France

review our day will come

The French have a slur (“les roux ça puent”) that at its most basic says “redheads stink.” Some translations go so far as to say it means they stink like stinky vaginas. That’s a bit extreme (and strange), but whether due to Judas Iscariot, witches, or just a simple fear of the unusual, it’s an unfortunate fact that red-headed children are sometimes viewed as lesser versions of their “normal”-haired counterparts. Rémy (Olivier Barthelemy) is a young man who knows this truth all too well as he’s been the brunt of abuses both verbal and physical born in large part to his dark, red hair. His rage leads to a physical assault against his own mother that sends him fleeing into the night and into the passing car of a bored psychoanalyst named Patrick (Vincent Cassel). The good doctor has come to grips with his own auburn hair, but he sees both a brother in follicles and an entertaining diversion in the disillusioned youth. He takes Rémy under his wing and challenges him through a succession of awkward and combative situations, but what starts as a deviation from his daily humdrum becomes a violent road-trip that spins wildly out of control. Our Day Will Come is equal parts psychological drama, descent into madness, and buddy comedy, and it’s exactly as odd as it sounds.

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review stranger by the lake

Opening with scenes of graphic full-frontal male nudity and proceeding towards seemingly unsimulated depictions of sexual acts on occasion, Alan Guiraudie‘s Stranger by the Lake certainly begins as it means to continue. If the initial glimpses of naked men on a makeshift French nude beach act as an opening statement for the film, over the course of the runtime this frank imagery serves to remind that nudity for nudity’s sake does not necessarily constitute good cinema in of itself, in spite of the film’s many other qualities. Our protagonist, Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) finds himself quite literally flirting with danger when a trip to his local gay hookup place, a secluded beach area next to a lake, sees him meet and take a liking to the moustachioed Michel (Christophe Paou). It all seems cutesy and (relatively) innocent until late one night Franck catches Michel drowning one of his sexual partners, yet in the throes of passion nevertheless still finds himself irrevocably drawn to him. Soon enough, the cops come a-calling, and Franck and Michel’s burgeoning, uneasy romance becomes a whole lot more complicated.

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trailer dead shadows

French filmmakers burst onto the horror scene a few years back to deliver some brutal and fantastically entertaining gems like Inside, Martyrs and High Tension, and we all hoped the trend would continue. Sadly their brief foray into genre mastery sputtered out after a few generic and unsatisfying movies. Dead Shadows hopes to change all that. Far from the knife-wielding slashers that first garnered attention from international horror fans, David Cholewa‘s new film takes its lead from sources as diverse as H.P. Lovecraft and Attack the Block. The film follows a young man in Paris whose world collapses around him when a passing comet unleashes hordes of creatures throughout the city. Check out the trailer below.

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Let My People Go Movie

French director Mikael Buch’s first offering Let My People Go is a lighthearted and occasionally thoughtful attempt to tease out the appeal of the ties that bind a gay and Jewish identity together. Buch’s stand-in protagonist, Ruben, is a French Jew living in bliss in Finland, land of Tom. The reference to the book of Exodus and the exilic condition in the title is about as biblical as the movie gets; but its dual meaning illuminates the pull of these two communities. Buch wants to let his people go – to leave behind the specificity and weight of an ethnic identity – but also wants their recognition of his freedom to be a gay man – to have them grant him freedom, too. This tension is played for comedy rather than pathos, which is for the better given how slight the drama ultimately is. The cartoonish situations, broad characterizations and color-saturated Pierre-et-Gilles aesthetic amplify each narrative stroke, resulting in a satisfying if not wholly filling bonbon of a film. We open in paradise. Ruben (Nicolas Maury, who’s giving off a Paul Reubens vibe) is a postman in the Finnish countryside, delivering packages in a postcard town and at night retreating to a cabin in the woods with his Nordic lover Teemu (Jarkko Niemi). The Parisian nebbish has smartly fled his stifling family existence in France for the more appealing prospects of a degree in Comparative Sauna Cultures from a robust social-democratic state and the affections of a blond lunk. The idyll cannot last, of course. Three days before Passover, Ruben delivers a package containing a large amount of Euros […]

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Foreign Objects - Large

Francis (André Dussollier) is a French mystery writer looking for a place to work on his new novel. He sets his sights on a small island off the coast of Venice, but when he falls for Judith (Carole Bouquet) the real estate agent he tells her he’ll only take the house if she agrees to move in with him. Many months later the two are married, and while she boats back and forth to Venice each day for work he spends the solitary afternoons struggling with writer’s block. Things take a darker turn when his adult daughter, Alice (Mélanie Thierry), arrives with her own daughter for a visit then promptly disappears. Worried, he hires a retired private eye and ex-lover of Judith’s named Anna Maria (Andriani Asti) to help find her. His actions take a toll on his relationship, and he hires Anna Maria’s ex-convict son, Jérémie (Mauro Conte), to spy on Judith and confirm his suspicions of infidelity. There’s also an aristocratic, drug-dealing teenager and a gay, dog-killing vigilante. Got all that? Good. Now go ahead and forget it all, because pretty much none of it matters to the filmmakers behind Unforgivable so it really shouldn’t matter to you.

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Editor’s note: Farewell, My Queen is opening in limited theaters this week, so please enjoy this re-run of our review from the Berlin Film Festival, originally posted on February 9, 2012. The realm of 18th century France is a dusty one. Period dramas, especially lofty costume dramas, are so numerous that you can barely toss a powdered wig without hitting one. With Farewell, My Queen (Les Adieux à la Reine), writer/director Benoît Jacquot tears off the wig, pulls down the drapes and sets fire to both. The wonderfully un-stuffy film stars and is told through the eyes of Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux) who acts as a cipher for the manic last few days of Marie Antoinette’s (Diane Kruger) reign in the late 1700s. It’s Laborde’s story, meaning it’s the story of a voyeur who watches from doorjambs as the business of being extravagantly wealthy and powerful becomes not only meaningless, but fatal.

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Foreign Objects - Large

David Rousseau (Jean-Paul Rouve) is a successful mystery writer who’s come to the coldest place in France for the reading of his uncle’s will. The 400-mile drive seems at first to have been in vain as his only inheritance is a stuffed dog named Toby, but when a beautiful blonde is discovered dead in the snow, Rousseau finds a more compelling reason to stay in town. Candice Lecoeur (Sophie Quinton) was a local celebrity who dreamed of bigger things but found her greatest success as a frequently nude spokesmodel for a popular cheese company. Her death sparks Rousseau’s curiosity with the hope that it might also help him break through his writer’s block, and as he reads her journals the film flashes back to reveal a woman in flux. Lecoeur modeled the last few years of her life on an infamous blonde bombshell with whom she felt great affinity, and as Rousseau digs deeper he suspects her death may have followed suit. Nobody Else But You is an alternately fun, suspenseful and sad mystery, but it’s interested in more than simply who may or may not have had a hand in Lecoeur’s demise. It’s about the paths we choose and the ones life chooses for us. Who we are and who we want to be are rarely the same thing, and the divide between them is sometimes filled with regret, a loss of identity and naked firemen.

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The Coroner

If you’re going to set your horror/thriller in a single building you can do far worse than an insane asylum. The inmates add an automatic degree of creepiness and uncertainty to the proceedings that most other locations can’t match. From Asylum to Shutter Island, from Alone In the Dark to Patch Adams, these are inherently frightening movies made scarier by the wackos roaming the halls. Which brings us to The Incident. But since that title apparently didn’t catch on after its TIFF premiere it’s been renamed to the very literal (yet nonsensical) Asylum Blackout. A trio of friends trying to make it as a band earn their living as cooks at a remote asylum for the criminally insane. They cook and serve meals from beyond a large and secure plexiglass window, but when the power goes out one night the institution’s electronic locks and security system all fail releasing the inmates from their cells. The cooks and a handful of guards are quickly trapped within the bowels of the windowless nuthouse as all hell breaks loose around them.

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Foreign Objects - Large

Delicacy begins with a subtle nod to When a Man Loves a Woman‘s opening as a young man named Francois watches a beautiful woman enter and sit down. As the waiter approaches her Francois makes a mental prediction as to her order, and if he gets it right he promises himself that he’ll work up the courage to approach and talk to her. He does, and soon the two are embracing outside. They were simply re-enacting their meeting, playing the roles of strangers on the cusp of a romance, but in reality they’re already deeply in love. Their parents occasionally pester them for grandchildren, but Francois (Pio Marmai) and Nathalie (Audrey Tautou) put plans for a baby on hold “for when they’re talked out.” They’re happy and content and looking forward to a full future. But when he’s struck and killed by a car, Nathalie is forced to continue on without him. Or at least try to. She blocks out friendly attempts to help her, throws his belongings into the trash and rushes back to work sooner than expected. Her career becomes her sole focus, and a few years later she’s heading up large projects at work and still romantically unattached despite the best efforts of her impassioned but somewhat smarmy boss. And then the giant Swede walks through the door.

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Foreign Objects - Large

There are few things in life as devastating and traumatic as having to watch your child confront a life-threatening illness. I assume so anyway. My own kids were booted out of the house at the age of seven in the hopes that they would go make something of themselves, so they may have already kicked the bucket for all I know. But from what I understand a deathly ill child is an all around terrible experience. Romeo and Juliette learn this first hand after they meet, make sweet love, give birth to their son Adam nine months later, and soon begin to take serious notice of his behavior. He’s vomiting more than would be considered normal, his head has a constant tilt, and one side of his face seems slightly swollen. Upon their first meeting they joked incredulously about their names commenting that they’re most likely doomed to a terrible fate, but their child’s health is not a tragedy they had considered. Now the two twenty-somethings who signed up for little beyond a casual but loving relationship find themselves in the trenches of a fight for their son’s life. But unlike most films on the subject Declaration of War is uninterested in a melodramatic or treacly narrative. This is a film about hope, optimism and the unwavering love of a parent for their child. This is war.

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A little over a year after jailing and banning their most famous filmmaker from making movies, Iran might win an Academy Award for Best Picture. It would be a first for the nation whose government seems to strongly dislike creativity and freedom of speech, but its entry this year, A Separation, almost seems like a sure thing. Come February, writer/director Asghar Farhadi and Iran might be standing on the winner’s podium. But it’s not a done deal yet. A Separation and 8 other films were announced last week as part of the Oscar shortlist – just one step away from becoming an official nominee. They include a Danish comedy set in Argentina, a masculine drama about the underground world of illegal bovine growth hormones in Belgium, and something marvelous from Wim Wenders. It’s, to say the least, a varied group. Except that almost all of them are dramas from writer/directors.  So, yeah. Subject matter-wise though, it’s a full spectrum. The final 5 will be announced tomorrow morning, but here first are the trailers from each of the 9 shortlisted movies from far off lands (like Canada):

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Criterion Files

One major misconception about Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy is that the films were originally and uniquely conceived as French films, reflecting the color of the nation’s flag through the color scheme of each film and embodying themes which based upon the motto of the French Republic: liberty (Blue), equality (White), and fraternity (Red). But Kieslowski was insistent upon the fact that the stories would have remained the same no matter the national context. The framing of these films through thematics and aesthetics tied to the French flag, the director states, arose as a matter of the trilogy’s source of funding. Thus, the thread which defines the trilogy was a creative accommodation to the circumstances of the film’s production. Kieslowski’s vision for these films, then, was firm, but not rigid – the particular details of this trilogy were not predestined or set in stone. This fact frees the viewer from seeing the themes explored in the Three Colors trilogy as predominately or uniformly based within a national and cultural context. Yes, there are aspects of the brilliant Blue (1993) that are indisputably French, or at least Western European (it’s hard to imagine Americans mourning a contemporary classical composer as a national treasure), but the rather arbitrary circumstances in which the film’s production reflective in the trilogy’s connective framework allows for these themes to permeate well beyond the borders of France itself.

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The global recession we currently find ourselves in has many causes, but one of the more obvious ones has to do with the machinations and maneuverings of the men and women who work in the financial market. Movies like the recent Margin Call and Wall Street sequel used this environment for fast paced financial drama (with varying success), but that’s not the only genre the crisis can intrude upon. Perhaps there’s a bit of romance and a few laughs to be found amidst the greed, depression, and suffering too. That was apparently the hope anyway with the new French film, My Piece of the Pie, but the end results are anything but humorous or romantic. They’re not even all that dramatic. Hell, the ending isn’t even an ending.

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There is definitely something going on in France. The last decade or so has seen an incredible surge in genre film from the land of Vincent Cassel, with films like Inside, Martyrs, Frontiers and more all making there way to our shores. While Calibre 9 is much more goofy and playful than those more extreme horror films, it’s hard to imagine this film getting made if those films hadn’t come before to pave the way. Calibre 9 is a film about a city planner who finds a gun which is possessed by the soul of a dead hooker. Yes, that’s really what it’s about. Sarah (Nathalie Hauwelle) is the hooker in question, a pretty girl who fell into the life and has been struggling for years to pull herself out. She’s scheduled one last job with an eccentric but high-paying customer, after which she’ll have enough money to leave her pimp, Frank. But when Frank shows up unexpectedly with the customer getting ready in the next room, Sarah’s plans start to circle the drain. A misunderstanding escalates, Frank pulls a gun, and they both end up dead. When the mysterious customer discovers the scene, he gives Sarah the second chance she so badly wanted.

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There are pros and cons to making a kick-ass, critically acclaimed film for your debut feature. On the plus side, well, you made a fantastic movie. But then you have to follow it up and prove it wasn’t just a fluke. Just ask Richard Kelly, Kevin Costner, or Rian Johnson what it feels like when that effort fails. And now French directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury have joined that sad walk of shame with the release of their follow-up to the brilliant and brutal thriller, Inside. That film features two women, one pregnant and the other psychotic, battling to the death in the mother-to-be’s home. It’s terrifying, exciting, surprising, and shocking… everything that their follow-up isn’t.

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We have to hand it to the folks at Indominia — for a newish on the scene distro, they are picking a wicked slate of titles. So much of what we’ve seen from them has been interesting. That, and we’ll support anyone who imports as much international cinema as they do. The Pack, which hits VOD today (9/27), is right along those lines. It’s a French horror film about a gal named Charlotte, who picks up a hitchhiker on a road trip she’s taking alone. As 100+ years of cinema have taught us, this is a bad idea. When we meet Charlotte in this clip, she’s been captured by a woman named La Spack, played by the always excellent Yolande Moreau. This hard-nosed old dame is the leader of a mysterious pack and they’ve got plans for young Charlotte. We’ll let you watch the clip from this Franck Richard directed film and you’ll see what’s in store for her.

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Being middle class in a first world country is a tough racket. You just can’t ever get where you want to be. You know, buying the things you want, taking the vacations to placed you’d like to see, driving fancy cars and eating fine foods. For the middle class, there’s always an eye to something better — and in most stories like this, there’s little appreciation for what one has until it all comes crashing down. Such is the tale of Borderline, a French dark comedy about a family that looks a little too far to the sky when opportunity comes their way, only to have it all come back to haunt them.

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It shouldn’t have to be this way, but the summer movie-going season is generally known far more for big, bombastic spectacles than for smart, affecting character-based films. That’s not a knock on blockbusters as there were actually quite a few good ones in theaters the past few months, but it’s more an unfortunate commentary on how the smaller films are often lost in the shuffle of May to July if they’re even released at all. But August is the month where explosions and CGI slowly give way to dialogue and character, and it’s here where an intimate look at life, death, and defying expectations just might find the audience it deserves. Paloma (Garance Le Guillermic) has had enough. She’s only eleven years old, but she’s already had her fill of life’s absurdities thanks to a family that annoys far more than they enrich. Her mother (Anne Brochet) is happily celebrating ten years of therapy (and the subsequent stream of anti-depressants), her father (Wladimir Yordanoff) moves seamlessly between being flustered and disinterested, and her older sister (Sarah Lepicard) is doing her best to make her little sister’s life miserable. The building’s concierge/janitor, Renée Michel (Josiane Balasko), is a frumpy-looking woman who has very little patience for the bullshit emanating from her wealthy tenants. She’s a tool to them and nothing more, and while they most likely wouldn’t be able to pick her out of a lineup she’s actually harboring a rich interior life that she shares with no one. She finds […]

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Junkfood Cinema

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema, the weekly feature with that certain je ne sais quoi. No, wait, je sais afterall! That quoi is the nostril singing aroma of fried foods and stale Funyuns. If that’s what you smell too, then you’re in the right place. With the eyes of the film world on France for the annual wine festival armpit hair growing festival Nazi joke festival Cannes Film Festival, we here at Junkfood Cinema decided to set our sights on that classy nation as well. And by “we” I mean I, and by “decided” I mean your regular host, the Duke of Salisbury, is passed out on the floor again. He says it’s another diabetic coma, but I know he’s just faking it. Besides, we all know that diabetes is just a lie the vegans made up to keep us away from things that taste good. As always, I’ve selected a film of somewhat dubious quality but high entertainment value. I’ll begin by smashing it to bits and then taking the bits and smashing those into smithereens, but then I’ll pick up the broken pieces and lovingly put it back together with wood glue and duct tape. As if that weren’t enough, I’ll provide you with a delicious snack to stuff in your gaping maw, satisfying your cravings for bloodshed and trans-fatty hydrogenated oils. Anyway, France! They love food almost as much as we do, and, thanks in large part to guys like Jean-Pierre Melville and Luc Besson, they love […]

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Culture Warrior

Yesterday the Twittersphere (a place where topics are only discussed in rational proportions) was abuzz with the news that Terrence Malick’s long-awaited magnum opus Tree of Life was booed at its Cannes premiere. While the reaction to Malick’s latest will no doubt continue to be at least as divisive and polarized as his previous work has been, for many Malick fans the news of the boos only perpetuated more interest in the film, and for many Malick non-fans the boos signaled an affirmation of what they’ve long-seen as lacking in his work. (Just to clarify, there was also reported applause, counter-applause, and counter-booing at the screening.) Booing at Cannes has a long history, and can even be considered a tradition. It seems that every year some title is booed, and such a event often only creates more buzz around the film. There’s no formula for what happens to a booed film at Cannes: sometimes history proves that the booed film was ahead of its time, sometimes booing either precedes negative critical reactions that follow or reflect the film’s divisiveness during its commercial release. Booed films often win awards. If there is one aspect connecting almost all booed films at Cannes, it’s that the films are challenging. I mean challenging as a descriptor that gives no indication of quality (much like I consider the term “slow”), but films that receive boos at the festival challenge their audiences or the parameters of the medium in one way or another, for better or […]

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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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