Posts Tagged “French”

LE SENTIMENT DE LA CHAIR
2010

March 4, 2011
Cinequest 21
France
French
91 Minutes
Drama / Romance
Roberto Garzelli

Benoit = Thibault Vincon
Helena = Annabelle Hettmann

Sure, it was late, and I had been up since 5:30. And I had worked a full day. And it was my third film of the day. But holy cow, what the hell was this one all about? Helena is getting her degree in Anatomical Drawing (they didn’t offer that at UC Irvine when I was there). She observes surgeries and medical students dissecting cadavers with her sketch pad always at the ready. She believes in the beauty of the outside of people–birthmarks, scars, curves, and whatnot. She can apparently mount a successful breast examination in the shower.

Sent to the doctor because of some back pain, she somehow notices that the sexy practitioner has taken an x-ray of her, but not lower back where she’s feeling the pain. Confronted, he at first makes excuses, but then admits that he’s fascinated by a slight abnormality in her anatomy. You see, he is turned on (in the sexual and non-sexual sense) by human anatomy that differs from the norm. I’ve forgotten what her difference is, but she is not angry about a second, unnecessary x-ray, but rather turned on by his semi-professional attention.

They make a date. And have sex all over the place. Often. She memorizes his moles, he can picture her internal organs. It’s a match made in “Gray’s Anatomy.” She entices him with ever more medically intrusive procedures so that he can “know” her inside and out. MRI? Check. Surgical Scope? Check.

The ending had my audience tittering. At least those who stuck around for it. It isn’t a completely sucky movie, and I kinda get the whole “if you really loved me, you know everything about me and my body” vibe it’s going for. In fact, the feeling I got most from it was David Cronenberg’s CRASH (not to be confused with the Best Picture travesty by Paul Haggis). Where something medical and sexual combine in character’s heads. In CRASH, it was the excitement of a car crash and the disfigurement that brought. In this one, it’s how much you can expect your lover to know about your skeleton and internal organs.

I won’t say anything about the final shot, except that, though I understood the director’s reasoning, it was impossible to pull off.

March 12, 2011: Upon Further Review: I kept thinking of David Cronenberg while I was watching SENTIMENT OF THE FLESH, but now after a few days to ponder, I think I’m leaning more towards the style of Catherine Breillat. She typically takes the viewer on a wild ride that ratchets up the fetish and social acceptability until few are left at the end singing its praises. This can be rape or body fluid or murder. Some Breillat viewers only last five minutes, while others finish even the least accessible of her films, happy for the experience. SENTIMENT OF THE FLESH made a rather severe leap from realistic to plausible to way-out-there a bit too quickly, perhaps, but the themes were in line with Ms. Breillat’s work.

THE SENTIMENT OF THE FLESH.

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LORNA’S SILENCE
2008

July 22, 2009
Press
Belgium / France / Italy / Germany
French / Albanian / Russian
105 Minutes — July 31, 2009
Drama
Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne [The Child]
Arta Dobroshi plays Lorna

We are immediately dropped into these characters’ lives. We are trusted to catch up on our own. Without someone spelling out every character and every motivation. This fact alone makes the first moments of LORNA’S SILENCE compelling. Lorna is at the bank where she makes a deposit. She is married, though clearly unhappily, to a man named Claudy, whose emaciation tells us that he’s an addict of some sort. Lorna is as cold as can be to this man. What has he done (besides get hooked on smack) to make her treat him this way? We are mostly in hand-held closeups at this point–in fact, this “you are there” quality will make the whole experience of the film much more visceral.

Claudy is clearly in terrible shape. He’s looking for companionship from Lorna, trying to get her to play some cards with him before bed. She then announces, I’m going to bed, adding “are you coming?” Which throws us for a loop as her body language, stoic face, and coldness towards him doesn’t exactly spell marital bliss. Alas, he needs to get his bed roll out of the other room and she sleeps in her bed while he tosses and turns out in the living room while trying to kick heroin–and not for the first time. This sounds like every other junkie-trying-to-clean-up movie that’s ever been made, but this heroin portion of the film really isn’t important. The film is about so much more.

They live in a dismal, drab apartment. She continually pulls out her ID to tell people she cares about that she’s “nearly Belgian.” The story becomes more clear. She has married Claudy in order to get a green card. She’s Albanian. The terms of the arrangement are spelled out: $5,000 Euros for marriage and $10,000 Euros for a divorce. Lorna is in a hurry for this divorce because it will be her turn to get paid when she marries “The Russian”, a crime boss of some stature. And so on, and so on, and so on.

What if you wanted to immigrate to a new country, but couldn’t do it legally? A sham marriage might be just the ticket. But the authorities are used to such capers, so it would really help Lorna’s case for divorce, if her Belgian husband abused her. But he can’t. So desperate and lonely is he, that her occasional tiny displays of caring and compassion mean everything to him. Perhaps she’s been supportive in prior attempts at quitting drugs.

There are harrowing scenes where he demands that she lock him in their apartment while she goes to work as a drycleaner so that he can’t leave to make a buy. Even more hard to watch are the scenes where Lorna pleads with Claudy to beat her, so that she can file a police report and get her divorce quicker. But he won’t. So she’ll have to bruise herself and blame it on him. But she’ll need a witness.

Lorna seems dead inside most of the time, but her eyes come alive with sparkle during the few meetings she has with her boyfriend, Sokol, another immigrant who is always traveling here and there to pick up whatever work he can. They all answer to Fabio who has the connections, the seed money, and the gun to run the whole enterprise. This is a story about the people we don’t notice. It reminded me of DIRTY PRETTY THINGS.

If Lorna claims spousal abuse, she’ll be questioned thoroughly, but if her husband were dead (he is a junkie after all), wouldn’t that make the whole situation a bit easier? Lorna wants to be rid of Claudy, she wants the $20K the Russian has promised, she wants to be out from under control of Fabio, and she wants to open a cafe with her beloved Sokol. But to her horror, she realizes that she has a conscience. If Claudy overdoses by his own devices, she can’t be held morally responsible. But if he really tries to get clean, asking her for help, doesn’t she have to support his decisions? Things aren’t as easy as they first appear.

This film is full of magnificent little moments. Claudy’s treatment ends and he promises to cook Lorna dinner. She receives a letter from a judge telling her that her divorce is final. Claudy, though expecting this to happen eventually, is not okay with it happening so soon, and puts on his jacket in order to go out and meet his connections. She refuses to let him go and he must physically fight her to get out of the apartment to score dope to drown his sorrow at losing his sham wife. This is a wordless scene that lasts about ten minutes. They awkwardly wrestle, she grabs him, she throws his key out the window after locking them both in, and then she reverts to the only urge that can possibly challenge the need for heroin. It is an incredibly touching scene–something I won’t soon forget. She is giving herself to him for comfort, for congratulations, for her own guilt about taking advantage of him, for thousands of other reasons. No dialogue is necessary.

This is actress Arta Dobroshi’s first major role and she is magnificent. Her big eyes are perfect at projecting hope, fear, apathy, and desperation. A scene where she’s questioned by some cops is a superb use of few words going a long way.

The film unfolds as a sort of mystery. Who is The Russian, what is the relationship between the two people who share the apartment, why does Lorna deposit money in the bank? The Dardennes make us do the work in finding out. It is easy to believe that Lorna was living her life in Belgium well before we started following her. There is a feeling of us sort of happening by, the camera picking up her story by accident, though it could be many immigrant’s story.

The last ten minutes play better as metaphor than as plot and I’m not sure they’re successful. But the rest of the film is spectacular.

8.4 Metacritic
7.3 IMDB

LORNA’S SILENCE

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1967

July 18, 2009
San Jose CA — California Theatre — 70MM
France / Italy
French / English / German
124 Minutes
Comedy
Jacques Tati
#87 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

I was lucky to catch this in 70MM at the beautiful California Theatre in downtown San Jose. It was my first exposure to Director Jacques Tati, who appeared in the film as “Monsieur Hulot”, but there isn’t really a main character. In fact, there is absolutely no discernible dialog in the whole film. It’s in French and German and English, but you can’t really pick up on what anyone’s saying. It is all background noise. Hulot stumbles from place to place, first to a huge bureaucratic building, then to a fancy dinner club, then to a guy’s apartment, but here’s the thing: we have no idea why he is wherever he is. There is also an American tourist who follows her tour group around from gray building to gray building, never seeing any of the sights that made Paris famous (except in creative window reflections.) The two of them will cross paths, but again, we don’t know why. They’ll end up at a department store, in a traffic circle, and in a splendid lengthy scene in a restaurant on its grand opening day.

The film was made in 1967 by its crazy director who took two years, mortgaged his financial future, and actually built a small city outside of Paris in which to film it. He also never, I mean not once, filmed anyone or anything in close-up. There are no shots, I don’t think, with one actor only. Shots are held for long periods of time and in the background and corners things are happening. There are also cardboard cutouts on buses and in building windows and in the far background whose purpose appears to be populating the frame. At other points, live actors will be frozen in the background and only “come to life” at certain points in the scene. Not sure what that choice was about.

But if ever a film was full of whimsy, and not manufactured whimsy, like CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY or THE TRUMAN SHOW (even if you like those movies.) How a story with mumbled far-off dialogue and no plot and no explanation for why people are doing what they’re doing can be so compelling and interesting is beyond me? The entire thing is funny, but there aren’t many laugh-out-loud moments.

I very much liked the experience.

7.9 IMDB

Playtime @ Amazon

PLAY TIME

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SUMMER HOURS
2008

July 14, 2009
San Jose CA — Camera 3
France
French / English
103 Minutes — May 15, 2009
Drama / Family
Olivier Assayas [Clean; Paris, Je T’aime]

A woman celebrates her 75th birthday at her country home just outside of Paris. Her two sons and one daughter are there, as are her five grandchildren and housekeeper. She is concerned about getting old and takes her eldest son on a tour of the home, pointing out valuable art pieces and furniture and suggesting what he should do with the home and its furnishings when she’s no longer around. This type of conversation is always fraught with meaning and emotion, and the son puts off any serious discussion, but knows that he will some day need to take control as executor.

Mom dies and the siblings must decide what to do with the house. Frederic is the only one of the three who lives in Paris. His younger brother, Jeremy, works for the shoemaker Puma in China, where he’s just been offered a five-year committed promotion. Adrienne, played by goddess Juliette Binoche, is a artsy designer presently living in Manhattan. The home is full of artwork by their great-uncle, a man that the oldest can barely remember, but who the world remembers as a genius. Should they sell the house and auction the art or keep it as a family meeting place.

Anyone who’s been in a similar situation with their own family can relate to this issue. If you keep a home that few family members will be able to take advantage of, are you simply putting off the inevitable split that all families face? Should you keep it as the legacy of your beloved mother? What if one kid needs cash and another kid would rather have the family home available for use? How do the grandkids feel about visiting grandma’s house, without grandma being there?

On paper, this seems so dry as to be unwatchable, but somehow, director Assayas finds a way to show us exactly how these siblings interact. There are no black sheep, no one is out to get the others, no one is pilfering the really good stuff before the others can see it. But by the same token, no one is going to roll over and let the other two decide what’s best for them. They have three separate lives now and live on three separate continents. How will they come to an equitable conclusion?

The interaction between siblings is very honest. They kid, the get upset, they comfort each other. We don’t need them to say things out loud, we can watch how they deal with each other. The daughter isn’t serious about men, the younger brother has some guilt about living and working in China, the older brother has some anger about being put in the position to figure everything out.

There are three scenes that stick out in my mind.

–After the funeral, when all the siblings are in Paris, perhaps for the last time, they have a dinner at Frederic’s house. Wine is consumed, food is prepared (Quiche, natch), and the discussion begins in earnest about what to do with all that mom left behind. Frederic’s idea of keeping the house completely as it is, complete with housekeeper is met with differing levels of unhappiness by the other two siblings. Subtly, the wife of Frederic and the wife of Jeremy, realize that she should probably be in the kitchen instead of out at the table discussing the inner-workings of their in-law’s family. This was so realistic as to be shocking. One picks up a coffee cup, the other takes a dirty plate in. We see them in the kitchen, not talking, simply letting the three siblings reminisce and decide important things without their input. Anyone with in-laws know that they’re influence on family members is exercised behind closed doors.

–A group of art experts descends on the shuttered home and in one continuous shot, we go from room to room as the siblings and the experts go through art pieces, commenting on their relative scarcity and value, then we leave and go to the next room where pictures are being packed up and such. By the end of the film, you feel like you have some mental image of the layout of the home and its grounds.

–The teenage grandchild “borrows” the home for a party and another long continuous shot followers her as she flutters from group to group, unpacking food, changing the music, taking a hit off a joint, flirting with boys, etc. while in the background a surprisingly large number of kids arrives via moped, car, and bicycle. The girl feels every bit as powerful as her grandmother once did on the same land. The way the camera floats over everyone and notices things and moves effortlessly from room to room, not really focusing in on any one teenage participant in particular. The camera continues outside, down a hill, and to the swimming hole where some kids are cooling off. Really good stuff.

This film had no agendas, and the most important character was the house and its furnishings. Families might be destined to break up in our global world. I didn’t feel the filmmaker lamenting that fact, merely observing it.

After my grandparents died about 15 years ago, there was some serious thought to the rest of the family (their three kids, and we five grandkids) keeping the family cottage on a lake in Michigan so that we could continue to visit. But then we realized that the family was spread out in Seattle and San Jose and DC and the chances of us ever visiting again were pretty slim, especially as one big group. But the fact that even today we talk about that house, with its grassy hill, it’s murky lake water, the aluminum dock, makes us long for those days. We clearly don’t lament the loss of the house as much as the loss of our visits there with Grandma and Grandpa.

8.4 Metacritic
7.0 IMDB

SUMMER HOURS

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GOOD WORK
1999

July 13, 2009
Netflix Roku
France
French / Italian / Russian
90 Minutes
Drama
Claire Denis [Chocolat]

Dreamy, beautiful story about the French Foreign Leigion in Djibouti. Mostly wordless, though sometimes with voiceover that doesn’t match what we see on screen. Excessive and oppressive routines for the soldiers who seem to need it for their psyches. Men from the world’s different cultures must learn to co-exist and work together through discipline. Directed by a woman, this might be the gayest straight film I’ve ever seen. The men are almost always photographed shirtless and sweaty, in tight shorts, doing manual labor or Tai Chi or cathesthenics. But how beautiful they are. On a dusty outpost far above the ocean, they seem to be training for a fight they’ll never have. Their leader, who seems to partake in every form of physical exertion his men are forced to, has them doing tasks with dubious military benefit. They break rocks and march through lava-like landscape. The plot is nearly non-existent, save for a superior who asks a grunt his name and background, which gets the leader angry (or is it jealous), which leads to a showdown between soldier and superior. Note to self: don’t talk back to guy in charge of unit.

Worth watching alone for the photography and the final ten minutes which is either symbolic or literal, but is trippy either way. If you are a homosexual man, put this on the top of your Netflix Queue. You won’t be disappointed.

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BEAU TRAVAIL is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 75. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:
• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 THE HURT LOCKER Discussion
• Break
• 27:52 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 28:30 BEAU TRAVAIL Discussion
• Break
• 36:00 The Last Five®
• Break
• 1:09:43 Listener Feedback
• 1:15:47 Credits

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9.1 Metacritic
6.9 IMDB

Beau Travail @ Amazon

BEAU TRAVAIL

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AVENUE MONTAIGNE
2006

June 20, 2009
Netflix DVD
France
French / English
100 Minutes — February 16, 2007
Comedy / Drama / Romance
Daniele Thompson

I still don’t know why this film showed up in my mailbox. I obviously added it to my Netflix Queue, but for the first time, I have no idea why. It didn’t star anyone I’ve seen anything else from. The director was new to me. I don’t love Paris-based films. I don’t add things because Netflix says “I also might enjoy…” So I’m not sure what happened, it may have even been a mistake. Having said that, it was an enjoyable story about a single block on a street and the stories behind a play, a piano recital, and an auction all taking place on the same night. One spunky “amelie-esque” waitress is the connection to all three stories. All of the characters are wealthy and attractive, but even rich people have a hard time being happy all the time.

The actress in the play, feels like she’s slumming by appearing on a soap opera when all she really wants is to be cast in the newest Sydney Pollack film. The pianist would rather play in shorts and flip flops to a group of children or hospital patients than tour nonstop for rich audiences. The old man who is auctioning off his priceless art collection is trying to stay young in the arms of a beautiful woman who is open about only loving his money.

It’s good, it’s french, and the main waitress character is adorable. What’s not to like?

6.4 Metacritic
6.9 IMDB

AVENUE MONTAIGNE

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THE RULES OF THE GAME
1939

June 16, 2009
Netflix Criterion DVD
France
French
106 Minutes — January 18, 1961
Comedy / Drama
Jean Renoir [The Grand Illusion]
#3 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

A count organizes a weekend shooting party which results in complex love intrigues among servants as well as masters.

What’s memorable about this film is the complete lack of sexual morals of any of the characters. Everyone, of both genders, has a little something on the side. Some come out and say “I don’t love you, but I want to sleep with you” while others are more coy. Characters sneak off to one of the many rooms on the estate to mess around, often in front of spouses. The basic premise is that rich people are just as horny as you and me. It must have been scandalous back in the day.

8.0 IMDB
**** Halliwells

The Rules of the Game @ Amazon

THE RULES OF THE GAME

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ANATOMY OF HELL
2004

June 6, 2009
Netflix DVD
France
French
77 Minutes
Drama / Adult
Catherine Breillat [Last Tango In Paris; A Real Young Girl; 36 Fillette; Perfect Love; Romance; Fat Girl; Brief Crossing; Sex Is Comedy; The Last Mistress]
Woman . . . Amira Casar [The Last Mistress]
Man . . . Rocco Siffredi [Romance; And 384 Adult Titles]

By far the lowest rated of Catherine Breillat’s canon. She has become something of a hero to me, saying things that others don’t dare. Showing us films that others won’t (can’t) make. Admitting that adolescent girls are every bit as messed up and horny as adolescent boys. Some of her bravery comes from the the fact that she is one of just a handful of female directors with the power and vision to write and direct their own films. Because she is coming from a different perspective than male-dominated Hollywood (or Paris or London or Mexico), she makes films that seem so different from the mainstream as to be created simply for men to argue about.

This is my 9th experience with Ms. Breillat and it was perhaps the hardest to watch. If this was her sole goal, then, mission accomplished. But when you watch enough of her films, a central pattern begins to emerge. She is setting out to document the psycho-sexual inner life of women. Or perhaps, just one woman–herself.

She has shown us young teenage girls awakening to lust while still being horrified by their changing bodies (A REAL YOUNG GIRL & 36 FILLETTE). She showed us a relationship between an older woman and younger man and how his jealousy and shame can be dangerous to her (PERFECT LOVE). She told the story in ROMANCE about a man so diabolical that he stopped craving sex from his attractive wife and gave her permission to meet her needs elsewhere–his betrayal so severe, that she never forgives him. In FAT GIRL, two sisters discuss the goal of losing their virginity while on summer holiday–the pretty one requiring her suitor to promise her the stars and moon while the chubby one watches and hears everything. BRIEF CROSSING gave the woman the upper hand in a seduction over a brave-talking but ultimately scared teenage boy. SEX IS COMEDY was a rare mis-step which recounted the filming of FAT GIRL. THE LAST MISTRESS used a costume drama to remind us that sexual power, specifically female sexual power is surely the mightiest weapon of all.

ANATOMY OF HELL, however, has just two roles. One is a suicidal woman, who slits her wrists within the first five minutes because “I’m a woman”, and a gay man, who comes to her aid, gets fellated as a thank you, and is then hired to watch her and come to grips with everything revolting about women to gay (and indeed, straight) men. “Watch” is probably not a strong enough word for what she’s going to ask him to do. She’s asked him to inspect, to probe, to use her in any way he wants in order to come to some great understanding between men and women.

He will be paid to watch her for four consecutive nights. He seems unhappy to be spending his evenings in a sparsely decorated beach house, watching a clearly-damaged woman exorcise her demons.

The characters are named “woman” and “man” and they are symbols of every male and female, I suppose. Women are leery enough about their bodies and what they do and what they produce and how the bleed and how they look without having a man, let alone a gay one not interested in sex, violate them with eyes, digits, and other items. The violations are ultimately psychological, not physical, and who ends up with the power in such a rare relationship is a question I didn’t find the answer to.

The two actors are attractive. Amira Casar is pale and sexy and has a mischievous smile–though she’s usually in such a dour mood that smiling is out of the question. We are told in a unique pre-credit that the really close close-ups of a woman’s anatomy were “performed” by a body-double. Miss Casar is free to find acting work again. The man is played by Rocco Siffredi, who is by far the world’s most well-known straight porn star. He is saddled with heavy, serious, existential dialogue that perhaps no actor on earth could convincingly utter. In the mouth of Rocco, who I confess to knowing in a completely different way, it sounds better than it has any right to.

He is a better actor than he should be and in this film, more so than in ROMANCE where his main acting challenge was tumescence, he gets a chance to actually act. Half of the film is dependent on him. Though his quick arousal on several occasions doesn’t help him prove the avowed homosexuality his character claims. And if you’ve seen any of Rocco’s other “work” you’ll know that some of the acts he’s expected to do in this film, though shocking to mainstream audiences, are not even close to what he willingly does in adult fare with titles that begin with “Rocco’s Adventure In…” So don’t cry for Rocco. On the other hand, you might just cry for the dialogue which sounds artificial and stilted and grad-student deep. I didn’t buy for a minute that either of these characters would speak this way.

On the squeamish meter, this one is off the charts. Saliva, mucus, tears, sperm, vaginal fluids, a squished stomped on baby bird, a nude six-year-old, a garden tool, an exaggeratedly messy menstrual act of intercourse, an eggplant-shaped stone, a water glass, and a used tampon all make appearances. If you gagged while reading that, you might just take this film off your queue. I didn’t remember seeing earwax, tree sap, vomit, urine, or honey, which have all shown up in previous Breillat films.

On the other hand, several of the scenes (which are divided by titles reading “First Night”, “Second Night”, etc.) revolve around The Woman’s menstrual cycle, which is scary and off-putting and inconvenient to a lot of women, and positively horrifying to many men. “Bleeding without the benefit of a wound” is how the female character describes it. Men, here is your chance to “experience” the miracle that is the monthly cycle of human renewal. I almost watched the whole thing without the use of my patented hand in front of face with fingers splayed technique. Almost.

Now is The Man violating The Woman? He is clearly doing things that one doesn’t do to and with a stranger. Is she mentally violating him? She’s asking him to do things that she wouldn’t ask her lover to do. Is there any exploitation going on between the two of them? Are we as viewers complicit in the experience as we are voyeurs watching from the comfort of our couches? And by the way, this might be the first non-porn that I’d not have the balls to watch in a public theater. I again thank the inventors of the DVD.

Though there is insertion and erection and vasocongestion, there isn’t an arousing scene in the film. And, though the narrator’s voice is Breillat’s own, the character she is speaking for is not Woman, but Man. There is a late scene in a bar where Man recounts his exploits that seemed to me to be completely honest and well-played. Think about a sexual exploit described to others in a social situation. Neither men nor women ever recap the important parts of the coupling. They can’t. You can’t describe how you felt, you can only describe what you did. Watch The Man’s attitude change as he realizes that he’s describing a completely different experience to his bar buddy than the one we just watched.

The film runs a normally-brief 75 minutes, but it’s a squirm-inducing 75 minutes. The DVD includes an interview with Ms. Breillat wherein she completely deconstructs what we’ve just seen. This interview, which I loved, ran 65 minutes on its own. Which says something about the impenetrableness of ANATOMY OF HELL. If an interview about a film and its meaning and symbolism last as long as the very film being broken down, what does that say about its accessibility? This interview will prove to be an endurance test if you think that Breillat’s philosophy doesn’t amount to anything. But if you’re a fan of her work and attitude (as I am), you’ll like it.

There are plenty of films where a self-described student of film is supposed to feel some sense of accomplishment merely for having sat through its complete running time. I’ve never seen SALO, but I’ve heard things. I’ve also never watched TWO GIRLS AND A CUP or whatever that web video is that makes people spontaneously combust while watching. IRREVERSIBLE was an ordeal, but it had a purpose. I don’t think that Breillat is hitting us over the head with so many hard-to-watch images simply to see if we’ll make it to the credits. I have way more respect for her than that. I really believe that she is a singular talent who tells stories that others are afraid to, from a perspective that others don’t have. There are few filmmakers I’d like to meet, but Ms. Breillat is one of them.

She believes in the transcendence of sex. She believes that lust and deviance are marks of humanity. And she believes that only when you give up power and puritanical ideas of shame, can you be free.

Or at least I think she believes that stuff. She says all of this in French, after all.

* Ebert
D Gleiberman
2.9 Metacritic
4.3 IMDB

Anatomy of Hell @ Amazon

ANATOMY OF HELL

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BREATHLESS
1960

May 14, 2009
May 10, 2009
Netflix DVD
France
French / English
90 Minutes — February 7, 1961
Crime / Drama / Romance / Thriller
Jean-Luc Godard
#33 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

A young car thief kills a policeman and goes on the run with his American girlfriend.

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BREATHLESS is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 71. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:
• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 BREATHLESS Discussion
• Break
• 18:27 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 18:59 The Last Five®
• 47:26 Credits and Outtakes

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“Casual, influential, New Wave reminiscence of both Quai des Brumes and innumerable American gangster thrillers. One of the first and most influential films of the French New Wave.” — Halliwell’s Film Guide 2008

**** Halliwell’s
8.0 IMDB

Breathless – Criterion Collection @ Amazon

BREATHLESS

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2002

May 10, 2009
Netflix DVD
France / Portugal
French
92 Minutes
Comedy / Drama / Romance
Catherine Breillat [Last Tango In Paris; A Real Young Girl; 36 Fillette; Perfect Love; Romance; Fat Girl; Brief Crossing; The Last Mistress]

A female director struggles to get a scene of sexual intercourse on film.

**^ Ebert
**^ Berardinelli
B+ Schwarzbaum
6.3 Metacritic
5.9 IMDB

Sex Is Comedy @ Amazon

SEX IS COMEDY

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BREATHLESS
1960

May 10, 2009
Netflix Roku
France
French / English
90 Minutes — February 7, 1961
Crime / Drama / Romance / Thriller
Jean-Luc Godard
#33 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

BREATHLESS will be the subject of Cinebanter Number 71, which will be posted shortly.

8.0 IMDB

Breathless – Criterion Collection @ Amazon

BREATHLESS

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THE SWEET LIFE
1960

April 16, 2009
Netflix DVD
Italy / France
Italian / English / French / German
174 Minutes — April 19, 1961
Drama
Federico Fellini [8 1/2; Nights Of Cabiria]
Marcello Mastroianni; Anita Ekberg; Anouk Aimee; Yvonne Furneaux
#26 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The version of the list I used is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

A journalist mixes in modern Roman high society and is alternately bewitched and sickened by what he sees.

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LA DOLCE VITA is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 69. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 LA DOLCE VITA Discussion
• Break
• 20:22 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 21:04 The Last Five®
• 1:01:48 Credits and Outtakes

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Oscar Nominations for Art Direction; Directing; Original Screenplay

*** Halliwells
*** Ebert
***^ Maltin
9.3 Metacritic
8.1 IMDB Number 243 All Time

La Dolce Vita @ Amazon

LA DOLCE VITA

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BRIEF CROSSING
2001

April 14, 2009
Netflix DVD
France
French / English
80 Minutes
Drama / Romance
Catherine Breillat [Last Tango In Paris; A Real Young Girl; 36 Fillette; Perfect Love; Romance; Fat Girl; The Last Mistress]
Alice: Sarah Pratt [The Last Mistress]
Thomas: Gilles Guillain

Alice and Thomas meet on a ferry in the cafeteria line. He can’t find a seat, she offers one at her table. He says he is 18 and loves to smoke cigarettes. She listens bored. At first. His immature small talk begins to change as they watch each other eat. She is in her mid-thirties and says she is moving back to England after her husband asked for a divorce after eight years of marriage. His true age of 16 is discovered when they try to buy booze at the Duty-free shop. She begins to feel protective and when he suggests they get a drink in the lounge, she accepts. He drinks soda while she enjoys a brandy and a few people dance in the background. This scene goes on for quite some time. Maybe 20 minutes. But it’s not boring. Alice continues her “all men suck” statements while Thomas counters with “I don’t suck” statements. She gets tipsy and he asks her to dance. She feels much older than the others in the lounge, but she accepts to placate him. He even dances immaturely grabbing her inappropriately. Back at the table, a long scene takes place where a magician and his assistant perform a trick involving a woman in a box. This symbolism is hammered home by Alice’s speech about women knowing their places, etc. But something is happening that is just out of frame. Before we realize it, they are holding hands. He is bravely stroking her arm, she is happy about it, and they look suddenly like a normal pair of lovers. Just a couple, on a boat, holding hands in a bar.

He tries to kiss her, she pushes him away, he is hurt, she goes back to tell him it’s okay. He states his intentions brazenly, saying “I want to sleep with you.” Or is it naivete? She has a cabin on the ship, he only has a place where he’s set down his luggage. They go to her room. He is a virgin. She is angry at her ex-husband and therefore all other men. Her seduction was spontaneous, wasn’t it? But why is there a red scarf covering the lamp in her room to make it more romantic?

This is probably the most accessible of Breillat’s films. It’s a short 80 minutes. There are only two characters to keep track of. There is scarcely a body fluid to contend with. At no point did I turn my head from the screen. There is a realistically clumsy loss of virginity scene. The gender roles are again reversed. We think nothing of a man being 15 years older than a lover, but rarely do we see the opposite. The fact that Alice looks like Julianne Moore doesn’t make the idea any less rare. When she lets her hair down, and when he becomes emboldened (by lust or her responses or the alcohol he drinks or her beauty), they seem to turn into a realistic, viable couple who share a passion for each other.

But just because they are both able to perform sexually does not mean that they expect the same things from each other. He is completely smitten with her, she seems to return his feelings cautiously. They will be arriving in England in 20 minutes. What will become of them once they get there?

“A thirtysomething Englishwoman and a 16-year-old French boy meet, converse, and engage in a one-night stand while on board a ferry crossing the English Channel. Another of Breillat’s cynical forays into male-female expectation and manipulation, this one offering her usual generalizations about male sexuality. Leaves a bitter aftertaste.” — ** Leonard Maltin’s 2007 Movie Guide

7.2 IMDB

Brief Crossing @ Amazon

BRIEF CROSSING

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FAT GIRL
2001

April 13, 2009
December 2, 2006
Criterion DVD
France / Italy
French / Italian / English
86 Minutes
Drama
Catherine Breillat [Last Tango In Paris; A Real Young Girl; 36 Fillette; Perfect Love; Romance; The Last Mistress]

An overweight 12-year-old girl observes her pretty, 15-year-old sister’s sexual initiation on a summer holiday.

Elena and Anais are sisters. Elena is 15 and beautiful. Anais is 12 and pudgy. Elena is only allowed by their parents to leave the vacation home if she takes her younger sister along. At a sidewalk cafe, she meets an Italian law student who offers the two girls a place to sit, and then buys them something from the menu. Anais picks a banana split (“my favorite”). Elena spends her time sharing cigarettes and flirting with the older man. Anais directs her attention to the ice cream. Anais is forced to wait at the driveway for Elena to finish with her “date”. Having just met each other is no reason to avoid a heavy makeout session before Elena is dropped off.

Elena has arranged for Fernando to sneak into the window of the bedroom both girls share. “Don’t embarrass me,” she says to her younger sister. “I have better things to do than worry about your sexual activity,” Anais replies. But the room isn’t very big and the private, persuasive pillow-talk is heard easily by Anais who pretends to be sleeping, but then watches as her older sister gives in to his advances — almost all the way. The younger sister is less intrigued or aroused than she is full of pity for her sister, who she later tells is making a mistake by actually caring about the man who is about to take her virginity.

Anais declares that she would rather have her first sexual experience with a stranger so that she won’t be attached to him, thereby taking away most of his masculine power. The young caressing couple speaks often about how she’ll never forget him and how he’s incredibly honored to be allowed the privilege of deflowering her. When she says no to a sexual advance, he says all the words that every man has used on every woman from the beginning of time. “This will be a proof of your love,” is a favorite he repeats several times. Though he seems sophisticated to the two girls, we see him for the sniveling, immature boy that he is. He steals a ring from his mother to give to Elena as proof of his “love.” An awkward exchange occurs when she pounds on the front door demanding its return.

In between the sexual give-and-take, there are honest scenes between the two sisters. They vary in their sisterly closeness. Sometimes, giggling together on the bed, recalling funny family experiences. Sometimes, telling each other that they are the only person they trust. And then Elena will remark while looking in the mirror that no one would guess that they were related. Anais is an extremely touching character. She play-acts a relationship with two men using items in the pool area, promising that her heart belongs to each of them. She is clumsy and has none of the glamor of her older sister. She is loved by her parents, but ridiculed a bit by them as well.

Breillat has again delved into the mind of the adolescent female, this time in two radically different characters. One who feels wise to the ways of men, but with little chance to act on her desires. The other, unable to control her power over men–when she sees how she effects them, she seems to want to believe them.

Virginity-losing films made in Hollywood are rarely done from the girl’s point of view. And they are almost always a light-hearted comedy where the act itself is shown to be nothing like the importance given to it. This film is different. This film is better.

“Elena is 15, old enough to understand the effect of her beauty on males, young enough to feel insecure and confused over how to lose her virginity to the right person. Her 12-year-old sister Anais, on the other hand, is fat, envious and insists that, when the time comes, she’d rather give herself to a stranger. Holidaying with their parents, the girls reach a new phase in their bickering when Elena starts seeing Italian law student Fernando, whose determination to have sex involves smooth talk that may persuade Elena of his romantic intentions, but doesn’t fool little sister, reluctant witness to his siegecraft from her bed across the room. What if mom or dad were to find out? Breillat’s typically tough but sensitive study of sisterly rivalry may be less philosophical in tone — not to mention less visually explicit — than its predecessor ROMANCE, but it remains notable for its refusal to provide a facile, politically correct account of adolescent experience. As psychological portrait and social critique, the film offers cruelly honest insights. Dark, disturbing and hugely impressive, it’s made all the more lucid by superb performances from the two young actresses.” — Time Out Film Guide 2007

“It is not merely that a boy will tell a girl almost anything to get her into bed, but that a girl will pretend to believe almost anything, because she is curious, too. FAT GIRL, seemingly more innocent, at times almost like one of those sophisticated French movies about an early summer of love, turns out to be more painful and shocking than we anticipate. It is like life, which has a way of interrupting our plans with its tragic priorities.” — ***^ Roger Ebert

“An often observant study of adolescent sexuality and sibling relationships vitiated by its violent ending.” * Halliwell’s Film Guide 2008

“Potent drama from the always-provocative Breillat explores the complex relationship between two sisters, aged 15 and 12, who (like all the director’s heroines) are obsessed by sex. The older one is pretty and desirable; the other may be plump and miserable, but has her own yearnings. Breillat offers a voice to the title character, a type who is usually the object of scorn or ridicule. Features graphic sex scenes and an unsettling finale.” — *** Leonard Maltin’s 2007 Movie Guide

*** Berardinelli
7.7 Metacritic
6.4 IMDB

Fat Girl – Criterion Collection @ Amazon

FAT GIRL

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1999

April 11, 2009
DVD
France
French
99 Minutes — October 8, 1999
Drama
Catherine Breillat [Last Tango In Paris; A Real Young Girl; 36 Fillette; Perfect Love; Fat Girl; The Last Mistress]
Marie: Caroline Ducey [The Last Mistress]

Love Is Desolate. Romance Is Temporary. Sex Is Forever.

Frustrated by her partner’s refusal to make love to her, a schoolteacher embarks on a series of affairs.

A waif-like, semi-attractive woman watches her lover during a photo shoot. The man is pretending to be a matador and it’s obvious right away that he’s way more beautiful than she is. As they visit a cafe afterward he announces to her that their relationship is so deep now, that the very act of sex is unnecessary. Sex will dirty what they have, they are so above it. Sex is conventional and what they have is light-years beyond convention. She will not accept this, and with his approval, she is allowed to get her sexual needs met outside of that primary relationship.

Through voice-over, we know how much of a betrayal this is to her. She attempts to start lovemaking while in their all-white apartment, but he continues to concentrate on the TV while she concentrates on his body. She begs him to at least take his shirt off as she climbs into bed nude. He speaks with incredible dispassion about not wanting to be touched. She loses sleep over this, which is handy, because now she can go out at night and look for sex in nearby bars and cafes.

Her first contact is with a dense, but attractive man played by Italian pornstar Rocco Siffredi. He says his girlfriend recently died in a car crash, she mentions that she’s married. He continues the charade he’s always employed to get women, she makes herself even less available by telling a more strict truth. They drive around, makeout in a car, he asks for certain things to happen, she says “next time,” and then she heads off to her job as a teacher of grade-school children. She continuously wears white in this film.

The couple meet again later, and have a sex scene that is remarkable for both its explicitness and its complete lack of arousal for the audience. Siffredi was hired because he has certain physical attributes that are supposed to denote incredible masculinity, as well as having the “skill” to use that endowment on command, in front of a crew of filmmakers. That’s his body, in a state that we still rarely see in mainstream films. In post-release interviews, none of the participants have denied that actual sex took place in front of the camera. In other films, Breillat will dodge similar questions. “They never asked me if I actually killed someone in my films, why do they ask about real sex?”

While this sex is going on, Marie talks about the importance of sex to her, but again, with no passion whatsoever. It’s not clear if she even likes it very much. She is more upset at her partner’s lack of interest, than she seems to be in her missing orgasms.

Other couplings include a compelling S & M relationship with the principal of her school. This man, though old and not particularly attractive, claims to have bedded thousands of women. He listens, he talks with them, he gives them advice on literature and philosophy. Marie wants to explore giving up complete control to him. This leads to a scene that shows just how long it takes to have someone tied up to proper S & M specifications. She is gagged and becomes frightened, but not so much at the man, more at the feelings this surrender brings to her.

She is offered oral sex by a stranger in a stairway which doesn’t end well–or does it end exactly like it was supposed to.

Marie has a dream where a group of women are lying on beds with their lower halves through a little door. The upper half is bathed in white light and sensitive men are holding hands and nurturing. The other side is all red lights, lingerie, and naked aroused men taking turns with faceless bodies.

Marie becomes pregnant and through a too-explicit-for-me-to-watch childbirth, fulfills what she believes her body to be ultimately for.

Breillat again turns gender roles upside down, shows a woman on the prowl, makes no judgments about who she ends up with or what she ends up doing with these men. It shouldn’t be so revolutionary, but exactly how many directors in the world can show us the other side of the sexual coin like she can? I feel like I’ve completely drank the Kool-aid that Ms. Breillat has stirred for me. She’s not successful in everything she tries, but I’m so happy that she’s trying.

“Serious films about sex are rare, but it’s perhaps unsurprising that French writer/director Breillat should have produced such an extraordinarily focused study, as she’s been making movies on the subject since 1976. This is her most ambitious and audacious work to date. The story itself is so simple, it has the clarity of a fable: bored, depressed and ‘dishonored’ by her lover Paul’s lack of physical interest in her, schoolteacher Marie (Ducey) embarks on a sexual odyssey. That’s it for the plot. Breillat’s interest is in her heroine’s psychology, and in her steady growth through transgression, experiment and self-analysis, however painful or potentially self-destructive the consequences may be. Entailing a kind of sentimental education, the film is distinguished by its cool refusal to judge or applaud Marie’s actions; Breillat simply observes and analyzes. Not that her aesthetic is ‘realist’. Marie’s philosophical/poetic voice-over, the inexorable linear progress of her actions, and the stark, subtly stylized interiors situate the film in the realm of metaphor. At the same time, however, the very frank physicality roots it in a world recognizably our own, while the gaze at erotic activity results not in titillation but in a contemplation of sexual congress as an outward manifestation of deeper, more complex needs. Indeed, while this is clearly ‘a woman’s film’ in its point of view, the cool, detached air of inquiry, the focus on paraphernalia and emotional sophistication recall Bunuel, Borowczyk and Oshima.” — Time Out Film Guide 2007

“A movie that caused controversy because of its scenes of explicit sexual activity, some of which involved the well-endowed porn star Rocco Siffredi; otherwise it sis one of those films, typical of France, in which a woman’s search for sexual emancipation causes her to be abused by men. Finally, it becomes a twisted drama of revenge.” — ** Halliwell’s Film Guide 2008

“Notorious French film from writer-director Breillat about a woman who, rejected by her lover, goes on a sexual odyssey that leads her down some very strange paths. Novelty of sexual film from a woman’s point of view quickly wears off; it’s startlingly explicit but strangely un-erotic — and, more important, dull.” — *^ Leonard Maltin’s 2007 Movie Guide

*** Ebert
*** Berardinelli
4.9 Metacritic
5.2 IMDB

Romance @ Amazon

ROMANCE

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PERFECT LOVE
1996

April 11, 2009
Netflix DVD
France
French
110 Minutes
Drama / Romance
Catherine Breillat [Last Tango In Paris; A Real Young Girl; 36 Fillette; Fat Girl; The Last Mistress]
Frederique: Isabelle Renauld [The Last Mistress]
Christophe: Francis Renaud

The opening scene is the investigation of a murder. A man has murdered his girlfriend in her kitchen. Without emotion, he describes and re-enacts his crime with police inspectors. The rest of the film becomes a why-done-it.

We flash back to a wedding where an attractive 34-year-old woman toasts the new bride and groom, comments to a 20-something man that he’s grown since the last time she saw him, and is invited by that same man out to the garden where they sit on a bench and have a chat. The man, humorlessly, mentions that he’s dated women her age and that it’s no big deal. He will declare later that “our age difference is an injustice”, and right away he seems to be out to prove that the fact that she is twice married and has two children does not exclude her from his attention.

She looked to me like a French Diane Lane, so it’s not like she isn’t used to the attention of men. She seems strangely uninterested, but they begin an affair nonetheless. The man often remarks that he’s the mature one in the relationship. She wonders to his friends and sometimes to him, whether or not he’s actually gay. There are the early dates, the sloppy grope sessions outside her apartment, the juggling of parental duties and job duties (she’s an ophthalmologist–he made some money in his own company).

Because this is a Catherine Breillat film, there are scenes of sex which are long-lasting and awkward and vary in their success rate. At first they’re in a hurry to make love, later she requires more of something he can’t give. After sex, they do a lot of talking. We learn, seemingly, about every other person they’ve ever slept with. Again, weirdly dispassionately. They’re not bragging to each other, exactly, but this disclosure of past lovers seems to make no impression at all on the two of them.

The good times don’t last long. She’s a bit critical, he accuses her of keeping him on a short leash before she has the chance to. He misses his friends, misses the casual sex he used to have with his fellow clubgoers. She isn’t sure this young man is someone who should spend the night in her apartment with her children there. The sex slows down, the fights begin, the drinking starts, the vindictive comments hurt.

It’s not exactly a fun ride, but none of Ms. Breillat’s films are serene walks in the park. The fact that we know that this relationship will end in murder doesn’t hurt the story, but I’m not sure it helps it. We can see the mistakes we’ve made in our own relationships as we watch this. We can take one of the lovers’ side in their many arguments. We can wonder what one is doing with the other. We can wish we had someone as attractive as both of the leads are. But we always wonder exactly what could have gone so wrong for the man to kill his lover in a moment of passion on the kitchen table. Is there anything she could have done to deserve such a fate?

There are few body fluids this time out for Breillat. The man constantly drinks Coca Cola, as a shorthand to prove how much younger he is than she. He is cocky and rides a motorcycle. She is flippant with his love at first, and then ridicules his sexual powers later on. They are a bit of a miserable couple and we wonder why they stay together as long as they do.

His youth also results in the “I Love You” declaration way before we see it in the two characters and probably way before he actually means it. It’s one of the ways he forces what he wants to happen on a relationship where it might never happen. He flirts a bit inappropriately with her teenage daughter. He has boring sex with other women. She sits by while he chats up women in bars.

It’s all very angsty. But it also has moments of truth that anyone who’s been in a relationship can relate to.

“Breillat’s provocative drama charts how an idyllic affair between a divorcee — an optician with two kids — and a feckless, womanizing twenty-something leads to brutal murder. Though some may find the woman’s increasingly masochistic reactions to her young lover’s behavior questionable, the film is psychologically astute; just watch how the boy’s early curiosity about the woman’s greater experience slowly turns to insecurity and a determination to keep control. The performances are unsentimental, the tone uncompromising, and if the film ends up too schematic for its own good, there’s no denying its emotional punch or the intelligence of its dark insights.” — Time Out Film Guide 2007

6.6 IMDB

Perfect Love @ Amazon

PERFECT LOVE

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THE CLASS
2008

March 19, 2009
San Jose CA — Cinearts Santana Row
France
French
128 Minutes — December 19, 2008
Drama
Laurent Cantet [Time Out; Heading South]

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THE CLASS is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 67. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 THE CLASS Discussion
• Break
• 15:15 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 15:43 The Last Five®
• Break
• 41:54 Listener Last Five® (3)
• 55:53 Credits and Outtakes

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9.2 Metacritic
8.0 IMDB
8.1 Critical Consensus

The Class (Entre les murs) @ Amazon

THE CLASS

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2008

March 15, 2009
Camera Cinema Club
USA
English / French / Wolof / Spanish
91 Minutes — March 27, 2009
Comedy / Drama
Ramin Bahrani [Man Push Cart]

8.7 Metacritic
8.2 IMDB
8.2 Critical Consensus

GOODBYE SOLO

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2008

March 7, 2009
Cinequest 19
France / Belgium / Liberia
French / Child-Soldier-Patois
97 Minutes
Drama / War
Jean-Stephane Sauvaire

Notes:
Simply doesn’t let up from the moment the black screen tells us the title. On a frenetic pace not seen since CITY OF GOD. Boy soldiers, dressed in all sorts of costumes (wedding dress, superman, boombox around neck, top hat) roam around Liberia killing and raping and cheering about it. The true story is probably even more harrowing, but this will do for now. Women are raped, limbs are cut off, and the boy soldiers yell all the time. And that’s the once flaw I found. It was a one-note film. It is shaky cam and loud and on coke and young girls are sexual partners, all of which is well and good filmmaking-wise. But I’d like a few different paces, some down time to reflect on what I’ve seen and to get my heartbeat back where it belongs. I’d like a character to speak in a normal tone of voice. Maybe for five minutes, and then we can start the carnage and bloodshed again. And I don’t want the girl rape victim to change into a willing participant half way through the encounter.
None of what I’ve just written is as good as Jarrod Whaley’s take on his favorite film of Cinequest 19.
There are images in this film I’ll never forget, but I wouldn’t say I enjoyed them.

6.8 IMDB

JOHNNY MAD DOG

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A POLICE ROMANCE
2008

February 28, 2009
Cinequest 19
France
French
95 Minutes
Stephanie Duvivier

Notes:
Female police chief of average at best looks falls for young trainee and confuses her work life with her personal life. After a particularly harrowing gunpoint situation, a messy hookup takes place. The chief is married. The recruit is highly sought after by women. Drug dealer plot isn’t really clear. Bad cops and bumbling cocky head of narcotics unit. Teenager is afraid to talk to cops. His mother is attractive lover of narcotics head. Grandma tries to get cops to stop the drug trafficking in the projects where they live. The film tries to do too many things at once.
Chief’s home life isn’t great. Her husband doesn’t find her attractive. The young recruit reignites a passion in her. The drug story is hard to follow. At first no one cares about the projects being overrun by dealers until, suddenly, they do care. They shoot a guy at the public pool and piss everyone off, but later they shoot a different guy at the public pool and everyone’s a hero. Narcotics guy is bad, then he’s good. Well-acted and nice use of Arab-French relationships. The entire film takes place during the night shift. We never see the town in the daytime.

7.4 IMDB (15 Votes)

A POLICE ROMANCE

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ANOTHER MAN
2008

Cinequest 19 Screener
Switzerland
French
89 Minutes
Drama
Lionel Baier

Black and White. Stark. Covered with snow. Francois and his girlfriend, Christine have recently moved to a sort of backwards hamlet in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. He took writing classes in college and carries around a resume to show the printer of the local weekly paper. The man doesn’t need to see a resume. As long as Francois can write, he gets the job. One of his duties for the paper is to attend the weekly screenings held at the town’s only movie theater.

First up: LAST DAYS, the Gus Van Sant film based upon the final few days in Kurt Cobain’s life. Francois has no idea how to feel about the film. Does he like it or hate it or is he indifferent? He simply can’t answer. To be fair, LAST DAYS is not exactly and easy film to quantify. My first words about it in the summer of 2005: “I’ve had nearly a week to digest this. And I’m still not sure if it’s merely good or fantastic. It’s like watching a dream. People move about and do things without needing to push the plot along.

He comes across a magazine called “Travelling”, which is an incredibly high-fallutin cinema journal along the lines of FILM COMMENT or CASHIERS DU CINEMA. Rather than figure out his own thoughts on the film, he copies the published review word for word and turns it in as his own.

Luckily, not many of the townspeople are cinephiles and none of them have read “Travelling” so his secret is safe. However, the high-minded magazine doesn’t like any of the films that the single theater has chosen to show. He refuses to lower the bar on “his” reviews and is subsequently banned from the weekly screenings. So he takes it upon himself to drive into the cosmopolitan town of Lausanne where he attends press screenings with all the local critics. He begins believing that he is a great critic. There is an incredibly sexy critic named Rosa Rouge who is on to his game immediately, but would rather sleep with him and demean him than let his secret out of the bag.

Cue the Swiss-French sex scenes–in a theater, and hotel room, complete with chopsticks.

Francois at one point says, “I have no opinion on anything–I haven’t been taught to.” And that is the essence of the film. Francois is surrounded by critics with opinions and when he appears on an NPR-type radio show, the entire panel speaks except for him. Do the professionals really know more than the man who has nothing to say?

Robin Harsch (Francois) and Natacha Koutchoumov (Rosa) are a charismatic pair. She’s bratty and know-it-all. He’s a puppy dog with nary a thought in his head.

ANOTHER MAN (UN AUTRE HOMME) will be shown at Cinequest 19. Details here: http://www.cinequest.org/event_view.php?eid=457

IMDB

ANOTHER MAN

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THE NECESSITIES OF LIFE
2008

Cinequest 19 Screener
Canada
French / Inuktitut
102 Minutes
Drama
Benoit Pilon

Tiivii (you’ll recognize Natar Ungalaaq’s angular face from THE FAST RUNNER) is an Eskimo living on a rushing river in the far north of Canada with his wife and two daughters. It is 1952. A French medical ship anchors and the natives board it for a check-up. Tiivii is found to have a lung disease. His family is sent away as he is taken on a two month boat ride to Quebec City for treatment. His biggest worry is that his family won’t have enough to eat. “Who will hunt food for them?”

Upon arrival at the modern hospital, it becomes clear that no one on the staff speaks his language and he doesn’t know any French. His hair is cut and his native clothes are disposed of. The doctors can’t explain to him what his sickness is, but through some pantomime and the use of a calendar, Tiivii is told that he may need to stay in the hospital for two years. He is placed in a ward full of coughers, who look at him in wonder. The first meal he’s supposed to eat while in the hospital? Spaghetti. For a man who’s never used utensils.

This fish-out-of water story continues until, after missing his family terribly, he makes a break for it. He sleeps in barns, sings traditional songs to himself, and tries not to freeze to death. He is brought back and mounts a hunger strike. His dismal life in the hospital becomes much better when a kind nurse transfers a native orphan to his hospital. He is fluent in both French (“you know the White language? Yes, it’s easy”) and Inuktitut. The boy teaches him about modern life and he teaches the boy hunting techniques and tells him stories passed down from generation to generation.

There isn’t a whole lot more to the plot than that. There is two-way culture shock. A piece of raw salmon is almost giggled over, while a Christmas feast barely registers. Male-female social conventions are tested. And a strong bond is formed between the man and boy, who are both unsure of their place in a large, French-speaking city in Canada.

The incredible face of Ungalaaq is so expressive and honest that not much more needs to happen. When he says he misses his family, there isn’t a doubt in our minds. This film tells a unique story. There are no good or bad guys. Everyone is trying to help Tiivii. But he wants to get back to his tent and his family.

THE NECESSITIES OF LIFE will be shown at Cinequest 19. Details here: http://www.cinequest.org/event_view.php?eid=511

IMDB

THE NECESSITIES OF LIFE

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2008

February 7, 2009
DVD
UK / USA
English / French
94 Minutes
Documentary / Crime
James Marsh

1974. 1350 Feet Up. The Artistic Crime Of The Century.

Unbelievably compelling.

The story of a Frenchman–one of those juggler, unicycle, magician, street performer types who felt it was his duty to walk between the World Trade Center towers on a tightrope. He had previously walked on the Sydney Harbor Bridge and between the two towers of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

But the WTC walk required incredible planning, inside men, a bow and arrow, perfect timing, a team for each building, sleeping guards, fake id badges, and a lot of luck. And that was before the guy began his walk. One might ask how a film about a tightrope walk can be made exciting. I would have asked the same thing before seeing it. To make matters (on paper) worse, there is no moving footage of the walk. There are handful of stills only. And yet.

One of the many talking heads in the film is the man himself, Philippe Petit. So we know he survives. And he doesn’t appear to be speaking from prison, so he probably didn’t get a life sentence. And yet. We are riveted as he plans, argues, draws up designs, gathers helpers, and walks between the frickin World Trade Center towers.

Mr. Petit is a show-off. He is a loudmouth, he treats women poorly, he has no respect for the law. Because he feels he has a higher calling. How a walk on a rope can be called art, I didn’t know before watching this movie. But now I do. Petit tells the story of learning of the building of the WTC and believing that it had actually been built so that he could walk between it. It was designed and built so a man from France could come over and perform in between its towers. And as goofy as that sounds, you will believe it once you see it. It is somehow art. There is a beauty and a sense of awe. He appears to be dancing–1350 feet up.

As a story, it needs no extra bells and whistles from the filmmakers. But luckily, the style of the film is also superb. There are a few re-creations, there is enough original footage of training sessions and prior stunts for us to get an idea what it might look like in NYC. There are talking heads who are still angry at each other. And there is Mr. Petit to guide us in his hyper-poetic manner.

I have this thing about jumping off high places into water. A bridge in California, a cliff in Greece, every waterfall in Hawaii. I am afraid of heights but find the challenge of overcoming that fear a pretty cool thing. I’m also one of those people who looks down from a great height and isn’t sure that his legs will walk themselves over the edge against his brain’s instructions. But I was absolutely not prepared for how scared shitless I was when I simply saw photographs of the men planning their caper. They lied their way to the top several times and pretended to take photos of workmen, but were really taking photos of anchor points and such which they’d use later to string the wire. And some of these photos, with Petit at the edge of the building, caused me to shake. I can’t explain it. Photos from the early 70s cause a physical reaction.

At one point in his walk, Petit lies down on the wire. All alone. Silently. At 1350 feet, he lies down suspended between the tallest building in the world. A plane flies overhead.

And strangely, the first word that came to my head was, “beautiful.” I may have been tearing up a bit while saying it.

Just an incredible experience.

My Number 10 for 2008.

Oscar Nomination: Best Documentary of 2008.

8.9 Metacritic
8.1 IMDB

Man on Wire @ Amazon

MAN ON WIRE

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AN AFFAIR OF LOVE
1999

December 11, 2008
Netflix DVD
France / Switzerland / Belgium / Luxembourg
French
80 Minutes — September 4, 1999
Drama / Romance
Frederic Fonteyne
Nathalie Baye [And The Band Played On; Venus Beauty Institute; Catch Me If You Can; Tell No One]
Sergi Lopez [To Die (Or Not); With A Friend Like Harry; Dirty Pretty Things; Pan’s Labyrinth]

An off-camera voice interviews a man and woman separately. They are discussing a past “relationship”. Relationship is in quotes because the definition of what they are as a couple is in a state of constant flux. While discussing this past fling, they both appear to be looking back with warm feelings.

The woman, Her (because they don’t exchange names), puts an ad in a sex magazine. The man, Him, actually put his copy of the magazine into a protective sleeve, which he displays with pride to the interviewer. “I guess I’m just a romantic, ” he declares. We know where this is going, don’t we? Two swingers meet up to have sex and then stop meeting up to have sex. But not so fast.

She mentions that there has always been a fantasy that she’s never been brave enough to ask past lovers. She puts it in the advertisement. He is not a casual reader of the magazine–in fact, he claims that this was the only time he responded to a personal ad. As so often happens when recalling something from years past (she has dyed her hair black and he has taken to wearing a goatee when we meet them in the present day), the details are fuzzy. He remembers sending a photo in response, she claims to have had no idea what he looked like.

They nervously meet at a cafe in Paris. There is small talk. There are few questions. She says, a bit too matter-of-factly “I’ve reserved a room down the street–is that okay?” He is excited by her assumption. She is drinking coffee and as she finishes to put on her coat, he orders a cognac, appearing to be in no particular hurry. She goes into some small talk about being young and wanting a lover who was hairy only to discover that she’d been “hoodwinked” when they turned out as hairless as the rest. She is not being cool. He is not being cool.

It needs to be mentioned here that the two leads are being played by Nathalie Baye and Sergi Lopez. Lopez is best known for the fantastic thriller WITH A FRIEND LIKE HARRY. He’s clearly middle-aged and looks like a French, poor-man’s George Clooney. Baye is one of those beautiful women who is allowed to grow older, but remain incredibly alluring and sexual, in role after role. She was recently seen as the lawyer in TELL NO ONE. I’ve just looked up her age and if correct, then she certainly wears her 51 years well on screen as a sexually alive, adventurous and frank woman. Someone Dan Savage would call “GGG.” Why American actresses are not afforded the same opportunity is incredibly annoying. Baye has entered her most erotic stage of life. It’s nice (not to mention exciting) to be able to watch it on film.

Back to the plot. These two middle-agers, still attractive, well-read, witty conversationalists–do, indeed, head over to the hotel. The camera lingers on the procedure for checking into a hotel frequented by short-term guests. The clerk’s expression, the credit card transaction, the key exchange, the walk to the room. This is done slowly and deliberately. We arrive at their front door. They go in, but we are left in the hallway. The hallway is bathed in low-lighted red. There is natural light coming from below the door. But we don’t get to go in to see what happens. And that move becomes genius later on.

The two emerge out onto a crowded dusk Paris street. Not sure what to do to continue this “situation” and afraid that perhaps they’d be the only one wanting a second round, they are silent. They agree that, if interested, they will meet at the same cafe the following Thursday. She gets on the Metro, he into his car. They are not smiling, exactly, as they move away from each other, but they are certainly not ashamed of what just happened.

The next shot shows Her in the same cafe, finishing up a coffee, and getting ready to go. He clearly didn’t want to see her again, but then he shows up, a bit ruffled due to traffic. They have a bit more detailed conversation. They laugh a little more. To the interviewers she says, “there was no posturing, no trying to impress. We already knew each other sexually–the conversation was easy and much more honest.” I’m paraphrasing, obviously. So begins a regular meeting between these two people. Always at the same cafe and always leading to the same hotel, where by now the clerk can hand over a key much more quickly.

They recall this stage a bit differently, she says they met several times a week, he remembers it more like every other Thursday. The details are not important. What is important is how they go from a purely sexual, no-names-ages-occupations-needed casual hookup, to becoming de facto partners for each other. They get drinks and sometimes dinner afterwards. He never drives her home, and they never exchange information.

Can these two continue to meet for sex without falling in love?

One day, she changes everything, by nervously uttering, “let’s make love this time?” “What do you mean?” “The regular way” “You mean, missionary?” “No, I like to be on top, not exactly dominating, but in charge.” “OK,” he says. And this time as they head to the same hotel, they are giggling like teenagers. And this time we get to go into their room with them and see how it’s blue and white color is a happy backdrop. The scene is non-nude, but highly erotic. “Do you mind if I talk during?” she asks.

Something has clearly changed between them. And somehow between characters and we viewers.

This is one of the best portrayals of adult sexuality and love I’ve ever seen. Not Hollywood sex and love, but realistic. The way feelings can change in mid-sentence, the way people are brave with each other up until they can’t be anymore. She mentions that in the movies, sex is either heaven or hell, never in the middle. In life, there is a lot of sex in the middle. If you’ve ever stopped to realize that almost all onscreen sex scenes, including a couple’s first, begin with passionate kissing while clothes are torn off, acrobatic lovemaking with not a hint of clumsiness (no hair pulled, no heads bumped, no need to verbalize movement), a to-the-second mutual climax, followed by one of those bedsheets that goes up to his stomach, but also up to her shoulders.

We go to the movies to see people better looking than we are do things more exciting than we do, but I could do without another one of these by-the-numbers sex scenes.

This film has exactly two characters. They are flawed and perfect, like we are. They are trying to figure out how much of their hearts to give this relationship that started in the back pages of a porno magazine. Will they fall in love? Are they already in love? Will they say this to one another?

This is what an adult relationship film should be. Go see it.

6.7 Metacritic
7.0 IMDB

An Affair of Love @ Amazon

AN AFFAIR OF LOVE

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1988

December 7, 2008
Netflix DVD
France
French
88 Minutes — January 6, 1989
Romance / Drama
Catherine Breillat [Last Tango In Paris; A Real Young Girl; Fat Girl; The Last Mistress]

Lili is a 14-year-old girl, staying with her family in a tiny camper while on holiday at the French coast. The sun never shines. Her father is miserable and spends his time listening to sports with headphones, her mother is cold and distant, and her older brother is the source of sibling annoyance we can all identify with.

She is trying to get her head around the fact that her body is changing–drastically–while inside she remains a barely teenage girl. We’ve just entered the Catherine Breillat zone, where entire films are made attempting to describe the mind of a pubescent girl as she is both awed by her body’s power and scared shitless by it in equal measure. The title apparently refers to the size of the dress that Lili is literally busting out of as we see her head towards a disco with her older brother in search of–well, what is she really in search of? Not sex, exactly.

She wants to be older, to act older, to be taken seriously by older people (men), but has no way of knowing how adults speak to each other or act towards each other.

The plot, such as it is, involves Lili getting her brother, JP to get permission for the both of them to go out to the local disco in the seaside town where they’re camping. They hitchhike in an aging playboy’s BMW. She acts like a complete brat (or, a 14-year-old) and ends up screaming and leaving the car. The man says, under his breath “what’s the matter, I didn’t look at you enough?” And he’s right. She wants to be looked at and admired, but on her terms, which change on a minute-by-minute basis.

She gets her own ride by a middle-aged man who calls her a bitch when she doesn’t let his hand stay on her leg while he drives. She goes to a cafe where a famous musician looks up to see her devour him with her eyes. They have the only meaningful conversation of the film. She meets the group at the disco where a $20 gets her past the bouncer. There is clumsy passion–she encourages, then changes her mind. The Playboy and she then take a walk and end up in his hotel room where she promises nothing will happen.

This dance between the two–a young girl and a 40something balding convertible guy–is the main emotional focus of the film. Is she teasing him on purpose? How serious is she about calling the cops on him? Does he even want to sleep with her? He mentions that he no longer possesses the stamina to keep up with a teenager in the wee hours of the morning.

But the most important question to Lili is: how badly does she want to lose her virginity?

Much like the main character in A REAL YOUNG GIRL, Lili is more excited about the loss of virginity on paper than she is in practice. And she is an awful girl to hang out with. Is her youth and inexperience worth the trouble? That’s what the older man has to figure out. She feels that the boys her age at the campsite are beneath her, though they’d be a much better, if bumbling, partner for first time lovemaking.

36 fillette

Lili is another protagonist from the Breillat filmography who isn’t a victim or a seductive Lolita, but has every terrible behavioral trait that many young girls have–brattiness, boredom, meanness, taunting, put-downs, and mostly in Lili’s case, teasing–both in the childlike sense and in the sexualized sense. It’s hard to see what the older man can possibly get out of an interlude with Lili that wouldn’t be much more fulfilling with one of the many women available to him in the town. She simply isn’t that fantastic.

However, as a character, she certainly is well-rounded. Played by a 16-year-old actress named, Delphine Zentout, Lili must be both annoyingly adolescent and often charmingly seductive. She needs to be awkwardly sexual–to use her body and the hair over her eyes to make the men in the film–of all ages–believe she’s worth the trouble.

36 fillette

As usual after seeing something by Catherine Breillat, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the quality or what it’s trying to say. But I will continue to praise her for bringing stories that men can’t tell to the screen. She claims that this film is semi-autobiographical. But don’t most films by most directors include many incidents taken from real life. The difference here is that those incidents don’t show the main character in a particularly good light.

Get past the old man / young girl dynamic and think of it as the study of one realistic 14-year-old trying to find her way in the world. Thank you Ms. Breillat.

Two sidenotes: There is no bodily fluid in this film. A first. And this may be the single worst DVD transfer in the technology’s history. You’ll want to watch this on the smallest screen possible. I’m old enough to remember the unacceptable quality of foreign VHS tapes back in the 80s, so I should thank my lucky stars that this one isn’t that bad. However, ouch.

6.1 IMDB
***^ Ebert

36 Fillette @ Amazon

36 FILLETTE

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1934

November 2, 2008
Netflix DVD
France
French
89 Minutes
Drama / Romance
Jean Vigo
#16 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

“Solo Filmschool” movies are those on the big list of the 1000 best films of all time, which the crew over at TSPDT keeps track of and updates from time to time. The current version is from January 2010. My plan is to work my way down the list, watching all of them on DVD (if available), regardless of how slow-moving, or out of date they might appear at first. If a highly-regarded and serious film class is not available where you live, you could do a lot worse than using this list as a jumping off point.

A barge captain takes his new wife down river.

“Jean Vigo’s final masterpiece is a simple, slow-moving account of a troubled relationship. The film works on a poetic level, with Kaufman’s camera capturing mysterious dreamlike images of river life, while Michel Simon’s deckhand is one of the great screen performances” — *** Halliwell’s Film, DVD, and Video Guide 2007

“Naturalism and surrealist fantasy blend beautifully in all-time masterpiece about a young couple who begin their life together sailing down the Seine on a barge. Ultimate in romantic cinema also anticipated neorealist movement by more than a decade.” — **** Leonard Maltin’s 2007 Movie Guide

8.0 IMDB

L’ Atalante @ Amazon

L’ ATALANTE

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A REAL YOUNG GIRL
1976

November 1, 2008
Netflix DVD
France
French
89 Minutes
Drama
Catherine Breillat [Last Tango In Paris; Fat Girl; The Last Mistress]

The title translation could more accurately be “A True Young Girl”, it shouldn’t be read as “A Really Young Girl”.

Alice is a French teenager who goes back to her home for summer vacation after being at boarding school. It is the early 1960s. She is horrified and intrigued by her budding sexuality and the effect she has on the men of her farming community. She flirts with leather-jacket boys in a soda shop, but her heart (or at least her out-of-control lust) belongs to a skinny, semi-creepy guy who works at the local lumber mill who she names “Jim” in her head. He avoids her come-ons because she’s too young. This doesn’t stop Alice, our heroine, from a rich fantasy life where she and Jim enjoy passionate interludes at the beach, in the woods, at the lumber mill, and in his car.

Alice is incredibly curious and as she’s an only child, she spends her time walking around her parents’ farmland and riding her bike into the small town. She watches TV with her parents and has an incredible crush on pop singers of both genders. She also sees how the cute, female singer captures mens’ attention. Alice isn’t sure how to use her power. She also finds a way to pull her panties down wherever she happens to be. She sits in the surf at the beach, she flashes a passing high-speed train, she touches herself on the tracks, and she makes sure that when she rides her bicycle, everyone gets a quick glimpse of her panties.

The men in the town stare, while the women remember when they used to be the subject of such attention and scorn her forwardness. Alice spills out of her too-revealing bikini, but sleeps in a little-girl nightgown. She “enjoys” the scornful looks her mother gives her when she sits on her father’s lap for just a moment too long.

Because Catherine Breillat is at the helm, we get all manner of fluids. This one has vomit, blood (a chicken is decapitated in close-up), semen (and its female equivalent), suntan oil, urine, soap, water, a crushed egg, milk, fly paper glue, dripping candlewax, tree sap, and somehow, even earwax. Breillat never met a visceral liquid she couldn’t use as symbol. When Alice first arrives home, we linger on flies trapped on flypaper, a dream sequence has Alice tied up with barbed wire. She wants to blossom, but is forced to conform.

Her parents’ relationship isn’t what she first thought. She begins to see her parents as sexual beings, she sits next to a flasher on a carnival ride, she sees how men look at her and can’t decide if she’s flattered or mortified.

This film is a shockingly honest (and explicit) story about the awkward and incomprehensible age when a girl changes into a woman. The body blossoms well before the mind can catch up. The scenes she concocts whereby she makes out on a beach with a pop star she’s seen on TV, includes a lot of rolling around and giggling, but no actual sexual contact. It’s as if she’s trying to learn how actual adults embrace and make love. She has seen some beach blanket films, but isn’t sure what happens after a couple finishes rolling around in the sand. In her most explicit dreams with Jim, no penetration occurs. Alice isn’t sure about the mechanics of lovemaking–she’s going on her teenage instincts which those of us well-past our teen years recognize were probably wrong more often than they were right. Try to remember what you thought sex was back when you were ten or eleven years old. Oops.

Is it good? I’m not sure. I always like a film where young people are allowed to be the sexual beings they’re going to become without some big punishment or morality tale. In slasher films, we see naked bodies just before those naked bodies are killed. This is a frank depiction of a young woman trying to make sense of her feelings about her body and her urges. I feel like it should be championed on that basis. I wasn’t bored, but neither was I riveted. The girl/woman who plays Alice, Charlotte Alexandra, was interesting enough. She had to be an innocent and a lolita in equal measure. She appears to have only made three films after this one, each about a temptress. Typecasting or is this the only role she can competently play?

I’ve read various pieces on this film and I’ve seen Alice’s age listed as young as 14, but I distinctly remember a line where her mother says that she’s going back for her final year of high school. I believe her to be 17 or so. But more important than the numerical age is the process that she’s going through. She admits to being disgusted with her budding body, but then decides to ride her bike down a country road bare-assed.

John Petrakis of the Chicago Tribune wrote something very insightful: “Breillat has long been fascinated with the idea that women are not allowed to go through puberty in private but instead seem to be on display for all to watch, a situation that has no parallel with boys.”

Is Catherine Breillat the single voice for young female sexuality in the movies? Perhaps. This film was completed in 1976, but not released until 2001 due to its content and difficult genre identity. Too artsy and well-acted to be porn. Too explicit to be part of the late 70s golden age of film. Too weird to be embraced by large audiences. What sets A REAL YOUNG GIRL apart is that the writer and director actually went through the urges and body-changes depicted in the film. She has felt the changes in her emotions and body, she hasn’t just read about them or guessed at them like a male director must. This is a very important difference and why I’ve decided to do an informal Catherine Breillat film festival. Spike Lee can direct a more honest MALCOLM X than Oliver Stone could have, John Woo does better Hong Kong than Quentin Tarantino, and Breillat can honestly depict the experiences of females (especially their sexuality) better than a man could.

Someone named Lauren Kaminsky has written a fantastic piece on this film here. Yes, Lauren is female, and yes, she sees things in A REAL YOUNG GIRL that males can’t.

“At its best, A Real Young Girl deals honestly with the uncertainties of an awkward transition, when girls are thrust into womanhood without knowing quite how to handle it. Breillat gets inside Alexandra’s head almost too well, viewing the world outside of it with a juvenile’s listlessness and contempt.” — Scott Tobias.

“The theories about sexuality and trauma artfully advanced in this previously unreleased 1975 debut of director Catherine Breillat (Romance, Fat Girl) are more nuanced and intuitive than those of most schools of psychology. Alice (Charlotte Alexandra) is as fixated on her genitals as are the men who expose theirs to her, in fantastic and realist sequences that blur the line between what she desperately wants, what repulses her, and what she actually experiences. While her mother aggressively does housework, complaining all the while about her life, Alice sunbathes and flirts–or more–with her father, who’s having an affair. It’s as if she’s biding her time until she manages to seduce one of his dreamier employees or, better yet, escapes by returning to school at the end of the summer vacation.” — The Chicago Reader

5.5 Metacritic
5.8 IMDB

A Real Young Girl @ Amazon

Catherine Breillat @ Amazon

A REAL YOUNG GIRL

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TELL NO ONE
2006

July 23, 2008
September 17, 2008
Campbell CA — Camera 7
France
French
125 Minutes — July 2, 2008
Crime / Drama / Mystery / Thriller
Guillaume Canet

Eight Years Ago, Alex’s Wife Was Murdered. Today…She E-mailed Him.

Can a murder-mystery be as spell-binding the second time? In this case, yes. Though there was a single plot point that I didn’t notice the first time, which I found to be illogical and impossible the second time. I promise you won’t notice it on the first viewing. Still one of my favorites of the year.

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TELL NO ONE is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 56. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:
• 00:00 Intro
• 00:26 TELL NO ONE Discussion, Part 1
• Break
• 17:00 TELL NO ONE Discussion, Part 2
• Break
• 30:15 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 31:10 The Last Five®
• Break
• 53:45 Listener Feedback
• 1:01:30 Credits and Outtakes

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8.2 Metacritic
8.0 40 Critic Consensus
7.5 IMDB

Tell No One @ Amazon

TELL NO ONE

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LAST TANGO IN PARIS
1972

August 4, 2008
Netflix DVD
Italy / France
French / English
129 Minutes — February 7, 1973
Drama / Romance
Bernardo Bertolucci [The Last Emperor; The Sheltering Sky; Little Buddha; Stealing Beauty; The Dreamers]
#222 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 1000 Films Of All Time

Marlon Brando [A Streetcar Named Desire; The Wild One; On The Waterfront; Guys And Dolls; Mutiny On The Bounty; The Godfather; Superman; Apocalypse Now; A Dry White Season; The Freshman; Don Juan DeMarco]

A middle-aged man and a young French girl have a doomed love affair.

ON: Brando, Bertolucci

7.7 Metacritic
7.0 IMDB
*** Halliwell’s
**** Ebert
***^ Maltin

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THE LAST MISTRESS
2007

July 31, 2008
San Jose CA — Camera 12
France / Italy
French
104 Minutes — June 27, 2008
Drama
Catherine Breillat [Last Tango In Paris; Romance; Fat Girl]

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THE LAST MISTRESS is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 57. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:
• 00:00 Intro
• 00:30 THE LAST MISTRESS Discussion
• Break
• 14:35 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 15:20 PINEAPPLE EXPRESS Discussion
• Break
• 34:35 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 35:15 The Last Five®
• Break
• 1:01:10 Show Notes/Credits and Outtakes

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Asia Argento [Queen Margot; Last Days; Marie Antoinette]

8.0 Metacritic
6.6 IMDB

THE LAST MISTRESS

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Written by Michael W. Cummins