Author Archives: french

Voir du pays / The Stopover

The second feature by the sisters Muriel and Delphine Coulin confirms their
talent for striking images by beginning with incongruous shots of camouflaged
soldiers in the Greek vacation paradise of Cyprus: a French military unit has
just arrived on the island for a three-day “decompression” stay in a five-star
hotel before it heads home to France from Afghanistan. While a motley crew
of tourists bask in the sun, these men and women of France’s armed forces
participate in group therapy sessions to work through traumas suffered on
the field and prepare for life back home. The Stopover focuses on two female
soldiers, Aurore and Marine, beautifully played by Ariane Labed (The Lobster)
and French pop star Soko, as they face the lingering sexism of their male
comrades in arms, the memory of a military operation gone horribly wrong,
and a nightmare encounter with some aggressive locals. The Coulin sisters
combine a surprising, nearly anthropological sense of detail with the tension
of a thriller to deliver a fascinating contribution to the growing genre of films
dealing with the long-range consequences of asymmetric, globalized war.

DIRECTOR
Delphine & Muriel Coulin

SCREENPLAY
Delphine & Muriel Coulin

CAST
Soko
Ariane Labed
Ginger Roman
Karim Leklou

DETAILS
Drama
English, French, Greek
102 min.
France, Greece, 2016
Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
First Run Features

PRICE RANGE
$350 – $500

Bande à part / Band of Outsiders

Band of Outsiders serves as the perfect introduction to the work of the seminal
artist credited here as “Jean-Luc Cinéma Godard.” The film puts the leading
New Wave director’s love of B-movies and detective novels front and center,
with the story of a heist carried off by the unlikely trio of two shiftless Paris
guys and the moony au pair they both love, but is at its most exhilarating with its
famous “digressions”: the legendary line dance in a Paris café or the whirlwind
trip to the Louvre, in which the trio break the record for the fastest museum
visit. Along with this constant playfulness, the film’s mix of youthful ebullience
and romantic tragedy, its interplay between the gritty black and white images
of Paris and Godard’s poetic voiceover, and the thrilling moments in which the
camera seems to break with the narrative to capture the young actors’ very
essence create a particularly enjoyable primer in the art of the New Wave, as
well as Godard’s most accessible film. Made as a gift to his wife and muse
Anna Karina to help her out of a period of depression, Band of Outsiders has
a buoyancy that would soon be replaced by the sharper critique and harder
edges of Godard’s political films of the late sixties. Also starring the boisterous
Claude Brasseur and intense Sami Frey, Band of Outsiders is an unforgettable
ode to youth, Paris, and cinema.

DIRECTOR
Jean-Luc Godard

SCREENPLAY
Jean-Luc Godard

CAST
Anna Karina
Sami Frey
Claude Brasseur

DETAILS
Crime, Romance, Drama
French
97 min.
France, 1964
DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Rialto Pictures

PRICE RANGE
$350 – DVD
$450 – DCP

Au Hasard Balthazar

Voted one of the twenty greatest films of all time in the latest Sight & Sound
poll of 846 international film critics and scholars, Au Hasard Balthazar is
not only a masterpiece, but a film that stands apart for its way of inviting
interpretation while resisting it and for recording material reality with a hard,
unflinching eye that nonetheless constantly evokes the sublime. It is also
that rare film that places an animal at its center—the donkey Balthazar—
without endowing it with human traits: by remaining an animal, the character
of Balthazar magnifies the humanity of the people he encounters—for better
and, most often, for worse. Balthazar’s story begins when he is taken from his
mother to be a plaything for some children in the French countryside. Over the
course of his life, he will be the companion to Marie, a haunted, passive young
woman, the victim of a small-time thug who desires her, a beast of burden for
a homeless drunk, a circus animal, and the property of a heartless miser. As
Balthazar passes from one owner to the next, from one vice to another, always
a humble witness, director Robert Bresson paints a picture of cruelty and
innocence that many have seen as a Christian allegory. Is Balthazar’s life the
life of a saint? Bresson leaves the viewer to answer, speaking first to the heart
and forever after to the restless mind.

DIRECTOR
Robert Bresson

SCREENPLAY
Robert Bresson

CAST
Anne Wiazemsky
Walter Green
François Lefarge

DETAILS
Drama
French
95 min.
France, 1966
DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Rialto Pictures

PRICE RANGE
$350

Rester vertical / Staying Vertical

Following his groundbreaking Stranger by the Lake (2013), Alain Guiraudie confirms his status as one of the most fearless, innovative French directors of his generation with Staying Vertical, the story of Leo, a filmmaker trying and failing to find inspiration by roaming a France that is equal parts dreamscape and harsh reality, a seamless patchwork of the limestone plateaus of the Massif Central, a port town in Brittany, and the western marshlands. While hiking on a desolate plateau, hoping to catch sight of a wolf, Leo meets a young shepherdess; the ensuing relationship takes us through the stages of the entire lifecycle, from the birth of a child to the death of an elder. Yet in Guiraudie’s hands no relationship is clearly defined, or definitive, and the film constantly—and often humorously—readjusts the viewer’s perception of the connections between people, but also between people and animals, resonating in subtle but profound ways with crucial questions of our era: LGBTQ rights, environmental issues, the struggle for financial security. Fluidity of gender and desire, but also of responsibility and even geography ensures that every moment of Staying Vertical is imbued with a boundless sense of possibility. This exhilarating potential is at the core of even its most chilling scenes; it is the hope against the wolves at Europe’s gates.

DIRECTOR
Alain Guiraudie

SCREENPLAY
Alain Guiraudie

CAST
Damien Bonnard
India Hair
Raphaël Thiéry

DETAILS
Drama, Mystery
French
98 min.
France, 2017
Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Strand Releasing

PRICE RANGE
$250 – $400 depending on size of
screening and format

L’Avenir / Things to Come

Though only thirty-five years old, writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve has
already made five features and established herself as one of contemporary
French cinema’s brightest talents. With the stunningly mature Things to Come,
she remains faithful to her calling as a chronicler of the lives and loves of
today’s educated Parisians, continuing to observe both the milestones in her
characters’ lives and the everyday minutia that make her films so convincing
and familiar. Working with Isabelle Huppert, the first major star cast in one
of her features, Hansen-Løve creates a surprisingly luminous portrait of a
woman facing difficult changes in late middle-age: in the span of a few months,
high school philosophy professor Nathalie (Huppert) is left by her husband of
twenty-five years, buries her mother, and learns that the publishing imprint
she edits is being terminated. Though her future might look bleak, Nathalie
remains committed to her intellectual values and her personal mission to
pass them on to her pupils. Set against a backdrop of student unrest, Things
to Come is both an energizing reminder of the crucial role played by ideas in
French public life and an inspiring view of the fortitude found in the life of the
mind, powerfully channeled through Isabelle Huppert’s intelligence, vitality,
and unexpected flashes of humor.

DIRECTOR
Mia Hansen-Løve

SCREENPLAY
Mia Hansen-Løve

CAST
Isabelle Huppert
André Marcon
Roman Kolinka
Edith Scob

DETAILS
Drama
French
102 min.
France, 2016
Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
IFC Films / Sundance Selects

PRICE RANGE
$350 – $600

Dans la cour / In the Courtyard


SYNOPSIS
With In the Courtyard, veteran director Pierre Salvadori, a master of the melancholy comedy, achieves the rare feat of capturing contemporary French society not through headlines or social reportage, but a deeply empathetic rendition of its moods. It begins when Antoine (Gustave Kervern) walks away from his life as a rock singer and takes a job as the live-in custodian of a modest Paris apartment building. His new residence seems to be a magnet for people who share his emotional fragility: there’s the man on the fourth floor who is obsessed with noise and clutter; the failed soccer star who snorts coke and plays Xbox all day; a homeless Eastern European who squats in the property’s garden shed with his dog. Most touching of all is Mathilde (Catherine Deneuve), a retiree who is gradually becoming convinced that the crack in her wall is going to swallow up the entire neighborhood. In the understated, oddball friendship formed by Mathilde and Gustave, Salvadori finds the hope in a world of loneliness and anxiety and gives France’s national icon Catherine Deneuve an opportunity to display yet another facet of her extraordinary talent. As troubling as it is amusing, In the Courtyard is the very definition of the sleeper hit: a modest, well-crafted picture that will tell us what it was like to be French in 2015 for decades to come.

DIRECTOR
Pierre Salvadori

SCREENPLAY
Pierre Salvadori, David Colombo-Leotard

CAST
Catherine Deneuve
Gustave Kervern

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

DISTRIBUTOR
Cohen Media Group

PRICE RANGE
$300

Pierrot le Fou


SYNOPSIS
Pierrot le Fou (1965) is arguably the masterpiece of Jean-Luc Godard’s
glorious first period, that extraordinary burst of creativity that extends from his landmark debut Breathless to the political films of the late sixties. In recounting the whirlwind romance between wealthy Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and his babysitter Marianne (Anna Karina), followed by their escape to the south of France with gangsters on their trail, Godard walks the thin line between sixties liberation and nihilism. Indeed, Pierrot le Fou is full of Godardian dialectic: it is his sunniest film, but possibly his darkest, his most romantic, yet also his most disillusioned, a discombobulating combination of pop sensibility, boy’s own adventure, and trenchant critique of decadent European society and American intervention in Southeast Asia. This is a film of legendary moments—tough-guy director Samuel Fuller telling Ferdinand that, “film is a battleground. Love, hate, violence, action, death. In one word, emotions”; Marianne turning her seaside indolence into musical comedy by coming up with the charming song “Ma Ligne de Chance”; and Ferdinand painting his face blue—but what is most striking is its constant freshness, its ability to surprise and seduce no matter how many times you’ve watched it. A feast of primary colors, Pierrot le Fou is simply one of the greatest films ever made, the quintessence of cinema’s pleasures and challenges.

DIRECTOR
Jean-Luc Godard

SCREENPLAY
Jean-Luc Godard

CAST
Jean-Paul Belmondo
Anna Karina

DETAILS
French
110 min.
France, 1965
Blu-ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Rialto Pictures

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

La Marquise d’O… / The Marquise of O


SYNOPSIS
In 1975, Eric Rohmer caught the world by surprise by following the series of low-budget, contemporary “Moral Tales” that had established him as a lateblooming master of the French New Wave with The Marquise of O, a German language period piece faithfully adapted from the novella by early nineteenth century author Heinrich von Kleist. Yet upon close inspection, Kleist’s story of forced seduction presents exactly the kind of moral conundrum Rohmer’s present-day Parisians chewed over late into the night. The story deals with the quandary faced by the Marquise of O, a chaste young widow, when she finds herself inexplicably pregnant. Rejected by her aristocratic family, the Marquise places an ad inviting the father to come forward, never suspecting that the gallant Russian count who once saved her from a gang of miscreants might have a hand in her condition. The Marquise of O stands both as one of cinema’s greatest literary adaptations and one of its most pleasingly convincing period pieces, in no small part thanks to the magnificent naturalistic lighting of cinematographer Nestor Almendros and the superbly detailed performances of an ensemble of Germany’s best theater actors led by the radiant Edith Clever. While the film is faithful to the cool detachment of Kleist’s prose, keeping the viewer hovering between mirth and outrage, its moral ambiguity is certain to spark heated debate.

DIRECTOR
Eric Rohmer

SCREENPLAY
Eric Rohmer, from the eponym short story by Heinrich von Kleist

CAST
Edith Clever
Bruno Ganz

DETAILS
German
103 min.
France, Germany, 1976
Blu-ray, DCP

DISTRIBUTOR
Film Movement

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

Kung-Fu Master


SYNOPSIS
In her deeply felt, lovely 1988 film Kung Fu Master, New Wave maverick Agnès Varda flips the traditional Lolita scenario to tell the story of a divorced woman’s affair with her teenage daughter’s fourteen year-old classmate Julien. Rather than a tale of forbidden love, this is a tremendously sensitive look at two people in transition, shifting into maturity or hoping to escape it. At once a tender fantasy—the lovers spend one happy season on a deserted island in the English Channel—and a clear-sighted portrayal of the loneliness of a middle-aged woman, Kung Fu Master takes an innocent approach to its provocative subject matter, but does not blunder into naiveté: Varda does not condone the relationship so much as recognize the sweetness that comes before gender roles calcify. While Varda’s photographer’s eye and inventive editing are at their best here, this lighthearted evocation of love and loss is also one of her most immediate, simple films. Based on a story by lead actress Jane Birkin, whose wispy voice and watery eyes have rarely been so poignant as in this portrait of a woman adrift, Kung Fu Master also features Varda’s son Mathieu Demy as Julien and Birkin’s daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg in one of her first film roles, giving the film a homebrewed charm.

DIRECTOR
Agnès Varda

SCREENPLAY
Agnès Varda

CAST
Jane Birkin
Mathieu Demy
Charlotte Gainsbourg
Lou Doillon

DETAILS
French, English
80 min.
France, 1987
Blu-ray, DCP

DISTRIBUTOR
Cinelicious Pics

PRICE RANGE
$350

Du rififi chez les hommes / Rififi

SYNOPSIS
Along with Jacques Becker’s Touchez pas au grisbi and the films of Jean-Pierre Melville, Jules Dassin’s 1955 classic Rififi is one of the uncontested peaks of hardboiled French noir. It begins when Tony, an aging gangster fresh out of jail, agrees to pull a final big heist with his protégé Jo and the Italian specialists Mario and Cesare. The heist goes off without a hitch, but sets off an ugly gang war with Tony’s rival Pierre Grutter. Like the best noir films, Rififi transcends the coded world of the professional gangster to become an existential tragedy about love, loyalty, and the inexorable passage of time. Shot in black and white on the grimy streets of fifties Paris, the film oozes character and slangy authenticity and is full of unforgettable set pieces like a song and dance show in a louche nightclub, a practically wordless jewelry heist, and Tony’s quasi-expressionistic last drive through Paris with a bullet in his gut and a restless child in the passenger seat of his convertible. Rififi is also notable for its subtle reflection on gender roles: while the women initially appear to be accessories at best and betrayers at worst, they are eventually revealed to be the film’s moral core and the antidote to the deceptive masculine allure of the underworld.

DIRECTOR
Jules Dassin

SCREENPLAY
Jules Dassin, René Wheeler, Auguste le Breton

CAST
Jean Servais
Carl Möhner
Robert Manuel
Jules Dassin

DETAILS
French
118 min.
France, 1955
Blu-Ray, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Rialto Pictures

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