The French Film Vestibule is Upon Us

As you know, despite spending millions on marketing to get the word out, our arts industry, for easily understood commercial reasons, doesn’t effectively get the word out about whether their products are any good or not. So for the cost of an hour or so’s outsourced, offshored labour, Troppo steps into the breach. Perhaps we should go one step further and see if anyone wants to suggest some times they intend to go to movies and we can join each other there.

Top Picks

Trailer Icon 03 The Odyssey (Opening Night)
It is 1943 and the eccentrically ambitious naval officer Cousteau dreams of adventure. His magnificent new invention of the Aqua-Lung promises to bring him just that. Newly armed with the ability to breathe underwater for long periods of time, Cousteau dedicates his life’s work to his obsession with the sea, becoming the first to create underwater films that dazzle audiences worldwide. His success comes at a cost, however, as his wife Simone and sons Philippe and Jean-Michel struggle to keep up with the stormy seas of Cousteau’s fierce and unfailing determination, the ultimate price of which is yet to come.
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Gabrielle is a spirited and willful woman, who is convinced that true love exists for her, one of wild excitement and unending feverish emotion. Her conservative rural family is at a loss with what to do with her obsessive and lofty ideals. To Gabrielle’s horror, they enlist José, a poor Spanish bricklayer to marry her and turn her into a respectable woman. When she is admitted to a health center for months of treatment and meets André, a lieutenant wounded in the Indochina War, her body and mind erupt with the feelings she has so long craved, and she is determined to preserve this at any cost.
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Based on Anton Chekhov’s weird and wonderful world of wild, nomadic freedom, “the Ogres” are a mixed bag of wicked characters played by an explosive ensemble cast. Led by the rough and dishonest but very appealing, François, they travel from town to town performing their extravaganza to audiences all over France. Yet the precise choreography of their act masks an intimate living situation of carefully-balanced turbulence, where the addition of fresh romances, old passions, and new children threaten to destroy a family that is comprised of much more than just blood-ties and wedding rings.
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The profoundly moving story of a fifty something woman who, after living comfortably for many years, must suddenly reinvent her life. Nathalie teaches philosophy at a college in Paris. Married with two grown-up children, her spare time is devoted to the books she publishes as a sideline, to former students who have become friends and, above all, to her overly possessive mother. But out of nowhere, Nathalie’s husband Heinz announces he is leaving her for another woman, the first of a series of events that will completely upend Nathalie’s world, and force her to reassess her future..
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Embark on an inspirational cinematic experience with veteran writer-director Bertrand Tavernier’s sprawling and deeply personal epic voyage through French cinema. Tavernier masterfully explores the auteurs from the 1930s up to his own first breakout feature in 1974, The Clockmaker of St. Paul. Included in the analysis are the contributions of directors such as Jacques Becker and François Truffaut and actors such as Jean Renoir and Jean Gabin balanced with those of lesser known French filmmakers who have also illuminated emotions and revealed surprising truths. Hundreds of clips comprise this magnificent tribute to French filmmakers, scriptwriters, actors, and musicians with rare and behind the-scenes insights that are eye-opening, scandalous and funny.
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It is the end of World War II in Poland and hostilities have ceased. Mathilde is a young doctor caring for French soldiers in a Red Cross hospital. A desperate plea from a nun convinces Mathilde to break protocol and visit a local Benedictine convent where she is shocked to find a nun in the midst of a complicated labor and several more in various stages of pregnancy. As she uncovers the truth of what occurred, she begins the demanding task to care for these women while navigating the reluctance of the wary Mother Superior. The Innocents chronicles a largely forgotten piece of history based on the astonishing true experiences of Madeleine Pauliac.
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In 2012, a study was published that announced the impending potential demise of the human race. Unable to ignore the hard facts that food, water and oil would be scarce within the lifetime of their children, directors Laurent and Dion set about visiting ten vastly different countries to explore what was being done to counteract the impending catastrophe. During their journey, they met the pioneers who are reinventing agriculture, energy, the economy, democracy and education. By focussing on grassroots solutions and intermingling the serious with the playful, Tomorrow entertains while giving the audience autonomy to both engage in and change a situation in which everyone is involved. Above all, the message is one of resounding hope for a better future. This is essential viewing for anyone wanting to know what they can do to help save the planet.
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Prepare to accompany one kooky Canadian as she embarks on a whimsical trip through France’s great city in this charming and entirely unique comedy. Fiona’s orderly and precise life in Canada is thrown into chaos when she receives a letter of distress from her 93-year-old Aunt Martha who is living in Paris. Immediately jumping to action, Fiona arrives in the city of lights only to discover that Martha has disappeared. So begins a hysterical search crammed with one spectacular disaster after another as Fiona desperately scours the city with her oversized red backpack, all the while tailed by an infatuated Dom, an affable, but annoying tramp who won’t leave her alone.
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Frenchman Mathieu finds himself in strange circumstances when he learns the father he never knew has just passed away. In the wake of this startling news, Mathieu is overcome with eagerness to unravel his life’s mystery, to receive the package his father left him, and most of all to meet his two brothers. Thus, the following day, he travels to Quebec, where he is welcomed by his father’s best friend, Pierre. However, Mathieu’s intentions are thwarted when Pierre forbids him to reveal the true purpose of his visit to his brothers who are unaware of their relationship to him. With the body of his father still missing, and forced to conceal his true identity, Mathieu undertakes an extraordinary and compelling journey of self-discovery against the picturesque Quebec landscape.
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As a young working-class girl living in Moscow, it was clear that Polina had tremendous talent. With fierce determination and years of grueling training,she realises her dream when at 18 she enters the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet. Here she falls in love with Adrien, a scrupulous and charming French dancer who changes her life forever. He awakens her desire for a new and inspired way of expressing herself, leading her to discover the shining modern dance guru Liria Elsaj in France. Although Polina’s path is strewn with hardship, her inspiring talent, perseverance and desire edge her ever closer to an incredible destiny.
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Optimistic and bright-eyed, 20-year-old Jeanne is a noblewoman living in Normandy in 1819. When the handsome Viscount Julien de Lamare asks for her hand in marriage, she fantasises that the years to follow will be brimming with dreamy afternoons of flower beds bathed in dappled sunlight. Yet fate holds a very different destiny for this woman’s life. Betrayed by her husband, her son, and in many ways, her own idyllic youth, we follow Jeanne through the passing of time, as her dreams turn to disillusionments.
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It is Versailles on the eve of the French Revolution and Marie Antoinette delights in the company of her personal reader, Sidonie Laborde, who in turn revels in the unusually intimate if platonic attentions of her queen. As the storming of the Bastille becomes more imminent, tensions rise within the palace walls. Amongst the hectic commotion and amusingly confused and clueless noblemen, Sidonie comes to realise that the queen’s highest favour may not in fact lie with her, but with another. Unwilling to accept this state of affairs, the crafty Sidonie puts her intelligence to use, hatching a cunning ploy to win the affection she so desperately craves.
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Life as a 17-year-old boy can be difficult, confusing and rife with complicated emotions and desires. When chemistry begins to sprout between Thomas and Damien, neither know exactly how to deal with it. Both are faced with the challenge of making decisions about life after school, and these new feelings put pressure on an already tumultuous period in their lives, causing violent reactions in both boys. Upon hearing about a schoolyard fist fight between the boys, Damien’s mother Marianne visits Thomas’ family farm. Shocked to discover he makes a two-hour round-trip to school everyday in the freezing Pyrenees snow, she is moved by his situation, and invites him to live with them in town, thus forcing the boys to confront their true feelings.
☆☆☆☆ Cine Vue
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☆☆☆☆ Slant Magazine

Trailer Icon 03 A Bun In The Oven (Closing Night)
In a household already bursting at the seams, the almost menopausal Nicole is completely swamped with duties, barely managing to keep everything from falling apart. Comprising the four generations under her roof is her eccentric elderly mother Mamilette and her daughter Arielle along with Arielle’s pesky Canadian partner Toussaint and their 6-year-old daughter Zoé. Finishing off the family tree is Nicole’s husband Jean-Pierre, an unemployed ex-gymnast. Just when life couldn’t get any more hectic, Nicole finds out that she is pregnant.
☆☆☆☆☆ IMDB

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6 Responses to The French Film Vestibule is Upon Us

  1. Rob Bray says:

    OK another year has rolled around and my movie watching for the year has commenced. Two on Saturday night.

    Just To Be Sure/ Ôtez-Moi D’un Doute

    A lightweight but enjoyable French family (or indeed the complications of ‘family’ once DNA testing comes into play) comedy with a good cast and consistent acting. Some great cameo scenes with the private detective. Thankfully the daughter’s character develops – even if Zorro’s does not, but does leave a question about whether some people just care too much for others.

    It might just be me, but I would swear that the female half of the audience was laughing more loudly and in advance of the males.

    The Dancer/ La Danseuse

    A film about Loïe Fuller. While much of the story line appears to be made up – the opening scenes in the mid-west for example do not seem to match up with her early years as given in http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/c/current-loie.html, and the movie leaves you wondering what happens next and whether or not Isadora Duncan was really that much of a self-centred mean creature, the dance scenes are absolutely mesmerising. I will repeat that absolutely mesmerising, and for that alone it is worthwhile seeing. Most of the acting is good although Soko comes across as a bit wooden at times – but her dancing more than compensates.

    For those with that sort of bent it also raises questions around intellectual copyright and the development of technology in art.

  2. Rob Bray says:

    Another four (I did say it was a movie watching binge)

    Daguerrotype/ Le secret de la chambre noire

    To quote a comment that I overheard when leaving the viewing ‘that was weird but good’. While billed as a horror movie it is a tale of obsession with a few ghosts thrown in. A photographer obsessed with recreating daguerreotype photographs – with hour long poses, initially using his wife as a model, and after her suicide his daughter. Very atmospheric in a decaying mansion. Worth watching.

    The country doctor/ Médecin de campagne

    A country doctor, dedicated to serving his patients, at the cost of his wife and family is settled into his life when he develops a brain tumor. His treating doctor knows he needs to reduce his workload and arranges for a youngish (she commenced her studies after 10 years as a nurse) female medical graduate to assist him. His initial response is resistance and to be a bastard. The movie follows the emotions as he learns how to accept her and she adjusts to the community and learns how to work as local doctor. The director is a doctor turned film maker and this adds a strong element of authenticity, and the two main actors are great. A gentle enjoyable piece of entertainment.

    Standing tall/ La tête haute

    Catherine Deneuve is brilliant as a juvenile judge in this movie which tracks a decade of her dealing with one young juvenile delinquent. Malony, the boy, is raised by a single mother who is totally incapable of parenting, in an atmosphere of violence and neglect. He in turn is filled with rage has no self-control, no self-awareness and no self-esteem and externalises all problems as other’s faults. You get the picture? Everytime there is hope he destroys it. The director is an optimist and the film finishes with him discovering how to take responsibility. An intense experience well worth watching.

    A bag of marbles/ Un sac de billes

    A Jewish family in Paris in the second world war has to split up to make its escape to the south, and then survive in Vichy France. This movie, based on a true story, follows the youngest boy and his brother. The film is intense, with the boys, who have come from a loving and close family, are now mainsly isolated constantly in fear of discovery and having to deny their Jewishness in an atmosphere of violence (more implicit than on screen). The film has its moments of humour and they meet some good people but maintain a tremendous sense of perseverance and hope. The young boy is brilliantly played by a 12 year old actor Dorian Le Clech. It is at times (ok most of the time) gut-wrenching but is an absolute must see.

    • Nicholas Gruen says:

      Went to see this on your recommendation tonight Rob.

      Totally agree with your description. Gut-wrencing, must see!

  3. Rob Bray says:

    Wùlu

    A young man hopes for progression in his job, but gets bumped by his boss’s nephew. Living in poverty with his sister working as a prostitute he turns to drug running. As he becomes more successful he gets more trapped, and what does success mean amongst the corruption and the nouveau rich. A strong action movie, although the film has its weaknesses. The ending is predictable, and there is an undercurrent of misogyny which is not addressed, but it provides a rare and authentic insight into west African society to which most of us are not exposed. Definitely worth seeing.

    The innocents/ Les innocents

    This film, derived from the experiences of a French doctor in post war Poland, brings us to a convent with nuns who having been raped by Russian soldiers and are now facing having to deal with consequential pregnancies. It is a visually rich and poignant film. While many report it as being a deeply moving film, I was less affected, perhaps because I could find little sympathy for the strong focus on the bounds of religion and religious convention, rather than the anguish of bearing a child from rape. While the film focuses on the experience of the convent it also invites us to consider the strengths of the two red cross doctors Mathilde (based on Madelaine Pauliac a doctor and résistance fighter) and Samuel the Jewish doctor whose family were murdered in Bergen-Belsen and whose views of Poland are shaped by the experience of the Warsaw ghetto.

  4. Rob Bray says:

    My Festival viewing is finished. The last two:

    150 milligrams / La fille de Brest

    Based on the true story of Irène Frachon a doctor who was responsible for the revealing the Mediator scandal in France in 2010, this engaging film is almost documentary in its approach. This means that it is not full of exciting action but rather tracks the challenges Franchon, and a group of doctors working with her (with at times varying degrees of enthusiasm/coercion), face in trying to expose the link between the drug and heart valve failures, battling a largely unconcerned public health bureaucracy and the drug company. As naifs in this struggle mistakes are made, and the passion of their concern for patients (as well as being Breton*) does not play well in committee meetings. In addition the struggle threatens careers and funding. Worth seeing.

    *The hospital was in Brest – part of the Breton region – a celtic region of France – and Bretons are the butt of some French humour as simple fishermen and country folk. In one scene this is underlined by the score being performed on Breton pipes – which can be best thought of as two note bagpipes (IMHO).

    Monsieur Chocolat / Chocolat

    Yet one more film in this festival based on a true story – in this case that of Rafael Padilla – a black Cuban slave who became a well-known clown in France at the turn of the 20th century. It tracks him from acting as a wild savage in a circus to being part of a fashionable Paris vaudeville duo with George Footit an English clown – an act which saw him as the scapegoat and stereotyped as the ‘simple Negro’. He challenges the casting of himself in this role in both the theatre and society, and fails (a decline perhaps also aided by addiction to alcohol, gambling and drugs). This is a great movie. Omar Sy (Les intouchables) is brilliant. At the same time prepare to be unsettled. The racism of the time is not hidden, but more so yourself– are you laughing at the humour because it is great slapstick, or are you also assuming the stereotypes upon which the humour was originally based? A definite must see.

  5. Nicholas Gruen says:

    Saw Being 17 last night. Gay coming of age film would you believe. Recommended. Three and a half to four start from me.

    Margaret?

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