66 posts categorized "French Cinema"

February 04, 2021

DAGUERRÉOTYPES

Screen Shot 2021-02-04 at 1.07.47 AMEquality. Recognition. Artistic and personal truth. I’ve watched all of Agnès Varda films while discovering Criterion’s lush celebration of the French New Wave’s progenitor. If you could only have one filmmaker’s oeuvre on your private desert island, Agnès Varda’s films are the right choice to last you the rest of your life.

In Varda-approved random fashion I begin my slight review of Varda’s supremely personal, transgressive, and satisfying films with Daguerréotypes, a documentary film that fully expresses Agnès Varda’s confidence and openness to the world around her. In this case that meant the 90 meter distance of cable that her camera could reach from her floor-level apartment to the shops and locations in the Rue Daguerre district of Paris. Varda was raising her two-year-old son at the time, so she needed to stay close to home. Varda's catlike curiosity pours through every second of this truly delightful movie.

Daguerreotypes1

The magician who appears at the film’s opening credits returns during a public performance in front of an audience of (Parisian) neighborhood regulars. Everything from the magician’s formal approach to his audience and their delightful reactions to his Grand Guignol-inspired tricks, Varda captures a dynamic personal immediacy to time and place. Think Les Blank. There's boldness in Varda's subtle simplicity. Agnès Varda retained this transparency throughout her spectacular career as a filmmaker of the first water.     

DAGUERREOTYPES2

The film's title comes from Rue Daguerre, the street that Varda lived on. The street was named after Louis Daguerre, "inventor of the Daguerreotypes of photographic printing."

Daguere

Naturally this movie is a time capsule of French life, by virtue of Agnès Varda's generous and willing ability to reach out to her neighbors in a cinematic way. There is much to enjoy, relish, and learn from the elderly subjects in this treasured movie. Taken with the joy that Varda captures and inspires, "Daguerréotypes" is a social study for all time. What love. What magic. What a celebration of life.

Chardon-bleu

Five Stars

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February 15, 2018

VIVRE SA VIE — CLASSIC FILM PICK

Vivre Sa VieIn 1962 French New Wave provocateur Jean-Luc Godard shifted stylistic filmic gears as lucidly as Miles Davis revolutionized music. Artistic experimentation was in the air. For his fourth feature Godard took Marcel Sacotte’s book about prostitution in Paris as inspiration to create a fascinating cinema vérité styled character and social study. Godard’s groundbreaking camera techniques add intimacy, suspense, and mystery to his documentary approach to sensitive subject matter. The dramatic effect is memorable as it is meaningful. Every aspect of the movie is effortlessly iconic, not the least of which is the stylish personality profile that Anna Karina fulfills. 

Anna Karina

Never before had the backs of heads and shoulders been exploited to such a delightfully dramatic extreme. Hair styles express nuances heretofore unknown. Broken into 12 chapters, “Vivre Sa Vie” takes a non-judgmental view of a character who is nonetheless doomed.

Godard’s wife at the time Anna Karina is transfixing Nana, a lovely young French actress driven to take up prostitution after meeting a pimp. Forth-wall-breaking moments allow the audience to connect with Anna Karina’s guileless yet fragile beauty in support of her aspirational character. The emotion and intellectual nature that Karina transmits is every bit as affecting as Renee Falconetti in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s brilliant silent film “The Passion of Joan of Arc” from 1928. Indeed, Godard references Dreyer’s masterpiece in “Vivre Sa Vie” when Nana goes to a screening at a Parisian cinema.

Anna Karina

“My Life to Live” has just as much social currency today as the day it was released even if its gangster trope ending lets Godard off the hook all too easy. Here is a unique film that takes daring chances while rooting itself in neorealist filmic soil. You can feel its grounded sense of immediacy and truth.  

Anna Karina

Not rated. 85 mins. (A) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)


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Jean-Luc Godard's fourth film features Godard's wife-at-the-time Anna Karina as an actress-turned-prostitute in this ground breaking example of the French New Wave. Stone Delicious IPA seemed like the perfect beer to go along with this equally attractive film. 

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February 09, 2018

DOUBLE LOVER

Lamant_doubleFrance’s ever-reliable and prolific auteur François Ozon (“Swimming Pool”) confirms his place as an inventive filmic storyteller with a precise sense of style, suspense, emotion, and tone. 2018 has its first great film.

Based loosely on Joyce Carol Oates’s novel “Lives of Twins” (written under the pseudonym Rosamond Smith), “Double Lover” is an alluring erotic mystery built on a puzzle of the flesh. Surrealism and magical realism come into play. You could easily imagine David Cronenberg directing it but the film wouldn’t be near as good if he had.

Jérémie Renier (from Ozon’s 1999 erotic thriller “Criminal Lovers”) plays twin psychoanalyst brothers Paul Meyer and Louis Delord.

Marine Vacth, the unforgettable star of Ozon’s recent “Young & Beautiful,” plays Chloe, a 25-year-old museum guard with model looks who suffers from unexplained stomach pains. Chloe becomes Paul’s patient before the sessions turn romantic to the point that they move in together with Chloe’s expressive cat Milo. Another cat character figures into the storyline as well. Yes, here is a movie with two feline characters played by cats. Brilliant.  

Lamant-double

Rarely, if ever, has a mainstream filmmaker made such explicit use of a woman’s vagina to such sinewy narrative effect. The film opens with a close-up view inside Chloe’s vagina from her OBGYN’s vantage point before morphing into an eye. Hitchcock had nothing on Ozon. Later in the film we watch an interior view of Chloe’s orgasming vagina (in black-and-white) during sex with Renier’s BDSM master Louis Delord. However biologically pornographic these sequences sound, they are composed in service to the film.

Double Lover

This is visceral stuff. Such a high-wire act is not easily achieved. Ozon exerts exquisite control over the diabolically twisted proceedings that draw in a deft turn from Jaqueline Bisset.

To be sure, there are some BDSM sequences between Louis and Chloe that seem sexually abusive if you discount the master/slave relationship at play. Tricky. Ozon balances the scale with a scene of Chloe pegging Paul, even if Paul says he only did it for Chloe.

Double Lover

“Double Lover” is an ideal Valentine’s Day movie for the adventurous. It gets you in the head, heart, and loins.

Rated R. 107 mins. (A) (Five stars  — out of five / no halves)


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