Currently browsing the "French" category.

Review: The Truth (La Vérité)

Director Hirokazu Koreeda’s follow-up to his award winning Shoplifters could not be more different. No longer set in his home country Japan, The Truth is a mother-daughter drama set in a lovely Paris house where an aging actress and her grown daughter come together for the launch of the mother’s memoirs. That the mother is played by the inestimable Catherine Deneuve and the daughter by the equally talented Juliette Binoche makes it a pleasure to watch, despite its fairly well-trodden storyline.

Review: Deerskin (Le daim)

This has to be one of the oddest movies I’ve seen in a long while! It’s from Quentin Dupieux the writer/director who brought us Rubber. In case you missed that one, it was about a tire named Robert that terrorizes a desert community. This time it all starts with the purchase of a deerskin fringe jacket. And it’s an equally absurd premise that somehow sustains itself for just over an hour, thanks in large part to the central character Georges being played by the marvelous Jean Dujardin (The Artist.)

Review: Synonyms

Based on the real-life experiences of writer-director Nadav Lapid (The Kindergarten Teacher), Synonyms is the strange story of a young Israeli man named Yoav (Tom Mercier) who comes to Paris to escape his Israeliness and meets French couple Emile and Caroline who become his best friends and more. You’re never really sure who he is and what he wants, but you’re along for the ride as he walks the streets of Paris memorizing his French vocabulary (particularly synonyms), dancing in his tiny apartment and in streets and clubs, and doing everything he can to shed his former skin.

Review: Non-fiction (aka Doubles vies)

After seeing Non-fiction, I found IMDB’s description of it to be kind of bizarre: Set in the Parisian publishing world, an editor and an author find themselves in over their heads, as they cope with a middle-age crisis, the changing industry and their wives. Whoever wrote that missed the part that Juliette Binoche is more than just an afterthought wife in this flick. For me, she was the most interesting character. Yes, it’s about the imminent demise of the printed page, and both lead men are in that world, but I’m not sure this film is about any middle-age crisis, but more about how two couples cope with infidelity and commitment. The world of publishing is definitely the milieu, and the many discussions of the digital future in the literary world are pretty fascinating. It’s a smart film, but it’s also extremely entertaining.

Quickie Review: Girls of the Sun

In our #Girlpower era, a film about battalion of Kurdish women fighting ISIS in North Kurdistan should be a slam dunk. But somewhere between idea and execution Girls of the Sun got a bit lost. Part of that may be that it is framed as being about a French war correspondent who embeds herself with this group of women and her story is a distraction. I was never sure why I should care about her. After all, the women she’s with have lived through absolute hell. The more interesting story is that of the female commander Bahar (Golshifteh Farahani) who lost her husband and son to ISIS and has a reason to be fighting the fight.

Review: Custody (Jusqu’à la garde)

Custody begins as a separated couple, Antoine (Denis Ménochet) and Miriam (Léa Drucker), sit before a magistrate who will decide the fate of their children. Their daughter Joséphine (Mathilde Auneveux) is nearly grown, so their 11-year-old son Julien (Thomas Gioria) is really the bone of contention. And he doesn’t want to see his abusive father. But the court grants the father weekend visits anyway. And it is immediately apparent that the court made a huge mistake. What follows is like watching the fuse on a bomb slowing burning down. You’re waiting for the explosion, but hoping that someone comes along to defuse it, even though you know that is unlikely. It’s harrowing!

Review: Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti

If you are a lover of modern art in the least, you’re most likely familiar with Paul Gauguin’s work, particularly the bold colorful paintings he did while living in French Polynesia. Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti explores his first voyage there during the years from 1891 and 1893. Tired of the Paris scene, and looking to inject something new into his work, Gauguin decided to go half a world away to free his soul to create. And from the paintings I’ve seen in museums around the globe, it worked. French actor Vincent Cassel (Black Swan) plays Gauguin with his usual abandon, disappearing into the role of the driven artist in the exotic world of his dreams. The film won’t give you many insights into his work though. It’s a fictional view of his life with one particular girl/muse. It’s absorbing, but also seriously lacking.

Review: The Guardians (Les gardiennes)

Most World War One movies are set in the battles and the trenches, but The Guardians takes place at home on a farm in rural of France. There the women keep the home fires burning and the crops in the fields harvested as they await news of their husbands and sons. At the center of the film is the matriarch of the family, Hortense Sandrail, played by one of France’s great actresses, Natalie Baye. She has two sons and a son-in-law in the fight, and with only her daughter Solange (Laura Smet) not enough help to keep the farm running. So she hires young woman, Francine (Iris Bry), who fits right in grows to be almost one of the family. But just under the surface of the bucolic farming tale is the horror of the war and the fear that their little isolated corner of the world will never be the same and their men will not all be coming home.

Review: Back to Burgundy

Set in the beautiful wine region of Burgundy where so many of the great wines are born, Back to Burgundy is a thoughtful story of three adult siblings grappling with their family’s wine business after the death of their father. The French title, Ce qui nous lie, is really a more apt description, meaning “what links us.” There is a very large estate tax that has to be paid and how to pay it makes the family examine their relationships to one another and the meaning of their legacy. And the fact that the older brother has been gone for ten years and only returned temporarily to see their dying father complicates everything.

Arty Chick’s Middleburg Festival Download

What a great festival! It’s my first year at Middleburg, now in its 5th year, but I was truly impressed by their  selections. It’s a small festival, as yet pretty unknown, but not for long, I suspect. In all I went to 14 films in just over 3 days. It was exhausting, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Films included here are: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri ; Mudbound; Last Flag Flying; Faces/Places; I, Tonya; In the Fade; The Divine Order; Lady Bird; Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold; Meltdown; Loveless; Darkest Hour; The Other Side of Hope; and Hostiles.