Category Archives: FEATURED SELECTION

VOYAGE À TRAVERS LE CINEMA FRANÇAIS / MY JOURNEY THROUGH FRENCH CINEMA

If it didn’t sound so pedantic, one could easily call Bertrand Tavernier’s
epic appreciation of French cinema “French film 101.” Luckily, Taverni-
er uses his own love of film as the guiding principle here, mixing per-
sonal anecdotes and brilliantly lucid analysis to compose a thrilling,
idiosyncratic history of a golden age of French cinema extending from
1941 to 1971—the period ranging from Tavernier’s birth to his debut as
a powerhouse of French cinema in his own right. In the thirty years be-
fore he became a director, Tavernier fell in love with movies and came
to work for some of his heroes, including Jean Renoir and Jean-Pierre
Melville. Part of the secret of My Journey is that Tavernier is able to
blend nuts and bolts evaluation—what makes a scene work—with an
insider’s perspective on these great directors—which often helps to
explain what makes a scene sing. Full of judiciously selected clips, My
Journey is a private tour conducted by the reigning expert on French
cinema, an essential primer that sheds new light on the work of
beloved masters like Renoir and Godard and invites the viewer to dis-
cover overlooked auteurs such as Jacques Becker and Julien Duvivier.

DIRECTOR
Bertrand Tavernier

SCREENPLAY
Bertrand Tavernier

DETAILS
Documentary
French
200 min.
France, 2016
DCP

DISTRIBUTOR
Cohen Media Group

PRICE RANGE
$300

VISAGES, VILLAGES / FACES, PLACES

With Faces, Places, 89-year-old powerhouse Agnès Varda teams with
the world-famous young street artist JR to make a film as wide-rang-
ing as it is personal, as fanciful as it is pointed. Setting off on French
country roads to find subjects for JR’s trademark mural-size portrait
photographs, the two artists focus on people generally outside of the
spotlight: retired miners, factors workers, the wives of dockers, and
farmers. Each encounter fills in another piece of an idiosyncratic
portrait of modern-day France, as well as the evolving relationship
between open-hearted Agnès Varda and mysterious JR. The give-and-
take between Varda and JR plays out in a fascinating through-line
devoted to Jean-Luc Godard, Varda’s old friend and sole surviving
colleague of the French New Wave. But make no mistake: while the
film is credited to both artists, Varda is definitely calling the shots. As
ever, her montage is allusive, playful, rapid-fire, occasionally jarring—
in short, totally in keeping with her singular way of thinking. Her
generosity in sharing her life and thought with us deep into old age is a
cause to rejoice. Faces, Places was nominated for an Academy Award
for the Best Documentary of 2017.

DIRECTOR
Agnès Varda and JR

SCREENPLAY
Agnès Varda and JR

DETAILS
Drama, Thriller
French
113 min.
France, 2017
DCP, Blu-Ray, DVD, Pro-Res

DISTRIBUTOR
Cohen Media Group

PRICE RANGE
$300

UNE VIE VIOLENTE / A VIOLENT LIFE

With his second feature as a writer-director, renowned Corsican actor
Thierry de Peretti delivers a revealing look at the political and criminal
turmoil that have long plagued his native island, at times rivalling
Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather in terms of emotional richness
and narrative complexity. Set in the 1990s, a period when Corsica
hovered on the edge of civil war, A Violent Life follows Stéphane, a
Corsican student who gets sucked into radical nationalist circles and
eventually goes underground to join the armed struggle. De Peretti’s
great achievement is the empathy with which he treats the young
man’s misguided but in some ways justified actions: while the out-
come of his decisions is unarguably tragic, the film provides a genuine
understanding of the conditions that push young people to take up
arms. And while what makes A Violent Life so powerful is clearly the
director’s knowledge of a specific socio-political context, its insights
about nationalism and insurrection are applicable to many situations
throughout history and in the present day. As such, it is essential
viewing.

DIRECTOR
Thierry de Peretti

SCREENPLAY
Thierry de Peretti
Guillaume Bréaud

CAST
Jean Michelangeli
Henri-Noël Tabary
Cédric Appietto

DETAILS
Drama
French
107 min.
France, 2017
DCP, Blu-Ray

DISTRIBUTOR
Distrib Films US

PRICE RANGE
$350 for screening + shipping

UN BEAU SOLEIL INTERIEUR / LET THE SUNSHINE IN

Claire Denis, among the best loved and most influential French film-
makers of the last thirty years, teams with Christine Angot, one of the
leading French novelists and public intellectuals of our era, to tell the
story of Isabelle, a fifty-something Parisian artist played by the great
Juliette Binoche. Through the elliptical tale of Isabelle’s successive
relationships with a variety of egotistical if not downright oafish men,
Denis pulls off a surprising balancing act between the melancholy
truths of ageism, sexism and class relations in contemporary France
and a light, occasionally fanciful comic touch (Gérard Depardieu’s ap-
pearance as a psychic is one for the history books). Driven by Juliette
Binoche’s masterful performance, Let the Sunshine In takes the per-
spective of a woman in late middle age to give a timely report on the
battle of the sexes, hinting at the more general malaise hanging over
French society today. Yet as always in a Claire Denis film, there comes
a point when the angst gives way to a breathtaking dance scene: in
this case, it is set to an Etta James song, and it is cinema in its purest,
most sensual state.

DIRECTOR
Claire Denis

SCREENPLAY
Christine Angot
Claire Denis

CAST
Juliette Binoche
Xavier Beauvois
Philippe Katerine
Josiane Balasko

DETAILS
Comedy
French
94 min.
France, Belgium, 2017
Blu Ray, DCP

DISTRIBUTOR
IFC Films

PRICE RANGE
$350-$600

POLINA

Polina is the first feature by leading French choreographer Angelin
Preljocaj, written and directed in tandem with documentarian Valérie
Müller. Fittingly, it is the story of a young Russian ballerina’s discovery
of contemporary dance. Starring Anastasia Shevtsova, a nineteen-
year-old ballerina from Saint Petersburg who learned French to play
the titular part of Polina, the film is a gripping insider’s look at the
worlds of ballet and contemporary dance: the sacrifices, competition,
and physical pain, and the thrill of stepping on stage. But it is also, and
most importantly, a coming of age story, the tale of a young woman
forging an artist’s path by learning to look at the world in her own way.
This path takes Polina from a classical ballet academy deep in Russia
to a contemporary dance company in Aix-en-Provence, and finally to
an independent, more productive creative life in Antwerp, a hub of the
European dance scene. Mixing professional actors such as Juliette
Binoche and leading dancers such as Jérémie Bélingard, a former
danseur étoile at the Paris Opera Ballet, Preljocaj and Müller pull off
the rare feat of telling a story that feels documentary in its detail and
sweepingly romantic in its narrative arc.

DIRECTOR
Valérie Müller
Angelin Preljocaj

SCREENPLAY
Valérie Müller

CAST
Valérie Müller
Angelin Preljocaj

DETAILS
Drama
French, Russian
112 min.
France, 2017
Blu-Ray, DCP

DISTRIBUTOR
Oscilloscope Laboratories

PRICE RANGE
$400-$800

NOCTURAMA

One of the most bravely controversial films in recent French cine-
ma, Nocturama follows a group of young people of various creeds
and social backgrounds as they plan and execute a series of appar-
ently random terrorist attacks in Paris, then hole up in a shuttered
department store and watch the city go into high alert. Acclaimed
auteur Bertrand Bonello, known for his exquisite period films House
of Tolerance and Saint Laurent, makes a resolute turn here toward
the contemporary, but not in the expected manner: Nocturama is not
so much a disquisition on terrorism as an open-ended investigation
of the frustrations and demands of the generation coming of age in
2018. It is not a picture of a lost generation, but a disgusted generation
composed of confused yet hopeful individuals who refuse the injustice
and inequity handed down to them. In its depiction of commercialism
and cronyism, Nocturama puts forth a societal critique closer to that
of the virulent but poetic idealism of the Situationists than any of the
dogmatic positions currently causing innocent blood to be shed. As
always with Bonello, a brilliant command of seductive camerawork
and sound design eases the viewer into his explosively thought-pro-
voking themes.

DIRECTOR
LBertrand Bonello

SCREENPLAY
Bertrand Bonello

CAST
Finnegan Oldfield
Laure Valentinelli
Vincent Rottiers
Hamza Meziani
Manal Issa
Martin Guyot
Jamil McCraven
Adèle Haenel
Rabah Nait Oufella
Ilias Le Doré
Robin Goldbronn
Luis Rego
Hermine Karagheuz

DETAILS
Thriller
French
130 min.
France, 2016
DCP, Blu-Ray, Pro-res, DVD

DISTRIBUTOR
Grasshopper Film

PRICE RANGE
$300-$500

MÉTAMORPHOSES / METAMORPHOSES

Arthouse favorite Christophe Honoré takes a surprising and invigo-
rating turn away from his bittersweet tales of modern-day love with
this contemporary adaption of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Honoré’s take
on the Roman poet’s essential narrative poem is anything but a stuffy
tribute beholden to a classic work of literature: on the contrary, he
uses Ovid to portray the multicultural France of today, setting his story
not only in lush natural landscapes but among the housing blocks
of the French suburbs, and casting a high school student of North
African descent in the central role of Europa, the young woman who
encounters a series of gods and mythological characters. Naturally,
Ovid’s work is not adaptable in its entirety—it features over 250
myths—but Honoré is true to its spirit, selecting representative tales
including those of Orpheus, Narcissus, and Tiresias, played here as a
transgender doctor. He also makes a virtue out of working with a low
budget, implicitly underlining the wonder in everyday life by avoiding
special effects and finding simple means to portray transformations
and deities. The outcome is a light, lyrical film, whose unforced sen-
suality and formal rigor is reminiscent of nothing less than Pasolini’s
great literary adaptations.

DIRECTOR
Christophe Honoré

SCREENPLAY
Christophe Honoré

CAST
Amira Akili
Sébastien Hirel
Mélodie Richard

DETAILS
Drama, Fantasy
French
102 min.
France, 2014
DCP, Digital, Blu-Ray

DISTRIBUTOR
Monument Releasing

PRICE RANGE
$250-$500

MAKALA

Makala is an extraordinarily revealing and surprisingly gorgeous look
at everyday life for a charcoal salesman in the Democratic Republic
of Congo. French documentary filmmaker Emmanuel Gras follows
28-year-old Kabwita Kasongo through the entire process of making
and selling charcoal: finding and cutting down a tree in the vast plains
near his village in the southern region of Katanga, burying and burning
the wood to create charcoal, loading multiple bulging bags of charcoal
onto a rickety bicycle and walking it several days to the city of Kolwezi,
where he hopes to sell his merchandise on its markets and streets.
What sets Makala (the Swahili word for “charcoal”) apart from other
documentaries about workers in developing countries is its sheer
filmic quality: Kabwita’s simple but challenging objective to get the
coal to the big city and sell enough to buy supplies to build a house for
himself and his family has the dramatic force of the great humanist
films from Bicycle Thieves on down, while Gras’s virtuosic widescreen
camerawork constantly anchors his individual struggle in the larger
context of the Congo’s breathtakingly beautiful landscape and its
rapidly shifting economy.

DIRECTOR
Emmanuel Gras

SCREENPLAY
Emmanuel Gras

CAST
Kabwita Kasongo
Lydie Kasongo

DETAILS
Documentary
French, Swahili
96 min.
France, 2018
DVD, Blu-Ray

DISTRIBUTOR
Kino Lorber

PRICE RANGE
$400

JOURS DE FRANCE / 4 DAYS IN FRANCE

Jérôme Reybaud cleverly encapsulates his first feature as a “senti-
mental Grindr road movie.” If this combination of sentiment and a gay
hook-up app strikes you as an oxymoron or even an impossibility, you
must see this delicately executed voyage off the beaten track to verify
that this unique cinematic experience matches Reybaud’s description.
4 Days in France follows Pierre, a gay Parisian who decides to leave
his life behind to cruise the back roads of the provinces in an Alfa
Romeo, using Grindr as a GPS. Adopting the barest of storylines—
Pierre’s lover Paul gets on Grindr to follow his trail—Reybaud general-
ly eschews narrative development to focus on a series of single-scene
encounters with strangers, most of which are not sexual, but rather
extensive conversations with men and women who have chosen, like
Pierre, to stand outside the sprint of the mainstream: an antiquarian
bookseller, a performer in retirement homes, a professional thief. In
these encounters and the film’s free-flowing form, Reybaud draws an
unexpectedly warm picture of small-town France, characterized by an
inspiring openness. Yet while espousing a slower, emotionally rich life,
Reybaud recognizes the connections afforded by modern technology.

DIRECTOR
Jérôme Reybaud

SCREENPLAY
Jérôme Reybaud

CAST
Pascal Cervo
Arthur Igual
Fabienne Babe
Natalie Richard
Laetitia Dosch
Liliane Montevecchi

DETAILS
Comedy, Drama, Romance
French, English, Italian
137 min.
France, 2016
Blu-Ray, DCP

DISTRIBUTOR
Cinema Guild

PRICE RANGE
$375-$450

JEANNETTE, L’ENFANCE DE JEANNE D’ARC / JEANNETTE: THE CHILDHOOD OF JOAN OF ARC

Proving that he remains French cinema’s greatest and freest adven-
turer, writer-director Bruno Dumont created a faithful but strikingly
contemporary adaptation of turn-of-the-century poet Charles Péguy’s
two plays about the childhood of Joan of Arc, with music by death
metal composer Igorr and modern-day children recorded singing
live on the dunes of the Pas-de-Calais. The result is mystifying and
mystical, jaw-dropping and farcical, but never less than inspired: a film
in which an eight-year-old girl does justice to the verse of one of the
great French poets while twin nuns do a gestural dance surrounded
by a flock of oblivious sheep. The story starts with the deeply Christian
peasant girl Jeanette confronting religious doubt in the face of the
English invasion of France, then leaps five years ahead to reveal the
willful teenage Jeanne on the eve of her departure to help the dauphin
break the siege of Orleans. For all its gleeful wackiness, Jeanette is
a serious film about the idea of France, childhood, and religious faith,
located at the unlikely intersection of realism and absolute movie fan-
tasy. And in entrusting great works of literature to children, Dumont
gives us a potent reminder that the classics belong to everybody.

DIRECTOR
Bruno Dumont

SCREENPLAY
Bruno Dumont

CAST
Lise Leplat Prudhomme
Jeanne Voisin
Lucile Gauthier
Victoria Lefebvre
Aline Charles

DETAILS
Musical
French
115 min.
France, 2017
DCP, Blu-Ray

DISTRIBUTOR
KimStim

PRICE RANGE
$300-$500