A man who thinks he’s found an easy ride through the Army during World War I has his world turned upside down when facial injuries render him unrecognizable in this wartime drama. In the summer of 1914, Adrien Fournier (Eric Caravaca) is an engineer conscripted into the French Army, where he is made a lieutenant and assigned to join a group of soldiers helping to design and build a bridge to move troops near the front lines. While scouting a suitable location for the bridge, Fournier and his fellows are caught in the middle of an attack, and a shell explodes in his face. Fournier survives the attack, but while his limbs and his body suffer only minimal damage, his face is torn to shreds — only landing in the mud prevents him from bleeding to death (the dried muck seals off a number of key blood vessels severed by the blast). It is some time before Fournier can be moved to an Army hospital, and he cannot talk through his ruined mouth, communicating with notes scratched onto a small chalkboard. Fournier finds himself in a special hospital wing for officers who’ve suffered severe injuries (a relatively comfortable area a good bit different from the crowded and spartan wards for common foot soldiers), and as a dedicated surgeon (Andre Dussollier) struggles to rebuild Fournier’s face with the primitive means available to him, the once-handsome engineer ponders an uncertain future. Commiserating with Fournier are Alain (Jean-Michel Portal), his best friend from college; Pierre (Gregori Derangere) and Henri (Denis Podalydes), a pair of fellow officers also suffering facial injuries; and Anais (Sabine Azema), a patient and warm-hearted nurse who brings hope to the hospital’s most severely injured men. La Chambre Des Officiers was screened in competition at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival.
Alain Resnais demonstrates he still has plenty to say in this drama based on a novel by Christian Gailly. Marguerite (Sabine Azéma) is a successful dentist with a busy practice and an offbeat hobby, flying small airplanes. One day, while running errands, Marguerite loses her wallet, and it’s found by Georges (André Dussollier), a seemingly happy man with a wife, Suzanne (Anne Consigny), and two children (Vladimir Consigny and Sara Forestier). As Georges looks through the wallet and examines the photos of Marguerite, he finds he’s fascinated with her and her life, and soon his curiosity about her becomes an obsession. Georges’ attempts to integrate himself into Marguerite’s life begin to alarm her, and she hires a private security team (Mathieu Amalric and Michel Vuillermoz) to keep him away, but Georges is determined that his new love for her will not be denied. (Mark Deming) Continue reading
While the official jury opted for a long German joke, the deliberation for the FIPRESCI award in Stockholm transpired in, literally, a matter of seconds; the choice was that clear. As our citation states, “Elle est des nôtres” is an ambitious and extremely promising debut, a moving symbosis between its director, Siegrid Alnoy, and her lead actor, Sasha Andrès. Titled after a populist French song (and thus poorly translated to English as “For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow”), “Elle et des nôtres” resonates with a cultish ring of unwanted belonging; she is one of us, she is one of us. In a way, Siegrid Alnoy’s first feature, which premiered at the Critics Week earlier this year at Cannes – and has proven to be one of that awful festival’s true discoveries – is about possibly the most banal yet damaging cult of them all: human society in the early 21st century. Her main character, Christine Blanc (musician Sasha Andrès, remarkable in her first feature film role) is appropriately named: she is a blank. Perpetually clothed in the same red business suit, Christine toils in limbo as a temp for bosses who don’t know her name, aspiring to full-time employment and social acceptance in her suburban Annecy environment, all indistinct malls, glass office walls and stifling sterility, approaching her daily interactions with the false veneer of politeness. Continue reading
In Arnaud Desplechin’s beguiling A Christmas Tale (Un conte de Noël), Catherine Deneuve brings her legendary poise to the role of Junon, matriarch of the troubled Vuillard family, who come together at Christmas after she learns she needs a bone marrow transplant from a blood relative. That simple family reunion setup, however, can’t begin to describe the unpredictable, emotionally volatile experience of this film, an inventive, magical drama that’s equal parts merriment and melancholy. Unrequited childhood loves and blinding grudges, brutal outbursts and sudden slapstick, music, movies, and poetry, A Christmas Tale ties it all together in a marvelously messy package.
Film festivals are by their nature notoriously cut off, isolated in such a manner they rarely function as the best place to fully appreciate or accurately evaluate the merit of new works. Laurent Cantet’s astonishing “L’emploi du temps” (“Time Out”) suffers from no such equivocation. It is a masterpiece, the best film shown in this strong festival.
Cantet’s debut feature “Human Resources,” distributed in the U.S. through the Shooting Gallery Film Series, was a marvel of political urgency, social verisimilitude and human conflict. Outlined with some of the same Oedipal struggles of that film, “Time Out” is a perfectly made, emotionally piercing and artistically accomplished examination of the desperation and despair of an essentially good and caring man driven to craven, absurd acts of self-delusion. With echoes of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “The Passenger,” the movie presents a terrifying and gripping portrait of a man so alarmed at what he has become that he invents an idealized portrait to cover up his faults and limitations. Continue reading
Synopsis (Written by Theo Angelopoulos):
A, an American film director of Greek ancestry, is making a film that tells his story and the story of his parents. It is a tale that unfolds in Italy, Germany, Russia, Kazakhstan, Canada and the USA. The main character is Eleni, who is claimed and claims the absoluteness of love. At the same time the film is a long journey into the vast history and the events of the last fifty years that left their mark on the 20th century. The characters in the film move as though in a dream. The dust of time confuses memories. A searches for them and experiences them in the present. Continue reading
Reviewed by Tim Merrill
To say that fans of modern genre cinema are a discerning lot is like saying Platinum Dunes puts out sub-par films. There’s no doubt that cinephiles in North America have been forced to look abroad to new directors and movies that provide that ever-elusive boot to the throat.
You’d have to be hard pressed to ignore the transgressive wave of cinema that has come out of France in the last six years. With films like Marina De Van’s In My Skin, Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible, and last year’s gut punch Inside, the French have unapologetically set out to carve new boundaries in entertainment that will hold the timid at bay and scar those willing to bear witness. While many considered Inside to set new standards in extremities in French cinema, the release of Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs has just wiped the slate clean.
Although Martyrs will undoubtedly be compared to Inside in terms of its intensity, the film is a bastard unto itself that manages to surpass its comparisons on all levels. Director Laugier has presented an experience that is both cinematically stunning, yet emotionally devastating, and with all the subtleties of a barbed wire enema. Continue reading