Friday, March 2, 2012

Rendez-vous 2012: Alain Cavalier's PATER and Ismaël Ferroukhi's FREE MEN

Due to a senior moment of clockwatching, TrustMovies arrived at Alain Cavalier's PATER some 20 minutes late, after imagining he was arriving forty minutes early. So whatever I say must be taken with that lapse in mind. Nonethe-less, TM seemed to fall right into the flow of the film, which deals with an aging President of France (played extremely well by Cavalier himself, shown below) and the younger but-still-middle-aged disciple (played by Rendez-vous regular Vincent Lindon, on poster at right) whom he has appointed as his Prime Minister. Both men evidently collaborated on the screenplay, which has the ring of improvisation and truth. These guys seem to know and understand French politics, politicians, and, well, French men in general (and these specific examples).

The movie is extremely understated, full of odd detail and good, witty fun. If you've a nose, ear or heart for French politics, I should think you'd be lining up at the box-office now. Pater (It means father in Latin, right? And fatherly in many ways, good and bad, is what Cavalier's character seems) screens tonight, March 2, at 9:15 at the IFC Center, Saturday, March 3 at 6:30 at BAM,and Sunday, at 3:30 at the Walter Reade. M. Lindon will field Q&A's at all the screenings. No U.S. distributor is in sight at this point, but we may get lucky.


What makes FREE MEN, the new film from Ismaël Ferroukhi (who gave us a better one, Le Grand Voyage, a few years back), so initially fascinating is its time and place (WWII France under the Nazi-driven Pétain regime) and characters (Algerian émigrés, some legal, some not). This is a situation and subject we've rarely if ever seen, and it is a good one. The movie stars A Prophet's Tahar Rahim (below, left), along with Michael Lonsdale, here playing the Imam of the Paris Mosque, and Mahmoud Shalaby (below, right) as an Algerian singer with the voice of a sexy angel who has a couple of secrets best kept under wraps. Unfortunately, as writer and director, Ferroukhi tends toward melodrama as events build, some of which are simply unbelievable (would the French police so easily dimiss their contact once his usefulness has ended?)

The movie's thriller elements are mostly made hash of, coincidence plays far too large a role, and M. Rahim, practically one-note throughout, is not used here as well as he was by Jacques Audiard. Still, there's that terrific time and place to enjoy, and I have to say how lovely it was to witness Arabs rescuing Jews. Ah, those were the days! Free Men will be distributed in the U.S. via Film Movement. The film plays Saturday, March 3, at the Walter Reade at 9:15pm and Sunday, March 4 at the IFC Center at 4pm. Messieurs Ferroukhi and Rahim will be present at both screenings for a Q&A.

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