Category Archives: ALTERNATIVE SELECTION

36 VUES DU PIC SAINT-LOUP / AROUND A SMALL MOUNTAIN

SYNOPSIS
Master filmmaker Jacques Rivette returns to one of his favorite themes—life versus performance—in this elegant work, which begins with a chance encounter on a mountain road. After a 15-year absence, Kate returns to the town where her late father ran a small circus. When her car breaks down, she’s assisted by helpful stranger Vittorio; Kate thanks him by inviting him to attend a circus show. This is no Ringling Bros. extravaganza: Rivette’s circus takes place in a tiny, bare-bones setting, with clowns who haven’t quite mastered their acts. But Vittorio is immediately enchanted, following the troupe as they move from hamlet to hamlet. He’s also equally fascinated with the melancholy Kate and begins to slowly unravel the reasons why she stayed away for so long. The source of Kate’s sadness is presented in a series of monologues about secret histories and buried truths, flawlessly performed by Birkin. Though it deals with pain and despair, Around a Small Mountain is undeniably a buoyant film, filled with a sense of hope and wonder. As Vittorio reminds us, the circus is a place “where everything is possible”.

“The world is, once again, but a stage as Rivette revisits the realm of performers and performing with grace and charm. If this is an undeniable divertissement by a great director, it carries with it a sense of farewell, as Rivette, through his on-screen surrogates, takes a bow and bids us adieu.”
Scott Foundas, The Village Voice.

DIRECTOR
Jacques Rivette

SCREENPLAY
Pascal Bonitzer, Christine Laurent & Jacques Rivette

CAST
Kate: Jane Birkin
Vittorio: Sergio Castellitto
Alexandre: André Marcon
Marlo: Jacques Bonnaffé
Clémence: Julie-Marie Parmentier

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 84 MIN
PRODUCTION France, Italy, 2009
RATING Not Rated
FORMAT(S) 35mm, Digibeta, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
The Cinema Guild

LE TABLEAU / THE PAINTING

SYNOPSIS
One of the most inventive animated films in recent years, Jean-François Laguionie’s The Painting also offers gentle lessons about bigotry. Three different classes of subjects reside in a canvas abandoned by a painter; the tyrannical Allduns, who have been rendered in full, glorious color by their creator; the Halfies, only partially completed; and the Sketchies, simple charcoal stick figures who are considered pariahs. As a courageous Alldun and the Halfie he loves, plus another Halfie and a Sketchie, escape persecution by the Alldun despots, The Painting leads us through breathtakingly beautiful set pieces. We journey through a magically hued forest, and, in the movie’s cleverest meta-narrative strategy, to the very edge of the painting itself, where a portal leads the quartet directly to the painter’s studio. The four characters discover scores of others works by their creator, each one opening up to other sumptuous sights. But they all have one goal in mind: to meet their maker and ask him why he left some of them in an unfinished state.

“The filmmaker takes over and amplifies the denunciation of racism and social disparity. When it comes to the search for the mysterious painter who always escapes, it is a captivating, breathtakingly steep creative chasm, a kind of ‘mirror image’ where each piece opens onto another and where the artist himself might only be someone else’s dream.”
Cécile Mury, Télérama

DIRECTOR
Jean-François Laguionie

SCREENPLAY
Jean-François Laguionie, Anik Leray

VOICES
Lola: Jessica Monceau
Claire: Chloé Berthier
Gom: Julien Bouanich
Plume: Thierry Jahn

GENRE Animation
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 76’
PRODUCTION France, 2011
RATING Not Rated
FORMAT(S) Blu-ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
GKids

POULET AUX PRUNES / CHICKEN WITH PLUMS

SYNOPSIS
As they did with Persepolis (2007), codirectors Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Parronaud once again magically translate a graphic novel by the former to the big screen. Unlike Persepolis, which was entirely animated, Chicken with Plums, set in Tehran in 1958, is mostly live action. But the flesh-and-blood actors—including a heartbreaking Mathieu Amalric as Nasser-Ali Khan, a gifted violinist so miserable that he wills himself to die—appear before wondrously hyper-stylized sets, a mise-en-scène that imbues Chicken with Plums with the power of a parable. As Nasser-Ali takes to his bed, where he plans to expire, the film recalls the source of his sorrow, stretching all the way back to his childhood. The talented musician’s unhappy marriage to schoolteacher Faringuisse is recounted, as well as his distant relationship to his two young children (whose own fates are presented in droll flash-forward). Soon the real reason for Nasser-Ali’s anguish becomes clear: the rupture of his first—and only—great love affair, with a beautiful woman called Irâne. Her name assumes subtle allegorical significance in this deeply melancholic film, suggesting that she represents not only a lost love but a country misled.

“Not that “Chicken With Plums” is gloomy. Like its swooning, madly melodramatic musical score, the film takes an almost giddy pleasure in unhappiness, turning even pedestrian moments of boredom or discomfort into occasions for wild invention. The Angel of Death appears, as do other mythic and half-mythic figures, and the filmmakers indulge a vast repertory of cinematic and theatrical effects, using Expressionist lighting, garish parody and deep, rich tones that recall early hand-tinted Technicolor.”
A.O. Scott, New York Times

DIRECTOR
Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud

SCREENPLAY
Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud. Based on the comic book by Marjane Satrapi.

CAST
Nasser-Ali Khan: Mathieu Amalric
Azraël: Edouard Baer
Faringuisse: Maria de Medeiros
Irâne: Golshifteh Farahani
Parvine: Isabella Rossellini
Lili: Chiara Mastroianni

GENRE Comedy
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 93’
PRODUCTION France, Germany, Belgium, 2011
RATING PG-13
FORMATS(S) 35, Blu-ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Sony Pictures Classics

MONSIEUR LAZHAR

SYNOPSIS
“A classroom is a place of friendship, of work, of courtesy, a place of life,” says the new teacher of the title to his sixth-grade students in a Montreal public school. That profoundly touching statement evinces the deep respect Monsieur Lazhar (the phenomenal Mohamed Fellag) has for his charges, who are still reeling from a beloved teacher’s very public suicide. Writer-director Philippe Falardeau’s unforgettable movie, based on a one-person play by Evelyne de la Chenelière, explores the intricate process by which M. Lazhar earns the respect and trust of his pupils, some of them the children of immigrants or, like this devoted instructor, recent arrivals to Quebec. As the reasons for M. Lazhar’s immigration to Canada from Algeria are made clear, so, too is his rather unconventional method for applying for the teaching position. Yet this educator isn’t the film’s only multifaceted character: the preteen students are also fascinatingly complex, struggling with roiling emotions and troubles at home. Monsieur Lazhar is that rarest of movies about education: one that avoids clichés and sentimentality in favor of honesty and clear-eyed compassion.

“Monsieur Lazhar sustains an exquisite balance between grown-up and child’s-eye views of education, teacher-student relations and peer-group interactions. The students come quirkily alive in superb naturalistic performances devoid of cuteness and stereotyping. Like no other film about middle school life that I can recall, Monsieur Lazhar conveys the intensity and the fragility of these classroom bonds and the mutual trust they require.”
Stephen Holden, New York Times

DIRECTOR
Philippe Falardeau

SCREENPLAY
Philippe Falardeau

CAST
Bachir Lazhar: Mohamed Fellag
Alice L’Écuyer: Sophie Nélisse
Simon: Émilien Néron
Marie-Frédérique: Marie-Ève Beauregard

AWARDS
Best Canadian Feature Film – Toronto International Film Festival (2011)

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French, English, Arabic
RUNNING TIME 94’
PRODUCTION Canada, 2011
RATING PG-13
FORMAT(S) 35, Blu-ray, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Music Box Films

HOLY MOTORS

SYNOPSIS
Expansive, breathtaking, and thrillingly unclassifiable, Holy Motors is writer-director Leos Carax’s first feature since Pola X (1999), and only his fifth in three decades. Both a lamentation for and celebration of cinema, the film opens with Carax himself, walking down a long corridor to a movie-theater balcony that overlooks a roomful of motionless, stony-silent spectators. After this dream-like prologue, we are introduced to the movie’s main character, Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant, Carax’s frequent collaborator), a professional chameleon who inhabits nearly 12 different personas over the course of a single day. Steered through the streets of Paris in a white-stretch limo, Oscar consults a thick dossier for the particulars of his next “appointment.” These scenarios require him to play, among others, a homeless old woman shaking a tin cup, a performer bending and contorting for a motion-capture sex scene, and a feral leprechaun. Oscar continually reinvents himself, exhausting work that he still pursues for “the beauty of the act,” as he explains to a mysterious executive who suddenly appears in the limo’s back seat. The “beauty” the shape-shifter refers to may be either moviemaking or movie-watching; both activities, like Oscar himself, are, as this extraordinary film reminds us, in a constant state of flux.

“Carax shows, in a conceit as antic as wondrous, as goofy as transcendent, what if, before they dozed off, those walls could talk… This comical animism—a twist on a classic children’s movie—offers a glimpse at an atheistic beyond, at the physical world’s metaphysical dimensions. These images and sounds that reveal the mind in matter and the soul in bodies suggest Carax’s ultimate definition of the cinema, and it’s one of the best and grandest that a movie has ever offered.”
Richard Brody, The New Yorker

DIRECTOR
Leos Carax

SCREENPLAY
Leos Carax

CAST
M. Oscar: Denis Lavant
Celine: Edith Scob
Kay M: Eva Mendes
Eva Grace: Kylie Minogue

AWARDS
Youth Award, Leos Carax – Cannes Film Festival (2012); Best Foreign Language Film – Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards (2012)

GENRE Drama, Fantasy
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 115’
PRODUCTION France, Germany, 2012
RATING Not Rated
FORMAT(S) 35, Blu-ray, DCP, HDCam

DISTRIBUTOR
Swank Motion Pictures

LA FOLIE ALMAYER / ALMAYER’S FOLLY

SYNOPSIS
Chantal Akerman’s loose adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s first novel (published in 1895) is as assured and sublime as her page-to-screen transfer of Marcel Proust in La Captive (2000). Opening with an extraordinary scene—the stabbing of a club performer lip-synching to Dean Martin’s “Sway”—Almayer’s Folly unfolds as something of a hallucinatory nightmare, which, Akerman astutely intimates, might be the best way to describe the legacy of colonialism. The European trader of the title, who is slowly descending into madness, is played by Stanislas Merhar (the same actor who starred in La Captive). Living deep in the Malaysian jungle sometime during the mid-20th century, Almayer obsesses over the welfare of his mixed-race daughter, Nina, whose mother, a local woman, has disappeared. After Nina is kicked out of a convent-style boarding school in the city, she falls in love with a Malay rebel fighter—sending her father, now financially as well as mentally destroyed, into further despair. In a film rife with indelible set pieces, perhaps none makes a greater, more devastating impression than the six-and-half-minute close-up of Merhar, crying out in vain for deliverance.

“Border crossing, or ruminating about being on the other side of a border, has long been a key part of Ms. Akerman’s films. She often seems to be feeling out the muscle memory of exile in her camera movements and framing, but here the stasis of Almayer’s existence is intensely felt. Shooting the film in Cambodia, Ms. Akerman may well be going farther afield than in her hybrid nonfiction work in the past two decades (…) Yet for all the leafy exteriors and chugging boats, Almayer is very much inside even when he’s out.”
Nicolas Rapold, The New York Times

DIRECTOR
Chantal Ackerman

SCREENPLAY
Chantal Ackerman, based on the eponymous novel by Joseph Conrad.

CAST
Almayer: Stanilas Merhar
Nina: Aurora Marion
Capitaine Lingard: Marc Barbé
Daïn: Zach Andrianasolo

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French, English, Khmer
RUNNING TIME 127’
PRODUCTION Belgium and France, 2011
RATING Not rated
FORMAT(S) 35, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Big World Pictures

LA FEE / THE FAIRY

SYNOPSIS
This wonderful homage to the physical comedy and slapstick of earlier movie eras kicks off when Dom (cowriter and codirector Dominique Abel), a mild-mannered hotel clerk in Le Havre, is visited by Fiona (cowriter and codirector Fiona Gordon), a redheaded woman who claims to be a fairy. She fulfills two of the night porter’s wishes: a scooter and a perpetual supply of gasoline. But does Fiona really have supernatural powers, or is this spritely lady certifiably insane? As Dom tries to come up with his final wish, The Fairy unfolds as one ingenious sight gag after another: an underwater ballet, a belly that swells to fully pregnant in mere seconds, a baby with remarkable balancing powers. Former circus and theater performers, Abel and Gordon are elegant, acrobatic actors; their rubber-limbed antics recall those of great silent-movie stars like Buster Keaton. Other influences abound—the candy-colored mise-en-scène and crisp compositions suggest the films of both Jacques Tati and Aki Kaurismaki—but The Fairy transcends these inspirations to become a wild, hilarious, one-of-a-kind experience.

“The Belgo-Canadian-French trio, who specialize in pantomime and circus-style theatrics, have a clownlike knack for finding humor in the everyday.”
Peter Debruge, Variety

DIRECTOR
Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, Bruno Romy

SCREENPLAY
Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, Bruno Romy

CAST
Dom: Dominique Abel
Fiona: Fiona Gordon
John: Philippe Martz
The Owner of L’Amour Flou: Bruno Romy

GENRE Comedy
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 93’
PRODUCTION France, Belgium, 2011
RATING Not Rated
FORMAT(S) 35, Blu-ray

DISTRIBUTOR
Kino Lorber Edu

L’EXERCICE DE L’ETAT / THE MINISTER

Minister_trailer.mp4

SYNOPSIS
“Politics is a wound that never heals,” admits Bertrand Saint-Jean, the beleaguered head of France’s ministry of transportation in Pierre Schoeller’s deft examination of power. Plagued by weird Sadean nightmares involving hooded black figures, naked women devoured by alligators, and his own asphyxiation, Saint-Jean must frantically scramble from one crisis to another: a horrific bus accident, contentious meetings over a plan to privatize France’s train stations, explosive discussions with his colleagues in the cabinet, a near-death experience. The incomparable Gourmet (frequently cast in films by the Dardenne brothers) is utterly mesmerizing as he transforms from a man of principle to a pizza-scarfing, hectoring tyrant—who then reverts to someone slightly more humane. Schoeller’s second feature (after 2008’s tender adult-child buddy film Versailles) forgoes moralizing about ambitious politicians for a more complex (and rewarding) approach: uncovering the thin line that separates altruism from narcissism.

“There’s a lot of living matter that the film brings together in a single creative cinematic gesture establishing, for instance, a very creative relationship between image and sound. This ambitious, clever and impressive film has received eleven César nominations.”
Frédéric Strauss, Telerama

DIRECTOR
Pierre Schoeller

SCREENPLAY
Pierre Schoeller

CAST
Bertrand Saint-Jean: Olivier Gourmet
Gilles: Michel Blanc
Pauline: Zabou Breitman
Yan: Laurent Stocker
Martin Kuypers: Sylvain Deblé

AWARDS
FIPRESCI Prize, Pierre Schoeller – Cannes Film Festival (2012)
Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound, Best Supporting Actor – César Awards (2012)

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 115’
PRODUCTION France, Belgium, 2011
RATING Not Rated
FORMAT(S) 35, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Big World Pictures

UN ETE BRULANT / A BURNING HOT SUMMER

SYNOPSIS
Philippe Garrel, the most romantic of the post–New Wave masters, returns to the mysteries of the human heart in A Burning Hot Summer, exploring all the passion and unruly emotions that the title suggests. Painter Frédéric (Louis Garrel, the director’s son) and his actress wife, Angèle (Monica Bellucci, in one of the best performances of her career), live in Rome, where they are soon joined by a friend of Frédéric’s, actor Paul and his actress girlfriend, Elisabeth. While Frédéric and Angèle seem to be drifting irrevocably apart, Paul and Elisabeth, still in the early stages of their relationship, struggle to determine what kind of couple they want to be. Garrel’s film explores the intricacies of not only sexual relationships but platonic ones as well, particularly the strong connection between Frédéric and Paul. To watch these four characters become consumed by jealousy, despair, spite, and ardor is to witness a great modern tragedy, told by a filmmaker who has spent most of his 50-year career transforming pain into art.

“This perpetual flow between the dead and the living, this trade of intimate and fictional material, reproduces all what we admire in the quite primitive cinema of Garrel.”
Jacques Mandelbaum, Le Monde

DIRECTOR
Philippe Garrel

SCREENPLAY
Marc Cholodenko, Caroline Deruas-Garrel, Philippe Garrel

CAST
Angèle: Monica Bellucci
Frédéric: Louis Garrel
Élisabeth: Céline Sallette
Paul: Jérôme Robart

GENRE Drama
LANGUAGE French, Italian
RUNNING TIME 95’
PRODUCTION France, Italy, Switzerland, 2011
RATING Not Rated
FORMAT(S) Blu-ray, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
IFC Films

ENTRE LES BRAS / STEP UP TO THE PLATE

SYNOPSIS
Paul Lacoste’s hypnotic documentary about father-and-son master chefs Michel and Sébastien Bras examines not only the consummate skill involved in running a Michelin three-star restaurant but also larger questions regarding legacy and the anxiety of influence. Spanning four seasons, Step Up to the Plate revolves around a particularly crucial moment for the Bras family: Michel is about to hand over control of the restaurant, located on a hilltop in the Aubrac region in south-central France, to Sébastien. Though his son has been his right-hand man for 15 years, the decision to relinquish control is not easy for Michel, whose very identity is indelibly bound up with his profession. For his part, Sébastian is eager to leave his own stamp on the family business, but he also still seeks out his father’s feedback on new recipes. Intelligent, jovial, and kind, Michel and Sébastien certainly make excellent company. Yet the real pleasure of Step Up to the Plate is watching the development of so many exquisite dishes. The meticulous arrangement of herbs on a plate, the delicate process of skimming “milk skin” from a simmering pot: These are just two fascinating procedures that the two culinary geniuses engage in while at work.

“The intelligence of the films of Paul Lacoste, who encountered success with L’invention de la cuisine, resides in his uncompromising curiosity with which he looks to include each of the sources of art: a creative tendency, a modest gesture or happy accident.”
Noémie Luciani, Le Monde

DIRECTOR
Paul Lacoste

PARTICIPANTS
Michel Bras
Sébastien Bras

GENRE Documentary
LANGUAGE French
RUNNING TIME 86’
PRODUCTION France, 2012
RATING Not Rated
FORMAT(S) 35, Blu-Ray, DCP, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
The Cinema Guild