau

CAST
Ariane Labed
Melville Poupaud
Anders Danielsen Lie

DETAILS
French, Romanian, English, Tagalog, Norwegian
97 min.
France, 20154
Blu-ray, DCD

DISTRIBUTOR
First Run

PRICE RANGE
$350