Wednesday night sees the return of the Irish Film Institute’s French Film Festival, which will see the Temple Bar cinema become a hub of Gallic culture for twelve days. We’re prone to a spot of subtitled action here at Spooool and so have taken a few minutes to put together four picks and one miss for the fest.
Michael Haneke is now European cinema’s biggest treasure. A big hyperbolic statement for sure, but consider the evidence. Nicolas Winding Refn and Werner Herzog now feel more “Hollywood” than “European”, Wim Wenders and the Dardennes are losing steam, Lars von Trier and Pedro Almodovar have become self-absorbed and inconsistent in their work (Antichrist and Broken Embraces are patchy at best) and the names of Assayas, Audiard, Sorrentino, von Donnersmarck and Petzold still feel some way off greatness. This leaves Haneke standing alone on his pedestal clutching those two Palme d’Ors.
That’s not to say his films are universally loved – The White Ribbon left many audiences confused and disillusioned but it took balls to say that it was not incredible film-making. His latest offering Amour (“Love” for those of you who didn’t finish the Junior Cert paper) is the story of two retired Parisian music teachers whose relationship changes forever when Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) suffers a stroke leaving Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) as her primary care-giver as her health and quality of life declines.
Following acclaimed screenings at Cannes, Toronto and London, this is the film’s Irish premiere and precedes a limited release this Friday. Look for our review later in the week.
Wednesday 14th November 2012 – 19.30
A BETTER LIFE
(Une Vie meilleure)
I’ve had a soft spot for Guilleme Canet since 2003’s Love Me If You Dare which saw him star opposite his future wife, an actress named Mation Cotillard (she seems to have faded into obscurity). His directorial debut, 2006’s unforgettable Tell No One, revealed a man who knew what he was doing behind the camera as well as in front of it.
Une Vie Meilleure (which shouldn’t be confused with the Demián Bichir-starring film A Better Life) sees Canet taking a lead role alongside Leïla Bekhti in a story of a struggling Paris couple who are forced apart when she is forced to take up temporary work in Montreal and leave her son in his care. The film is directed by Cédric Kahn and played festivals throughout late 2011 and early 2012.
Saturday 17th November 2012 – 20.40
Since his first two films I Killed My Mother and Heartbeats, Xavier Dolan has seen himself elevated to the position of one of Canada’s leading film-makers. What’s disturbing and incredible about this is the fact that the Quebec native is only 23 years old, having won accolades at Cannes for his debut at the tender age of 20. Dolan is openly gay and most of his work centres on issues of homosexual identity and while he doesn’t identify as a “gay director”, it is his own experiences and perspectives that pepper his work.
His latest film tells the story of Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) announces that he wants to become a woman. His partner Fred is initially supportive but needless to say the relationship soon runs into problems as society’s eyes pass judgement.
Wednesday 21st November 2012 – 20.00
Bonus trivia sidenote: Dolan also voices the character of Stan in the Quebec-specific French-language version of South Park.
Another “gay” film arrives in the form of Sébastien Lifshitz’ documentary on the life and times of eleven men and women who share their experiences of being gay in France. The participants are all over the age of 70 and their stories are sure to reveal as much about the evolution of the country they live in as it does their personal battles to overcome denial, secrecy and oppression.
The Invisibles played at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and will go on general release in France and Belgium at the end of this month.
Thursday 22nd November 2012 – 18.10
Finally, one to avoid…
ANOTHER WOMAN’S LIFE
(La Vie d’une autre)
AKA “The new Juliette Binoche film”. French cinema’s darling for the past twenty years will be in attendance at the film’s November 24th screening and is one of the festival’s few big names attending. The film’s premise is pretty interesting so forgive me for quoting verbatim from the festival programme…
Marie (Binoche), a young woman who meets and spends the night with Paul (Mathieu Kassovitz). When she wakes up, she discovers that fifteen years have passed of which she has no memory, and in which time she has acquired an impressive career, a son, and a marriage to Paul which seems headed for divorce.
Binoche is evidently drawn to roles that deal with the familiarity of relationships with the disappointing Elles (Páraic’s review) and Certified Copy (my review) both exploring the topic. Her co-star is Mathieu Kassovitz who is best known for i) directing the seminal 1995 film La Haine and ii) acting in Amélie and Munich.
This is the directorial feature debut of Lourdes actress Sylvie Testud and that fact when coupled with Binoche’s rather unusual recent roles, it may be best to approach this one with an air of caution.