Region: France

Philippe Garrel in Conversation

Originally published at Filmmaker, Mubi, and Reverse Shot.

Blue is the Warmest Color (2013)

I’m interested, primarily, in one aspect of this film.

Catherine Breillat: Material Desires

Originally published at Mubi.

TIFF 2012 – Day 6

Dormant Beauty (Bellocchio), Something in the Air (Assayas), Berberian Sound Studio (Strickland), Nights with Theodore (Betbeder), and The Last Time I Saw Macao (Rodrigues and Guerra da Mata).

Les rendez-vous d’Anna (1978)

This essay was originally published at Mubi.

2009 SFIFF Diary 3

Petter Greenaway’s Rembrandt’s J’Accuse and The Other One by Patrick Mario Bernard and Pierre Trividic.

2009 SFIFF Diary 2

Heddy Honigmann’s Oblivion, Frazer Bradshaw’s Everything Strange and New, Claire Denis’s 35 Shots of Rum (yes, again), Javor Gardev’s Zift, and Mikheil Kalatozishvili’s Wild Field.

2009 SFIFF Diary 1

Atom Egoyan’s Adoration and Catherine Breillat’s Bluebeard.

Films of the ’80s (part 1)

Short responses to films by Maurice Pialat, William Friedkin, Louis Malle, Paul Schrader, Nicolas Roeg, Mike Leigh, and Michel Deville.

Heartbeat Detector (2008)

Heartbeat Detector is a tricky one. Immediately after my first viewing a couple weeks ago, I went searching for decent writing about it but found slim pickings. Judging by the responses of most critics I’ve found online, it’s little more than a too-long and “oh so European” corporate thriller. Unflattering comparisons to Michael Clayton are the norm, and there’s a not-so-subtle (and strangely patronizing) animosity running through the reviews: that a film would seriously compare the workings of modern capital to the Holocaust is just too much, apparently.

40 Hours in 18 Images and 3 Songs

The Duke Spirit, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Sonic Youth, and Last Year at Marienbad.

2007 TIFF Day 7

Catherine Breillat’s Une vieille maitresse, Brian De Palma’s Redacted, and Jose Luis Guerin’s Dans la ville de Sylvie.

2007 TIFF Day 6

Carlos Reygadas’s Silent Light, Bernard Emond’s Contre Toute Esperance, and Celine Sciamma’s Naissance des pieuvres.

Godard’s “Paradise”

A throwaway observation: The many reviewers who have described act 3 of Notre Musique as “pastoral” and “lyrical” are projecting their own desires onto it.

Schuss! (2005)

Nicolas Rey’s Schuss! is an experimental essay film that is concerned, ultimately, with the spoils of capitalism. More specifically, it’s about the rise of the aluminum industry, the building of a French ski resort, and the economic interests that joined the two.

Beau Travail and Britten’s Billy Budd

But the emotional effect of the music — on me, at least — is anything but ironic. In true Melvillian fashion, this is an epic battle of Drama and Meaning, the most epic battle, in fact, if we recall our fuzzy memories of the Christian symbolism that permeates Billy Budd. Granted, Denis strips away most of those symbols, but the central conflict of the film remains mostly unchanged.

Le Temps qui reste (2005)

I hadn’t planned to write about Le Temps qui reste, but then, while typing up notes this morning, I tripped over this line from E.L. Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel: “My sister and I can never inflict total damage — that is the saving grace. The right to offend irreparably is a blood right.”

Un Couple parfait (2005)

Look closely at the image above. It’s Un Couple parfait in miniature — a story told in body language.

The Great Films, Part 1

In a deliberate effort to beef up my cinephile cred, lately I’ve been loading my GreenCine queue with selections from the list of 1,000 Greatest Films compiled by the folks at They Shoot Pictures.

Short Takes

Some recent viewings: Notre Musique, The Best Years of Our Lives, Sunrise, Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.

Chocolat (1988)

Reviewers who have deemed “unnecessary” the framing device involving the adult France have completely misread Chocolat, I think. While there is much to recommend in the film—Agnes Godard’s cinematography, the many fine performances, and Denis’s typically seductive pacing, to name just a few—Denis’s handling of the film’s subjective perspective is what differentiates this film from other earnest and well-intentioned examinations of racism and/or colonialism.

Friday Night (2002)

Joanna tells me — and she’s told me this many times over the years — that she fell in love the first time we held hands. I couldn’t imagine what she meant. Men, in my experience at least, seldom consider hands. Or, we consider them only when they’re noticeable — scarred, chewed, ornamented by loudly painted nails. Even then, though, we offer only a passing glance and a quick, rarely-conscious judgment. To really consider a hand demands a certain intimacy, I think. We’re allowed to stare at faces, encouraged even to maintain eye contact during public conversations, but to really look at a hand (or the place where a neck meets a shoulder or the back of a knee) is taboo outside of a bedroom (metaphorically speaking).

10e Chambre, instants d’audiences (2004)

During the screening of 10e Chambre, instants d’audiences, I was quite disappointed by the film, but even then I knew that my disappointment was with the audience rather than with the film itself.

The New American Old West: Bruno Dumont’s Twentynine Palms

This essay was originally published at Senses of Cinema.

Late August, Early September (1998)

Like, one of Rohmer’s late comedies, the charm of Late August is found almost entirely in its characters (all of whom are likeable enough and three-dimensional enough) and in the smart things they say to one another. They twist themselves in existential knots, struggling to balance their idealized visions of integrity with the muddy necessity: compromise.

Beau Travail (2000)

Whereas post-colonial critics have, in turn, criticized/praised Melville for his appropriation of racist stereotypes (or his subversion of those stereotypes, depending on which side of the debate each critic stands), Denis situates Melville’s moral dilemma in an explicitly post-colonial situation, complicating further the relationships between European and African, Christian and Muslim, and calling into question the political value and motivations underlying those relationships.

Time Out (2001)

What separates Time Out (2001) from the recent spate of “disillusioned upper-middle-class white guy has a breakdown” movies is writer/director Laurent Cantet’s interest in the specific economic forces that lead — some would say inevitably — to such discontent.

Claire’s Knee (1970)

Last night I watched Claire’s Knee (1970), the fifth entry in Eric Rohmer’s series of “Six Moral Tales.” This one is built around Jerome, an unusually self-absorbed rake (even by Rohmer’s standards) who spends the weeks leading up to his marriage on holiday at Lake Annecy. While there he meets an old acquaintance, Aurora, an […]

Bruno Dumont’s Bodies

This essay was originally published at Senses of Cinema.

Breathless (1960)

Godard caused a sensation forty years ago with this, his first film, by not only tearing down cinematic and narrative conventions, but by doing so with a sly, mocking wink to his audience.

L’Humanite (1999)

Walt Whitman would be proud. It’s remarkable to hear echoes of Whitman in the voice of a contemporary filmmaker, but there he is, still singing the “body electric” and sounding his “barbaric yawp.”

My Night at Maud’s (1969)

Jean-Louis, a young engineer, spies his ideal woman at Sunday Mass. Francoise is young, attractive, blonde, and, most importantly, a practicing Catholic. Before they have even met, Jean-Louis determines that Francoise will be his wife.

Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962)

Cleo (Corrinne Marchand) is a beautiful, spoiled, self-obsessed pop singer. As the film opens, she is having her fortune told by a tarot reader, who is startled to discover death and cancer in the singer’s immediate future.