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5 items from 2017

‘The Last Mistress’: Catherine Breillat’s Power Game of Sex and Fury

9 June 2017 4:45 AM, PDT | The Film Stage | See recent The Film Stage news »

Looking back on this still-young century makes clear that 2007 was a major time for cinematic happenings — and, on the basis of this retrospective, one we’re not quite through with ten years on. One’s mind might quickly flash to a few big titles that will be represented, but it is the plurality of both festival and theatrical premieres that truly surprises: late works from old masters, debuts from filmmakers who’ve since become some of our most-respected artists, and mid-career turning points that didn’t necessarily announce themselves as such at the time. Join us as an assembled team, many of whom were coming of age that year, takes on their favorites.

In the Bible, Paul the apostle wrote in the first letter to the church at Corinth these words: “Man did not come from Woman, but woman from man. Man was not created for woman, but woman for man, »

- The Film Stage

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A Woman’s Life | Review

5 May 2017 9:00 AM, PDT | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

When a Potiche Ascends the Stairs: Brizé’s Winning, Textured de Maupassant Adaptation

Although cinematic adaptations of French writer Guy de Maupassant still occur with some regularity, few contemporary Gallic auteurs have successfully tackled the naturalist who was a protégé of Flaubert and a contemporary of Zola. Frequent adaptations of his famed short story “Boule de Suif” and Bel-Ami are resurrected regularly, and his stories have inspired auteurs like Robert Wise, Jean-Luc Godard, Marcel Ophüls, and Jean Renoir. However, de Maupassant’s seminal first novel, Une Vie (1883), has been adapted several times outside of France, while previously its most definitive mounting was the 1958 End of Desire headlined by Maria Schell.

For his seventh feature, Stephane Brizé persuasively reflects the subjugation of women’s agency with the fragmented A Woman’s Life, and is perhaps the most auspicious transformation of the author since the handsome productions of the 1950s with this astute period piece featuring an exquisite ensemble of character actors.

After returning from convent school, Jeanne (Judith Chemla) takes joy in assisting her father (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) in the garden and perambulating with her mother (Yolande Moreau), a woman who spends most of her free time scrolling through the contents of letters she received throughout her life. With only the young family maid Rosalie (Nina Meurisse) as a friend and confidante, Jeanne soon finds herself courted by the handsome Viscount Julien de Lamare (Swann Arlaud). Swept into what she’s made to believe is romance, the marriage soon sours when Rosalie is found to be with child after having been raped by Julien. Thus begins Jeanne’s initiation into a world more harrowing than she had anticipated as her ideals and dignity are slowly stripped away.

Judith Chemla, who has starred as a supporting player in a number of period productions for noted auteurs (Tavernier, Techine) comes to the fore as the passive, frustrated center of Brizé’s film. Oblivious to the tendencies and behaviors of those around her, A Woman’s Life gently ushers her from a frivolous young woman of privilege to an increasingly fraught wife forced to contend with a debauched husband.

Brizé’s film has all the potential of a tawdry soap opera, and yet is distilled into fragmented reflections of her escapist tendencies. As we rush through defining moments of her life, time slows as Jeanne disappears into the bright, sunshiny memories which brought her to such a brooding standstill. Chemla is tasked with revealing Jeanne’s persona through inscrutable moments, an object acted upon despite meager efforts to gain control of her life. When escape presents itself upon learning of her own pregnancy at the same time as her husband’s philandering with Rosalie, her own mother confirms her fate by forcing Jeanne to forgive rather than return home.

Yolande Moreau gives a subversively droll performance as a cold maternal figure who has several major secrets of her own. As her counterpart, Jean-Pierre Darroussin nearly disappears within the period garb as Jeanne’s mild mannered father, while a mousy Swann Arlaud is sufficiently unpalatable as her cheating husband. Clotilde Hesme surfaces in a brief subplot which yields shockingly violent results, while rising young actor Finnegan Oldfield (Nocturama; Les Cowboys) shows up in the third act as Jeanne’s selfish teenage son, the specter haunting her golden years and sending her into protracted anguish.

Much like Brizé’s last lauded feature, 2015’s The Measure of a Man, the narrative revolves around distilled, refracted moments informing its protagonist’s mind frame, a person once again trapped by economic necessity in an unfavorable role which whittles away at their resolve.

Collaborating once more with scribe Florence Vignon (who scripted his superb 2009 film Mademoiselle Chambon), they achieve a striking portrait of a woman of certain means as equally weighted down by her expectations and limited control. Brizé also taps Dp Antoine Heberle (who worked on Chambon and A Few Hours of Spring, as well as Ozon’s Under the Sand) who transforms the film into a constant visual juxtaposition of stark, contrasting palettes, ranging from the brooding grays of Jeanne’s present to the golden, sparkling vivaciousness of happy times she can never return to. With stunning finality, a drastic situation boils down to bittersweet reality— “Life is never as good or as bad as you think it is.”


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- Nicholas Bell

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A Woman’s Life Movie Review: Life is not as good or bad as you think

26 April 2017 6:25 AM, PDT | ShockYa | See recent ShockYa news »

A Woman’S Life (Une vie) Kino Lorber Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, Shockya Grade: B+ Director:  Stéphane Brizé Written by: Stéphane Brizé, Florence Vignon Cast: Judith Chemla, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Yolande Moreau, Swann Arlaud, Nina Meuriss Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 4/25/17 Opens: May 5, 2017 Life is not as good or bad as you think.  This […]

The post A Woman’s Life Movie Review: Life is not as good or bad as you think appeared first on »

- Harvey Karten

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Cannes: Acid unveils 2017 line-up

21 April 2017 3:21 AM, PDT | ScreenDaily | See recent ScreenDaily news »

This year’s showcase features ten world premieres and a Serbian strand.

France’s Association for the Diffusion of Independent Cinema (Acid) has unveiled the line-up for its 25rd Cannes Film Festival showcase, running May 18-27.

The initiative aimed at giving greater visibility to up and coming, indie filmmakers will once again screen nine works (bold indicates world premieres).

They are:

L’ASSEMBLÉE by Mariana Otero (documentary)Avant La Fin De L’ÉTÉ by Maryam Goormaghtigh (documentary)Belinda by Marie Dumora (documentary) [pictured]Le Ciel ÉTOILÉ Au-dessus De Ma TÊTE by Ilan KlipperCOBY by Christian Sonderegger (documentary)Kiss And Cry by Lila Pinell and Chloé MahieuLAST Laugh by Zhang TaoSCAFFOLDING by Matan YairSANS Adieu by Christophe Agou (documentary)

There will also be a special screening and two films in partnership with the film Belgrade Festival of Auteur Film. These are:

Pour Le Reconfort by Vincent Macaigne (special screening)Requiem For Ms J. by Bojan VuleticHUMIDITY »

- (Orlando Parfitt)

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Top 100 Most Anticipated Foreign Films of 2017: #38. Martin Provost’s The Midwife

6 January 2017 6:30 AM, PST | ioncinema | See recent ioncinema news »

The Midwife

Director: Martin Provost

Writer: Martin Provost

French director Martin Provost has consistently crafted strong, prominent roles for women (his first two titles featured Carmen Maura), but he achieved significant acclaim with this third film, 2008’s Seraphine, which won 7 of its 9 Cesar nominations (including Best Film and Actress for Yolande Moreau).

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- Nicholas Bell

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