Author Archives: french

L’ECUME DES JOURS / MOOD INDIGO

SYNOPSIS
Long thought unfilmable, Boris Vian’s 1947 cult novel—which translates
literally as “The Foam of Days”—is charmingly adapted by Michel Gondry,
who fills the screen with his trademark whimsical touches. The central
narrative of Mood Indigo concerns the ultimately tragic love story of Colin
(Romain Duris), an exceptionally wealthy man who inhabits a spectacular
rooftop apartment/playhouse, and Chloé (Audrey Tautou), a physically
frail woman he meets a at party. Yet theirs is no ordinary courtship: Colin
and Chloé travel across Paris in a cloud-shaped vessel, sip beverages
from a cocktail-mixing piano, and dine on elaborate concoctions prepared
by Nicolas (Omar Sy), Colin’s in-house chef and lawyer. Although Gondry
has been celebrated for his inimitable mise-en-scène ever since Eternal
Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
(2004), here he takes production design to
a whole new level, deftly mixing stop-motion animation and digital special
effects. For all its visual splendor, though, Mood Indigo never loses sight
of the great romance shared by its main characters—bonds that deepen
when Chloé is diagnosed with a life-threatening malady: the growth of a
water lily in one of her lungs.

“A beautiful love story, Gondry’s most powerful and accomplished film.”
— The Wrap

DIRECTOR
Michel Gondry

SCREENPLAY
Michel Gondry and Luc Bossi

CAST
Romain Duris
Audrey Tautou
Omar Sy

GENRE Romantic drama
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 131’
PRODUCTION France, Belgium, 2014
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Drafthouse Films

DIPLOMATIE / DIPLOMACY

SYNOPSIS
A brisk, intelligent adaptation of the World War II–set play of the
same name, Volker Schlondorff’s Diplomacy features magnificent
performances by two lions of French cinema: Niels Arestrup and Andre
Dussollier, re-creating the roles they originated onstage. The former
plays Dietrich von Cholitz, the German military governor of occupied
Paris; the latter stars as the Swedish consul-general Raoul Nordling. The
actual meetings between these two historical figures, which occurred
over several days—and which were earlier dramatized in René Clément’s
1966 film, Is Paris Burning?—are here compressed to one extremely
tense night in August 1944 at the hotel that served as von Cholitz’s base
during the war. It is in this grand lodging on the Rue de Rivoli that Nordling
tries to convince the Nazi commander not to carry out Hitler’s orders to
bomb Paris. To watch the nimble negotiating that follows—the Swedish
diplomat at once flattering the German officer and trying to appeal to his
nobler instincts; von Cholitz quick with ripostes, defiant and defensive yet
all too concerned with how he will be judged by history—is to witness two
formidable actors at the top of their craft.

“Passionate, engaging and emotional… An elegant orchestrated pas de deux between
formidable opponents.”

—Scott Foundas, Variety

DIRECTOR
Volker Schlöndorff

SCREENPLAY
Cyril Gely and Volker Schlöndorff

CAST
Niels Arestrump
André Dussollier

GENRE Historical drama
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 88’
PRODUCTION France, Germany, 2014
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Zeitgeist Films

DEUX JOURS, UNE NUIT / TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT

SYNOPSIS
Arguably contemporary cinema’s greatest chroniclers of the workingclass,
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne here join forces with one of the
most talented performers working today, Marion Cotillard. The actress
plays Sandra, an employee at a solar-panel factory in an industrial town
in Belgium who took a leave of absence after suffering a bout of crippling
depression. Although eager to return to work, the wife and mother of two
young children is told that management is offering each of her colleagues
a 1,000-euro bonus if they vote to make her redundant. Sandra, still
emotionally frail, faces the daunting task of meeting with each of her 16
coworkers over the span of a weekend to convince them why they should
forgo the cash and let her resume her position at the company. Each of
these encounters reveals the Dardenne brothers’ signature compassion
for characters torn asunder by the demands of late capitalism. The themes
that dominate this unforgettable film—the fight for worker solidarity,
the definition of sacrifice, the struggle to maintain self-respect—aren’t
presented didactically but rather emerge organically as Sandra pleads,
again and again, for the right not to be dismissed.

“The ticking time-bomb nature of the plot adds a whole new level of anxiety to the
Dardennes’ typically uncanny depiction of human fallibility and determination.
This is a humanist thriller set in the hothouse of late capitalism—Nerve-racking
and profound.”

—Bilge Ebiri, New York Magazine

DIRECTOR
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

SCREENPLAY
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

CAST
Marion Cotillard
Fabrizio Rongione
Catherine Salée

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 95’
PRODUCTION Belgium, France, Italy, 2014
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
IFC Films / Sundance Selects

LES COMBATTANTS / LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT

SYNOPSIS
Thomas Cailley’s thoroughly delightful first film upends the cliché of
the “meet cute.” Set during the summer in a coastal town in southwest
France (the area beautifully shot by David Cailley, the director’s brother),
Love at First Fight follows the unlikely attraction that develops between
Arnaud (Kévin Azaïs), a mild-mannered woodworker and carpenter, and
Madeleine (Adèle Haenel), a doomsday-obsessed graduate student
preparing for an elite army unit. The two initially encounter each other
at, of all places, a self-defense demonstration on the beach, where
Madeleine easily throws Arnaud to the ground. Both embarrassed and
intrigued by his opponent, the young man soon finds himself enrolling in
the same intensive two-week boot camp that Madeleine is attending, in
the hopes, perhaps, of figuring out his puzzling new acquaintance. When
this training course proves dissatisfying to both of them, they break
away, setting out on their own makeshift survival course. As in the best
comedies about mismatched couples, much of the enormous appeal of
Love at First Fight is rooted in the terrific chemistry between Azaïs and
Haenel, two of France’s brightest young talents.

“An expertly handled and brilliantly performed feel-good comedy with an original
twist!”

—Cine-Vue

DIRECTOR
Thomas Cailley

SCREENPLAY
Thomas Cailley and Claude Le Pape

CAST
Kévin Azaïs
Adèle Haenel

GENRE Comedy / Romance
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 98’
PRODUCTION France, 2014
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Strand Releasing

LA CHAMBRE BLEUE / THE BLUE ROOM

SYNOPSIS
Mathieu Amalric, one of France’s—if not the world’s—greatest actors,
directed, cowrote, and stars in this terrific adaptation of Georges
Simenon’s novel of the same name. Vividly, sometimes vertiginously,
toggling from the past to the present, The Blue Room centers on Julien
(Amalric), who, soon after the film begins, is being questioned at a police
station for murder. Married to Delphine (Léa Drucker), with whom he
has a daughter, Julien has been carrying on an adulterous affair with
Esther (Stéphanie Cléau, Amalric’s real-life partner and the movie’s other
scriptwriter), the spouse of the local pharmacist. Scenes of their hotelroom
assignations turn out to be flashbacks, part of a flood of memories
that overwhelm Julien as he gives different statements to various lawenforcement
officials. As the narrative, told obliquely in time-scrambling
shards, begins to cohere, Julien himself becomes a less reliable narrator.
Has he really killed someone, or is he merely a duplicitous, philandering,
somewhat pathetic husband? Like its source material, The Blue Room
sharply provokes more questions than it answers; the film’s protagonist,
who may or may not be a murderer, is unquestionably a prisoner of his
own guilty conscience.

“Lushly romantic. Feels compellingly new. Far from a traditional suspense movie.
Superb.”
—Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter

DIRECTOR
Mathieu Amalric

SCREENPLAY
Mathieu Amalric and Stéphanie Cléau

CAST
Mathieu Amalric
Stéphanie Cléau
Léa Drucker

GENRE Thriller
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 76’
PRODUCTION France, 2014
RATING Not Rated
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
IFC Films / Sundance Selects

BIRD PEOPLE / BIRD PEOPLE

SYNOPSIS
Flight risks abound in Pascale Ferran’s charming, audacious Bird
People
, a film that tracks the dizzying rush to freedom of two restive
souls both grounded in a dreary, confining location: an airport hotel.
The bulwark-like Hilton that’s a quick shuttle ride from Paris’s Charles
de Gaulle Airport becomes a crucial way station for identities to be cast
off and reconfigured. Firmly rooted in everyday particulars, primarily
the transactions facilitated by the time- and space-obliterating devices
to which we are constantly tethered, Ferran’s movie dares to venture,
for much of its second half, into fantasy. Bird People begins with the
bustle of a morning commute aboard a regional train line. Among the
passengers is Audrey (Anaïs Demoustier), an adrift university student on
her way to her housekeeping job in that grim Hilton. She punches in at
the lodging shortly before the check-in of Gary (Josh Charles), a Silicon
Valley executive who’s scheduled to be in Paris for less than 24 hours.
Both characters, who don’t officially meet until the film’s closing minutes,
signal growing restlessness, increasingly distracted by airborne objects.
After these introductory scenes, Bird People splits into two chapters that
trace each protagonist’s leap into the unknown, a risk that results in a
complete, liberating transformation.

“Delightful, and delightfully eccentric. A blast of pure cinema.”
—Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

DIRECTOR
Pascale Ferran

SCREENPLAY
Pascale Ferran and Guillaume Bréaud

CAST
Josh Charles
Anaïs Demoustier

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 128’
PRODUCTION France, 2014
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
IFC Films / Sundance Selects

BANDE DE FILLES / GIRLHOOD

SYNOPSIS
Girlhood, Céline Sciamma’s third feature, continues to probe what
has been this perceptive writer-director’s abiding interest: female
pubescence and adolescence, the stage when bodies and identities
are still in flux. Set in the impoverished banlieues that ring Paris and
are home to many of its French-African denizens, Girlhood focuses on
Marieme (Karidja Touré), a sixteen-year-old who assumes responsibility
for her two younger sisters while their mother works the night shift; the
teenager must also frequently absorb the wrath of her tyrannical slightly
older brother. School provides no haven from these hardships: Having
already repeated a grade twice, Marieme is told that vocational training
is her only option. Rather than accept this indignity, she falls in with a
triad of tough girls, abandoning her braids for straightened hair, her
hoodie for a leather jacket—and learning the pleasures of raising hell at
malls in Les Halles and impromptu dance-offs on the Métro. Led by the
swaggering Lady (Assa Sylla), this crew—whose members are all played
by charismatic first-time performers—boosts Marieme’s confidence.
“You have to do what you want,” Lady exhorts her; patiently and astutely,
Girlhood follows Marieme as she tries to put this mantra into practice
while being repeatedly reminded of her severely limited options.

“It’s the feminist answer to “Boyhood”, yet it manages to dig deeper… Girlhood is one of
the most exceptional films you’ll see this year. Truly a must-see. Highly recommended!”
—Jeff Nelson, DVD Talk

DIRECTOR
Céline Sciamma
SCREENPLAY
Céline Sciamma

CAST
Lindsay Karamoh
Assa Sylla
Karidja Touré
Marietou Touré

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 112’
PRODUCTION France, 2014
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Strand Releasing

ARRETE OU JE CONTINUE / IF YOU DON’T, I WILL

SYNOPSIS
Sophie Fillières sharply observed If You Don’t, I Will concerns the strained,
often caustic interactions between a long-term couple, exploring the
ways that spouses become fiercely invested in perpetuating their own
immiserating dynamic. Pomme (Emmanuelle Devos) and Pierre (Mathieu
Amalric) have long settled into a passive-aggressive push-pull; their
communication barely conceals the fury that simmers beneath each
exchange. Like most unhappy couples, these Lyonnais spouses feel no
shame in performing their acrimony in front of others, whether mutual
friends or strangers at a party. Yet although dour, Fillières’s movie is
free of cynicism and bad faith, and buoyed by sly wit. That Pomme and
Pierre are played by two of France’s finest actors (and frequent costars;
Devos and Amalric are veterans of Arnaud Desplechin’s ensemble-driven
productions) also ensures that these scenes from a marriage aren’t
unremittingly bleak. Even in Pomme and Pierre’s lowest moments, there
are still flashes of tenderness, reminders that these adversaries once
really liked each other and maybe still do but have forgotten how to. By
film’s end, they’ve reached a fragile, touching entente, one that follows
Pomme’s extended solo sojourn in the nearby woods.

“Genuinely funny, [with] terrific comic timing.”
—The Hollywood Reporter

DIRECTOR
Sophie Fillières

SCREENPLAY
Sophie Fillières

CAST
Mathieu Amalric
Anne Brochet
Emmanuelle Devos

GENRE Comedy
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 102’
PRODUCTION France, 2014
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Film Movement

ABUS DE FAIBLESSE / ABUSE OF WEAKNESS

SYNOPSIS
Catherine Breillat, a writer-director who has frequently mined the first
person, has created her most personal work yet with Abuse of Weakness.
A recounting of Breillat’s involvement with notorious con man Christophe
Rocancourt following her stroke in 2004, Abuse of Weakness stars
Isabelle Huppert as Maud, a filmmaker so willful that not even a brain
hemorrhage will deter her from continuing her next project. Watching
late-night TV, she comes across Vilko (French rapper Kool Shen), a highprofile
swindler boasting of his exploits on a chat show. Transfixed, Maud
is determined to cast him as the male lead in a tale of murderous amour
fou. What follows is a series of psychic seductions: The cocky, lupine
flimflammer is turned on by Maud’s indomitability, and the physically
debilitated, haughty auteur secretly delights in the dutiful, if bullying,
attention shown by her new star. This folie à deux reaches its climax
when Vilko begins asking Maud for money for loans or ludicrous business
schemes; she uncaps her pen after every single demand, writing checks
totaling 650,000 euros. Simultaneously an unsparing recapitulation of
bad choices and a disavowal of them, Abuse of Weakness is not a tale of
victimization but of Breillat score-settling with herself.

“Isabelle Huppert gives an indelible performance.”
—Zachary Wigon, The Village Voice

DIRECTOR
Catherine Breillat

SCREENPLAY
Catherine Breillat

CAST
Isabelle Huppert
Kool Shen

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 105’
PRODUCTION Belgium, France, Germany, 2013
FORMAT(S) Blu-Ray, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Strand Releasing

3 COEURS / 3 HEARTS

SYNOPSIS
A stirring love-triangle tale, Benoît Jacquot’s 3 Hearts evokes some
of Hollywood’s greatest romances from the 1950s, such as An Affair
to Remember, yet brilliantly updates classical melodrama with its
own searing flourishes. After Paris-based tax auditor Marc (Benoît
Poelvoorde) misses his train home, he spends the night in a small town
in southern France, where he meets by chance the melancholic Sylvie
(Charlotte Gainsbourg). Immediately drawn to each other, they never
exchange names or numbers, instead agreeing to meet by a fountain
at the Jardin des Tuileries in the French capital. This romantic plan is
thwarted, however, when Marc, en route to the destination, suffers severe
chest pains and is rushed to the hospital. Dejected, Sylvie returns to her
unhappy marriage and soon leaves for the US; Marc, meanwhile, meets
and falls in love with another woman, Sophie (Chiara Mastroianni)—
who, unbeknown to him, just happens to be Sylvie’s beloved sister. Once
Marc realizes the connection between the two women, his excruciating
anxiety at being found out only heightens the near-operatic pitch of this
devastating story of passion, secrets, and betrayal.

“A touching, impeccably controlled drama.”
—Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

DIRECTOR
Benoît Jacquot

SCREENPLAY
Benoît Jacquot and Julien Boivent

CAST
Catherine Deneuve
Charlotte Gainsbourg
Chiara Mastroianni
Benoît Poelvoorde

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

DISTRIBUTOR
Cohen Media Group