Results tagged “French Cinema”

The Milky Way (1969) Blu-ray Review: Surrealistic Satire

A Pilgrim's Progress through Catholic History as seen through the satiric lens of Luis Bunuel.
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About an hour into Luis Bunuel’s surrealistic drama The Milky Way, two men, a Jesuit and a Jansenist, argue over the Christian doctrine of irresistible grace. It becomes so heated that a duel is challenged and the two draw swords for a fight to the death. After a time, the camera moves onto two vagrants who are having a similar debate but in a much gentler manner. While we watch them, we see the first two men, having put down their swords, walking away as friends. One could interpret this moment as if to say that the first two men

A Faithful Man Movie Review: Rom-Com Written with Impressive Finesse

At just 75 minutes, A Faithful Man packs plenty of mystery, romance, and profundity.
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Louis Garrel’s sophomore directorial effort A Faithful Man is certainly loyal to particular romantic-comedy traditions. It’s both traditional and a slight deconstruction of the nature of love triangles. Initially, it seems like we’re in for a standard love story about a man and a woman attempting to reconcile their feelings for one another. That is until it starts to toy with “stalker film” machinations. A Faithful Man may have a short running time of 75 minutes, yet it successfully does more with less. When Marianne (Laetitia Casta) leaves her boyfriend Abel (Louis Garrel), she reveals that she’s pregnant with the

La Prisonnière Blu-ray Review: Cluzot Gets Modern

Henri-Georges Clouzot's final film is a visually sumptuous, but flawed masterpiece.
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The 1960s were a time of enormous cultural upheaval. The aftermath of World War II found many countries with a bountiful economic boom. All that industry and workforce developed to win the war moved away from making bullets and onto inventing all sorts of gadgets designed to make life easier for a quickly developing middle class. All those babies booming were growing up so that by the 1960s those kids were teenagers who knew life not of the Great Depression or of war but of a seemingly unending prosperity. Their values began to change along with this new lifestyle. Social

Fantômas Three Film Collection Blu-ray Review: Tres Silly

Trilogy of very silly spy films from France features one of the country's most famous characters.
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Fantômas was originally first created in 1911 by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre. He appeared in some 43 stories over a period of about 50 years. He is one of the most famous fictional characters in France. He’s appeared in multiple movie, television, and comic-book adaptations and has influenced countless works in the century since he first appeared on the page. In the 1960s, a trilogy of films was released starring Jean Marais as Fantômas and directed by André Hunebelle. They were France’s answer to the success of the James Bond films. Kino Lorber has just released the trilogy in

Emmanuelle Blu-ray Review: A Young Girl's Strange Erotic Journey From Paris to Bangkok

The movie that started a softcore franchise.
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The 1970s were a fascinating time for American cinema. The studio system that dominated the Golden Age of Hollywood was dying by the end of the 1960s and with it, the Hays Code and its internal censorship. The '70s saw a new wave in movies with fresh new directors like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman, and host of others. They created films like never before seen in Hollywood. Their films often tackled themes that just a few years prior had been taboo. They were often pessimistic, dark films that didn’t hold back, graphically using violence, sex, and language

Sorry Angel Movie Review: A Sensible Depiction of a Doomed Romance

A profound, well-acted love story that is a whirlwind of emotion.
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It’s 1993. Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps) is a writer battling AIDS and coming to grips with his impending doom. He still lives with his child and has his friend Matthieu (Denis Podalydes) as a form of support. However, he develops a slight new outlook on life when he meets the youthful Arthur (Vincent Lacoste), a student and camp counselor. Once they fall in love, complications begin to emerge. Meanwhile, Arthur slowly discovers his own perspective on sexual activity. When Jacques and Arthur first meet, it is at a screening of The Piano. They immediately become smitten with each other and after

Black Venus Blu-ray Review: A Horrible Mark in Our History

A devastating portrait of abuse.
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Black Venus tells the true life story of Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman, a South African woman who was mistreated her entire life due to her large buttocks and genitals. Though not technically a slave, she lived like one for several years in Captetown serving as a washwoman and nursemaid to the Caezar family. Eventually, Hendrik Caezar and his friend William Dunlop took Sarah to England and France where they exhibited her in a freak show like a wild animal. She was put into a cage, dressed like a stereotypical native, laughed and scoffed at by the rabble who poked and prodded

A Trip to the Moon Blu-ray Review: Simply Magnificent

A newly restored print makes this classic silent film even better.
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As still-photography technology developed and exposure times dropped, the idea of taking a series of photographs and piecing them together to form a moving picture began to percolate in the brains of some of the world’s greatest minds. In May of 1887, a Frenchman, Louis Le Prince, created the first motion-picture film, Roundhay Garden Scene, which consists of a few seconds of people walking in a garden. Others tinkered with similar devices but they were all bulky and unreliable, and the images came out poorly. In 1891, Thomas Edison created the Kinetograph, which took a series of instantaneous photographs on

Sacha Guitry: Four Films (1936-1938) Arrow Academy Blu-ray Review: A Historical Bore

A nice boxed set from Arrow Academy presents four films from the popular French director.
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You could say Sacha Guitry was born into the theater. His father, Lucien Guitry, was a very famous French actor who was friends with such luminaries as Tchaikovsky (Guitry convinced the great composer to write his works for Shakespeare’s Hamlet). As a teenager, Sacha began writing for the stage. He was quite prolific at it, having penned more than 120 plays in his lifetime. As movies began taking cultural prominence over the stage, Guitry stayed in the theatre feeling that silent pictures without the use of dialogue were not as dramatically satisfying. By the 1930s, he had changed his mind

Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno Blu-ray Review: Lost Masterpiece or Dodged Bullet?

Documentary details Clouzot's experimental Inferno, using recently discovered footage from the failed production, to mixed results.
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There's a little cottage industry of documentaries about movies that didn't get made. Every few years one of them pops up - Lost in La Mancha about Terry Gilliam's early, disastrous attempt to make The Man Who Killed Don Quixote or Jodorowsky's Dune. Implicit in the premise is that the world of cinema is missing out on a masterpiece - that a world of perhaps game-changing potential is lost to us because of some unfortunate timing, a couple of bad days on a set, or a miscalculation that metastasizes into a disaster. Honestly, whenever I see or read these stories,

Elevator to the Gallows Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Ruthless People

French director Louis Malle launched his award-winning career with this spellbinding crime thriller.
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Louis Malle’s directorial debut is notable for numerous reasons. He was only 24 years old at the time, fresh off a three-year stint working at sea with famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau where he only had to “direct fish”, as he was frequently fond of recounting. He had no real pull in the film industry, and yet was able to land the already established actress Jeanne Moreau to star, as well as jazz titan Miles Davis to contribute a totally improvised score. His best accomplishment: the resulting film is a resounding success, largely thanks to his sure-handed direction of its mesmerizing

Maigret Sets a Trap / Maigret and the St. Fiacre Case Blu-ray Reviews: America's Introduction to the Great French Detective

Jean Gabin plays the French detective in two of the earliest adaptations of Georges Simenon's stories to reach the States.
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Georges Simenon created Commissaire Maigret in 1931. The character starred in 76 of the author’s novels and 28 short stories. They have been translated into dozens of languages and adapted into numerous films and television series. Like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot before him, Maigret has become one of the world’s most famous fictional detectives. I’ve never read a single word of the stories but have previously watched and reviewed two other adaptations (one with Bruno Cremer as the great detective, the other with Michael Gambon) and now with Maigret Sets a Trap and Maigret and the St.Fiacre Case that

The Love of a Woman Blu-ray Review: Old Movie, Modern Themes

A simple story told really well.
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Marie Prieur (Micheline Presle) is young, pretty, and ambitious. After many years of hard work in school, she secures a position as the doctor of a small island village of the coast of France. She befriends Germaine Leblanc (Gaby Morlay), the local school teacher, but struggles connect to anyone else. At first, most of the other villages bristle against a new doctor who is so young and a woman, but they slowly warm to her kindness, knowledge, and skill. Eventually she meets André (Massimo Girotti), a handsome construction foreman, temporarily on the island building a fog horn. It takes him

Ronin (1998) Blu-ray Review: Welcome Back to Cinematic Reality, Kids

Arrow Video revives John Frankenheimer's criminally neglected late '90s gritty crime thriller via a beautiful, all-new 4K scan.
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At one point or another amidst whatever we may have selected (or been selected) for our respective careers, we will fall from grace. Even if you're a great filmmaker like John Frankenheimer. In his heyday, the late director (who passed from this world in 2002, shortly after his final contribution to cinema ‒ an HBO docu-drama ‒ premiered) had crafted several groundbreaking films, from the highly fictionalized (but nevertheless well-made) biopic Birdman of Alcatraz, the must-see WWII locomotive heist classic The Train, as well as one of my personal favorites, the 1962 paranoiac conspiracy Cold War thriller, The Manchurian Candidate.

Spotlight on a Murderer (1961) Blu-ray Review: Illuminating French Proto-Slasher

A most unique mystery/black comedy from Georges Franju receives a long-overdue opportunity to shine in the US thanks to Arrow Academy.
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To the trained eye of an advanced mystery movie sleuth, spotting the writing team of Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac as the authors of the film you're about to experience is a darn good indication you're in for a treat. Sure enough, Georges Franju's 1961's mystery, Pleins feux sur l'assassin ‒ which shall be referred to henceforth by its English title, Spotlight on a Murderer ‒ is such a treat. While it may have only been the third feature film for the late visionary filmmaker, Spotlight on a Murderer should serve as an inarguable example of just how far one

The Jacques Rivette Collection Blu-ray Review: New Wave, Old Hat

Arrow Academy releases a trio of lengthy, esoteric, and surreal offerings which quickly turn into a case of 'mise-en-seen it.'
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Sooner or later in life, everyone reaches a point where personal obsessions and rather weird views seem to overtake either their private or professional output. Indeed, Arrow Academy's box set of The Jacques Rivette Collection presents one such unique phase from one of the men most commonly associated with the French New Wave period. By the time he made the movies included in this six-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo ‒ Duelle (Une quarantaine), Noroît (Une vengeance) (both 1976), and Merry-Go-Round (1981) ‒ Jacques Rivette had veered off of the road less traveled he and his contemporaries had become so famous for frequenting.

The Jacques Rivette Collection Blu-ray Review: Not For Me

Experimental French films are interesting conceptually, but hard sailing to watch.
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Inspired by Jean Cocteau to become a filmmaker, Jacques Rivette moved to Paris in the 1950s began making short films and writing for the influential French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma. It was there he met Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Éric Rohmer, and Claude Chabrol. Together, they revived the critical consensus of American genre filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchock and John Ford and started the French New Wave (Rivette directed Le Coup de Berger, which is considered the first film in that movement). In early 1975, Rivette conceived of a film cycle consisting of four films using a made-up mythology

Ludwig (1973) Blu-ray Review: The Historical Epic Wherein Nothing Really Happens

Love it or hate it, Arrow Academy has unveiled an undeniably beautiful box set for one of Luchino Visconti's final films.
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I would only be slightly remiss were I to openly admit history was never my strongest subject in school. Truth be told, when I wasn't having assorted slurs shouted at me in the hallways or eluding those who wanted to stuff me in a locker, I was safe in my room at home watching movies most people had forgotten about. And the truly beautiful part about those otherwise terrible years was my ability to sit through even the longest, most boring film known to man and still be able to focus on it. Sadly, enduring great strides of monotony is

Valley of Love Movie Review: Isabelle and Gerard and the Goddamn Heat

Nicloux writes and directs this strange and lovely odyssey through Death Valley.
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Guillaume Nicloux writes and directs the considerate Valley of Love, which kind of has one foot in Maurice Pialat’s 1980 film Loulou and the other in a spectral inversion of reality. It positions its two glorious stars - Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu - nearly as themselves and dumps them in Death Valley. Valley of Love was France’s 2015 Cannes entry and it resonates as a classical road movie, putting two screen icons on a path to elusive elements like self-discovery, resolution, and peace. Nothing comes easy and Christophe Offenstein’s exceptional tracking shots ensure the audience is along for every

La Chienne Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Early Renoir is a Delight

Criterion does a masterful job of bringing an early sound picture to live.
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Life has not gone well for Maurice Legrand (Michel Simon). He works as a cashier for a hosiery company and is generally despised by his colleagues. In an opening scene, they openly mock and scorn him for being a wet blanket and for having to run home to his wife instead of going out on the town with them. The wife, too, rather deplores Maurice and spends nearly every moment of her time on screen berating him. The only pleasure the poor fellow gets from life is painting and even that is spat upon by his wife who declares he
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