French Cinema

The Story of Women, 1988

During the darker days of German occupation, Marie Latour was guillotined for crimes against the country, one of the last women to be executed in France. In The Story of Women, a dispassionate narrator recounts childhood memories of Marie Latour, his mother, with seeming detachment. Marie (Isabelle Huppert) is a young, neglected wife struggling through… read more »

Le Boucher, 1969

The discordant opening music of Le Boucher accompanies a series of curious limestone cave formations, and serves as a harbinger for the tragic events which are to unfold in this idyllic French countryside. Helene (Stephane Audran) is a beautiful, sophisticated school headmistress who moved to the region after a failed relationship. Popaul (Jean Yanne) has… read more »

India Song, 1975

The static shot of a sun setting in real-time on an eerily tranquil, desolate horizon is framed against the sound of multicultural voices interwoven into a curious – and strangely dissociative – chorus of traditional storytelling chants and third-person recollective dialogue. Recounting the story of a Laotian-born beggar girl along the Ganges River who, at… read more »

Nathalie Granger, 1972

It would seem logical to characterize Marguerite Duras’ organic, elliptical anti-melodrama Nathalie Granger as a precursor of sorts to the implosive isolation and domestic violence of Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. Both films depict a silent ritualism to the performance of domestic chores through stationary shots and disembodied framing, and… read more »

How I Got Into an Argument… (My Sex Life), 1996

Arnaud Desplechin’s films may be anarchic and free-formed, but they are never without a sense of internal logic and intelligent construction. This liberating sense of organic structure is particularly evident in the opening sequence of How I Got Into an Argument… (My Sex Life): a napping assistant professor and seemingly perennial doctoral candidate, Paul Dedalus… read more »

La Vie de morts, 1991

Even from his first feature film La Vie des morts, Arnaud Desplechin was already establishing a quintessentially dynamic framework for his recurring themes on surrogacy, human idiosyncrasies, and the ephemeral nature of desire. In an interview with Cahiers du Cinéma writer Jean Douchet, Desplechin illustrates this envisioned (un)structure of relational roundelays in the composition of… read more »

Un Homme sans l’occident (Untouched By the West), 1992

Adapted from the Diégo Brosset novel, Sahara: Un homme sans l’occident, the film chronicles the life of a nomadic tracker called Alifa at the turn of the century African desert as he struggles against the assimilation of increasingly hostile rival hunting tribes (undoubtedly due to the influx of western-made rifles made increasingly available at their… read more »

Captive of the Desert, 1990

A caravan lackadaisically assembles at the foreground near the site of a desert fortress at dawn, and is spurred into action by the appearance of three figures bisecting the frame as they emerge from the fortress to join the expedition. An extended, medium shot of the cavalcade as they traverse the stationary frame on an… read more »

Empty Quarter: A Woman in Africa, 1985

The untranslated, partial English title of French photojournalist and documentary filmmaker Raymond Depardon’s first feature film, Empty Quarter: Une femme en Afrique provides an early clue into the nature of its indirect structure. Serving as a silent, but perceptive, omniscient, and inalterable translator for the unseen filmmaker’s retrospection, the camera functions as a voyeur as… read more »

White Material, 2009

A textured panorama of modern day Africa’s dynamic and volatile cross-cultural landscape, Claire Denis’s White Material is an abstract and elemental, if oddly sterile rumination on colonial legacy and socioeconomic stagnation. Unfolding in episodic flashbacks as second-generation coffee plantation owner, Maria Vial (Isabelle Huppert) scrambles to make her way back home after a forced evacuation… read more »