5 items from 2014
In some sense, all of anarchic French duo Benoit Delepine and Gustave Kervern’s films are road movies: In “Aaltra,” “Louise-Michel,” “Mammuth” and “Le Grand Soir,” misfit characters split with society, veer off into the wilderness and wreak black-comedy havoc. “Near Death Experience” is their darkest and least commercial film yet, though also their most serious and soulful, , then spends three nights wandering alone near his home before deciding whether to go through with the deed.
Like Antonioni’s “Zabriskie Point” without the pyrotechnics, the pair have crafted a a stark, off-the-grid disavowal of the hollowness of modern society, though their approach seems more resigned than radical. Audiences aren’t exactly clamoring for films about suicide, and to complicate matters further, “Near Death Experience” has the curious fortune of arriving less than a month after Robin Williams took his own life.
In order to shoot such a disquieting project on their own terms, »
- Peter Debruge
Venice -- The no-budget, fascinating-as-a-trainwreck feature Near Death Experience, from eccentric French directorial duo Gustave Kervern and Benoit Delepine (Le Grand Soir, Mammuth), stars French literary giant Michel Houellebecq as an absolutely average and totally burnt-out employee of a call center who’s driven to suicide. This intimate psychological drama is set in the great outdoors, as it follows the protagonist into the mountains where he might end it all. A one-man-show for practically its entire running time, Nde, as it’s also being called, manages to stay dramatically grounded despite its possibly pretentious casting choice
- Boyd van Hoeij
A self-described “expert in despondency” meets his match in “In the Courtyard,” a wry, oh-so-gentle dual character study saved from sleepiness by the unexpected star pairing of Catherine Deneuve and Gustave Kervern. Their tender, good-humored performances — as, respectively, a restless Parisian retiree and aimless caretaker who discover an unlikely kinship in differently transitional life stages — lend this slight tale more gravity than we’ve come to expect from Tunisian-born helmer Pierre Salvadori, who recently struck gold internationally with the Audrey Tautou-starring rom-coms “Priceless” and “Beautiful Lies.” More melancholy but still eminently easygoing, Salvadori’s latest doesn’t have quite the same crossover potential as those films, but the Deneuve brand should ensure widespread arthouse bookings all the same.
Now in her eighth decade, Deneuve’s late-career evolution into France’s most glamorous character actress continues apace. As in Emmanuelle Bercot’s “On My Way” last year, “In the Courtyard »
- Guy Lodge
Director: Arnold de Parscau
Writer: Benoit Delepine
Producers: Jpg Films, Nexus Factory, No Money Productions
U.S. Distributor: Rights Available
This is Arnold de Parscau’s feature debut, based on a 2012 short film he directed of the same name. Besides a fantastic cast of Gallic greats, what’s even more exciting is that the screenplay was penned by Benoit Delepine, who has co-directed a number of brilliantly bizarre films with Gustave de Kervern, such as Mammuth and Le Grand Soir. We’re sure this will be equally offbeat as well as a notable title in the coming year. Here’s the trailer.
Gist: The story begins with a man waking up one morning in an open field, half-naked, with no memories of his mishaps of the previous day. As soon as he gets back to his hotel, »
- Nicholas Bell
Berlin – Funny Balloons, the Paris-based sales agent behind two big Berlin arthouse hits – 2012’s “No,” 2013’s “Gloria” – has set its largest sales slate ever with movies by Laurent Cantet, Sebastian Silva, Abel Ferrara, and Gustave de Kervern and Benoit Delepine, and Arnold de Parscau.
A 2008 Palme d’Or winner (“The Class”), Cantet is in post on “Vuelta a Ithaca.” Written with Cuba’s Leonardo Padura, “Ithaca” takes in an old-friends reunion dinner on a Havana rooftop-terrace. Full House, Orange Studio, Haut et Court and Funny Balloons produce; Haut et Court distributes in France.
“A very universal story about friendship and relationships, in the unique context of Cuba,” per Funny Balloon’s founder Peter Danner, “Ithaca” has already struck pre-sales.
Penned by Delepine (“Mammuth”), 25-year-old Arnold de Parscau’s “Ablation,” – “a beautiful, original, moody film noir,” per Danner – boasts an unusually top-notch cast for a debut: Denis Menochet, the French farmer in “Inglourious Basterds, »
- John Hopewell
5 items from 2014
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