Rendez-vous with French Cinema

Eden Is West, 2009

The quixotic search for a better life in the West collides with the reality of immigration raids, exploitation, and poverty in Costa-Gavras’s picaresque, if insubstantial and ultimately unremarkable film, Eden Is West. Embodying the prototypical image of the naïve, wide-eyed immigrant is Elias (Riccardo Scamarcio) who, as the film begins, has paid smugglers a substantial… read more »

Love Songs, 2007

Christophe Honoré’s idiosyncratic concoction of irreverent humor, subverted expectation, romanticism, and affectionate homage falls elegantly and poignantly into place in Love Songs (Les Chansons d’amour): a lyrical, immediately engaging, yet substantive thirteen song musical presented in three chapters, each bearing a title from the three parts of Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Departure, Absence,… read more »

All Is Forgiven, 2007

Originally produced by Humbert Balsan before his death in 2005, Mia Hansen-Løve’s All Is Forgiven (Tout est pardonné) recalls the muted, slow brewing, slice of life implosions of Stefan Krohmer’s Summer 04 and Valeska Grisebach’s Longing, as well as the naturalistic, organic narrative and chance intersections of Barbara Albert’s cinema to create a raw and… read more »

Ne quittez pas!/Local Call, 2004

During the Q&A for Local Call, filmmaker Arthur Joffé expressed his great fondness and respect for the works of Nobel laureate author and playwright, Isaac Bashevis Singer, whom he credits as his primary screenwriting influence, and from the complex tragicomic, impassioned, affecting, and deeply humanist tone of the film, the affinity is easy to see…. read more »

Villa Amalia, 2009

As in his previous film The Untouchable, Benoît Jacquot’s sublime and brooding film Villa Amalia, an adaptation of Pascal Quignard’s novel, also explores themes of identity and fugue. This ambiguity is suggested in the film’s opening sequence, as a distracted Ann (Isabelle Huppert) – having just witnessed her long-time partner, Thomas (Xavier Beauvois) near the… read more »

La Question Humaine, 2007

In an interstitial episode the occurs halfway through Nicolas Klotz’s La Question humaine (Heartbeat Detector), a group of diners at a low rent café are racially profiled and rounded up by the police for a random check of identification papers, the first among them, Papi (Adama Doumbia), the African immigrant whose wife, Blandine (Noëlla Mossaba)… read more »

Let’s Dance, 2007

Noémie Lvovsky returns to the idiosyncratic, subtly modulated multigenerational human comedy of Les Sentiments with a more diluted, but still insightfully rendered examination of aging, identity, and the changing role between parent and child in Let’s Dance (Fait que ça danse!). Lvovsky’s affectionate portrait centers on the sprightly, Holocaust survivor Salomon Bellinsky (Jean-Pierre Marielle) who,… read more »

Les Sentiments, 2003

Les Sentiments is a richly textured, humorous, deceptively lyrical, emotionally lucid, and intelligently crafted exposition on the dynamics of love, marriage, fidelity, and attraction. The film chronicles the genial and affectionate interaction between a happily settled, middle-aged couple, Jacques (Jean-Pierre Bacri) and Carol (Nathalie Baye), and their young, overly amorous tenants, a newly married couple… read more »

I Do: How to Get Married and Stay Single, 2006

Forty-something perfume developer, confirmed bachelor, and henpecked (and only male) sibling in a decidedly female-centric household of six children, Luis Costa (Alain Chabat) – still nursing a wounded heart from his only serious relationship during his twenties (a personal milestone that he nostalgically, but nebulously remembers as his “The Cure phase”, indelibly marked by his… read more »

Me and My Sister, 2004

In an early episode of Me and My Sister, the younger sister Louise (Catherine Frot), having been picked up from the train station and driven home by her older sister, Martine (Isabelle Huppert), discovers her manuscript haphazardly tossed in the trunk of her sister’s car as she retrieves her luggage, yet says nothing about the… read more »

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