130 posts categorized "French Cinema"

March 22, 2024

ANATOMY OF A FALL — CANNES 2023

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel. Punk heart still beating.

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ColeSmithey.com"Pueblo chico, infierno grande" translates to small town, big hell.

Such is the remote French community of Grenoble that German outsider Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller) finds herself when her troubled husband Samuel Maleski seemingly commits suicide.

The townspeople refuse to accept that their hometown boy could have offed himself. The interloper wife must have murdered Samuel (played by Samuel Theis).

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This is one brilliantly written and directed courtroom drama.

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Sandra is a successful author, Samuel is a university lecturer; jealousy rattles the relationship.

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Sharp dialogue and tricky plot twists keep you on the hook.

"Anatomy of a Fall" won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2023, so you know you're in for a treat.

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Sandra Hüller gives a riveting performance in this slow-burn drama.

Ice is the only thing in the world that is what it's cracked up to be, until blood melts it, that is.

Rated R. 151 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

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October 25, 2023

FORBIDDEN GAMES — SHOCKTOBER!

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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ColeSmithey.comRene Clement's 1952 adaptation of Francois Boyer's 1944 novel is an exquisitely pragmatic film about the corruptive effect of war on children. Fitting then that the wartime movie received a “G” rating upon its release.

The documentarian-turned-feature filmmaker Clement tells the horrifying story of devastating familial loss from the eyes of two traumatized adolescent protagonists.

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It is June, 1940. After her parents are killed beside her on a street leading out of Paris during the Nazi blitzkrieg, five-year-old Paulette (played by Brigitte Fossey) reaches out to compare he mother’s dead cheek with her own.

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In this one bitter moment the filmmaker sums up the depravity of all wars. Things can only get much worse before they get better. Paulette may have survived the attack, but she is doomed as a human being.

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The newly minted refugee carries her dead dog with her. She doesn’t even cry because she isn’t old enough to even begin processing the cataclysmic loss she has just endured, much less imagine a future for herself. Death will forever be her constant companion, mentor, and parent. War has turned Paulette into a monster in the blink of an eye.

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Later, Michel Dolle (Georges Poujouly), a 10-year-old peasant boy, discovers Paulette wandering alone in the countryside. Michel naturally convinces his family to take the little girl in to live with them.

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Puppy-love blooms. Sadism arrives.

Paulette requests that Michel go out and kill animals to add her private animal cemetery in an abandoned mill. Stolen crucifixes are a necessary part of Paulette’s alter of death. This little female Hitler has plans to eventually include human corpses in her collection. What starts out as a children’s game has far greater implications for the future. The traumatized little girl attempts to reenact her parents’ deaths that haunt her conscious and sub-conscious thoughts.

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"Forbidden Games" caused a scandal when it was released in 1952 because it co-opted a fictional story and embellished it with the recent realities of World War II. The film is every bit as controversial today for its transparently fuming view of the permanent damage that war inflicts on its youngest survivors. You’re never too young to repeat the atrocities of your elders, is a message that comes across loud and clear in this disturbing film, made all the more powerful via Rene Clement’s neo-realist approach.

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At the time of this picture’s release, Rene Clement was already a household name connected to war films due to his popular Resistance docudrama “Battle of the Rails” (1945) and “Les Maudits,” about intrigue on a German U-boat near the end of World War II.

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Clement’s early years spent studying architecture informed his ability to articulate the power of buildings, streets, bridges, rivers, and objects over the variable ability of children to extrapolate personal truths about their place in the world around them. Hope is just so much wasted effort in the face of bombs.

Not Rated. 86 mins.

5 Stars SF SHOCKTOBER!
Cozy Cole

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October 22, 2023

LA CEREMONIE — SHOCKTOBER!

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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ColeSmithey.comThe revolution comes from the inside in Claude Chabrol’s exquisite adaptation of Ruth Rendell’s 1977 leftist novel “A Judgement In Stone.”

Not since Luis Bunuel has any filmmaker come so daringly close to enunciating the ideological, ethical, and soulful rift between the bourgeoisie and the rest of us as Chabrol does in this fascinating, if darkly sensuous, picture. Lesbian fires ignite between two would-be murderess[s].

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Rituals such as family dinners or private parties allow for characters to interact, impregnate, and divide. As with Bunuel’s films, food plays a significant part in these daily rites.

The story unfolds in the northwest coast of France where art gallery director Catherine Lelievres (Jacqueline Bisset) lives in French countryside splendor with her recent (opera-obsessed) husband Georges (Jean-Pierre Cassel) and his two teenage children (Melinda and Gilles) from a previous marriage.

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Catherine hires Sophie (Sandrine Bonnaire) as her latest live-in maid to keep her lavish home tidy and cook the family meals. 

Sophie keeps secrets close to her chest. Her illiteracy means that she can't order the weekly groceries because she can't read the list. Help arrives in the magnetic tomboy form of Jeanne (Isabelle Huppert), a local postal clerk with a murderous past. Jeanne knows that Sophie was accused of murdering her handicapped dad but was let go due to a lack of proof. Threat of prison is a mutual experience since Jeanne was accused of killing her four-year-old daughter, but was found innocent. 

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21st century audiences may be surprised to learn that there was such a thing as a “boy-bun” long before there was a “man-bun” as evidenced by Catherine’s adopted son Gilles (Valentin Merlet).

Addressing Gilles's freshly budding smoking habit, Catherine tells her adopted son, “It’s easier not to start than it is to quit.” Naturally, she offers him a cigarette later on when it suits her. She decrees that Gilles can only smoke in her presence. Careful social coding comes through in every sequence involving the family. Their limited (stereotype) attitudes clash against the intimate (female outlaw) romantic reality that Bonnaire and Huppert share. Their mutual attraction is real. 

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Claude Chabrol deftly uses television as an implement of reality displacement that Sophie learns to use to deny demands that are placed on her, such as when Georges calls requesting that she retrieve a file from his desk. She becomes a robot to the TV in same way that audiences all over the world are. 

“La Ceremonie” is a film that is ahead of its time, just as much as it is of its time. Isabelle Huppert’s determined (read lesbian leftist activist) character speaks the film’s theme lines with sinewy authority.

Regarding Sophie’s discovery of Melinda’s (Virginie Ledoyen) pregnancy, Jeanne says, “It’s no problem for them [the Lelievres), anyway. Keep it or get rid of it, no problem.”

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Indeed, Jeanne’s brief summation of Melinda’s dilemma coincides with the teenaged girl's blasé attitude in the face of her next day's scheduled abortion. Charming Melinda sits happily on the sofa with her snobby family watching a VHS-recorded opera. Virginie Ledoyen is the embodiment of privileged nubility. Incredible, and contemptible.  

Regardless of how much elites (in any country) attempt to buffer themselves from the lower classes, they must always remain at the workers' mercy in the form of service industry jobs. Poison comes in many forms.

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Chabrol’s dream-team cast comes together in a once-in-a-lifetime event. I could wax poetic about Jean-Pierre Cassel, who delivers such a wonderfully bland rendition of veiled white supremacist viewpoints that you could blink and miss it. Jacqueline Bisset reaches microcosmic degrees of restrained emotion like you can’t believe.

Don’t get me started on cinematographer Bernard Zitzermann’s dynamic formalism that works like guitar in a jazz trio, playing against Monique Fardoulis’s snappy editing. This film is a flawless example of French Cinema. Look. There it is.

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Not Rated. 112 mins.

5 StarsColeSmithey.com SHOCKTOBER! KITTIESCozy Cole

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