Tag Archives: French Cinema

Un lac

Un Lac

 

Philippe Grandrieux’s “Un lac” takes place in a country unknown to us. We know nothing about the place apart from that it is full of snow and dense forests. But before discussing about the film, i will like to explain few things first –
1) The id :- It is most primitive component of personality. It is not affected by reality, logic or external world. It doesn’t change with time or experience. It operates within the unconscious mind.
2) Ego :- It is the decision making portion of personality. Ideally it works by reason whereas id is mostly unreasonable. Similar to id, the ego seeks pleasure and pain but unlike the id ,it wants to develop a realistic strategy to achieve it.
3)Superego- It operates as a moral conscience. It develops during childhood. It is learned through parents and society. Superego tries to control id’s impulses.

Deep in the middle of nowhere, a young man lives with his sister, a brother, his blind mother and father. The young man suffers from epileptic disorders. He has incestuous relationship with his sister but it seems that his sister doesn’t quite enjoy the intercourse process.  One day, a stranger arrives but do things really change?. Grandrieux’s film has minimal plot but it deals with too many things- the id,ego,superego (as explained above). It shows a bleak world. Most of the cinephiles have seen films depicting world with hopelessness. However, Grandrieux is different. U will rarely see bodies in their entirely . When u see them arriving, they are usually out of focus. Sometimes, the characters are appearing from the dark. It is shot on an unnerving handheld camera, regularly capturing claustrophobic close-ups of the actors. U will hear every breathing of the characters. They live in such an isolation that incest is not a taboo for them. Grandriuex aims to involve all the senses of the viewer, not only his sight. That is why, the focus is on the heavy breathing of the characters. You aren’t going to feel for any character. None of them appears as good or bad or grey. We are watching a bleak world but we aren’t feeling the pain. The film is made in French but most of the actors are from Czech or Russia. This is cinema of the highest order .

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Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie ( The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie )

discreet charme

 

“The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” remains Bunuel’s most successful film. It made more money than his famous “Belle de Jour” and it did manage to win Oscar as best Foreign language film. It was released in a year when Vietnam war was going in full form and the upper middle class was an obvious target of disdain.  Bunuel worked in Mexico,Hollywood,Spain before again returning to Spain. He spent years in political, financial and artistic exile, and many of his Mexican films were done for hire, but he always managed to make them his own. His characters are often selfish and self-centered, willing to compromise any principle to get their job done.
From the first shots of “Discreet Charm,” we are aware of the way his characters carry themselves. Fernando Rey stars as Don Rafael, the drug-dealing ambassador of a fictional Latin American country who lives in constant fear that one day he will be kidnapped and murdered by the guerilla terrorists outside his embassy. His friends repeatedly convene at the home of Monsieur Senechal (Jean-Pierre Cassel) and his wife, Alice (Stéphan Audran), whose dinners are constantly interrupted. The most amusing thing is that they never manage to dine properly. When the guests arrive for the dinner party, the hosts were having sex backyard. When the guests arrive at a restora to have dinner,they do hear that the owner is dead. Hearing this, they refuse to dine there and soon they leave the place. Elegant ladies sit down for an afternoon tea, only to be told by their waiter that the restaurant has run out of water.

Much of the film takes place in the nightmares of its characters. The protagonists seem to know what they want but they never reach their goal. They have all kinds of knowledge about manners and gestures, but they cannot sit down and eat. In Bunuel’s films, the clothes not only make the man, but are the man. Consider the bishop (Julien Bertheau), who arrives at the door in gardener’s clothes and is scornfully turned away, only to reappear in his clerical avatar to “explain himself,” and be accepted. Meanwhile, the narrative cuts in and out of dream sequences; at one point, one character’s dream turns out to be embedded in another’s. The text falls apart, so we find ourselves focused on the subtext. For all it’s symbols and destructing narrative, it is never a difficult film. Buñuel’s emphasis on the implacable dream logic that drives the film’s forking-paths storyline isn’t what you would call unprecedented. His films have often incorporated dream imagery, leaving even the most melodramatic material with outbursts of oneiric intensity. For the first-time Bunuel was provided with a video-playback monitor. The film employs meandering, unobtrusive camerawork and odd crane shots. There’s an elaborate tracking shot that follows one of the persons across the living room, up the staircase, and along the hallway. All of the performances were wonderful.
Even in the most dramatic scenes,they were never out of line. Special mention goes to Fernando Rey who was effortless throughout.

Manon Des Sources

manon Des source

 

It is the sequel to Jean de Florette. It won an award in 1989 as best french film. Time has passed and Manon (Emmanuelle Beart) is now a beautiful young woman.Galinette (Auteuil) and his uncle Cesar (Montard) have greatly prospered from the fresh spring water and their carnations grow well.  Galinette begins to turn towards ideas of love and steadily falls for the distant Manon. One day, Manon overhears the conversation of two locals about the vile action of Ugolin and Cesar and she plots revenge against the two men blocking the spring of the whole town. The film is an excellent travelogue of Provence, and its slow, deliberate pacing enables you to envelop yourself in a story that unveils itself in its own sweet time. The film binds all the people in town in a wonderfully spun loop of love, hate, crime, guilt, vengeance, repentance, and the possibility of forgivenes. Both Montand and Auteuil gave unforgettable performances.  Emmanuelle Beart was stunning as Manon. When this film ends, you will be devastated – and haunted forever by it.

Jean De Florette

Gerard_Depardieu_in_Jean_de_Florette

It is a 1986 French period drama film written and directed by Claude Berri, based on a novel by Marcel Pagnol.  The film takes place in rural France, where two local farmers plot to trick a newcomer out of his newly inherited property. The socially awkward Ugolin Soubeyran (Daniel Auteuil) returns from military service to his family home halfway up a green mountainside near his uncle César’s house.
Ugolin looks to César (Yves Montand), whom he calls “Papet,” for guidance as to how to carry on the family name, particularly since he is the family’s last member. Ugolin decides to grow carnations, which he hopes will make him rich. Although initially dubious about the scheme,  Papet changes his mind when he considers purchasing a land from his neighbor.  After accidentally killing the man, Papet and Ugolin block up a spring on the property with a scheme to buy the land cheap.  However, the plot goes wrong when ownership of the land shifts to the recently deceased Florette de Berengere, whose hunchback son Jean (Gerard Depardieu) moves back to his ancestral home with his wife and young daughter Manon. A recently retired tax collector, Jean is a well-read man with a fine strategy to plant a farm and a rabbit-breeding facility that will provide for his family until his death. As the film progresses, our attention narrowly focuses on the principal characters and their evolution. We are not distracted by outside events. At the same time, we are torn between the two conflicting wishes for the success of two conflicting projects.
Director Claude Berri’s epic period-drama masterpiece of French cinema features impeccable performances by reknowned French actors- Yves Montand, Gerard Depardieu, Daniel Auteil. Their brilliant ensemble work here highlights the rich history of French Cinema. The high-budget picture elegantly captures the natural setting, social customs, and personal prejudices of French villagers whose source of spring water is manipulated at different times by manipulative individuals.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091288/

La nuit américaine (Day For Night)

Day for night

 

“Shooting a movie is like a stagecoach trip. At first you hope for a nice ride. Then you just hope to reach your destination.” Early in the film, director Ferrand, played by François Truffaut, says this in a voice-over of ‘Day for Night’. A lot of the film illustrates this point. We are on the set of ‘Meet Pamela’.  ‘Meet Pamela’ is a love and revenge story, about a man falling in love with daughter-in-law. We get to know the cast and crew of ‘Meet Pamela’.  Julie Baker(Jacqueline Bisset), a second generation Hollywood star whose nervous breakdown she’s recovering from causes insurance problems; Alphonse (Jean-Pierre Léaud),a very jealous, very neurotic French actor who’s so madly in love with a girl he organizes the job of the script for her just to have her near; Alexandre(Jean-Pierre Aumont), a veteran actor who played many lovers in his life, but is actually a closet homosexual;  Severine (Valentina Cortese), an Italian actress with an alcohol problem who used to play opposite Alexandre frequently in her career, but hasn’t talked to him in years.
It is a film about making a film. It is also one of Truffaut’s most personal films. Day for Night” is Truffaut’s fondest, most compassionate film, and although it is packed with references to films and film people (Welles, Vigo, Fellini, Buñuel, among others), it’s not a particularly inside film. Bisset as Julie gives the film a bit of real heart as the one character who has something of a life beyond movies. Cortese is a treat, with both her sweetness and her lighter moments. Jean-Pierre Léaud is outstanding as selfish, spoiled Alphonse. Truffaut himself played the role of the director with a lot of confidence. “Day for Night” is an ensemble movie, showing how the many kinds of people on a film set surmount the many minor crises inherent in film-making.

 

Juste Avant La Nuit

Juste avant la nuit

Just Before Nightfall is another Claude Chabrol film that focuses on infidelity and again it’s an intriguing thriller and an excellent exploration of the human condition. When a sadomasochistic game goes too far, Charles (Michel Bouquet), a married man, strangles his lover, the wife of his best friend, and then does battle with his guilty conscience. The murder happens right at the start of the film, so it’s not exactly a spoiler. Bouquet despises the games she likes to play, mostly because he sees that what she’s really getting off on is his own distaste. He’s not sure whether he wanted to murder her.  He’s married to an elegant woman (Stephane Audran, Chabrol’s wife) and has a couple of nice kids and an elegant house that was designed by the victim’s husband.
His characters are generally from the section of French bourgeoisie. They’re respectable, they live in comfortable homes and work in well-paying professions, they present a facade of total respectability. But underneath there are dark passions and well-kept secrets and, at-times, the ultimate embarrassment of murder. The actors reveal their inner dilemmas with gestures more than words. Deep intentions run across surface motives. And the final gesture of this compelling film casts all that went before into another, deeper level. All the main characters are developed well and believable. The main character, Charles, is certainly the most interesting ; the way that guilt overtakes him provides a different take on the common murderer theme and makes for a very interesting watch. Guilt, forgiveness, revenge coexist and mutually triumph. Many of us assume these three moral stances are mutually irreconcilable. Chabrol balances them against each other and then fuses them together.

wolf

Director Christophe Gans has given us an exhilarating ride with this stylish period thriller. The story involves the Beast of Gevaudan, which in 1764, terrorized a remote district of France, killing more than 100 people and tearing out their hearts and vitals.
As the film opens, the king has dispatched eminent scientist Gregoire de Fronsac (played by Samuel le Bihan), along with a muscle-bound Iroquois blood brother named Mani ( Mark Dacascos), to investigate. The creature responsible is reportedly a monstrous wolf, but as the pair investigate, they discover that several of the locals may know more about the affair than they’re admitting.  Why is aristocrat Jean-Francois de Morangias ( Vincent Cassel) so indecisive towards the duo and is the prostitute Sylvia ( Monica Bellucci) just a little too savvy and sophisticated for someone who earns their living from dusk till dawn?  There’s also the small matter of Marianne (Dequenne), Jean-Francois’ virginal sister who fascinates Grégoire and then drives him into the arms of Sylvia.

Brotherhood of the Wolf encompasses every genre of film; martial arts, action, romance, thriller, horror, drama, everything.  There is the strikingly elegant and almost hypnotic courtesan Monica Bellucci, playing her role of seductress with ice-cold professionalism.  In complete contrast there is the innocent, fragile, and astonishingly beautiful, Emilie Dequenne, younger sister to the protective Jean Francois.
The two leads are fantastic and share a chemistry reminiscent of the relationship between Butch and Sundance.  Then there is Vincent Cassel who is suitably creepy as the immoral ‘Morangias”.  Atmosphere and suspense are strong throughout, and definite care is taken with the sound editing, whether it be the ceaseless patter of the driving rainfall or the heaving atmosphere of a noisy brothel.  The horror or ‘attack’ sequences are artfully played out, quietly refusing to reveal the identity of the creature; but when at last it is shown, the special effects do not disappoint.