Currently browsing the "French" category.

Lost in Paris Review

And the award for this year’s best slap-stick movie goes to … Lost In Paris, hands down! And though I’m not really a fan of most modern slap-stick, I loved this film. In it librarian Fiona (Fiona Gordon) who lives in the icy north of Canada receives a letter from her favorite Aunt who lives in Paris asking for her help, so she jumps at the chance and heads to France only to find Aunt Martha (Emmanuelle Riva) MIA. And then after losing all her possessions in an accidental plunge into the Seine, she meets kooky hobo Dom (Dominique Abel) who decides to help her find Martha, whether she wants him to or not. He is smitten. She’s desperate.

Cézanne et Moi

Cézanne et Moi offers a view of a friendship that spanned nearly a lifetime. It’s the story of the bond formed in an Aix-en-Provence childhood between two great artists of the late 19th century, painter Paul Cézanne and writer Émile Zola. Surprisingly devoid of paintings and writing, it’s mostly about the men’s relationship. There are warm moments you recognize as signs of a deep friendship but also painful scenes of betrayal. Not terribly deep, it’s an entertaining trip through the Paris art world as the world is leaving behind the Impressionists, as seen by one of the great post-Impressionists whose work was not yet recognized for its greatness and a writer on the rise.

Frantz

French writer/director François Ozon has made some of my favorite films these last few years. With The New Girlfriend, In the House,  and Potiche he’s shown himself to be very adept with comedy and unusual situations. But with his new film Frantz, he enters the realm of historical drama and shows he is equally skilled in more serious films. A semi-remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s Broken Lullaby, it’s set just after the first World War, in a small German town. It’s the story of Anna (Paula Beer), a beautiful, young German woman whose fiancé Frantz (Anton von Lucke) died in the war and Adrien (Pierre Niney), a sad young Frenchman, who comes to town having been close friends with Frantz in Paris before the war. She discovers him as he is laying flowers on Frantz’s grave, and he becomes a source of happy memories for her and for Frantz’s grieving parents.

Cinema Clash podcast: Kong Skull Island; The Ottoman Lieutenant; The Last Word; Neruda; The Marseilles Trilogy

On this edition of the Cinema Clash with Charlie and Hannah: An epic monster movie that’s thin on story but big on spectacle; a love triangle wrapped in a weak war drama set in the Ottoman Empire; Shirley MacLaine gets the The Last Word in a film that Charlie detests and Hannah struggles to defend; a Chilean poet-turned-politician gets the fictionalized biopic treatment; and not one, not two, but three French films for the cinephilic Francophile (aka Charlie). Ooh-la-la! Listen now, or download for later!

The Brand New Testament

Looking for a fun flick that isn’t on everyone’s lips yet? Look no further than The Brand New Testament. This absurdist film from Belgium starts with a blasphemous premise. God lives in an apartment in Brussels with his wife (Yolande Moreau) and 10-year-old daughter Ea (Pili Groyne) who are never allowed to leave said apartment. This Old Testament vengeful and angry God (Benoît Poelvoorde) sits around all day in his bathrobe, drinks beer, controls the world through his computer, and thinks up “devilish” ways to harm and annoy the humans he created. But his meanness goes too far for Ea, so she sneaks into his locked God cave and sends text messages to everyone on earth with their death dates. Knowing Daddy won’t be amused, she talks with JC, her statue of her brother, who tells her how to get out of the house. And so little Ea gets her first taste of humanity.

Microbe & Gasoline (Microbe et Gasoil)

Sounds like a science flick, but it’s actually a sweet little French coming-of-age film. Theo meets Daniel when he transfers into his school, and as two outcasts often do in movies, they immediately hit it off. Théo (Théophile Baquet) is into tinkering around with motors and has a distinct odor, hence the kids dub him Gasoline, and Daniel (Ange Dargent) is pretty small for his age and known as Microbe. Gasoline is tougher and takes shy Microbe under his wing, helping him meet the girl of his dreams and even exhibit his drawings in a gallery. But when summer comes around, they hatch a plan to get away from their dysfunctional families and adventure ensues.

The Innocents

The Innocents is a brutally beautiful film based on the true story of a young woman doctor sent to Poland with the French Red Cross to aid survivors of the concentration camps after WWII. She reluctantly agrees to help a local nun only to discover a convent filled with pregnant sisters, shamed victims of the victorious Soviet soldiers’ horrifying gang rapes. Co-written and directed by Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Channel) the film is a multi-layered exploration of faith tested to its limits. But fear not! It is not a downer flick. It is thoughtful and ultimately uplifting.

Marguerite

Every few years two movies come out about the same subject at the same time, and one is lauded, while the other is overlooked. I hope that doesn’t happen with Marguerite, a truly wonderful French film “inspired by” the story of tone-deaf but passionate opera diva wannabe Florence Foster Jenkins. An American film starring Meryl Streep will be covering her story again in a few months time. But it is hard to believe that Meryl can top Catherine Frot’s performance, though if anyone can… And what a character she is! In the French version, she is known as Baroness Marguerite Dumont and she is heart-breakingly delightful!

CinemaClash Podcast: Batman v Superman; My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2; Marguerite; Eye in the Sky

I recorded the latest CinemaClash podcast with Charlie Juhl before I had a chance to actually see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but I knew it would crush the competition at the box office, and it did. Fortunately, I think the expectations and insights shared during the podcast turned out to be right on target. I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. I wasn’t going to skip it. Ben Affleck (Batman/Bruce Wayne) and Henry Cavill (Superman/Clark Kent) wore their suits sufficiently well, given what they were tasked with in setting up the whole ‘Justice League’ franchise. Batman v Superman throws a lot at you in 2 1/2 hours, and you really need to have seen Man of Steel and the Dark Knight movies to successfully process all the backstory, future plot points, super-heroes, and super-villains. If you’re a newbie to the genre, don’t expect to like this movie. It’ll seem like a hot mess. Anyway, check out the podcast for more (spoiler-free) debate about B v S, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, a French indie called Marguerite that foreign film and opera buffs may want to check out, and a timely, compelling film about drone warfare that stars Helen Mirren, Eye in the Sky. And more! Take a listen:

The New Girlfriend

Written and directed by one of my favorite French directors, François Ozon (Potiche, In the House), The New Girlfriend is loosely adapted from a story by the wonderful mystery writer Ruth Rendell. But it isn’t really a mystery. It’s more a psychological thriller about a woman’s loss of her BFF and her finding a new one in the most unexpected place. It’s about love and loss and gender identity and the fine line between attraction and friendship. And it is extremely well done.