Monday, July 6, 2009

FILMS ON THE GREEN return to NYC: they're funny, romantic, French -- & FREE!

Pray for no rain. That's my advice to anyone looking for an al fresco evening out with your date, com-
plete with top-
notch enter-
tainment that's also--yes--free! Last year's successful series Films on the Green (or Cinema sur l' herbe for you linguists), a gift to New York City from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the NYC

Dept. of Parks & Recreation, is back -- having just completed its first round of films in June, with three more gems on tap for July.

The place is Tompkins Square Park (between Avenues A and B and 7th and 10th Streets in Manhattan), and the dates and times are the next three Fridays -- July 10, 17 and 24 -- at 8:30 pm. Best part (besides the films and the grass)? Admission is FREE!

Having now seen all three movies, I can vouch for their high quality in terms of craft and sheer entertainment value. While one's a classic that most film buffs will have already seen, the other two I doubt almost any Americans will have seen -- and they are both quite wonderful: light-hearted, romantic, clever and loads of fun.

The series begins this Friday, July 10, with LOVE IN THE AIR (Ma vie en l'air) from 2005, written and directed by Rémi Bezançon (above, left) -- and staring two of the most effortlessly charismatic actors you're likely to find: Vincent Elbaz (below, right) and Marion Cotillard (at left: the lady who won the Academy's Best Actress award for La Vie en Rose and is currently appearing opposite Johnny Depp in the wildly divisive Public Enemies).
To say these two light up the screen with their charm, beauty and sex appeal is to use a tired cliche to state what is all too true. If you are not hooked within the film's first couple of minutes aboard an airplane, during which our hero tells us about his birth, then you're no real fan of romantic comedy. M. Bezançon has found a way to achieve a near-perfect tone and then maintain his grasp on it ever so lightly for the entire 100 minutes, plus credits. I must say, when French filmmakers get stuff like this right, they really bring home the bacon.

Ms Cotillard and M. Elbaz could hardly be better, and they are joined by an ideal supporting cast (of not-so-well-knowns, over here, at least) that includes Gilles Lellouche (below, right) as the best friend from hell (who somehow still manages to be prince of a guy), Cécile Cassel as a lost love, Tom Novembre and Philippe Nahon as the older generation, and Didier Bezace as a would-be airplane pilot who has trouble getting flight right. The film itself is all about airplanes and air travel and how and why our hero is held back by fear of flying. We learn a lot about his job as flight instructor along the way, not to mention affairs of the heart, how to be a good friend (to both sexes) and -- thanks to the talented M. Bezançon -- how to make a prime piece of romantic fluff grounded by two charismatic performances.

Love in the Air was never released here in the US -- not even on DVD -- which seems ridiculous, considering how enjoyable and arthouse/mainstream it is. You can remedy this on Friday night, so be there or miss what might be your only opportunity to see this delightful and appealing little film.

The other two movies that make up the series are Brigitte Roüan's WORKS (Travaux, on sait quand ça commence) and the Eric Rohmer classic Claire's Knee. The Roüan, also a don't-miss, is alternately clever, silly and surreal as it tackles everything home remodeling to immigration, and the Rohmer is, well, Rohmer. I'll have more to say about both films next week, but I want to get this post up now -- so savvy New Yorkers, particularly those of us with increasingly empty wallets, can make proper plans for Friday night.

NB: The Cultural Services of the French Embassy would like to thank the generous sponsors who make this event possible: JC Decaux, BNP Paribas, Tablet Hotels, TV5 Monde, FACE (French American Cultural Exchange), UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme), Pangea Organics, The French Mission to the United Nations, Green Drinks, and AirFrance Skyteam. For more information go to

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