Category Archives: ALTERNATIVE SELECTION

L’ENFER D’HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOT / HENRI-GEORGES CLOUZOT’S INFERNO

SYNOPSIS
This enthralling documentary on a film that was never completed began with a chance encounter. A few years ago, co-director Serge Bromberg, a film archivist and restoration specialist, was in a stalled elevator with the widow of legendary filmmaker Henri-Georges Clouzot, best known for the masterpieces The Wages of Fear (1953) and Diabolique (1955). Through this meeting, Bromberg gained access to the 15 hours of footage from Inferno, a movie that Clouzot abandoned in 1964. “Inferno,” we learn, takes on a double meaning: Clouzot and his cast and crew were completely in hell. The lead actor in Clouzot’s film, about a husband driven mad by jealousy, eventually walked off the set, fed up with the director’s obsessive controlling; shortly thereafter, Clouzot, who had become overwhelmed by the project, suffered a heart attack. Filled with endlessly fascinating anecdotes from surviving cast and crew, including the actress Catherine Allégret and the filmmaker Costa-Gavras (who was an assistant director on Clouzot’s movie), Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno is also a testament to the stunning look of this film-that-never-was. The footage from Inferno reveals Clouzot’s experimentation with Op Art designs and psychedelic color schemes—which only further emphasized the bewitching beauty of the film’s then-26-year-old star, Romy Schneider.

“It’s a fascinating story and its neatly understated telling by a series of key collaborators… would make for a compelling watch in itself. But, unusually for a documentary, it’s the film’s aesthetic revelations that offer its real pleasures: Clouzot’s highly ambitious vision for his tale of consumptive jealousy melded the progressive artforms of the mid-1960s…with an innovative set of filming techniques…to startling effect.”
Catherine Wheatley, Sight and Sound

DIRECTOR
Serge Bromberg & Ruxandra Medrea

WRITER
Serge Bromberg. Original screenplay by Henri-Georges Clouzot, José-André Lacour, and Jean Ferry.

CAST
Odette: Bérénice Bejo
Marcel: Jacques Gamblin
Cast 1964:
Odette: Romy Schneider
Marcel: Serge Reggiani
Marylou: Dany Carrel
Martineau: Jean-Claude Bercq
Dr. Arnoux: Maurice Garrel

AWARDS
Best Documentary – César Awards (2010)

GENRE Documentary
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 94’
PRODUCTION France, 2009
RATING Not Rated
FORMAT(S) 35mm, Beta SP, Blu-ray, Digibeta, DVD, HDCAM

DISTRIBUTOR
Flicker Alley

DEUX DE LA VAGUE / TWO IN THE WAVE

SYNOPSIS
The “two” in the title are François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard; the “wave” is the French New Wave, of which both men are the most renowned creators. Emmanuel Laurent’s fascinating documentary traces the friendship of these two legendary auteurs, who met in the movie-clubs of Paris and would later become colleagues in the 1950s as writers for Cahiers du Cinéma. Assembling a wonderful array of archival material (film clips, newspaper articles, interview footage), Laurent focuses on the great triumphs both men had with their debut features: Truffaut in 1959 with The 400 Blows, Godard in 1960 with Breathless—works that forever changed the history of cinema. Though they had very different backgrounds (Truffaut came from an unhappy working-class family, Godard from a distinguished Franco-Swiss clan), both men maintained a close, supportive friendship throughout most of the 1960s. Their tragic split began in the final years of that decade, as Godard’s films became more and more politicized; their ties were severed irrevocably in 1973 after Godard wrote a cruel letter to Truffaut attacking his film Day for Night. Laurent’s documentary is essential viewing for all those who wish to know more about these two invaluable mavericks.

“Two in the Wave, while it provides plenty of biographical information, is above all interested in the artistic personalities of its subjects. It was, after all, the shared love of film that brought them together, despite their differences in temperament and background. And it was partly their divergent ideas about what cinema should become that drove the two men apart.”
A. O. Scott, The New York Times

DIRECTOR
Emmanuel Laurent

WRITER / NARRATOR
Antoine de Baecque

PARTICIPANT
Islid Le Besco

GENRE Documentary
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 93’
PRODUCTION France, 2009
RATING Not Rated
FORMAT(S) Digibeta, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Kino Lorber EDU

DES HOMMES ET DES DIEUX / OF GODS AND MEN

SYNOPSIS
Xavier Beauvois’s sublime tale of faith and doubt is based on a real incident from 1996 that still reverberates in France. Eight French Trappist monks settle in an impoverished village in Algeria, offering medical assistance and gaining the locals’ trust by taking part in Muslim traditions. Life, in many ways, is idyllic for the Catholic brothers as they tend to their honeybees and exalt God’s glory; led by the abbot, they are frequently seen chanting and praying. This harmony is disrupted by the arrival of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), fundamentalist terrorists who demand that the monks leave, a request that is soon seconded by the Algerian military. Not wanting to abandon the destitute citizens who’ve come to rely on them, the brothers take a vote, ultimately deciding to stay—a resolution that seems even more perilous after Croatian volunteers are killed by the GIA. As the film leads up to the monks’ inevitable doom, Beauvois considers the intransigence of religious belief: both for his white-robed martyrs and their brutal captors.

“Of Gods and Men is a thrilling adventure of the spirit. Austere yet provocative, this is not only a film about faith, it also has faith that the power generated by complex moral decisions can be as unstoppable as any runaway locomotive.”
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

DIRECTOR
Xavier Beauvois

SCREENPLAY
Etienne Comar

CAST
Christian: Lambert Wilson
Luc: Michael Lonsdale
Christophe: Olivier Rabourdin

AWARDS
Grand Prix – Cannes Film Festival (2010); Best Film, Best Supporting Actor, Michael Lonsdale; Best Cinematography, Caroline Champetier – César Awards (2011); Best Picture, Best Actor, Michael Lonsdale – Lumière Awards (2011)

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French, Arabic
RUNNING TIME 120’
PRODUCTION France, 2010
RATING PG-13
FORMAT(S) 35mm, Blu-ray, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Sony Pictures Classics

LA DANSE: LE BALLET DE L’OPÉRA DE PARIS / LA DANSE: THE PARIS OPERA BALLET

SYNOPSIS
Frederick Wiseman’s magnificent La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet offers a portrait of suppleness and agility—not just that of the dancers’ bodies but also of the august institution of the title. Like all of Wiseman’s documentaries, La Danse forgoes voice-over and identifying intertitles, allowing for spectators’ full immersion into the action within the walls of the Palais Garnier, the 19th-century, neo-Baroque opera house where the company rehearses and performs. The film also demands that we pay closer attention, with none of nonfiction film’s usual cues to guide us. Roughly two-thirds of La Danse is devoted to rehearsal and performance, shot in deeply satisfying long takes of gorgeous young men and women starting, stopping, listening, questioning, repeating, perfecting. The rest is behind the scenes, and as Wiseman shows empty corridors, the cafeteria, sewing rooms, and the nightly clean-up of the 2,200-seat theater, the stealth star of La Danse emerges: Brigitte Lefèvre, the company’s composed, elegant artistic director. Shown in a meeting discussing the finer distinctions between “benefactors” and “big benefactors,” Lefèvre nimbly tackles the potential messiness—but absolute necessity—of crass commerce fueling high art. When not administrating, Lefèvre seems happiest as a maternal martinet, reminding one new student, “To do is the most important.”

“La Danse, however, does more than offer intimate access to great dancers. It showcases performers like Nicolas Le Riche and Agnès Letestu and choreography by Rudolf Nureyev and Pina Bausch, but it also ventures beyond the stage and studios and into sewing rooms, cafeterias and administrative offices. Like most of Mr. Wiseman’s movies it is above all a portrait of an institution.
Dennis Lim, The New York Times.

DIRECTOR
Frederick Wiseman

WRITER
Frederick Wiseman

PARTICIPANTS
Brigitte Lefèvre
Emilie Cozette
Aurélie Dupont

GENRE Documentary
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 158’
PRODUCTION France, 2009
RATING Not Rated
FORMAT(S) DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Zipporah Films

POTICHE

SYNOPSIS
The thrillingly incongruous image of Catherine Deneuve, the long-reigning queen of French cinema, in curlers and a cherry-red track suit is just one of the many delights in François Ozon’s 1977-set comedy, a very loose adaptation of a boulevard-theater production. The film’s title translates as “trophy wife,” the position that Deneuve’s Suzanne Pujol has held for decades in her loveless marriage to philandering umbrella-factory owner Robert. When labor unrest causes the high-strung Robert to suffer a collapse, the intrepid Suzanne steps in, endearing herself to the workers and rekindling a romance with a Communist ex-lover and union liaison, Babin. Much as he did in his 1950s-set film 8 Women, Ozon creates a stunning period piece, perfectly re-creating the 1970s through costume, hairstyle, décor, and music, epitomized in Suzanne and Babin’s outing at a disco. But above all, Potiche is a showcase for the formidable talents of Deneuve, whose comic timing proves just as impeccable as her dramatic delivery. As Suzanne breaks free of her coddled life, she realizes, just like many other women who discovered feminism in the 1970s, that the personal really is political.

“Deneuve, in a pitch-perfect perf, gently oscillates between [Robert and Babin]… and the extremes they represent. She carries the whole movie here with grace, showcasing her flawless comedic timing and dramatic acting chops without any visible effort.”
Boyd van Hoeij, Variety

DIRECTOR
François Ozon

SCREENPLAY
François Ozon. Adapted from the play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy.

CAST
Suzanne: Catherine Deneuve
Babin: Gérard Depardieu
Robert: Fabrice Luchini
Nadège: Karin Viard
Joëlle: Judith Godrèche
Laurent: Jérémie Renier

GENRE Comedy
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 103’
PRODUCTION France, 2010
RATING R
FORMAT(S) 35mm, Blu-Ray, DCP, Digibeta, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Music Box Films

CARLOS

SYNOPSIS
Olivier Assayas’s extraordinary 330-minute epic about international terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sanchéz—better known by his nom de guerre, Carlos the Jackal—is one of the most immersive biopics in cinema history. Spanning 20 years and taking place in a dozen countries, Carlos begins in 1973 in Beirut, where our antihero is a soldier for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Soon he’s dispatched on assignments to London, the Hague, and Paris, killing, raiding, and exploding as the situation requires. Fueled by equal parts Marxist-revolutionary fervor and boundless narcissism, Carlos proudly boasts to one of his many girlfriends, “Weapons are an extension of my body.” Assayas masterfully depicts his subject’s most infamous missions—including seizing control of the 1975 OPEC summit meeting in Vienna, the film’s centerpiece—with assiduous, electrifying attention to detail, giving viewers the sense that they are in the middle of the action. But Assayas is just as specific when chronicling Carlos’s outrageous downfall: it turns out that this Marxist zealot had quite a taste for bourgeois pleasures—and is finally arrested at, of all places, a urologist’s office.

“Assayas and co-scribe Dan Franck resist the temptation to glamorize an iconic murderer or explain away his psychology, though their panoramic vision packs enough telling details to offer audiences the proper view of their subject, as someone worthy of intense interest but little admiration.”
Justin Chang, Variety

DIRECTOR
Olivier Assayas

SCREENPLAY
Olivier Assayas & Dan Franck

CAST
Ilich Ramírez Sanchez/“Carlos”: Édgar Ramírez
Johannes Weinrich: Alexander Scheer
Magdalena Kopp: Nora Von Waldstätten
Wadie Haddad: Ahmad Kaabour
Hans-Joachim Klein: Christoph Bach
Anis Naccache: Rodney El-Haddad

AWARDS
Best Director; Best Foreign Film – Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards (2010);
Most Promising Actor – César Awards (2011); Best Mini- Series or Motion Picture Made for TV – Golden Globes (2011)

GENRE Drama, Biopic
LANGUAGE English, Arabic, German, Spanish, French, Hungarian, Japanese, Russian
RUNNING TIME Long version (3 Parts): 332’ – Short version: 165’
PRODUCTION France, Germany, 2010
RATING Not Rated
FORMAT(S) HDCAM, DVD – Short version: 35mm

DISTRIBUTOR
IFC Films

COCO AVANT CHANEL / COCO BEFORE CHANEL

SYNOPSIS
Anne Fontaine’s thoughtful exploration of the pre-fame life of the world’s greatest fashion designer focuses on Coco Chanel during the Belle Epoque. The film opens in 1893 with a powerfully grim scene of 10-yearold Coco and her sister unceremoniously dumped at an orphanage and ends around World War I, a few years before the Chanel empire is launched. In her strongest performance to date, Audrey Tautou expertly conveys Chanel’s struggle against the formidable limitations that an ambitious, non-wealthy woman at the time faced—particularly one who refused to marry. The designer, a proud peasant who wasn’t ashamed to sometimes distort the truth, sought to liberate women from the oppressive fashion of the time: suffocating corsets, pounds of extra material, and hats that looked liked “meringues.” Fontaine’s complex biopic refuses to completely lionize its subject, insisting on examining the compromises Chanel had to make. Though she may have been aided by her rich lovers, namely millionaire Etienne Balsan and English industrialist Arthur “Boy” Capel, Chanel remained fiercely independent, becoming a great visionary—as evident in the film’s fantastic coda, when an older Chanel sits on the famous steps of her couture house as contemporary models march past her, wearing her greatest designs.

“The result is an unusually vivid and convincing account of the historical past, composed in the present tense. Though its mood and methods are different, Coco Before Chanel shares with Jane Campion’s Bright Star – another new antibiopic – a fascination, at once intense and dispassionate, with the lives of women in earlier centuries.”
A. O. Scott, The New York Times.

DIRECTOR
Anne Fontaine

SCREENPLAY
Anne Fontaine & Camille Fontaine, based on Edmonde Charles-Roux’s novel Le Temps Chanel

CAST
Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel: Audrey Tautou
Étienne Balsan: Benoit Poelvoorde
Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel: Alessandro Nivola Adrienne Chanel: Marie Gillain
Emilienne d’Alençon: Emmanuelle Devos

AWARDS
Best Costumes, Catherine Leterrier – César Awards (2010)

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French, English
RUNNING TIME 110’
PRODUCTION France, 2009
RATING PG-13
FORMAT(S) 35mm, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Sony Pictures Classics

LA BELLE ENDORMIE / THE SLEEPING BEAUTY

SYNOPSIS
As she did in 2009’s Bluebeard, Catherine Breillat—cinema’s most consistently intelligent investigator of female sexuality—has provocatively deconstructed another classic children’s tale by Charles Perrault, upending conventional ideas about sex and gender. An infant girl is cursed to die at a tender age by a wicked witch; three good fairies recast the spell so that our heroine, Anastasia, will sleep for 100 years when she turns six, waking up as a beautiful teenager. In her prolonged slumber, the stalwart child declares her hatred for “the world of little girls” and their fondness for princess-y things, much preferring to get lost in her dictionary and the universe of new words. Her vivid dreamscape also includes adventures in a remote forest, where she is taken in by a widow and her teenage son, Peter; after further encounters with dwarves and albino monarchs, Anastasia finds a kindred spirit in a Gypsy girl. At last waking up from her century-long sleep, 16-year-old Anastasia discovers carnal pleasures with both a man and a woman—as well as crushing heartbreak.

“Astonishing landscapes that circumnavigate the globe, and a dizzying mix of historical periods, provide a backdrop for the little girl at the film’s centre. Breillat’s cinematographic eye has rarely been expressed on such a large canvas or with such razor-sharp intent.”
Noah Cowan, Toronto International Film Festival

DIRECTOR
Catherine Breillat

SCREENPLAY
Catherine Breillat

CAST
Anastasia (child): Carla Besnaïnou
Anastasia (age 16): Julia Artamonov
Peter: Kerian Mayan
Johan: David Chausse

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 82’
PRODUCTION France, 2010
RATING Not Rated
FORMAT(S) Beta SP, Digibeta, DVCAM, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Strand Releasing

BELLAMY / INSPECTOR BELLAMY

SYNOPSIS
Inspector Bellamy, the last film by Claude Chabrol, one of the architects of the French New Wave who died in September 2010 at age 80, features another Gallic legend: Gérard Depardieu, playing the Parisian celebrity detective of the title, a role Chabrol wrote expressly for the actor. On vacation with his wife and near retirement, Bellamy now approaches crime-solving as more of a hobby, though he is still haunted by a childhood incident with his obnoxious younger brother, Jacques, who comes to visit. More mysteries come to the fore—involving an unidentified body in a car wreck, an insurance scam, and a treacherous mistress—in this droll policier by the man once referred to as the “French Hitchcock.” Though he’s in no rush, Bellamy is still determined to find the answers, perhaps even to unravel the root of his lifelong fraternal torment. “I found a kind of dignity in despising myself,” Bellamy explains to his devoted spouse—and Depardieu similarly brings his own ruffled dignity to the film, artfully moving his formidable bulk from scene to scene.

“Chabrol as always shows a tenderness toward the lives of people who are exceptional only because crime touches them. He pays great attention to domestic details, and to the tone of the pillow talk between the Bellamys. He suggests that in their marriage, and perhaps in every marriage, things are not as simple as they seem.”
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

DIRECTOR
Claude Chabrol

SCREENPLAY
Claude Chabrol & Odile Barski

CAST
Paul Bellamy: Gérard Depardieu
Jacques Lebas: Clovis Cornillac / Noël Gentil / Emile Leullet
Denis Leprince: Jacques Gamblin
Françoise Bellamy: Marie Bunel

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 110’
PRODUCTION France, 2009
RATING Not Rated
FORMAT(S) 35mm, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
IFC Films

HADEWIJCH

SYNOPSIS
Bruno Dumont’s exceptional film about faith and religious fervor begins as devout 20-year-old Céline is expelled from a nunnery, the mother superior—who calls her a “caricature of a nun”—disapproving of her selfstarvation and self-mortification. Returned to the secular world, this tooardent believer, we discover, is the child of a French cabinet minister and lives in a palatial Paris apartment. Our heroine soon meets Yassine, a rebellious Arab teenager from the banlieue who introduces her to the pleasure of stealing mopeds. But it is Yassine’s older brother, Nassir, who most intrigues Céline; recognizing her religious seriousness, Nassir invites her to the Koran discussion group he leads. Although she doesn’t convert to Islam, Céline becomes fascinated by Nassir’s intense theological debates and his support of jihad. Dumont’s powerful film, which takes its title from the name of a 13th-century poet, Hadewijch of Antwerp, profoundly (yet calmly) explores the relentless pursuit of faith in both Christianity and Islam—and what drives certain believers to acts of extreme violence.

“Like all of Mr. Dumont’s films, Hadewijch conjures the strange electricity (you might call it auras) around people, as if peeling away an outer layer of reality. The movie studies faces and bodies to locate the essence of humanness, especially in the eyes, behind which it finds both bestial and spiritual impulses and locates a primal isolation, as well as a lurking violence.”
Stephen Holden, The New York Times

DIRECTOR
Bruno Dumont

SCREENPLAY
Bruno Dumont

CAST
Céline/Hadewijch: Julie Sokolowski
Nassir: Karl Sarafidis
Yassine: Yassine Salime
David: David Dewaele

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 105’
PRODUCTION France, 2009
RATING Not Rated
GAUGE 35mm, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
IFC Films