Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne

Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne – Rosetta (1999)

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The film opens with a chaotic scene: Rosetta (Emilie Dequenne), dismissed from her station after her employment trial period has elapsed, refuses to leave the factory, and is escorted off the premises by security guards. Shot through a handheld camera, the confusion seems to continue as we follow Rosetta as she crosses a busy intersection, makes her way through the woods, changes into her water-repellent boots that she hides in an exposed concrete pipe, and returns to her rented trailer home that she shares with her alcoholic mother (Anne Yernaux). It is a bleak life, and one that she desperately wants to escape. If she could only find a job. But Rosetta is a resourceful young woman, and remains undeterred by the latest setback. She returns to town with a bagful of repaired clothes to be sold to the local thrift store, and canvasses local merchants for job openings. Riquet (Fabrizio Rongione), a waffle vendor, takes interest in Rosetta, and when the food preparer is fired for absenteeism, he encourages her to apply. However, the job proves temporary as well, as the owner (Olivier Gourmet) is compelled to hire his own son. Without any new prospects, she sacrifices her friendship with Riquet to obtain a job. Read More »

Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne – Il court… il court le monde (1987)

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John, a television director, is preparing a show on speed. A phone call from his girlfriend Sophie makes him leave the studio in a hurry. Ηe drives fast and quarrels with another driver. John is upset; he insults the other man and drives off. In the meantime, the producer of the show changes John’s editing. John’s assistant calls him at home but John tells him that they should talk later. John hears the sound of another car and looks out the window.We hear the sound of an accident. John shouts and runs out onto the road. Sophie has hit a pedestrian. She was on her way to tell John that they are expecting a child
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Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne – Le Fils AKA The Son [+Extras] (2002)

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Olivier is a good teacher of carpentry, but a touch gruff; even so, when he refuses to accept young Francis into his workshop, that doesn’t explain why he takes to following the boy, as if he were spying on him. Might it have something to do with his own dead son, as his estranged wife insists?

One strength of the Dardennes’ follow-up to Rosetta, winner of the Cannes Palme d’Or, is that, once again, they ask us to discover certain crucial facts for ourselves: by the time we’re faced with questions of ethical and spiritual import, we’ve done enough groundwork to assess the evidence properly. Wisely, the camera stays close to Olivier, with the result that, notwithstanding his subtle understatement and a relatively taciturn script, we’re privy to his every fleeting thought and nagging emotion. Never manipulative or sensationalist, the film is none the less deeply moving. – Time Out Read More »

Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne – Le Silence de Lorna AKA Lorna’s Silence (2008)

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Sokol and Lorna, two Albanian emigrants in Belgium, dream of leaving their dreary jobs to set up a snack bar. They need money, and a permanent resident status. Claudy is a junkie – he needs money to satisfy his addiction. Andrei, the cigarette smuggler, must hold up for a while outside Russia; he has loads of money. Fabio, the Italian taxi driver and aspiring gang boss, elaborates a clever scheme: he will pay Claudy to marry Lorna so that she acquires a Belgian citizenship. Then she is to re-marry Andrei, who will in this way obtain the coveted EU passport – and pay a hefty price to Fabio and Lorna for the service. Like all plans, this one will not survive the contact with reality.
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Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne – La fille inconnue AKA The Unknown Girl (2016)

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In Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s very best films, you know exactly what you’re getting — until the quiet dramatic pivot that gently ensures you don’t. In “The Unknown Girl,” only the first half of that assessment is true, though what we get is largely exemplary: a simple but urgent objective threaded with needling observations of social imbalance, a camera that gazes with steady intent into story-bearing faces, and an especially riveting example of one in their gifted, toughly tranquil leading lady Adèle Haenel. What’s missing, however, from this stoically humane procedural tale of a guilt-racked GP investigating a nameless passer-by’s passing, is any great sense of narrative or emotional surprise: It’s a film that skilfully makes us feel precisely what we expect to feel from moment to moment, up to and including the long-forestalled waterworks. Though it will receive the broad distribution practically guaranteed the Belgian brothers’ work these days, the film is unlikely to prove one of their sensations — more the healthy arthouse equivalent of a biennial checkup. Read More »

Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne – Deux jours, une nuit AKA Two Days, One Night (2014)

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Sandra, a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.
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Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne – La promesse AKA The Promise (1996)

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SYNOPSIS
‘La Promesse’ is the story of 15 year old Igor, who helps his small time crook father run a scam illegally employing immigrants on building sites. But when one of the workers is fatally injured, Igor promises to look after the man’s wife and child – a promise that changes Igor’s life forever. (ArtificialEye)

“The Promise” is the extraordinary story of a boy’s ascendance to grace. Under the conscienceless guidance of his father (Olivier Gourmet as Roger), fifteen-year old Igor appears destined to a life of petty crime. All changes, however, when Igor delivers an uncompromising promise to Hamidou – an immigrant who while working illegally for Roger accidentally falls to his death. As Roger scrambles to cover-up the accident, Igor suddenly finds himself torn between his loyalty to Roger and the agreement he made with Hamidou. Suspicious of Roger’s motivation and intimately drawn to the heart of his promise, Igor must choose between his love for his father and the demands of his awakening conscience. (New Yorker Video) Read More »