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Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2010
(March 11th - March 21st, 2010)

Please click here for more Film Program information and to purchase tickets.

The Opening Night film selection, Farewell, centers around a true story from the 1980’s about an Russian KGB official, Sergei Gregoriev (Emir Kusturica), who hands over documents with information to an Pierre Froment (Guillaume Canet), an engineer. Little does Pierre know that these documents are actually top-secret and contain highly sensitive information that will set off a chain of events that puts their lives in danger and increasingly aggravates U.S. President Ronald Reagan (Fred Ward) who wants to put an end to the leak as fast as possible and to hunt down potential KGB moles within the CIA. Director/co-writer Christian Carion generates a modicum of intrigue from its intricate, politically-charged plot. The pace occasionally slows down and drags toward the middle, but the last third of the film is quite suspenseful and even a bit thrilling. Strong performances from Kusturica and Canet also help to keep you engaged and immersed, for the most part, into the story.

The Hedgehog stars Garance Le Guillermic as Paloma, an 11-year-old lonely, alienated girl who plans to end her life after the next 165 days. She documents are life during that time with her father’s video camera. Soon enough, she forms an unlikely bond with her apartment building’s concierge, Renée Michel (Josiane Balasko), a middle-aged woman who’s also a bit of an outsider just like her. It’s equally amusing and heartwarming to watch how their bond percolates into a friendship that highlights just how Paloma is so mature and wise beyond her years. You’ll find yourself forgetting that she’s merely 11-years-old. The terrific screenplay by writer/director Mona Achache, based on the novel by Muriel Barbery, blends comedy, drama, tragedy and even a bit of romance with a very light and somewhat whimsical touch. Sure, the issues of death, loneliness and suicide are quite heavy, but the film has so many clever turn of events, insights and some hilarious, witty scenes that will make you feel uplifted, moved and even, perhaps, inspired in an unadulterated and uncontrived way.

In Making Plans for Lena, Lena (Chiara Mastroianni) returns her parents countryside home with her two children where she hopes to have a relaxing vacation. Little does she know that she’s in for more than she bargained for. She meets her ex-husband, Nigel (Jean-Marc Barr), there along with her sister (Marina Foïs) who’s in a troubled marriage with her husband, José (Jean-Baptiste Fonc). Even when her former lover, Simon (Louis Garrel), shows up, she’s still in a forlorn state of mind that she can’t seem to get out of. Director/co-writer Christophe Honoré fails to flesh out the character of Lena interestingly enough so that she’d be worth caring about as a protagonist. The entire burden of the film rests on her and how she reacts to others, but during her interactions you’ll find her to be neurotic, jejune and annoying---on top of that, she needs some cheese with her all her whine. Honoré offers nothing surprising or truly insightful for that matter when it comes to his exploration of depression or mid-life crisis, so you’ll find yourself underwhelmed and wishing the dialogue were wiser and, most importantly, more engaging rather than so dull and forgettable.

The Thorn in the Heart

Directed by Michel Gondry.

This sporadically fascinating, often dull documentary focuses on the life and work of Suzanne Gondry, director Michel Gondry’s aunt, and the dynamics of the relationship between her and Jean-Yves, her son. Suzanne lives in the French countryside where she had once worked for many years as a schoolteacher nearly 60 years ago. She had even taught Algerian students at one point. The first footage you get to see, though, is from recent times as she and her family, including Michel, gather at the dinner table and share some laughter together. Director Michel Gondry then travels with her to schools around the countryside and to visit her formers students. Not surprisingly, she reminisces with them about their experiences at the school so many decades ago. Michel includes a few of his trademark editing and cinematographic touches to enliven the film a bit, but it’s not nearly enough to keep you immersed into the film. The marginally interesting aspect of the film, though, is Susanne’s tension-filled relationship with her son, Jean-Yves, after he had come out of the closet. Jean-Yves candidly admits that he’s not happy that she neglected to inform him of his father’s death. Michel fails to adequately explore their relationship, though, and doesn’t ask provocative enough questions, so, naturally, Susanne’s answers aren’t particularly provocative. Toward the end, he does capture a moment when she starts to cry which feels somewhat moving for the viewer, but it’s hard to cry with her because you simply never have the chance to get to know her. Phyllis and Harold was also a documentary about a director who points that camera at her family and exploring their history, but that was a much more engaging and heartfelt film with questions that didn’t shy away from the heart of the matter and allowed for plenty of insights that touched upon universal themes. The Thorn in the Heart, on the other hand, feels too slight, lazy and not nearly as moving or insightful as it could have been with more piercing and provocative interviews.
Number of times I checked my watch: 5
Released by Oscilloscope Laboratories.
Opens April 2nd, 2010 at the Village East Cinema.

**Please check back soon for reviews of 14 more films.**
(*Opening Night Film*)
Directed by Christian Carions.
In English, French and Russian with subtitles.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by NeoClassics Films.
No released date yet.
The Hedgehog
Directed by Mona Achache.
In French with subtitles.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
No distributor yet.
Making Plans for Lena
Directed by Christophe Honoré.
In French with subtitles.
Number of times I checked my watch: 5
Released by IFC Films.
Opens August 20th, 2010 at the IFC Center.

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