66 posts categorized "French Cinema"

January 14, 2018


Valseuses -LesFor his second feature, Bertrand Blier based the film on his novel “Les Valseuses” (French slang for “the testicles”). The swinging balls of the film’s provocative French title refers to 25-year-old Jean-Claude (Gerard Depardieu) and Pierrot (Patrick Dewaere), his 23-year-old partner in crime. The two roustabouts are petty criminals on a constant bender of robbing women, stealing cars, and sexually assaulting women if not each other. Indeed, there is a scene in which Jean-Claude buggers his friend after breaking into an unoccupied beachside home because “it’s only natural.”


So it is that Bertrand Blier presents a transgressive outlaw mentality unchallenged by any would-be authority figures in France. Crime is merely a way of life.

Marie-Ange (Miou-Miou) serves as the film’s [hijacked] anti-protagonist after being taken against her will by our thugs du jour. Marie-Ange’s primary objective becomes achieving orgasms, much to the dismay of the sexually adventurous Jean-Claude and Pierrot who find themselves woefully unprepared for the task at hand, try as they must.


The two male characters represent an opposite but equal affront to capitalist ideologies. Neither man is intellectual enough to act with any informed nihilist or anarchist agenda, rather these are cartoonish hippies in search of immediate gratification without regard to social norms. They are punks before the Punk movement took hold, albeit with a more focused approach that found expression though music.

Going places

Jean-Claude and Pierrot seem to briefly relate on a humanist level when they help Jeanne Pirolle, a recently released prison convict played by Jeanne Moreau. Still, their financial generosity and sexual attention backfires when Jeanne sneaks off to fulfill her own fantasy of psychological and physical escape.     


Although inscrutable to any mainstream reading, “Going Places” succeeds due to the film’s refusal to provide easy answers for its characters’ irredeemable actions. Here is an unapologetic, if infuriating, cinematic provocation that dares its audience to rationalize the orgiastic behavior on display. John Waters could do no better. Governments, politicians, soldiers, and police are busy committing far greater systematically generated crimes as you read these words.

Rated R. 117 mins. (B) Three Stars

Even the grandest of Bouffers are gonna have a hard time swallowing this 1974 nihilist sexual assault romp with Gérard Depardieu and Miou-Miou. An interesting but uncomfortable look at the French post-new wave sex revolution through the story of two sociopaths on a endless road trip to satisfying their desires.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and follow us on SOUNDCLOUD. And tell your friends! 

Help keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.


Groupthink doesn't live here.

December 21, 2017


Happy-endMichael Haneke’s run of making increasingly better films has come to an abrupt halt. The provocative auteur behind such gems as “Funny Games,” “The White Ribbon,” and “Amour” (an undeniable masterpiece) turns a regressive corner in a failed attempt at comedic satire posited as a familial drama simmering with racial discontent.

Social media and cell phones (used as video cameras) play into Haneke’s dubious story about Eve Laurent, a matricidal teenaged girl sent to live with her remarried dad Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz) after carrying out her devilish deed, which Eve videotapes for her own satisfaction.

Although “Happy End” is not without its brief comic charms, the film’s tone is off, the ending unsatisfying. It seems as though Haneke is stealing too much from himself. In layman’s terms, he has jumped the shark.


Eve’s murderous scheme (believed by her family to be a successful suicide attempt) plants the young psychopath in the lap of French luxury since Thomas and his wife Anais (Laura Verlinden) live in a large mansion in Calais with Thomas’s ailing grandfather Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), and Thomas’s mistress-of-industry sister Anne (Isabelle Huppert) and her twentysomething son (business partner) Pierre (Franz Rogowski).

Hidden familial problems abound. Thomas carries on an affair with a local cellist with an articulate if raunchy habit of expressing her outre sexual desires for him on direct messaging on Facebook. Naturally Eve breaks into daddy’s laptop and discovers his secret life. Eve discerns that her dad is incapable of love, at least "love" on her youthful romanticized terms.

The shark-jumping kicker arrives when Grandpa George realizes that Eve has the same killer instinct that enabled him to smother his ailing wife five years ago, a not-so offhand reference to “Amour” where Trintignant’s character did just that.


Michael Haneke has had an amazing run; he just wasn’t able to avoid falling into one of the many traps the befall most creative filmmakers if they’re fortunate enough to keep making films into their 70s. It’s not too late for Haneke to make another masterpiece on the level of “Amour” or “The White Ribbon,” but it doesn’t seem as likely or certain as it once did.

Rated R. 107 mins. (C-) (Two stars — out of five / no halves)

COLE SMITHEYA small request: Help keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon, and receive special rewards!


Groupthink doesn't live here.

September 20, 2017



ColesmitheyThere is beautiful chemistry between the legendary 88-year-old French New Wave filmmaker Agnes Varda and JR, the youthful French photographer who cares for Varda as a loyal would-be grandson of artistic intentions. JR and Varda share directing credits for this disarmingly sweet and poignant documentary that plays more as a docudrama due to the circumstance of uncertainty regarding Ms. Varda’s health.

The movie is a nuanced sociological study of French culture. Needless to say, the amount of pretense on display is near zero. Think of it as neo-realistic French New Wave ethnographic study in B minor. The personal and artistic elements are articulated to their fullest — a rare cinematic, event to say the least. It doesn't hurt that JR and Agnes Varda are two of the most endearing human beings you'd ever want to spend two hours of your life with. 


The harmonious pair of inspired film-project pals travel to small towns in France in a Mercedes Benz truck decorated to resemble a giant camera. Already we are in a filmic world. The sides of JR’s fancy mode of transportation includes a photo booth where locals are photographed. The truck then prints out black-and-white portraits on gigantic sheets of paper that JR pastes to the sides of buildings to create dramatic personalized statements about the significance of human faces and truth.


Although Varda’s vision is constantly blurry due to an eye condition, she complains about JR’s proclivity for always wearing sunglasses. She wants to see his eyes. But it is clear that JR separates himself as an artist from his subject so that your attention can focus on the art rather than the artist.

Cole smithey

“Faces Places” is a film you discover and revel in the joy of its simplicity, patience, and naturalistic discourse. Like all of Varda’s films, this one is special. It won this year’s L’Oeil d’or at Cannes for good reason. If you only see one film at NYFF55, “Faces Places” is the one to watch.


Not Rated. 89 minutes. (A) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)

What to Watch at the 55th New York Film Festival from Cole Smithey on Vimeo.

Help keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.


Featured Video

SMART NEW MEDIA® Custom Videos



Throwback Thursday

Podcast Series