Author Archives: french

Eastern Boys


SYNOPSIS
When middle-aged gay professional Daniel spots the undocumented
teenager Marek at a train station in Paris and invites him back to his place,
he unwittingly makes himself the target of a home invasion by a gang of
ruthless Eastern European youth. Despite this most unpromising of starts,
Marek and Daniel continue to see each other and their relationship shifts
from a sexual arrangement to a surrogate father-son bond. As Daniel learns
more about Marek’s life in his native Chechnya, he decides to rescue him from
the gang. Though Eastern Boys is only the second feature directed by veteran
screenwriter Robin Campillo, it is a surprisingly assured effort, combining
empathy and intellectual honesty with a formal rigor that allows the film to
develop the breathless momentum of a thriller without sacrificing its complex
approach to the hot-button topic of immigration. Through his unusual and
thought-provoking way of handling his subject matter, Campillo develops a
critical awareness of each of his characters’ positions in society. Whether by
recognizing the continued vulnerability of the homosexual, dedicating screen
time in a sparsely populated film to a cleaning lady and a hotel receptionist,
or precisely describing the circumstances of undocumented youth in France
today, Campillo has proved that he is a keen witness to his times, and one
whose perspective will be valuable in the years ahead.

DIRECTOR
Robin Campillo

SCREENPLAY
Robin Campillo

CAST
Oliver Rabourdin
Kirill Emelyanov
Danil Vorobyev

DETAILS
French, Russian, Ukrainian, English
128 min.
France, 2013
Blu-ray, DCP

DISTRIBUTOR
First Run

PRICE RANGE
$350

La cour de Babel / The School of Babel


SYNOPSIS
School of Babel follows a year in a Paris schoolroom for children who have recently immigrated to France. Using a surprisingly intimate fly-on-the-wall style, Julie Bertucelli’s documentary gives us unforgettable glimpses into the lives of tweens and teens from Mauritania, Serbia, Venezuela, Rumania, Senegal, Libya, Ireland, Brazil, and China, children who have come to France for reasons ranging from studying violin at the Paris conservatory to escaping genital excision. The film’s triumph is in its remarkably succinct manner of creating complex portraits of the children and capturing the diversity of their experience. While School of Babel is full of incidental insights into French immigration policy and various headline-grabbing sociopolitical situations, the focus remains squarely in the classroom and on the children as individuals wrestling with a new language and a new culture (their heroic teacher primarily remains an off-screen presence). The film builds to a powerful climax when it comes time for the children to tearfully say goodbye to each other and their teacher; while their sadness is heartbreaking, it is also an uplifting sign that shared experience trumps cultural difference. In an age of resurgent uneasiness with all that is foreign, School of Babel is a powerful antidote to fear and suspicion and an inspiring source of hope for France and the world.

DIRECTOR
Julie Bertucelli

DETAILS
Documentary
French
89 min.
France, 2013
Blu-ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Icarus Films

PRICE RANGE
$200

Le bouton de nacre / The Pearl Button


SYNOPSIS
The Pearl Button marks another major achievement in the career of Patricio
Guzman, the Paris-based Chilean filmmaker first recognized for epochal
documentaries such as The Battle of Chile (1975-79) and now acclaimed as
a master of essay films such as Nostalgia of the Light (2010). Starting with
the heartbreaking tale of the extermination of Patagonia’s native water
nomads, Guzman traces the history of systemized murder in his country up
to and including the ruthless dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet through a pearl
button paid by an English expedition in 1830 to buy Patagonian native Jemmy
Button and bring him back to England—or in Guzman’s words “to travel from
the Stone Age to the Industrial Revolution.” While the story told by The Pearl
Button
is both a personal and a national one, the film’s digressive, meditative
nature leaves no doubt as to its universal reach. Parallels to the history of
the United States are only too easy to draw, but ultimately Guzman’s focus
is on human nature beyond national boundaries—and even global ones,
as he turns to the vast quantities of water vapor stored in quasars for hope
of a fresh start for humanity far from this literally scorched earth. Weaving
together archival photos of Patagonians, interviews with their descendants
and sympathetic scholars, and breathtaking footage of natural wonders on
earth and in space, Guzman has created a film of unusual, cruel beauty, as
accessible as it is mind-boggling.

DIRECTOR
Patricio Guzmán

SCREENPLAY
Patricio Guzmán

DETAILS
Documentary
French, Kawésqar
105 min.
France, Chile, Spain, 2014
Blu-Ray, DCP

DISTRIBUTOR
Kino Lorber

PRICE RANGE
From $349 for Blu-ray and DVD
From $400 for DCP
depending on the size of the venue

La belle saison / Summertime


SYNOPSIS
It’s 1971 and Delphine (Izïa Higelin), the only child of a farming couple in the
Limousin, stuns her rural community by moving to Paris to go to university.
Once in the city, she quickly gets swept up in the feminist movement and falls
in love with the sophisticated activist Carole (Cécile de France). But when her
father has a heart attack, Delphine must return to help her mother on the
farm—and Carole follows. Through the love story between two women who
must struggle not only against homophobia but class divisions, Catherine
Corsini’s Summertime presents a gripping portrait of an age of political and
social ferment, pungently bringing to life the political and social movements
familiar to contemporary viewers through the work of the great French
thinkers of the last half century. But as its title indicates, Summertime also has
a lightness befitting both the newfound freedoms and occasional zaniness
of the urban seventies and a timeless, tender idyll in the countryside. In this
respect, the film strikes an interesting contrast with Abdellatif Kechiche’s
2013 Palme d’Or winner Blue Is the Warmest Color, another love story between
two women from different backgrounds. Where Kechiche took a formalist,
nearly anthropological approach to depicting sex between two women,
Corsini shows her characters together in a relaxed manner that has the ring of
authenticity—and suggests that love is love, no matter who is doing the loving.

DIRECTOR
Catherine Corsini

SCREENPLAY
Catherine Corsini, Laurette Polmanss

CAST
Cécile de France
Izïa Higelin
Noémie Lvovsky
Kévin Azaïs

DETAILS
French
105 min.
France, 2015
Blu-Ray, DCP

DISTRIBUTOR
Strand Releasing

PRICE RANGE
$250 for Blu-ray
$350 for DCP

UN JOUR PINA M’A DEMANDE / ONE DAY PINA ASKED

SYNOPSIS
In her sublime 1983 documentary on Pina Bausch and her dancers,
Chantal Akerman followed the choreographer and her troupe for five
weeks in several cities throughout Europe. This hour-long film captures
the grace of bodies in motion both onstage and behind it, with dressing
rooms filled with lithe, sinewy men and women slicking back hair,
adjusting ties, reapplying makeup. Unlike Wim Wenders’s 3-D Pina from
2011, which also includes excerpts from live stagings of Bausch’s pieces,
One Day is not freighted with the burden of commemoration. (Bausch
died right before shooting on Pina was to begin in 2009.) Akerman’s
approach to the material is more idiosyncratic than Wenders’s: She films
one dancer backstage, a tall, blond man who explains that during the
rehearsal for 1982’s Carnations, Bausch asked her performers what they
were proud of; he shows off for Akerman the AS L he learned in the U.S.
by signing “The Man I Love” to a scratchy recording. The moment seems a
touching non sequitur. But later we see him sign the Gershwin standard
again, to the same beat-up 78, this time in costume onstage—a solemn
moment that enriches our earlier delight in what had appeared as a
loose, one-off performance.

“Akerman’s film is a work of modestly daring wonder, of exploration and inspiration.
With her audacious compositions, decisive cuts, and tightrope-tremulous sense of
time-and her stark simplicity-it shares, in a way that Wenders’s film doesn’t, the
immediate exhilaration of the moment of creation. Akerman’s film is of a piece with
Bausch’s dances.”
—Richard Brody, The New Yorker

DIRECTOR
Chantal Akerman

SCREENPLAY
Chantal Akerman

CAST
Raymond Bussières
Jean Martin
Pascal Mazzotti
Agnès Viala

GENRE Documentary
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 57’
PRODUCTION Belgium, France, 1983
FORMAT(S) Digibeta, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Icarus Films

LE ROI ET L’OISEAU / THE KING AND THE MOCKINGBIRD

SYNOPSIS
Paul Grimault has long been regarded as the greatest of French
animators; the marvelous The King and the Mockingbird (1980) is the
pinnacle of his five-decade career. The history behind the film has
contributed to its legendary status: Grimault, working with screenwriter
Jacques Prévert, began The King and the Mockingbird in 1948 as an
adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Shepherdess and the
Chimney Sweep”; it was released unfinished in the 1950s by the movie’s
producer, in a version Grimault decried as an “impostor.” Over the next
20-some years, Grimault was able to obtain the rights to the movie
and complete it as he had originally intended. The result is a wondrous
vision, dominated by soft reds, yellows, and blues, and filled with futurist
touches: Although set during medieval times in Tachycardia, the realm
of the vain and universally despised monarch Charles XVI, The King and
the Mockingbird
features not only rocket travel but also giant robots.
Charles is an avid huntsman but a terrible shot—incompetence that
invites further ridicule by the taunting, top-hatted bird of the title.
Hailed as an influence by the eminent Japanese animator Hayao
Miyazaki, Grimault’s film is a visual and aural delight.

“A lost-and-found delight!”
—The New York Times

DIRECTOR
Paul Grimault

SCREENPLAY
Paul Grimault

CAST
Raymond Bussières
Jean Martin
Pascal Mazzotti
Agnès Viala

GENRE Animated feature film
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 87’
PRODUCTION France, 1980
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Rialto Pictures

LEVEL FIVE / LEVEL FIVE

SYNOPSIS
As with nearly every film made by the incomparable Chris Marker, the
brilliant Level Five (1997) is unclassifiable. Equal parts essay, love story,
and sci-fi fantasy, Level Five is, in one sense, the “diary” of a woman
named Laura (Catherine Belkhodja), who recounts the completion of a
video game based on the Battle of Okinawa that was begun by her now
deceased lover. Incorporating footage of present-day Okinawa (and other
locations in Japan) along with faded, haunting archival material of the
ravaged city during World War II, the film is a piercing meditation on both
the historical recuperation of atrocities and what the mournful narrator
(Marker himself) calls “the ethics of imagery.” The computer terminals
that Laura—her moniker explicitly evoking Otto Preminger’s ghostly
1944 film noir of the same name—frequently addresses throughout the
film serve as passageways to both the past and the future, which jostle
uneasily with the present. Made in the final years of the millennium,
Level Five notably—and presciently—strikes a note of despair about
the uses and abuses of cyberspace, then still in its infancy.

“Passionate and cerebral; there is nothing else in theaters now that feels quite as
new.”

—A. O. Scott, The New York Times

DIRECTOR
Chris Marker

SCREENPLAY
Chris Marker

CAST
Catherine Belkhodja

GENRE Experimental
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 106’
PRODUCTION France, 1996
FORMAT(S) Digibeta, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Icarus Films

LE JOUR SE LEVE / LE JOUR SE LEVE

SYNOPSIS
This paragon of “poetic realist” cinema from 1939 was the fourth
collaboration between director Marcel Carné and screenwriter Jacques
Prévert, who enjoyed one of the most illustrious partnerships in movie
history. (They are the team responsible for 1945’s Children of Paradise,
perhaps the most beloved French film of all time.) Le jour se lève begins
with a jolt: An elegantly dressed gentleman, already dead from multiple
gunshots, tumbles down a flight of stairs in a Paris tenement. As the
police swarm the building, the man who pulled the trigger, François
(Jean Gabin), barricades himself in his garret. Through puffs of
countless cigarettes, François silently recalls what led to this violent act
via flashback. This gruff foundry worker, we learn, was in love with two
women: innocent florist Françoise (Jacqueline Laurent) and hardened
entertainer Clara (Arletty), both of whom were attached to the devious
Valentin (Jules Berry). The raging animosity between the two men led
to the fatal confrontation witnessed in the film’s beginning; by its end,
there will be another death. Suffused with despair, Le jour se lève, released
just a few months before France and the UK declared war on Germany,
uncannily anticipates the unrelenting real-life misery to come.

“A glorious restoration that invigorates the original! Restores several cuts demanded
by the Vichy regime [Its] extraordinary cinematography, replete with chiaroscuro
lighting and vertiginous shooting angles, Prefigures American Film Noir.”
—Anna King, Time Out New York

DIRECTOR
Marcel Carné

SCREENPLAY
Jacques Prévert and Jacques Viot

CAST
Arletty
Jules Berry
Jean Gabin

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 93’
PRODUCTION France, 1939
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Rialto Pictures

HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR / HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR

SYNOPSIS
One of the most influential movies ever made, Alain Resnais’s
masterwork from 1959 would not only shape the Nouvelle Vague
benchmarks made in its wake but also liberate filmmakers from linear
storytelling. “[I]n my film time is shattered,” Resnais once said; indeed,
Hiroshima Mon Amour, which was scripted by Marguerite Duras, consists
of multiple flashbacks, a device that destabilizes chronology. Spanning
approximately 36 hours, the movie centers around the time-toggling
conversations of two characters, identified only as She (Emmanuelle
Riva) and He (Eiji Okada). She is a French actress who has gone to
Hiroshima to take part in a film about peace; He is her married lover,
a Japanese architect who had served during World War II—and whose
family was in Hiroshima the day the US dropped an atomic bomb on the
city. While the two reflect on the horrors of wartime—She on living in a
Nazi-occupied country, He on the incineration of more than 100,000 of
his compatriots—they begin to debate the very unreliability of memory.
The past and the present commingle in Hiroshima Mon Amour, a film
that pointed the way to the future.

“Among the many masterpieces of the French New Wave, Resnais’s 1959 memory
drama is easily the most passionate: a cross-cultural romance tinged by shame and
regret.”
—Time Out New York

DIRECTOR
Alain Resnais

SCREENPLAY
Marguerite Duras

CAST
Pierre Barbaud
Stella Dassas
Eiji Okada
Emmanuelle Riva

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE English, French, Japanese
RUNNING TIME 90’
PRODUCTION France, Japan, Mexico, 1959
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Rialto Pictures

CONTE D’ETE / A SUMMER’S TALE

SYNOPSIS
Eric Rohmer may be cinema’s greatest chronicler of the summer
vacation; his richest movies explore the pleasures—and anguish—of
holidays during the hot months. Like his earlier films Pauline at the Beach
(1983) and Le Rayon Vert (1986), A Summer’s Tale (1996), is an exquisite
comedy of romantic manners. The third installment of Rohmer’s “Tales
of the Four Seasons” series, A Summer’s Tale takes place in the Breton
resort town of Dinard, where Gaspard (Melvil Poupaud), a recent math
graduate and amateur musician in his early twenties, plans to enjoy
three weeks of relaxation before starting a new job. While waiting
for Léna (Aurélia Nolin), his on-again, off-again girlfriend, to show
up, Gaspard becomes amorously entangled with two others: Margot
(Amanda Langlet, who played the title role in Pauline at the Beach) and
Solène (Gwenaëlle Simon). When Léna finally does arrive, the handsome
young mathematician finds himself in an impossible situation, all
of his own making: He has promised each woman an excursion to a
nearby island. As Gaspard flirts with, quarrels, and reconciles with his
equally voluble companions, Rohmer demonstrates why he remains the
unparalleled maestro at distilling the contradictions and calculations
of courtship.

“Like a forgotten gift we now get to unwrap with delight, Eric Rohmer’s 1996
“A Summer’s Tale,” never before released in this country, arrives just in time to add
a touch of delight to the contemporary landscape.”

—Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times

DIRECTOR
Eric Rohmer

SCREENPLAY
Eric Rohmer

CAST
Amanda Langlet
Aurélia Nolin
Melvil Poupaud
Gwenaëlle Simon

GENRE Romance
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 113’
PRODUCTION France, 1996
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Big World Pictures