Results tagged “French Cinema”

Mouchette Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: So Beautiful, So Sad

A few days in the sad little life of a French girl.
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The opening scene to Mouchette, Robert Bresson's 1967 drama, finds a young man tying little loops of wire to branches and then setting them low to the ground so that when birds run past their heads get trapped in the loops. The film watches them get caught, flaying about, unable to set themselves free. This works as a metaphor for every character in the film. Set in a small village in the French countryside, all of the story's inhabitants seem caught in their own traps. There are few scenes of joy and happiness but many of despair and loneliness. Our

Beau Travail Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Mysterious, Haunting, and Transformative

Claire Denis' 1999 masterpiece of jealousy, erotic/repressed desire, and personal destruction makes it's long-awaited debut to the Criterion Collection.
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The great and visionary director Claire Denis is one the greatest cinematic poets of our time. She's a provocative and original filmmaker who has crafted an extraordinary oervue of films that offer richly observed and perfectly tuned portraits of cultural alientation and emotional/physical tension. Whether contemplating a father/daughter relationship (35 Shots of Run), the harmful awakenings of women (White Material, Let the Sunshine In), or erotic body horror (Trouble Every Day), she continues to be a singular voice of not just for female filmmakers, but for cinema as a whole. However, her second film, 1999's Beau Travail, is considered to

Toni Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Influential French Drama

Jean Renoir's realistic portrayal of migrant workers in the South of France helped influence the French New Wave and Italian Neorealism.
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In 1934, acclaimed French director Jean Renoir left the studio in Paris and headed for the countryside in the south of France. There, he hired non-actors and inexperienced ones to shoot Toni, a naturalistic melodrama about immigrants, their work, their lives, and their romances. He used mostly natural lighting and filmed mostly on location. The actors didn't use makeup and spoke in regional dialects. It did poorly at the box office but was beloved by the French New Wave and helped create Italian Neo-Realism (Luchino Visconti, one of that movement's greatest directors, was an assistant on Toni). It is, in

Life Is a Long Quiet River Blu-ray Review: It Could Use a Few Noisy Rapids

A light-hearted social satire about French life that could have used a few more laughs.
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A nurse, Josette (Catherine Heigel), is in love with Doctor Mavial (Daniel Gélin), whom she works for. He continues to promise that he'll leave his wife when the time is right, but he's been saying that for decades. Twelve years prior, after he'd promised to spend Christmas Eve with her but then went back to his wife after delivering two babies, Josette played a prank on him. She switched the name tags of those babies with each other so that they went home with the wrong parents. When the doctor's wife dies, he is still unwilling to marry Josette. Angry,

America as Seen by a Frenchman Blu-ray Review: A Fascinating Snapshot in Time

A glimpse into my country's past a viewed from a foreigner.
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I've been lucky enough to have done a bit of traveling in my life. I've lived in France, Belgium, and China. I've seen most of Western Europe, a good chunk of Eastern Europe, and bits and pieces of Asia. Wherever I go, I take a camera with me. I'm not a professional, nor an expert photographer but I enjoy the process and sometimes the result. I try to take lots of photos of different things. I hit the big landmarks of course. I have lots of photos of the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, Big Ben, etc., but

The Truth Movie Review: Truthfully Middle-Ground

Both an adequately understated family drama and a missed opportunity.
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In a way, The Truth feels like a spiritual sequel to Clouds of Sils Maria. Another film distributed by IFC Films dealing with a French actress diva grappling with aging in the film industry as she works on a new project. Only this time, Juliette Binoche plays the daughter of said actress instead of the actress herself and gets to have Catherine Deneuve, a fellow screen icon, playing her mother. A pairing like this is enough to get any film buff giddy with excitement and “truthfully,” it’s the most saleable thing the picture has going for it. Watching Binoche and

Portrait of a Lady on Fire Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Burning Bright

This mesmerizing French film offers a fresh take on artist/muse romance and social class distinction
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Writer/director Celine Sciamma’s latest film is both exhilarating and depressing: spellbinding because of its absolute excellence and disheartening because it illuminates how far American dramas have fallen in comparison to this masterful new French work. It’s immediately evident why the film was a Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Language Film this year, and mind-boggling that it wasn’t nominated in the same category or even outright Best Picture at the Oscars, especially considering that France was instead represented by Les Miserables, a film with both significantly lower critical and popular review scores. Awards aside, the film is an instant classic,

Manon Blu-ray Review: Doomed Love in Post-war France

Henri-Georges Clouzot tale of doomed love works like a film nor in a melodrama setting.
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Manon Lescaut is an 18th Century novel by Antoine François Prévost. It was controversial at the time of its release, for it depicted a woman so full of greed she’d resort to low morals (cheating on her husband, turning to prostitution) in order to live the lifestyle she preferred. It was banned for a time in its native France, which of course means it was extremely popular. Twenty years after publication, an acceptable version was printed, toning down the scandalous details and injecting moralizing disclaimers. It remains a classic, so much so that my wife, ever the lover of French

Zombi Child Movie Review: A Slow Exploration of Voodoo and Adolescence

A meditative zombie flick that revitalizes the genre while simultaneously exploring its origins.
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With Zombi Child, director Bertrand Bonello pulls off both a reinvigoration of the zombie genre and a reclaiming of its origins. Over the years, people have associated zombies with their hunger for human flesh and loss of morality and consciousness once they become zombified. But Bonello aims to make a meditative horror drama about colonialism and adolescence. Zombi Child follows two different storylines. One set in Haiti 1962 involving Clairvius Narcisse (Mackenson Bijou), the most famous victim of the practice called zombieism who was drugged and sold into slavery while in a susceptible mind set. The other storyline is set

Funan Blu-ray Review: A Genocide Through the Eyes of One Family

A beautiful telling of a tragic story.
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In the mid to late 1970s, the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia as one of the most brutal regimes in modern history. Led by Marxist leader Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge wanted to take Cambodia back to what they called “Year Zero” or an egalitarian, agrarian society cleaned from what they thought to be the terrible influences of capitalism. On a practical level, this meant emptying the cities and marching everyone into rural collectives where they would be forced into slave labor. Anybody thought to be an intellectual (including those who wore glasses or spoke a second language) were summarily executed.

La Marseillaise Blu-ray Review: Viva La Revolution!

Jean Renoir's telling of the French Revolution is more history lesson than dramatic film, but it is well worth watching.
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The French Revolution is one of the most important events of modern history. That mere commoners - people stricken with great poverty, ground under the thumb of the aristocracy - rose up to smash the monarchy and create a democratic republic is nothing short of astounding. It helped sweep in revolutions and reform across the globe, triggering the decline of absolute monarchies. That the revolution ultimately turned into the Reign of Terror in which thousands of so-called enemies were guillotined, leading to Napoleon declaring himself emperor does not diminish the importance of what came before those dark times. In 1938,

By the Grace of God (2019) Movie Review: Shines a Spotlight on the Catholic Church Scandal

A strongly acted and skillfully directed examination of a recently-closed case.
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It wasn’t that long ago that Tom McCarthy released Spotlight, the Best Picture-winning biopic that showcased a team of Boston Globe reporters investigating and, eventually, exposing the allegations that a Catholic priest in the area had molested more than 80 boys. That was mostly seen from the perspective of the journalists and the struggles they experienced in a pre-9/11 world - as well as what happened when that infamous day struck. With By the Grace of God, François Ozon takes a similar story, also based on true events, that is set a decade after the events of Spotlight and in

Dilili in Paris Movie Review: Michel Ocelot's Love Letter to the City of Light

Ocelot's distinctive voice shines through in his latest animated feature film.
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In his latest feature film, veteran animation auteur Michel Ocelot immediately toys with audience perceptions by opening on what appears to be a tribal African village before zooming out to reveal the scene taking place in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, a virtuoso sequence that draws viewers into guessing about the film’s direction. After three previous feature films set in Africa starring the character Kirikou, not to mention the timing of this film’s U.S. release coinciding with the usual seven-year gap between each of the Kirikou films, it’s easy to imagine that we’ll explore more of the tribal village

Un Coeur En Hiver Blu-ray Review: A Man Without Feelings

In a cinematic landscape filled with emotionless psychopaths, it is thrilling to find one who is a nice guy.
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In movies and on television, a sociopath - someone who doesn’t have real feelings or emotions - is usually depicted as a serial killer, or someone capable of great violence and horror against others. These people are evil because to have no emotion means not caring for anyone and that means doing whatever the hell you want. Un Coeur en Hiver (A Heart In Winter) is the rare film in which someone with sociopathic tendencies turns out to be a pretty nice guy. This man, Stéphane (Daniel Auteuil), is a highly sought-out violin repairer. His partner Maxime (André Dussollier) is

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
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