Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Enigmatic EMMANUELLE DEVOS: FIAF hosts a sterling, eye-opening series featuring perhaps the finest actress in all of France

You'll recognize her immediately, even if you may not instantly recall her name: Emmanuelle Devos, the multi-award-winning actress who has already, at the age of 53, graced the screen (and French TV) in some 81 roles. TrustMovies would call her an icon of French cinema, perhaps the icon because she is a better actress -- more versatile and seemingly up to any challenge -- than, say Catherine Deneuve or even Isabelle Huppert, both of whose work (and beauty) I treasure. Ms Devos may not be quite as beautiful, though she can be hugely exotic and glamorous when she wishes, but she is an exceptional performer who is always in-the-moment and never indulges in a false one.

In fact, the actress will be appearing in one of the films in the FSLC Open Roads series -- Marco Bellochio's Sweet Dreams (above) -- this coming week, as well as starring, along with Natalie Baye, in Frédéric Mermoud's Moka (shown below), which will open at New York City's Film Forum the following week.

So it is a particular treat that tri-state audiences have in store as the French Alliance/Institute Francaise (FIAF) hosts an eight-week/eight-film CinéSalon series titled Enigmatic Emmanuelle Devos and featuring some of Devos' finest and most varied performances -- in movies that are themselves equally worthwhile. The actress selected these eight films, and she herself will be present for an in-person Q&A following the first of the screenings (Read My Lips) on Tuesday June 6 at its 7:30 pm showing.

I have seen seven of the eight films to be shown and can verify the quality of each. Given the enormous range this actress has shown over the years, there are plenty of other good films of hers that are not included here. But the eight below beautifully demonstrate how easily Devos can move from genre to genre, role to role, comedy to dark drama without missing a beat. Here is the complete schedule below, with my brief comments on seven of the eight film included in italics.

Read My Lips (Sur mes lèvres)
Tuesday, June 6 at 4 & 7:30pm
35mm, directed by Jacques Audiard, 2001. 115 min. Color.
With Vincent Cassel, Emmanuelle Devos, Olivier Gourmet, and Olivier Perrier. In French with English subtitles.
In her breakthrough role, Emmanuelle Devos plays Carla, a lonely, hearing-impaired secretary who hires and falls for ex-convict Paul (played by the ever-electrifying Vincent Cassel). While she initially resists Paul’s clumsy advances, Carla allows herself to be lured into helping him to carry out a dangerous underworld heist by using her lip-reading skills. Smoldering with erotic tension, Read My Lips is one of the most captivating thrillers by Jacques Audiard, the master of the contemporary French genre film, and the first film for which Emmanuelle Devos received a César award for best actress. "A sharp, inventive mix of love story and film noir" – Philadelphia Inquirer Winner of three 2002 César Awards, including Best Screenplay and Best Actress,
If you've never seen this nifty genre-jumping thriller/drama, it should be a must. If you have, it is good enough to warrant a repeat viewing. Devos is spectacular indeed.   ....TM
Emmanuelle Devos will appear in person after the 7:30pm screening for a Q&A Free wine & beer following each screening.


Tuesday, June 13 at 4 & 7:30pm
35mm, directed by Sophie Fillières,
2005. 102 min. Color.
With Emmanuelle Devos, Lambert Wilson, Bruno Todeschini
In French with English subtitles.
In this delightfully zany comedy, Devos plays Fontaine Leglou, an anesthesiologist weighing a marriage proposal from her live-in boyfriend. While her life appears to be perfectly on track, Fontaine feels the itch for adventure: she provokes confrontations with strangers, considers an affair with one of her patients, and participates in a fire-eating display. Writer-director Sophie Fillières peppers Fontaine’s quest for happiness with wonderfully witty dialogue composed of non-sequiturs, word-play, and unexpected confessions. Full of offbeat characters and chance encounters on the streets of Paris, Gentille is a charming paean to settling down without losing your taste for eccentricity. “A breezy relationship comedy” – Variety
Special guest speaker to be announced. Free wine & beer following each screening.
This is the single movie in the eight that I have not seen, so you are on your own here. But if it stars Devos, how bad can it possibly be?      ....TM


Kings and Queen (Rois et reine)
Tuesday, June 20 at 4 & 7:30pm, 35mm, directed by Arnaud Desplechin
2003. 150 min. Color.
With Emmanuelle Devos, Geoffrey Carey, Thierry Bosc, Olivier Rabourdin, Mathieu Amalric
In French with English Subtitles
In what is probably her greatest role and undoubtedly one of the high points in contemporary French cinema, Devos plays the sublimely complex Nora—doting mother, manipulative partner, scared little girl, and independent woman. As Nora faces the impending loss of her father and prepares to marry a rich businessman to provide stability for her young son, writer-director Arnaud Desplechin deftly balances psychological drama and comedy to create an unforgettable portrait of Nora and the men in her orbit—notably her ex-boyfriend, the ne’er-do-well violinist Ismael (Mathieu Amalric) who is institutionalized at the request of an anonymous family member. "Fully alive and extraordinarily intelligent."—The New Yorker
It has been at least a decade since I viewed this one, but but I remember being utterly floored by the performances of both Devos and Amalric. Director Desplechin's work -- combining philosophy, psychology and film-making skill -- has been an acquired taste for me, but it is a taste that has only grown stronger over the years.  ....TM
Winner of the 2005 César Award for Best Actor, Mathieu Amalric.
Special guest speaker to be announced. Free wine & beer following each screening.


My Sex Life…or How I 
Got Into an Argument
(Comment je me suis disputé… [ma vie sexuelle])
Tuesday, June 27 at 4 & 8pm, DCP, directed by Arnaud Desplechin,
1996. 178 min. Color.
With Mathieu Almaric, Emmanuelle Devos, Emmanuel Salinger, Chiara Mastroianni, Denis Podalydès In French with English subtitles.
In Arnaud Desplechin’s freewheeling and breathlessly inventive film, and what is arguably her first important role, a luminous Devos plays Esther, Paul Dedalus’s longtime girlfriend. Dedalus, a neurotic, Joycean 29-year-old grad student can neither finish his thesis, nor commit to a girlfriend. Following his circle of friends and lovers into their every late-night, cigarette-fueled argument over love and philosophy, director Arnaud Desplechin revels in the chaos of being young and self-involved. “A delayed coming-of-age masterpiece and one of the great French post–New Wave films” —Art Forum
One of Desplechin's earlier works, this goofy, charming, uber-intelligent and frustrating combination can delight and drive you nuts in equal measure. I wonder, however, why the curators of this series did not program this one prior to the Desplechin's Kings and Queen, which will be shown the week previous?    ....TM
Winner of the 1997 César Award for Most Promising Actor, Mathieu Amalric. Special guest speaker to be announced. Free wine & beer following each screening.


Just a Sigh (Le temps de l’aventure)
Tuesday, July 11 at 4pm
DCP, directed by Jérôme Bonnell,
2012. 104 min. Color.
With Emmanuelle Devos, Gabriel Byrne, Gilles Privat.
In French with English subtitles
On a train to Paris, a seductive Englishman (Gabriel Byrne) approaches struggling actress Alix (Devos) and asks how to get to a church on the Left Bank. After a horrible audition and with only hours to spare before she has to return to the provinces, Alix decides to go to the church and finds the handsome stranger…in the middle of a funeral. Wistful yet forward-looking, romantic yet real, Just a Sigh is a Brief Encounter for our times, a portrait of a restless woman on the brink of change that displays the full range of Devos’s wonderfully detailed acting. “Ms. Devos, a mainstay of French cinema, suggests a younger Catherine Deneuve.” —The New York Times
An unexpected delight, this seeming trifle turns out to have remarkable depth, most of which comes from Devos' spectacular performance that delves into character in the most specific and haunting of ways. it will have you laughing out loud one minute and holding your breath the next.      ....TM
Special guest speaker to be announced. Free wine & beer following each screening. Presented as part of FIAF’s First Tuesdays. See for info.


The Other Son (Le fils de l’autre)
Tuesday, July 11 at 7:30pm
DCP, directed by Lorraine Lévy,
2011. 105 min. Color.
With Emmanuelle Devos, Pascal Elbé, Jules Sitruk
In French, English, and Arabic with English subtitles
The old tale of infants switched at birth is given intense political and religious resonance in this story of a French-Israeli Jewish couple discovering that their eighteen-year-old son Joseph is actually the son of a Palestinian family…and that their own son has been raised in the West Bank. Director Lorraine Lévy avoids the pitfalls of a melodramatic situation to deliver a surprisingly nuanced, closely observed vision of the life of two families on either side of the Israeli West Bank barrier. Playing the Israeli mother, Devos leads a stellar ensemble of French, Israeli, and Palestinian actors. "Propelled by a hopeful, good-hearted humanism."—The New York Times
An absolute must-see, if you never caught its theatrical or DVD release. You can read my complete review by clicking here.     ....TM
Special guest speaker to be announced. Free wine & beer following each screening. Presented as part of FIAF’s First Tuesdays. See for info.


Those Who Remain (Ceux qui restent)
Tuesday, July 18 at 4 & 7:30pm
35mm, directed by  Anne Le Ny,
2007. 93 min. Color.
With Vincent Lindon, Emmanuelle Devos, Yeelem Jappain
In French with English subtitles
A staid professor and an ebullient graphic designer develop an unexpected friendship when they meet at the hospital where both their partners are being treated for cancer. Though they have radically different ways of coping with their difficult situations, Bertrand and Lorraine find solace in each other’s company. But when their relationship threatens to turn romantic, both have to reexamine their lives. This sensitive look at the struggles faced by caregivers and loved ones of people with long-term illness rises to great heights through the opposites-attract pairing of two of France’s greatest stars, Vincent Lindon and Emmanuelle Devos. “[An] exquisitely observed psychological drama.”—The New York Times
My full review has now disappeared (along with all else on the site of the late, lamented Greencine), but this early film from director Le Ny is a real gem of character and quietly moving situation. Do try to see it, if you did not catch it during its earlier Rendez-vous with French Cinema screening a decade ago.      ....TM
Special guest speaker to be announced. Free wine & beer following each screening.


Tuesday, July 25 at 4 & 7:30pm
DCP, directed by Martin Provost
2012. 139 min. Color.
Emmanuelle Devos, Sandrine Kiberlain, Olivier Gourmet
In French with English subtitles.
This exquisitely crafted biopic follows novelist Violette Leduc’s hand-to-mouth existence in Paris from the dark days of the Occupation to the existentialist ferment of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and her eventual triumph as the author of La Batârde. Focusing on Leduc’s peculiar relationship with her champion and unavowed muse Simone de Beauvoir (played by the great Sandrine Kiberlain), Violette is a startlingly accurate, stark look at life on the fringes of Paris’s cultural elite. Devos brings a desperate, compelling intensity to the role of this driven outsider who came to be admired by luminaries such as Sartre, Camus, and Genet. "Director Martin Provost's epic portrait of novelist Violette Leduc is so compelling, even thrilling, in its frank depictions of female sexual voracity."—Los Angeles Times
Martin Provost -- who gave us the splendid Seraphine -- has done it again with this second terrific bio-pic, and Devos is amazing, as usual. Read my complete review here.              ....TM
Special guest speaker to be announced. Free wine & beer following each screening.


To get tickets
simply click on the link to any of the individual films, above, and proceed from there. (FIAF members, of course, can view any and all the films for free!)

About FIAF
The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) is New York’s premiere French cultural and language center. 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. Support for this program is provided by UniFrance. Special thanks to Géraldine Bryant (Le Bureau Films), Debbie Acosta, John Kochman (Cohen Media), Clémence Taillandier (Distrib Film), Élodie Dupont (Festival Agency), Mike Maggiore (Film Forum), Geneviève Villaflor, Jimmy Weaver (Film Movement), Jonathan Hertzberg (Kino Lorber), Eric Di Bernardo, Dave Franklin, Adrienne Halpern (Rialto), Adeline Monzier (UniFrance), Nadège Le Breton, Steven Martin (Why Not Productions), Olpha Ben Salah, Esther Devos, Livia van der Staay (Wild Bunch), Jean-François Gabard, Sophie Sarr (Zelig). CinéSalon is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. CinéSalon is sponsored by Air France and Delta Air Lines, BNP Paribas, Lacoste, and Renault Nissan. Wine courtesy of Vinadeis, the exclusive wine sponsor of CinéSalon. Beer courtesy of Kronenbourg 1664, the exclusive beer sponsor of CinéSalon. Program Sponsors: Air France and Delta Air Lines, American Society of the French Legion of Honor, Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Edmond de Rothschild Foundations, Engie, French American Cultural Exchange (FACE), Florence Gould Foundation, Hermès Foundation within the framework of the New Settings Program, Howard Gilman Foundation, Institut français, JCDecaux, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA), NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), Office de Tourisme de Boulogne-Billancourt, and Pommery.

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