Thursday, June 7, 2012

Heads up! Last chance to catch one of the best unreleased movies of the year--FREE!

The below is re-post of TM's take on a film first seen at Rendez-vous with French Cinema this past March. I and many of my compatriots loved the movie and imagined that it would be picked up for U.S. distribution (films by Robert Guédiguian usually are). No such luck. But thanks to The Cultural Services of the French Embassy and its yearly program of Films on the Green, New Yorkers have at least one more chance to see the movie. It plays tomorrow night, Friday, June 8, at 8:30 (admission is free but get there early and bring food and drink) -- in Washington Square Park, just below the end of Fifth Avenue by that big faux French arch.
It's not Hemingway. No, it's better than that. The great strength of writer/director Robert Guédiguian is how he tells his stories from so many points of view, not in some stylish, what-is-truth? Rashomon manner, but intuitively, organically, from the inside out and so that we come to see how the people involved on all sides of a given situation understand that situation and will gain or lose from it. With THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO, the filmmaker has outdone himself. (I can't think of a better film from him, in a raft of very good ones.)  Snows takes a layoff of workers in a shipyard as a starting point for exploring responsibility -- to oneself, one's family, friends, co-workers and even beyond.

The events that spin outward from this layoff (above) are both expected and not, and how the pivotal, negative and lawless post-event changes everything -- but not just for the worse -- turns the film into one of the richest, most intelligent and moving experiences in all of this year's Rendez-vous. Guédiguian is a political filmmaker, and a left-leaning one, I believe. But he never shies from showing us the other side -- not the right-wing one -- but the side that takes our beloved shiboleths and turns them inside out, forcing us to struggle with right and wrong from new angles. Yet the filmmaker is also a supreme humanist who never allows a principle to trump a person. That's what makes his work such a joy: the people are deep and real, and the life around them is, too.

In Snows, that life is lived by husband & wife Michael & Marie-Claire -- the "greats" Jean-Pierre Darroussin (above, left) and Ariane Ascaride (above, right) -- oft-used by this filmmaker. We get to know them, their best friends, and their children (in all, including the elderly woman taken care of by Marie-Claire, we see four generations here). We also come to know one of those laid-off workers, Christophe -- played by one of France's fine, up-and-coming new stars Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet (below, center, of Love Songsclick and scroll down) and The Princess of Montpensier). How these people connect and what happens subsequently is the stuff of great storytelling.

Along the way, we meet everyone from a delightful waiter with an eye for Marie-Claire (the terrific Pierre Niney of this Rendez-vous' 18 Years Old and Rising) to Christophe's mom (played exceedingly well and nastily by Karole Rocher, who was also the mom in this Rendez-vous' Last Screening and the recently released Polisse: She's cornering the market on bad moms!). Ms Rocher has a scene with Ms Ascaride that had me so angry I wanted to slap her face and shout, "Then have your tubes tied, bitch!"  (Really, this is so unlike me.) But it's a stunner of a scene that, again, allows you to see things -- appallingly irresponsible as they are -- from the viewpoint of this exceedingly selfish woman who has managed to connect herself to some even worse men.

By the time The Snows of Kilmanjaro concludes, you'll have lived through a lot and come out of it with greater understanding of how our lives are shaped by so many opposing forces. It's a wise movie, and Guédiguian's a wise movie-maker.  Don't miss this one -- which as yet, shockingly, has no U.S. distributor so far as I know. Maybe some enterprising distributor will show up at Film on the Green in Washington Square Park tomorrow night -- Friday, June 8 -- at dusk, watch the film, note the audience response, and take a chance on it.  We can hope.  (Click here to view this year's entire Films on the Green program.)

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