Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease found in individuals who have been subjected to multiple concussions and other forms of head injury. A variant of the condition, dementia pugilistica (DP), is primarily associated with boxing. CTE has been most commonly found in professional athletes participating in American football, ice hockey, professional wrestling and other contact sports, who have experienced head trauma, resulting in characteristic degeneration of brain tissue and the accumulation of tau protein. Individuals with CTE may show symptoms of dementia such as memory loss, aggression, confusion and depression which may appear within months of the trauma or many decades later. (Wikipedia)
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
Having trodden the path towards ever-increasing obscurity in the 1990s, the eternal maverick of French cinema, Jean-Luc Godard made a surprising come-back with Éloge de l’amour, his first major theatrical release outside of France for well over a decade. More sophisticated and mature than Godard’s increasingly abstract and inward-looking works of the 1990s, it is a film which manages to capture the essence of Godard’s cinema (his political concerns, his love of character, his enthusiasm for cinema and literature, to say nothing of his near-pathological contempt for mainstream cinema). At the same time, it is a challenging work, packed with content whilst employing a minimalist approach reminiscent of Robert Bresson (another great director who is often referred to in the film).
The film is divided in two contrasting parts. It begins with an author’s seemingly doomed attempts to realise a ‘project’ (perhaps a film, but we cannot be certain of this). This part of the film is shot beautifully in black-and-white, almost as a sombre elegy to monochrome cinema. This includes some stunning night shots of Paris, immediately evocative of the Nouvelle Vague cinema of the 1960s in which Godard played such a major part. Two thirds of the way into the film, the mood and style change suddenly, as if we have been propelled into a dream. Thanks to the marvels of the latest digital technology, the images suddenly take on an otherworldly form, with overly saturated colour and some occasional visual distortions.
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.
Immortal Story was directed by Orson Welles, who also stars as a fabulously wealthy, but bitter and dictatorial, European merchant. Soured on life, Mr. Clay (Welles) decides to play games with the lives of others. He decides to make the “immortal” legend of a sailor seducing a rich man’s wife come true and even picks the sailor (Roger Coggio) himself. Through Mr. Clay’s machinations, the sailor beds a beautiful younger woman (Jeanne Moreau) whom Clay pays to pose as his own wife. There’s little more to the story than that, but Welles weaves his short tale with an economy and expertise which proves he hadn’t lost his touch by 1969. Based on a story by Isaak Dinesen, The Immortal Story was originally made for French television; it was also the only Orson Welles-directed film to be released in color. Continue reading
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