Diane Bertrand – L’annulaire AKA The Ring Finger (2005)

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Iris is twenty years old and works on the assembly line of a fizzy drink factory. One day, she loses the tip of her ring finger in an industrial injury, leading her to quit her job and move to the port city nearby. Wandering the town, Iris comes across a laboratory of a very peculiar kind, where she is engaged as an assistant. Clients come in regularly, bringing with them all sorts of personal belongings they want processed and preserved forever in the laboratory. Without fully grasping what is at play around her, Iris gradually engages in a disturbing love affair with her enigmatic employer. Continue reading

Eugène Green – Le fils de Joseph AKA Son of Joseph (2016)

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A nativity story reboot that gently skewers French cultural pretensions, it features newcomer Victor Ezenfis as a discontented Parisian teenager in search of a father, Mathieu Amalric and Fabrizio Rongione as his, respectively, callous and gentle alternative paternal options, and Natacha Régnier as his single mother.
The American-born expatriate filmmaker Eugène Green exists in his own special artistic orbit. All Green’s films share a formal rigor and an increasingly refined modulation between the playfully comic, the urgently human, and the transcendent, and they are each as exquisitely balanced as the baroque music and architecture that he cherishes.
Eugène Green drops biblical motifs – Abraham and Isaac, Mary and Joseph – into this genuinely contemporary setting as if it were the most natural thing in the world, augmenting them with nods to crime films, Italian Baroque music, a Doisneau photograph, three 17th century paintings and an artificial way of speaking that is anything but current.
The characters are positioned within the visual compositions and look directly into the camera, their diction flawless. Whatever needs saying – and that’s a lot – they recite impassively, in declamatory fashion. Along the way, there are jabs at the literature milieu and trendy yuppies.
A film where divine seriousness rubs against bizarre comedy, where theology meets caricature, an intriguing film, anachronistic and innovative in equal measure. Continue reading

Fyodor Otsep – Amok (1934)

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Summary from wikipedia:
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Amok is a 1934 French film, directed by Fyodor Otsep. The director was nominated for the Mussolini Cup at the 1934 Venice International Film Festival. The movie centers on a physician, Dr. Holk, in a small Dutch colony in the tropics. A strange illness, known as Amok, is turning innocent people into madmen. When a young woman, Hèlène, comes to him asking for an abortion so that her returning husband will not know she has been unfaithful, he refuses. Hélène seeks help elsewhere, leading Dr. Holk to try to find and save her before it’s too late. Continue reading

Jean-Luc Godard – Détective (1985)

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Détective is one of Godard’s most engaging films, even though it has not been one of his most celebrated. Wheeler Winston Dixon described it as a “straightforward commercial venture,” the film Godard made “precisely in order to direct Je vous salue, Marie (1985).” But dismissing it in this way fails to recognize that, even in a film where Godard is forced to compromise, there is still much to be recommended. While Détective does tell a story of sorts, it is more than a mere narrative film. It still has many of the striking sound/image experiments and investigations into the forms, textures and affects of the plastic and temporal arts that we have come to expect from a Godard film. It also has a playful comic energy. In fact, as Dave Kehr notes, Détective has “all the lightness and zip of Godard’s sixties features.” Continue reading

Gabriel Abrantes & Francisco Cipriano – A Brief History of Princess X (2016)

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Commissioned to create a bust of Napoleon’s great-grand-niece Marie Bonaparte, the sculptor Brâncusi instead delivered a bronze phallus. Thus begins a lively historical tour covering the early days of modernism, the emergence of psychoanalysis, and the nascent study of female sexuality.
– KATHLEEN MCINNIS Continue reading

André Téchiné – J’embrasse pas AKA I Don’t Kiss (1991)

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The innocent country boy has come a long way since arriving with high hopes of making it in the big city. His only contact (with equally vulnerable middle-aged widow Vincent) provides a bed to sleep in, but under impossible conditions. Film producer Noiret offers ‘no sex’ overtures of friendship, which he only later realises are more predatory than they seemed. Auditions end in humiliation and flight from his tentative ambition to become an actor. Only tart-with-a-troubled-heart Béart seems honest in this world without pity. With Philippe Noiret, Emmanuelle Beart and Manuel Blanc. Continue reading

Krzysztof Kieslowski – Trois couleurs: Rouge AKA Three Colors: Red (1994)

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This boldly cinematic trio of stories about love and loss, from Krzysztof Kieślowski was a defining event of the art-house boom of the 1990s. The films are named for the colors of the French flag and stand for the tenets of the French Revolution—liberty, equality, and fraternity—but that hardly begins to explain their enigmatic beauty and rich humanity. Set in Paris, Warsaw, and Geneva, and ranging from tragedy to comedy, Blue, White, and Red (Kieślowski’s final film) examine with artistic clarity a group of ambiguously interconnected people experiencing profound personal disruptions. Krzysztof Kieślowski closes his Three Colors trilogy in grand fashion with an incandescent meditation on fate and chance, starring Irène Jacob as a sweet-souled yet somber runway model in Geneva whose life intersects with that of a bitter retired judge, played by Jean‑Louis Trintignant. Marked by intoxicating cinematography and stirring performances by such actors as Juliette Binoche, Julie Delpy, Irène Jacob, and Jean-Louis Trintignant, Kieślowski’s Three Colors is a benchmark of contemporary cinema. (-Criterion) Continue reading