Saturday, January 5, 2013

FIAF's CinemaTuesdays in January present Vive la jeunesse! -- Young French Directors

What with coming up in a week or two and then the Film Society of Lincoln Center's annual and hugely popular Rendez-vous with French Cinema in March, we can expect a lot of France-on-film soon. And while both of the above often highlight some new, young filmmakers, neither series is especially devoted to this.

Which makes this month's CinémaTuesdays at FIAF such an unusual pleasure. Not only are we seeing la jeunesse on screen and behind the camera, we're getting a look at some filmmakers that we might not have previously noticed. (FIAF's series are curated by the ever-alert Marie Losier and Clementine Gallot and so reflect the mindset and taste of these women.)

This months CinémaTuesdays -- January 8, 15, 22, 29 -- I think, are especially interesting ones, featuring a wide range of films, mostly short, the longest of which, Goodbye First Love, already received a national release and was chosen by The NY Times' A.O.Scott as one of this past year's best. Of the remainder, TrustMovies had neither heard of any of the filmmakers nor seen any of their work. But now, having viewed the entire series via press screeners, he can vouch for the success of January's films.

Here's the complete scheduled, in order of appearance

Tuesday, January 8: three showings 
of a short and a feature film.

U.S. PREMIERE:  WITH NEITHER DRUM NOR TRUMPET (Sans tambour ni trompette) Tuesday January 8 at 12:30, 4 & 7:30pm.  Directed by Zoé Gabillet, 2011. Color. 10 min. With Elsa Pasquier, Mahault Mollaret, Johanna Landau. In French with English subtitles.

It's only ten minutes long (including two minutes of credits), but this utterly delightful and actually quite sophisticated short follows a group of moviegoers standing in the ticket line (to see Truffaut's Mississippi Mermaid) and also shows us some of the cinema's employees until the moment the lights go down and the movie begins. For maybe the first time, it's us -- the audience -- up there on the screen in all our disparity, charm and annoying qualities. And this first-time filmmaker captures a lot, ending with an inspired moment of perfect transition between the movie that's about to be shown and the movie we've just seen.  SPECIAL NOTE: You can meet the director in person on Tuesday, January 8, at 7:30pm, when Ms Gabillet will present her short film, followed by a Q&A.

GOODBYE FIRST LOVE (Un amour de jeunesse) Tuesday January 8 at 12:30, 4 & 7:30pm. Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve, 2011. Color. 110 min. With Lola Créton, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Magne-Håvard Brekke. In French with English subtitles.

Ms Hansen-Løve's third full-length film falls somewhere between the level of her pretty good first try (All is Forgiven), and her extraordinary second feature, The Father of My Children. Her latest is terrific at showing us the thrilling, obsessive quality of young love, as well as its all-or-nothing appeal. You can read my complete review of the film, at the time it opened early last year, by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 15: three showings 
of a short and a feature film.

THE SHADY SAILOR (Le marin masqué), Tuesday, January 15 at 12:30, 4 & 7:30pm. Directed by Sophie Letourneur, 2011. B&W. 35 min. With Sophie Letourneur, Laetitia Goffi, Johan Libéreau. In French with English subtitles.

A weekend for two childhood friends from and in Brittany opens the door to the past, present and maybe future, as the young women involve themselves in crepes and constipation, sex and sun, family and friends -- and lots of talk about it all. This lively film is shot in good, sometimes grainy black-and-white and provides a sweet, slice-of-life shot through with interesting little stylistic touches (above). The filmmaker, who has made several short and feature films, also knows how to write and direct herself, as she plays one of the leads. The always-hot and always-working Johan Libéreau plays the title character.

DEAR PRUDENCE (Belle Épine) Tuesday, January 15 at 12:30, 4 & 7:30pm Directed and co-written by Rebecca Zlotowski, 2010. Color. 80 min. With Léa Seydoux, Anaïs Demoustier, Agathe Schlenker. In French with English subtitles.

One of the best-known young French stars of the moment, Léa Seydoux (Farewell My Queen, Midnight in Paris, Largo Winch) is excellent, as usual, in this sort-of coming of age tale about a teenager who has just lost her mother trying to come to terms with life, family, and approaching adulthood. Libéreau appears again as one in the gang of bikers our heroine falls in with. "Jewishness" plays a big part in this film, and there's a sparkling scene around the dinner table with dialog that fairly crackles.

Exteriors are shot beautifully in this film, but there are times one wants a little more interior life. Fortunately, as the movie rolls along, this begins to happen. This is a dark movie -- literally, rather than metaphorically -- as much of it takes place at night. Two particular scenes toward the finale help us understand this young girl, one real the other fantasy (or remembrance), and so does the fine performance from Seydoux, who consistently proves special and versatile in every role she tackles.

Tuesday, January 22
three showings of two long "shorts"

WHAT WE'LL LEAVE BEHIND (Ce qu’il restera de nous) Tuesday, January 22 at 12:30, 4 & 7:30pm. Directed by Vincent Macaigne, 2012. Color. 40 min. With Thibault Lacroix, Anthony Paliotti, Laure Calamy. In French with English subtitles.

This series' biggest surprise, for me, is the discovery of a fellow named Vincent Macaigne, the director of this film, and the lead actor in the film discussed just below -- both, fortunately, on the same program. What We'll Leave Behind begins with a fellow at a bar asking just this question, and then we cut to two young men, one of them raging like hell against -- what? -- while the other appears to be a follower. Then suddenly, Mr. Rage needs a hug. Clearly, we're on unstable ground. Turns out these two are brothers whose dad has just died. And they possess quite the love/hate thing for each other. One is married, and his wife, as we soon discover, is an equally problemed person.

By the end of the film we seem to be firmly in Bruno Dumont territory -- but without much religious feeling (though I've long suspected Dumont's faith is fake). But I must admit that this is that rare movie about which you realize that murder/suicide is the only possible answer for the characters on view. (Yes, I'm kidding -- but only by half.) There are pleasures along the way, the biggest of which comes from seeing a gorgeous actor named Thibault Lacroix full-frontal, bathing, peeing, and carrying on something fierce. This is not your everyday screen fare, and Lacroix carries it off with a great body, beautiful face and more than a little style. The other two actors are fine, as well, though the paces they are run through can't quite measure up to Lacroix's. In any case, like it or not, this is a film you'll probably remember for some time.

A WORLD WITHOUT WOMEN (Un monde sans femmes) Tuesday, January 22 at 12:30, 4 & 7:30pm. Directed by Guillaume Brac, 2012. Color. 57 min. With Vincent Macaigne, Laure Calamy, Constance Rousseau. In French with English subtitles.

M. Macaigne (above, left) takes the lead role in what is actually two films, the first a precursor to A World Without Women, in which a bicyclist has a flat tire near the town in which our "hero," Sylvain, who offers him a lift, lives, and over that evening and into the next day, the two bond and then break. Our bicyclist has some problems of his own regarding women, it seems, so this 24-minute opener sets the stage for the nearly hour-long title feature, in which Sylvain, who turns out to be the landlord of a very nice beachfront cottage, rents out same to a mother-daughter team (below)with whom he becomes friendly.

In appearance M. Macaigne has the schlubby quality of a Gallic Jon Lovitz but without the pushiness. He makes an adorable, root-for-him-with-all-your-might hero, and the two women are equally impressive as characters and performers. So, in fact, are a few of the townspeople we meet. Each is given such specific and real qualities by the co-writer/director Brac and his screenwriter collaborator Hélène Ruault, and brought to such alternately charming and troubled life by the actors, that the movie takes on that quality that only the best and most believable films can manage. Quiet and deeply felt, nothing much happens here and yet by the finale, the whole world seems to be opening up. I'll want to see this one again in a few years.  Right now, I'm thinking it might just be a short classic of sorts.

Tuesday, January 29
three showings of two long "shorts"

U.S. PREMIERE: SONG SONG, Tuesday, January 29 at 12:30, 4 & 7:30pm. Directed by Gwendal Sartre, 2012. Color. 40 min. With Alain Bouckaert, Jeanne Roche, Cyprien Parvex De Collombey. In French with English subtitles.

We turn a good deal more "arty" with this week's pairing, particularly the first of the two. According to the press info supplied by FIAF, Song Song "is the story of a composer in search of inspiration," but I watched the film without reading about it first and so felt mostly flummoxed by what I saw. This includes an old man, his home and possessions; a sound studio where an artist warms up on a violin; back home again, where a young woman appears (imaginary? Someone from his past? who knows?). The film has almost no dialog (except in one very short scene, which explains little), but it is full of ambient sounds, including a teapot whistling, tapping on a windowpane, and a ringing in the man's ears that finally, thankfully, goes away.

The cinematography is gorgeous, inside and particularly out -- where the lush, verdant greenery is nearly tactile. Our hero, I believe, is played by Alain Bouckaert, who has no IMDB Profile as yet but has a great, camera-loving face (above), which helps matters immensely, as eventually there is no sound at all. Does this indicate the onset of deafness?  Dementia? Creativity? Who knows, and by then, who cares? According to the credits, five people collaborated on the film's scenario, which brings to mind the old too-many-cooks theory. My response to this one -- as lovely to look at as it is -- finds not nearly enough about the artistic process, either in front of the camera or behind it. I used to have a term for failed art films -- fart films -- and this one strikes as a tad closer to that moniker than I would have preferred.

U.S. PREMIERE: NIGHT DRIFTERS (La nuit remue), Tuesday, January 29 at 12:30, 4 & 7:30pm. Directed by Bijan Anquetil, 2012. Color. 47 min. With Hamid Jan, Sobhan Sardari. In Farsi, Dari with English subtitles.

If nothing else, 2012 gave us two films (maybe more) produced and created  totally via camera-phones: the racy, funny, nasty King Kelly and now this combo narrative/documentary oddity about immigrants in France from Afghanistan who explain their situation to each other's camera-phones, even as this is linked together by camera-phone shots of groups of immigrants protesting, on the move in secret, and what have you. This transition from up-close-and-personal and maybe narrative footage to fuzzy, pixilated, washed-out "documentary" footage makes for an interesting, if distancing 45 minutes.

First-time filmmaker Bijan Anquetil gets points for originality but loses some for content- and character-building. You would hope to know these men a little better after 45 minutes, so perhaps more time might have been spent with them and less with the washed out groups shots. Still, at the end the filmmaker manages a wonderful coalescing as his two styles suddenly mesh and bring us into a moving few moments when this sad twosome becomes part of something larger and greater. This film won Best First Film prize at the Festival International de Cinema de Marseille.


About FIAF 
FIAF's mission is to create and offer New Yorkers innovative and unique programs in education and the arts that explore the evolving diversity and richness of French cultures. FIAF seeks to generate new ideas and promote cross cultural dialogue through partnerships and new platforms of expression.

Thank You/Merci ! 
Special thanks to Clémentine Gallot.

Cinema programs are made possible by Institut français, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

CinémaTuesdays is sponsored by American Airlines, The Official Airline of FIAF; Lancôme, Nespresso, and TV5MONDE.

FIAF would like to thank the following winter season sponsors:

American Airlines, the official airline of FIAF; the Cultural Services of the French Embassy; Florence Gould Foundation; Institut français; New York State Council on the Arts; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, and Robert de Rothschild.

Quick Facts
What: FIAF presents Vive la jeunesse ! Young French Directors
When: Times and titles detailed above.
Where: FIAF - Florence Gould Hall, 55 East 59th Street (between Park and Madison Avenues) Admission: $10; $7 students; Free for FIAF Members
Tickets: | Phone: 800 982 2787 Information: | 212 355 6160
Directions & Transportation: Subway - 4, 5, 6, N, R and Q to 59th Street & Lexington Avenue; F to 63rd Street & Lexington Avenue; E to 53rd Street & 5th Avenue Bus - M1, M2, M3, M4, Q31 to 59th Street; M5 to 58th Street

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