26 September, 2008

French Cinema In The City By The Bay

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The San Francisco Film Society, in association with the French-American Cultural Society, the French Consulate of San Francisco and Unifrance USA, will present a spotight on contemporary French cinema in the program French Cinema Now, which opens at Landmark's Clay Theater on October 8. The mini-fest, lasting five days, celebrates the best in the newest French wave of auteur talents....a kind of salute to "frogs" in the fog.

The series is bookended by two much celebrated French films of the past year. The opener is A Christmas Tale, the story of a dysfunctional upper class French famiily, which features some of France's most arresting talents, including screen goddess Catherine Deneuve, Mathieu Almaric (The Diving Bell And The Butterfly) and Chiarra Mastroianni (the impossibly beautiful offspring of Ms. Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni). The film is directed by Arnaud Desplechin, one of France's most high profile directors.

The series ends 5 days later with The Class, winner of the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival. A neo-realist dissection of the contemporary French classroom, the latest film from celebrated auteur Laurent Cantent is making the festival rounds (it opens the New York Film Festival tomorrow night) and is slated to be one of the arthouse box office hits of the season.

Other highlights from the program include Welcome To The Sticks (Dany Bon), a small charmer about a post office manager who longs to escape his humdrum existence in a small port town in northern France; Actresses, a tour de force for its director/writer and star Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, one of Europe's most busy actresses; Alibi(Pascal Bonitzer), a classy who-dunnit starring Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Miou-Miou and Mathieu Demy; and Lads And Jockeys (Benjamin Marquet), a debut documentary that takes us into the world of jockey apprenticeship where young teens adopt a grueling training regimen in hopes of landing an elusive professional career.

The Festival also includes two little-seen films by Arnaud Desplechin, including
the hour-long Life Of The Dead, his first film that begins his revelatory investigation into the web of relationships that comprise the modern family; and My Sex Life . . . or How I Got into an Argument, his keenly observed and quite funny look at the tedium and pretension of graduate school, with a young Mathieu Almaric showing real comic style as a 29-year-old assistant professor of philosophy.

Any series on French cinema traces its aesthetic roots to the famous New Wave cinema of the 1960s. In a nod to that influence, the series will feature a rare screening of Six in Paris, a pastiche of Parisian stories by the likes of Jean-Luc Godard, Jean Rouch, Claude Chabrol and Eric Rohmer, along with the lesser known Jean Douchet.

Lots to savor a la francaise......

No comments: