2002 French Film Festival in NYC

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ted Todorov, Mar 13, 2002.

  1. Ted Todorov

    Ted Todorov Cinematographer

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    French Film Festival Report: from Walter Reade Theater NYC.
    I realize that some (or all, depending on where you are) of these movies may not be opening at a theater near you any time soon, but sooner or later they will make it to DVD, and by then I won't remember anything about them so here goes:
    Sur mes lèvres (Read My Lips) was the first and so far best of the bunch. Directed by Jacques Audiard, whose previous film A Self Made Hero (1996) was so great, that six years later some of its scenes are still before my eyes. Only time will tell if Lips leaves an equally lasting impression, but its power is undeniable. The story of a deaf woman Carla (Emmanuelle Devos, best actress Cesar award) working as a secretary in a very bust office, who successfully hides her handicap with the use of hearing aids and a prodigious lip reading ability. What she cannot hide is her deep insecurity which leads to her being used and abused by her male co-workers. When her boss, sensing that she has too much work tells her to hire herself an assistant her first thought is that she is being replaced. She ends up hiring the first person the employment agency sends her, an utterly unqualified, fresh out of jail ex-con Paul (Vincent Cassel), who she clearly feels she can control.
    Quite unexpectedly the two of them end up needing and using each other -- Carla needs Paul's physical presence to stand up to her unscrupulous male colleagues and Paul needs her lip reading ability to rob a loan shark in whose debt he is.
    Sur me lèvres' greatest strength is its eye and ear for little details which plunges us into the lives, world and reality of its protagonists. The two lead performances are remarkably good. Vincent Cassel who some here may remember for glamorous star turns in L'Appartement & Brotherhood of the Wolf amongst many movies, is unrecognizably ugly, unkempt, down and out. Devos plays her part just right, her deafness being just a small part of her character, not some defining characteristic.
    As Audiard said during the post screening Q&A Carla's deafness was not the subject of the film. It started out as just one more just one device to show her powerlessness, but ended up as much more. The movie uses sound (and silence) to great effect, at first to show as the world from her POV and later for suspense. Audiard said that after making this film, he was surprised at how rare deaf characters are on screen, when they open up so many cinematic possibilities.
    Highly recommended!
    Dieu est grand, je suis toute petite (God is Great, I'm Not) a funny, bittersweet but forgettable comedy with Amelie star Audrey Tautou in the leading role. The plot concerns a confused young woman who leaps from religion to religion, until she decides to try Judaism because of the background of her utterly secular and irreligious boyfriend, who is more than a little dismayed.
    A pleasant diversion, certainly recommended for Tautou fanatics.
    To be continued ... (I have seen 6 films so far and have 6 more to go by the end of the week...)
    Ted
    For the complete French Film Festival schedule, click here.
     
  2. DaveCheung

    DaveCheung Agent

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    Did you get to see Chaos and Loin? I was wondering if they are worth catching this weekend.
     
  3. Ted Todorov

    Ted Todorov Cinematographer

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    I did see Chaos, I am going to see Loin over the weekend.
    Is Chaos worth seeing? You'd think it is a simple question, but...
    On the one hand it is a highly entertaining and occasionally funny melodrama. It's director Coline Serreau of Three men and a Cradle fame does know how to tell a story keep your attention. The essence of the story which includes the virtual slavery of North African women within their traditional families is intersting. There is a great bit on how each one of a families' generations in a French bourgois family ignores the previous one.
    On the other hand it is pure agit-prop cinema and it is no more persuasive than any other piece of propaganda. It's message: all men without exception are scum. But that isn't the least of Chaos' problems. Parts of the story are completely, and I mean completely unbeliveable (and I'm pretty good at suspending disbelief). It is shot in very harsh looking DV. You will be entertained but you will leave the theater shaking your head.
    Ted
     
  4. DaveCheung

    DaveCheung Agent

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    Thanks, Ted. I may pass on Choas and head over to MoMA for the Shin Sang-ok retro. There are more interesting stuff in that program on Saturday.
     

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