Author Archives: french

ALPHAVILLE, UNE ETRANGE AVENTURE DE LEMMY CAUTION / ALPHAVILLE

SYNOPSIS
Jean-Luc Godard’s stunning eighth feature film, from 1965, is a dystopic
tale of the future told without special effects. The estranging structures
that figure so prominently in this nightmare vision of a city ruled by a
techno-fascist regime are, in fact, the modernist glass towers and
concrete buildings that were erected in Paris a few years before the
film was shot—edifices, such as the Esso Tower in La Défense, that the
director found appalling. The plot is set in motion when a secret agent
named Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine)—a trench-coat-wearing,
hard-bitten private eye from the “Outlands”—enters Alphaville on a twopart
mission: He is to assassinate the city’s creator, Professor von Braun
(Howard Vernon), and to destroy the sentient computer system, Alpha
60, that has banned free thought and made any display of emotion a
crime punishable by death. Joining forces with Caution is von Braun’s
daughter, Natasha (Anna Karina, Godard’s most celebrated muse),
a one-time programmer of Alpha 60 who soon finds herself utterly
destabilized by something she’s never experienced before: love, the only
force stronger than technological totalitarianism.

“One of Godard’s most sheerly enjoyable movies!”
—Tome Milne, Time Out London

DIRECTOR
Jean-Luc Godard

SCREENPLAY
Jean-Luc Godard

CAST
Eddie Constantine
Anna Karina
Akim Tamiroff
Howard Vernon

GENRE Science fiction
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 99’
PRODUCTION France, 1965
FORMAT(S) DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Rialto Pictures

TIMBUKTU / TIMBUKTU

SYNOPSIS
In his magnificent fourth feature film, Abderrahmane Sissako
demonstrates his remarkable ability to thoroughly condemn religious
fanaticism and intolerance with subtlety and restraint. Timbuktu
concerns the jihadist siege of the Malian city of the title in 2012. A ragtag
band of Islamic fundamentalists, hailing from France, Saudi Arabia, and
Libya, among other nations, announce their increasingly absurd list of
prohibitions—no music, no sports, no socializing—via megaphone to
Timbuktu’s denizens, several of whom refuse to follow these strictures,
no matter the consequence. In one instance of such defiance, perhaps
Timbuktu’s most indelible scene, a group of boys “play” soccer with an
invisible ball; in another, a woman who has been sentenced to be flogged
for singing continues her song between lashes (her punishment depicted
discreetly). Upbraided by a local imam for entering a mosque with guns,
the jihadists reveal themselves to be men less concerned with the
teachings of the Koran than with enforcing draconian, and ever arbitrary,
law. As further proof of Sissako’s great compassion, even these horribly
misguided dogmatists are presented as multidimensional characters,
though the intolerant way of life they insist on is never less than criminal.

“Not just a timely movie, a great one…Timbuktu feels at once timely and permanent,
immediate and essential.”

—A.O. Scott, The New York Times

DIRECTOR
Abderrahmane Sissako

SCREENPLAY
Abderrahmane Sissako and Kessen Tall

CAST
Pino Desperado
Fatoumata Diawara
Abel Jafri
Toulou Kiki
Kettly Noël
Hichem Yacoubi

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE Arabic, Bambara, French, English, Songhay, and Tamasheq
RUNNING TIME 100’
PRODUCTION France, Mauritania, 2014
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Cohen Media Group

SILS MARIA / CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA

SYNOPSIS
Olivier Assayas’s magnificent Clouds of Sils Maria explores the unstable
boundaries between performing and being. Juliette Binoche plays Maria
Enders, an internationally renowned star; Kristen Stewart, as Valentine,
is Maria’s personal assistant. Maria, who’s “sick of acting on wires in front
of green screens,” is considering whether to star in a revival of the stage
drama that launched her career twenty years ago, in which she played a
cunning ingénue who seduces, abandons, and then drives to suicide her
older boss. In the remounting, Maria is to portray the spurned middleaged
lover; the part she originally inhabited is offered to Jo-Ann Ellis
(Chloë Grace Moretz), a rising phenomenon with a Lindsay Lohan–like
penchant for scandal and self-destruction. Though Valentine’s position
requires constant deference to her employer, the aide doesn’t hesitate to
challenge her boss. In one crucial scene, she offers a passionate defense
of blockbusters, the well-reasoned words emerging from the mouth of
the young woman who, in real life, starred in one of the biggest movie
franchises of all time. Throughout Clouds of Sils Maria, the ingeniously
cast performers refract and reflect their own off-screen personae,
creating a hall-of-mirrors experience that is never less than exhilarating.
“Daring. Exhilarating. Precious and rare. A multi-layered, femme-driven metafiction
that pushes all involved—including next-gen starlets Kristen Stewart and

Chloë Grace Moretz—to new heights…. Rich and tantalizingly open ended.”
—Peter Debruge, Variety

DIRECTOR
Olivier Assayas

SCREENPLAY
Olivier Assayas

CAST
Juliette Binoche
Chloë Grace Moretz
Kristen Stewart

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE English
RUNNING TIME 106’
PRODUCTION France, Germany, Switzerland, 2014
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
IFC Films / Sundance Selects

LA RELIGIEUSE / THE NUN

SYNOPSIS
Guillaume Nicloux’s adaptation of Denis Diderot’s late-eighteenthcentury
anticlerical novel is an excellent companion to Jacques Rivette’s
1966 page-to-screen transfer of the same material. In the role first
inhabited by Anna Karina in Rivette’s film, Pauline Etienne plays Suzanne
Simonin, a devout sixteen-year-old who, lacking a dowry and a vocation,
is forced by her aristocratic, though financially troubled, parents to enter
a convent. Although her time in the nunnery was originally supposed
to last just a few months, Suzanne soon finds herself imprisoned in
the abbey, subject to the humiliations of the cruel Mother Superior
Christine (Louise Bourgoin) and the selfishness of her actual mother—
who makes the startling announcement to her daughter that she is, in
fact, an illegitimate child and must therefore expiate the family’s sins by
staying in the convent indefinitely. Suzanne is eventually transferred to
another cloister overseen by Mother Superior Saint-Eutrope (Isabelle
Huppert), whose initial kindness toward the young woman soon morphs
into sexual predation. A scathing examination of religious hypocrisy and
a profound treatise on freedom, Nicloux’s adaptation, whose ending
differs significantly from Rivette’s, imagines Suzanne as an even more
indefatigable heroine.

“[An] atmospheric adaptation…driven onwards by a powerful central female
performance.”
—Eye for Film

DIRECTOR
Guillaume Nicloux

SCREENPLAY
Guillaume Nicloux and Jérôme Beaujour

CAST
Louise Bourgoin
Pauline Etienne
Martina Gedek
Isabelle Huppert

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 100’
PRODUCTION Belgium, France, Germany, 2013
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Film Movement

P’TIT QUINQUIN / LI’L QUINQUIN

SYNOPSIS
Bruno Dumont, an auteur often considered a spiritual heir to Robert
Bresson, reveals his considerable talents for dark, slapstick comedy in
Li’l Quinquin, which originally aired as a four-part TV miniseries in France.
Set in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region (where Dumont himself grew up),
the film centers around a series of grisly murders: The body parts of the
victims are found stuffed inside cows and other farm animals. As two
bumbling cops, Captain Van der Weyden (Bernard Pruvost) and Lieutenant
Carpentier (Philippe Jore), try to stop the killer before he—or she—
strikes again, a few local kids, with little to occupy them now that school’s
out for the summer, do some investigating on their own. Leading the
gang is the tough-looking tyke of the title, unforgettably played by Alane
Delhaye (who, like most of the cast here, as in Dumont’s previous films, is
a nonprofessional actor). More than just gallows humor, Li’l Quinquin also
takes stock of the racism and xenophobia plaguing this small seaside
town. At its core, Dumont’s riveting, off-beat police procedural concerns
the nature of good versus evil—a dichotomy that has dominated the
director’s corpus to date and one that, in Li’l Quinquin, grows ever murkier.

“A wonderfully weird and unexpectedly hilarious murder mystery.”
—Scott Foundas, Variety

DIRECTOR
Bruno Dumont

SCREENPLAY
Bruno Dumont

CAST
Lucy Caron
Alane Delhaye
Philippe Jore
Bernard Pruvost

GENRE Drama / Crime / Comedy
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 200’
PRODUCTION France, 2014
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Kino Lorber

PARCE QUE J’ETAIS PEINTRE / BECAUSE I WAS A PAINTER

SYNOPSIS
Christophe Cognet’s absorbing documentary about artworks created by
those imprisoned in concentration camps during World War II explores
a number of paradoxes. Can a drawing of unimaginable horrors, for
instance, ever be considered “beautiful”? What, exactly, is “beauty”? The
surviving artists, interviewed in in their homes in Israel, France, Poland,
and other countries, express a range of opinions on these matters; one
painter asserts that depicting his surroundings, no matter how gruesome,
on paper was the only way to endure the torture. Others declare that
sketching people, places, and events from the past was crucial to their
survival. The testimony of these subjects is profoundly moving, never
more so than when they offer a close critical analysis of the pieces
they made during their incarceration. Cognet also meets with several
museum curators and art historians who shed light on the trove of works
left by those died in the camps—including the scores of portraits that
Dinah Gottliebova, who was assigned to work with Josef Mengele, did of
Roma detainees shortly before they were killed. Tackling two seemingly
irreconcilable subjects—the atrocities of the Holocaust and the drive to
create art—Because I Was a Painter provides a vital discussion of both.

“A meditation on suffering and beauty and how art can bridge the gap between the
two.”
—The Hollywood Reporter

DIRECTOR
Christophe Cognet

SCREENPLAY
Christophe Cognet, Pierre François Moreau and Jean Breschand

CAST
N/A

GENRE Documentary
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 100’
PRODUCTION France, Germany, 2014
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Cinema Guild

MR. X / MR. X: A VISION OF LEOS CARAX

SYNOPSIS
After the release of Leos Carax’s expansive, breathtaking, and
unclassifiable Holy Motors in 2012—his first feature-length film since
1999, and only his fifth in 28 years—the director was met with the same
rapturous praise that greeted him at the outset of his career. Tessa
Louise-Salomé’s intriguing documentary on the filmmaker traces the
creation of each of his projects, beginning with his debut work, Boy Meets
Girl
(1984), made when Carax was only 23 years old. To learn more about
this sui generis auteur, Louise-Salomé talks with several of his most
important collaborators, including Denis Lavant, the simian, sinewy actor
who has appeared in all but one of Carax’s films and has largely served as
the director’s surrogate. French and American critics, programmers, and
filmmakers also sit down to elucidate the particular gifts of this visionary,
whose oeuvre is glimpsed via a trove of wisely chosen clips. Notoriously
press-shy, Carax himself remains somewhat of a ghostly presence
throughout the film, heard (largely via archival interviews) but rarely seen.
Like the incurable, articulate romantics who populate his films, Carax
remains eloquent and forthright.

“A cinephiliac romance! The titular director talks about his work, mostly in voiceover,
with brilliance and surprising openness, while ravishing clips dissolve in and
out of each other, making us hungry to see the films in their entirety again.”

—Amy Taubin, Film Comment

DIRECTOR
Tessa Louise-Salomé

SCREENPLAY
Tessa Louise-Salomé, Chantal Perrin-Cluzet and Adrien Walter

FEATURING
Juliette Binoche
Richard Brody
Kent Jones
Harmony Korine
Denis Lavant
Kylie Minogue
Michel Piccoli

GENRE Documentary
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 71’
PRODUCTION France, 2014
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Carlotta Films US

LA JALOUSIE / JEALOUSY

SYNOPSIS
Perhaps no auteur is better suited to exploring the all-consuming emotion
of this movie’s title than Philippe Garrel, who has been making intimate,
deeply felt films, often rooted in autobiography, about love and loss for
five decades. As Jealousy, shot in lustrous black-and-white, opens, Louis
(Louis Garrel, the director’s son, here in his fifth collaboration with his
father) is in the process of leaving Clothilde (Rebecca Covenant), with
whom he has a young daughter, Charlotte (Olga Milshtein), to live with
Claudia (Anna Mouglalis). The three adults are all actors, though only
Louis appears to be working with any regularity, performing with a troupe
that mounts productions of French classics. Claudia, frustrated by her
stalled career, initially lives in fear that Louis will abandon her, though
soon she begins a clandestine romance with someone else. The vagaries
of the human heart are probed with Garrel’s typical rigor and incisiveness;
the director forgoes histrionics to empathetically focus on his characters’
foibles and inconsistencies. Basing Jealousy’s script on an incident from
his own childhood—when his father, the acclaimed actor Maurice Garrel,
left his mother for another woman—Philippe Garrel has found a perfect
surrogate in Milshtein, an immensely wise and charismatic newcomer.

“Intimate and concentrated. Right at the intersection of direct and oblique, like a
good haiku.”

—Stephanie Zacharek, The Village Voice

DIRECTOR
Philippe Garrel

SCREENPLAY
Marc Cholodenko and Caroline Deruas-Garrel

CAST
Louis Garrel
Anna Mouglalis

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 77’
PRODUCTION France, 2013
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
DistriB Films

LA FRENCH / THE CONNECTION

SYNOPSIS
A companion piece of sorts to William Friedkin’s New York City–based
classic The French Connection (1971), Cédric Jimenez’s high-energy
true-crime tale tracks the six-year crusade of a law officer to bring down
a seemingly untouchable drug kingpin. Police magistrate Pierre Michel
(Jean Dujardin) has recently been transferred to Marseille, a city all but
controlled by the ruthless gangster Gaëtan Zampa (Gilles Lelouche), who
oversees an enormous heroin syndicate. Pierre is determined to destroy
the drug lord’s operations and put him behind bars for good, a task that
proves even more insurmountable once the policeman realizes how many
of his colleagues are on Zampa’s payroll. In between the tense, superbly
shot action sequences, The Connection focuses on the domestic life and
the off-duty hours of its two principal antagonists, slyly suggesting that
the cop and the crook may have more in common than either would have
dared imagine. Dujardin, best known for his Oscar-winning performance
as a silent movie star in The Artist (2011), plays magnificently against
type in Jimenez’s thriller, a film that immerses us in the sights, sounds,
and spectacles of the 1970s.

“Thrilling…enough drama for a dozen crime films.”
—The Hollywood Reporter

DIRECTOR
Cédric Jimenez

SCREENPLAY
Cédric Jimenez and Audrey Diwan

CAST
Jean Dujardin
Gilles Lellouche

GENRE Thriller
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 135’
PRODUCTION Belgium, France, 2014
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Drafthouse Films

L’ENLEVEMENT DE MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ / THE KIDNAPPING OF MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ

SYNOPSIS
Michel Houellebecq, perhaps France’s most popular, and controversial,
contemporary author, plays a version of himself—as do all the other
characters—in Guillaume Nicloux’s absorbing comic docu-fiction. The
film was inspired by a real-life incident: After Houellebecq failed to show
up for several scheduled appearances on a 2011 book tour, some media
outlets began to wonder whether he’d been abducted, perhaps even
by Al Qaeda. This hysterical speculation was soon put to rest, however,
when the writer eventually resurfaced. But Nicloux has great fun with
the conceit, imagining that Houellebecq was snatched not by terrorists
but by three incompetent criminals who include a bodybuilder, Max
(Maxime Lefrançois), and a professional MMA fighter, Mathieu (Mathieu
Nicourt). These musclemen, led by Luc (Luc Schwarz), seize the seemingly
imperturbable Houellebecq from his high-rise apartment building in
Paris, stuff him in a ventilated metal cage, and take him to the home of
Luc’s parents in the country. The ringleader and his associates turn out
to be quite hospitable captors, plying their hostage with food, wine, and
cigarettes, and eager to engage with Houellebecq—quite amusingly
sending up his notorious persona—about a host of literary topics.

“Top Ten List for 2014. My favorite writer is now a movie star, and he’s great playing
himself in a literary whodunit that revisits his supposedly factual but still vague and
unexplained book-tour kidnaping. Did it really happen, or was Houellebecq just
drunk? Who knows? Who cares? I do, a lot.”

—John Waters, Artforum

DIRECTOR
Guillaume Nicloux

SCREENPLAY
Guillaume Nicloux

CAST
Michel Houellebecq
Maxime Lefrançois
Mathieu Nicourt
Luc Schwarz

GENRE Comedy / Drama
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 93’
PRODUCTION France, 2014
RATING Not Rated
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Kino Lorber