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
Jean-Claude Lauzon’s highly praised film tells the strange story of Léolo, a young boy from Montréal. Told from Léolo’s point-of-view, the film depicts his family of lunatics and Léolo’s attempts to deal with them. Not one individual in the boy’s life is well adjusted. His brother, after being beaten up, spends the film bulking up on growth protein. The grandfather hires half-naked girls to bite off his toenails and, in a brutal rage, almost kills Léolo. As he witnesses his family decay around him, Léolo retreats into himself and the fantasy world he has constructed. In response to the weirdness of his daily life, Léolo creates a little mental mayhem of his own which Lauzon renders in an amazing series of free-form, surreal images. Eventually, this precarious balance of reality and fantasy cracks and Léolo is hospitalized after attempting to murder his grandfather. The score by Tom Waits underscores the narrative arc of Léolo’s breakdown. On its release, the film won numerous awards including the International Fantasy Film Award for Best Director (1992) and a Genie Award for Best Original Screenplay (1992). Continue reading
Filmed at the eponymous Idem Paris, a fine art printing studio in Paris, France, and “virtually wordless”, the film documents the lithographic process. It was edited by Noriko Miyakawa and mixed by Dean Hurley.
Idem Paris was shot on high definition digital video and presented in black-and-white. Critics drew comparisons between Idem Paris and Lynch’s debut feature film, 1977’s Eraserhead, noting that both had “high-contrast black and white images, the focus on specific machinery, and the clanking and hissing array of sounds.”
Describing the background of the film, Lynch said: Continue reading
Anne, a student in Paris, becomes involved with a group of her brother’s arty friends and gets sucked into a mystery involving Philip, an expatriate American escaping McCarthyism; Terry, a self-destructive femme fatale; theatre director Gérard; and Juan, a Spanish activist who apparently committed suicide, but was he murdered? Philip warns Anne that the forces that killed Juan will soon do the same to Gérard, who is struggling to rehearse Shakespeare’s Pericles. Anne takes a part in the play in an attempt to help him and also discover why Juan died. Continue reading
“Blood-red posters featuring portraits of wanted ‘terrorists’ decorated every street wall in occupied France during World War II, and this account of how 23 foreigners working for the Resistance were caught and executed dramatises one of the heroic myths of the Occupation. But Cassenti adopts a radically different perspective from the humanist ‘honesty’ of L’Armée des Ombres or even Lacombe Lucien, and instead attempts a Marxist analysis of the myth and what it means, historically, to re-enact it. As it moves from one level of representation to another with a Brechtian approach to performance, the film occasionally obscures its aims but never fails to challenge the way we receive history in the cinema.” – Time Out Film Guide
September 16th 2011. The TV news networks, newspapers, blogs, websites and radio stations are all reporting on one story: Allegedly – star author Michel Houellebecq, winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 2010, has been abducted. Some members of the media go so far as to suggest that Al-Qaeda may be involved.
For the next few days, the news ripples through literary circles and members of the press, feeding buzz and speculation. A brazen kidnapping? An identity crisis? A plan to escape abroad? A schizophrenic delirium?
Michel will never provide the media with any rational explanation for what happened to him.
Michel Houellebecq. Who is he really? A good writer? A great author? Even more than that? The most widely read living French writer in the world? The most hated and the most respected one? Does he deserve to be classified among those celebrated enfants terribles of our national prose, right there next to Artaud, Céline, Genêt or Gracq?
Of the hallowed group of Cahiers du cinéma critics turned filmmakers who transformed French film history, Claude Chabrol was the first to direct his own feature. His absorbing landmark debut, Le beau Serge, follows a successful yet sickly young man (Jean-Claude Brialy) who returns home to the small village where he grew up. There, he finds himself at odds with his former close friend (Gérard Blain)—now unhappily married and a wretched alcoholic—and the provincial life he represents. The remarkable and stark Le beau Serge heralded the arrival of a cinematic titan who would go on to craft provocative, entertaining films for five more decades. (-Criterion) Continue reading