French Cinema

Demonlover, 2002

The insidious consequences of technology are similarly explored in Olivier Assayas’ ambitious, savage, and thematically replete, but ultimately unfocused and tangentially occluded feature Demonlover. The initial premise of the film centers on the ruthless machinations of competing corporations as they respond to the delicate final negotiations over a partnership with a successful Japanese animé studio… read more »

Montparnasse 19, 1958

Amedeo Modigliani was an artistic phenomenon with a distinctive style unlike anything his cubist contemporaries had ever seen. So unique, in fact, that he never achieved proper recognition or financial success during his lifetime. In Montparnasse 19, Jacques Becker chronicles the final years of Modigliani’s troubled life. We first meet Modigliani (Gerard Philipe), or “Modi”… read more »

Poison Friends, 2006

Capturing the point of intersection between the conformity of adolescence and the independence that comes with maturity, Emmanuel Bourdieu’s Poison Friends is an intelligent and insightful, if oddly sterile and empirically rendered chronicle of academic life as seen through the perspective of a loose knit group of university-aged students at the transformative stage when they… read more »

A Gentle Woman, 1969

A young woman steps off a bedroom balcony and falls to her death, her white shawl hovering above, deflected by the breeze. Her pawnbroker husband (Guy Frangin), speaking with methodical detachment, recounts their relationship in a series of flashbacks. But inevitably, the answers remain as elusive as his lost, despondent (and appropriately nameless) wife (Dominique… read more »

Mouchette, 1967

Robert Bresson distills the superficial portrait of the archetypal gamin in order to derive the indelibly bleak and caustic cinematic image of Mouchette. Hardly the hapless waif or endearing pixie, Mouchette (Nadine Nortier) is all too human: a slovenly, unremarkable, and asocial adolescent neglected by a terminally ill mother (Maria Cardinal) and an abusive, alcoholic… read more »

Au Hasard Balthazar, 1966

Balthazar is a farm animal – a donkey – born into a life of servitude: a beast of burden destined to work the land, carry bales of hay, provide occasional transportation. His harsh, often exploited existence is paralleled through the life of Marie (Anne Wiazemsky), a reticent young woman whose father (Philippe Asselin) has been… read more »

Trial of Joan of Arc, 1962

Trial of Joan of Arc opens to the austere, fragmented image of the hurried footsteps of an indistinguishable figure dressed in a black robe. Carrying a parchment into the vestibule of a chapel, an unidentified woman delivers a personal statement on her daughter’s religious upbringing and death at the hands of the church, visibly supported… read more »

Pickpocket, 1959

Michel is an inscrutable young man – neatly dressed, mild mannered, intelligent – hardly the type whom one would suspect to be a pickpocket. And perhaps, that is reason that he does it. Robert Bresson’s Pickpocket is a well crafted, austere, and taut film of a man driven by his self-destructive compulsion. We first encounter… read more »

A Man Escaped, 1956

A Man Escaped opens with the indelible image of a pair of restless hands belonging to a French resistance officer named Lieutenant Fontaine (Francois Leterrier). His face is inscrutable and impassive, concealing his calculated attempt to flee from the escorted prison transport vehicle. He reaches for the door handle, retreats, then reaches again. At a… read more »

Diary of a Country Priest, 1950

A young, weary priest (Claude Laydu) arrives at the rectory of his new parish in Ambricourt on the French countryside, and catches the averted, suspecting gaze of the Count (Jean Riveyre) and his mistress. Frail and weak from a debilitating, undiagnosed stomach ailment, he is resigned to a spartan subsistence of bread, sugar, and wine:… read more »