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Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2008
(Feb. 29th - March 9th, 2008)

Click here for more information about the Film Programs at the festival

Roman de gare (*Opening Night Film*)- Directed by Claude Lelouch.

Synopsis: Bestselling author Judith Ralitzer (Fanny Ardant) is being interrogated by the police because of some uncomfortable similarities between events in her novels and the actions of The Magician, a serial killer known for luring victims with card tricks and sleight-of-hand. Cut to a highway, where, after being abandoned by her boyfriend, Huguette (Audrey Dana) sees a man (Dominique Pinon) at a roadside rest stop performing card tricks for kids. He offers her a ride, and she thinks he might make a fine substitute for the boyfriend she was supposed to be bringing home to the family. These and several other stories cross, criss-cross and come back for more in Claude Lelouch's thriller of mixed identities and thwarted ambitions. Released by Samuel Goldwyn Films. Opens April 25th, 2008 at the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

Claude Lelouch writer/director of Roman de Gare

Ain't Scared- Directed by Audrey Estrougo.

Synopsis: Ain’t Scared chronicles one day in the emotional life of a Parisian housing project. Its focus is a group of young people, each of whom tries in his own way to express deep feelings for someone else while simultaneously maintaining the hard emotional shells needed to survive in these mean streets. Especially after the disturbances of 2005, the Parisian suburbs — the ring of housing projects known as “cites” that surround Paris — have been much discussed, yet rarely has anyone offered such a close-up sense of their daily life. Estrougo, who grew up in a housing project, also explores the racial dynamics that are very much part of this world, detailing the codes and practices young men and women learn are the special rules they’re supposed to follow. No distributor, yet.

All is Forgiven- Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve.

Synopsis: French writer named Victor (Paul Blain, whose haunted eyes make him a dead ringer for his father Gérard) finds it increasingly difficult to cope with life, and retreats from his Austrian wife Annette (Marie Christine Friedrich) and their young daughter Pamela (Victoire Rousseau) into the anxious dissipation of heroin addiction. At which point the film does not so much advance as gently shift to Paris, 11 years later, where we encounter Pamela as a quietly self-possessed young teenager (Constance Rousseaus), as she begins to re-connect with her long lost father. No distributor, yet.

Fear(s) of the Dark
- Directed by Various.

In French with subtitles. Six directors, Blutch, Charles Burns, Marie Caillou, Pierre di Sciullo, Lorenzo Mattotti and Richard McGuire, come together to make black-and-white animated segments depicting their visual and aural interpretations of fear. Only three of the six segments generate true feelings of freight while others mostly fall flat, which, of course. The creepy and frightening segments include a sci-fi one by director Charles Burns which shows an insect invading into the body of a woman, which, in turn, makes her violent. There’s also the segment by Blutch who depicts vicious dogs killing people. Their owner, a Spanish nobleman, looks quite scary as are his dogs, of course. Finally, there’s the very claustrophobic, psychologically horrific segment by Richard McGuire which has a man trapped in pitch-black inside a haunted house. He can only see by the use of candlelight. Unfortunately, the rest of the segments lack the scare factor of those other three segments. On a positive note, the 2D and 3D animation looks quite impressive and imaginative in all of the segments.Fear(s) of the Dark doesn’t have any real surprises nor will any of its images haunt you, but at least some of them will send momentary chills down your spine. Number of times I checked my watch: 3. Released by IFC Films. Opens October 22nd, 2008 at the IFC Center.

The Feelings Factory- Directed by Jean-Marc Moutout.

Synopsis: Attractive, educated and successful, Eloïse (Elsa Zylberstein) has it all—except for a long-term, stable romantic relationship. Now in her mid-30s, she can hear a certain clock ticking loudly. So she enrolls in a speed dating program. Seven men, seven women, pre-screened for compatibility. You have seven minutes to take the measure of each other before you both move on to other candidates. No distributor, yet.

The Grocer's Son- Directed by Eric Guirado.

Synopsis: Hitting 30 and still not settled into a job or a relationship, Antoine (Nicolas Cazalé) heads home after his father has a heart attack. It falls to him to take over the family business: a mobile grocery story that travels around the south of France. Uncomfortably settling back into his old homestead, Antoine brings everything from eggs to laundry soap to the mainly elderly inhabitants of tiny rural hamlets, many no bigger than a dozen houses and a church. Accompanying him on some of his rounds is Claire, a friend from Paris interested in a break from her studies — and possibly in Antoine as well. No distributor yet, but it truly deserves one.

The Heartbeat Detector
- Directed by Nicolas Klotz.

In French with subtitles. Simon (Mathieu Amalric), a psychiatrist, analyzes employees in a corporation when its assistant director, Karl (Jean-Pierre Kalfon), claims that he’s worried about the mental health of the employees. He decides to start an orchestra with some of them who know how to play instruments. Gradually, Simon learns that one of the employees, Jüst (Michael Lonsdale), might have been a Nazi supporter in the past. Mathieu Amalric gives a decent performance in the lead role, but, unfortunately, doesn’t have enough material here to truly shine like he did in the extraordinary film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Screenwriter Elisabeth Perceval starts off with a fascinating first act and then all the momentum disappears in the very dull, meandering confusing second act—director Nicolas Klotz’s decision to move the pace along slowly doesn’t help, either. The characters seem to be talking a lot, but saying very little. At an excessive running time of 2 hours and 21 minutes, The Heartbeat Detector often drags and overstays its welcome. Number of times I checked my watch: 9. Entertainment Value: Low. Spiritual Value: Low. Released by New Yorker Films and Red Envelope Entertainment. Opens at the Cinema Village and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas on March 14th, 2008.

Her Name is Sabine- Directed by Sandrine Bonnaire.

Synopsis: In this documentary, the director's younger sister, Sabine, 38, lives in an adult care facility after having finally been diagnosed as autistic five years earlier. An exposé of the ignorance that has plagued the treatment of autism, the film is even more centrally about the relationship between Sandrine and Sabine — the care, the closeness, the feelings of guilt and especially the frustration as one sister feels helpless to stop the other’s decline. Released by Passion River on DVD April 22nd, 2008.

Let's Dance!- Directed by Noémie Lvovsky.

Synopsis: Salomon Bellinsky (Jean-Pierre Marielle), a Holocaust survivor just about to turn 80, recently separated from his wife Genevieve (Bulle Ogier) years ago, but the two maintain a perfectly cordial relationship — that is, until recently, when it’s become increasingly clear that Genevieve’s mind is going. Salomon knows that the end is coming, but he knows just as well that it hasn’t arrived yet — something that is especially clear once Violette (Sabine Azema) becomes part of his life. Meanwhile, Salomon and Genevieve’s daughter, Sarah (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi), just can’t seem to settle down, and she wonders if having a baby might help. No distributor, yet.

Love Songs
- Directed by Christophe Honoré.

In French with subtitles. Ismael (Louis Garrel) agrees to have a “ménage à trois” with Julie (Ludivine Segnier) and Alice (Clotilde Hesme), but when Julie dies, he and Alice break up. Meanwhile, he confides in his sister, Jeanne (Chiara Mastroainni) and considers flirting with his good friend, Erwann (Gergoire Leprince-Ringuet). This romantic musical drama works best whenever the characters break out into song, but the romantic and dramatic scenes feel a bit lacking in liveliness and imagination. Louis Garrel, godson of the actor from Godard’s Masculine, Feminine, Jean-Pierre Leaud, whom he also resembles physically, gives a charming performance and sings beautifully. However the character he plays, Ismael, merely comes across as rather bland and unmemorable while he lacks chemistry with Julie and Alice. If only there were more scenes with the truly radiant Chiara Mastroianni, whose character sings while holding an umbrella, which clearly channels the performance of her mother, Catherine Deneuve, in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Writer/director Christophe Honoré includes references to many of other classic films that you may not notice if you don’t pay close enough attention. The use of washed-out or dull colors in the cinematography gives the film a bit of a melancholic tone—it would’ve been more interesting to film it in black-and-white instead. Despite the plot’s many contrivances and an ultimately underwhelming finale, Love Songs at least feels mildly engaging, moving and truly comes alive during the 13 musical numbers. If you want to experience an unforgettable and more invigorating musical that packs a huge emotional wallop, please check out Across the Universe. Number of times I checked my watch: 2. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Released by IFC Films and Red Envelope Entertainment. Opens at the IFC Center and the Paris Theatre on March 21st, 2008.


Directed by Cédric Klapisch.

In French with subtitles. Pierre (Romain Duris), a chorus dancer at a cabaret, learns that he has a serious heart disease and needs a heart transplant operation, which he may or may not survive. He quits his job and seeks out assistance from his older sister, Elise (Juliette Binoche), a single mother who moves into his Parisian apartment with her three children. Roland, a university professor, played by amusingly by the charismatic Fabrice Luchini, has a romance with one of his students, Laetitia (Melanie Laurent), whom Pierre happens to fixate on after he sees her. In another subplot, Jean (Albert Dupontel) works with his ex-wife Caroline (Julie Ferrier) as a vendor selling fish at a market in Paris. They both get along with one another, although Jean has mixed feelings about her. Karin Viard briefly shows up as a racist bakery owner. Writer/director Cédric Klapisch, who previously wrote and directed Russian Dolls and L’Auberge Espagnole, interweaves the lives of so many characters with so many subplots that you’d the film would have to be at least three hours long rather than two hours and ten minutes. The most engaging and moving relationship happens to be the one between Pierre and his very kind and caring sister, Elise, while the rest of the relationships aren’t quite fleshed out enough to captivate you. The same can be said for the characters themselves who never really come to life enough so that you truly care about what happens to them. They each haven’t been lucky with love and romance while living in Paris, also known as the city of love, which essentially becomes an integral, living and breathing, so-to-speak, character in and of itself. Although the plot occasionally meanders as it jumps around from subplot to subplot, Klapisch at least does a decent job of bringing out the charms and enchanting qualities of Paris throughout. Had he set the film in a different city, such as New York, London, Madrid or Tokyo, the scenes would have a very different ambiance in general. Ultimately, Paris boasts a terrific ensemble cast and beautiful, enchanting sights of the City of Love, but it feels too convoluted, unfocused and somewhat bland as a whole.
Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by IFC Films.
Opens September 18th, 2009 at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

A Secret- Directed by Claude Miller.

n French with subtitles. Based on the novel by Philippe Grimbert. François (Mathieu Amalric) recalls his teenage years when his father, Maxime (Patrick Bruel), was engaged to Hannah (Ludivine Sagnier) before marrying Tania (Cecile de France), François’ current mother. Secrets gradually come about regarding how Maxime and Tania ended up together during the Nazi occupation of France. François (now played by Valentin Vigourt as a child) hears some of the secrets from his masseur, Louise (Julie Depardieu), while others he discovers later in life when he talks to his elderly father. Each actor and actress delivers a strong performance, especially the radiant Cecile de France. Director/co-writer Claude Miller includes very imaginative choices when it comes to the cinematography. The scenes taking place in the present are in black-and-white while the past scenes are in bright colors. Admittedly, it would have been more interesting had Miller written more scenes that take place in the present to show how François copes with all the revelations. Rarely does the plot drag, though, and, when it does, it’s quickly followed by very absorbing scenes that genuinely tug at your heart, especially in the emotionally intense third act. At a running time of 110 minutes, A Secret doesn’t overstay its welcome. Number of times I checked my watch: 1. Released by Strand Releasing. Opens at IFC Center and Paris Theatre on September 5th, 2008.

Shall We Kiss?

Directed by Emmanuel Mouret.

In French with subtitles. Gabriel (Michael Cohen) offers Émilie (Julie Gayet) a ride in his car and ends up going out to dinner with her, despite that both are already romantically involved with someone else. At the end of the date, as they sit beside one another in his car, he leans over to kiss her, but she pulls back. Her reason for attaching meaning to just one kiss stems from a story that she relays to him. In that story, Gimas (Emmanuele Mouret), a single schoolteacher, asks his married friend, Judith (Virginie Ledoyen), if she could do him a favor by showing him some physical affect in the form of a kiss which he hasn’t had in quite a while. Judith doesn’t want to hurt her husband, Claudio (Stefano Accorsi), though, if he finds out that she’s having an affair and that she wants to leave him. That’s when Gimas comes up with a simple plan to make her not have feelings of guilt toward leaving him and breaking his heart. Will the plan work smoothly or will it get somehow get complicated? How will the meaning of a seemingly innocent kiss between two friends evolve? Will Émilie finally accept a kiss from Gabriel or not? Writer/director Emmanuel Mouret keeps you guessing the answers to those intriguing questions as the story of Gimas and Judith unfolds and becomes increasingly complex. Mouret does a terrific job of balancing the drama with just the right amount of light comedy and romance without any pretensions or over-the-top scenes. There’s no evil character to contend with; everyone onscreen feels likeable and appealing to a certain extent. While much of the comedy derives from the dialogue and the characters subtle mannerisms, it all works thanks to the abundant charisma, grace and comic timing of the cast, which would be difficult to accomplish were this an American film with a famous Hollywood cast instead. At a running time of 102 minutes, Shall We Kiss? manages to be a delightfully sweet romantic comedy of manners filled with genuine charm, warmth and intelligent humor. It also makes for a very pleasant and satisfying date movie.
Number of times I checked my watch: 0.
Released by Music Box Films. Opens at the Angelika Film Center, Beekman Theatre and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

Trivial- Directed by Sophie Marceau.

Synopsis: Since the suicide of his wife, detective Jacques Renard (Christophe Lambert) hasn’t been able to pull it together, each day seemingly as much of a drudge as the day before. When a mysterious woman advises him to check out the Hotel Riviera in Deauville, Renard discovers that the hotel’s owner, Antoine Berangere (Robert Hossein), has been missing for two days, according to Antoine’s son and wheel-chair bound second wife (Marie-Christine Barrault). A terribly disfigured corpse turns up at the local morgue, and the police and the family declare the mystery of Antoine’s disappearance solved — but Renard’s not buying it. No distributor, yet.

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