Young French Cinema
June 6 through July 2
From June 6 through July 2, the Gene Siskel Film Center, in partnership with UniFrance Films and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, presents Young French Cinema, a series of eight films showcasing an exciting new generation of French filmmakers. All films in the series are Chicago premieres. On June 26 and 27, we host Sophie Letourneur, director/star of MACARONI AND CHEESE, who will appear for a Movie Club event on June 26, and for audience discussion on June 27.
The cover of the April 2013 issue of the fabled French film journal Cahiers du cinéma featured a brick wall with the graffiti-like scrawl YOUNG FRENCH CINÉASTES ARE NOT DEAD! Inside were a series of articles and personal statements proclaiming the arrival of a distinctive new generation of French filmmakers, led by such talents as Sébastian Betbeder (whose 2 AUTUMNS, 3 WINTERS premiered at the Film Center last year), Guillaume Brac, Djinn Carrénard, Yann Gonzalez, Antonin Peretjatko, Thomas Salvador, Justine Triet, and Rebecca Zlotowski.
No other national cinema has highlighted youth so centrally and consistently. The tradition dates back to the time of the French New Wave, when Francois Truffaut’s 1959 debut THE 400 BLOWS focused attention on a celebrated movement that saw 97 new directors make their first films within a period of three years.
New directors and first films have continued to hold a prominent place in French cinema. They have been sustained by the support of such state-sponsored institutions as UniFrance, which promotes French cinema abroad, and the Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC), which specifically earmarks funds for emerging filmmakers, with a mandate to favor films that are “independent” and “audacious.” Unlike its American counterpart, the French equivalent of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences awards a César for Best First Film. Typically, 35-40% of the yearly total of French film productions are made by first-timers. As Tim Palmer writes in his book Brutal Intimacy: Analyzing Contemporary French Cinema, “This systematic emphasis upon young cinema makes France unique.”
The specific label “Young French Cinema” (or JCF - “jeune cinéma français”) was first applied to the concentration of directors (Assayas, Beauvois, Desplechin, Kahn, Kassovitz, Lvovsky, Vincent, et al. ) that came to prominence in the early 1990s. Many of those have now become the elder statespersons of French cinema, and, in a process especially encouraged by the French system, they have now been succeeded by a *new* new generation.
This youngest iteration of Young French Cinema carries on some of the hallmarks of their New Wave and JCF predecessors, such as cinephilia, stylistic heterogeneity, and a strong emphasis on the director as auteur. The influx of new women directors, which gained ground in the 1990s, has become even more pronounced; the fact that five out of the eight films in this series were directed by women is indicative of that trend.
Another hallmark of this diverse new generation is a general resistance to classification, whether political, stylistic, or generic. Is TONNERRE a romance or a thriller? GRAND CENTRAL lushly romantic or clinically factual? AGE OF PANIC cinéma-vérité, comedy, or domestic drama? Are the radical sentiments of the heroine in THE RENDEZ-VOUS OF DÉJÀ VU endorsed or satirized? One might call it “le cinéma-caméléon” - a color-changing, shape-shifting cinema that offers spectators the pleasures and challenges of fluctuation and unpredictability.
— Martin Rubin
“Young French Cinema” is a program of UniFrance Films and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. Special thanks to Aude Hespert and Adeline Monzier of UniFrance Films; and Denis Quenelle and Laurence Geannopulos of the Cultural Service at the Consulate General of France in Chicago.
SATURDAY DOUBLE-BILL DISCOUNT!
Buy a ticket at our regular prices for the first “Young French Cinema” film on any Saturday in June, and get a ticket for the second “Young French Cinema” film that day at the discounted rate with proof of your original purchase: General Admission $7; Students $5; Members $4. This discount rate applies to the second feature only. Discount available in person at the box office only.
2013, Guillaume Brac, France, 102 min.
With Vincent Macaigne, Solène Rigot
“Engrossingly nuanced character study... signals Brac as a director to watch." — Ronnie Scheib, Variety
"Rich in observations of character." — Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader
An intense performance by definitive Young French Cinema actor Vincent Macaigne anchors this powerful first feature by director Brac. Macaigne plays a fading rock star who retreats to his home town of Tonnerre in the wintry Burgundy countryside. An affair with a pretty, much younger reporter (Rigot) gives him a new appetite for life, but the story takes a dark turn when he suddenly and inexplicably stops hearing from her. Brac demonstrates a strong sense of place and a willingness to shift tones in this at times harrowing hybrid of romance and thriller. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
Les grandes ondes (à l'ouest)
2013, Lionel Baier France/Switzerland/Portugal, 85 min.
With Valérie Donzelli, Michel Vuillermoz
"A funny, stylish, and multifaceted jaunt into the radical thrill of the 1970s." — Pat Mullen, Cinemablographer
In April 1974, a Swiss radio team is sent to Portugal to produce a snoozeworthy report on foreign aid; they find themselves swept up in the euphoria of the Carnation Revolution that is toppling a 42-year dictatorship. An engaging road movie that shifts gears between comedy, nostalgia, and politics, LONGWAVE features a running battle between a prickly feminist reporter (Donzelli) and a chauvinist ex-war correspondent (Vuillermoz); a young Portuguese translator who idolizes Marcel Pagnol; a stunning out-of-the-blue dance number; and a lush score culled from Gershwin tunes. In French, Portuguese, and Spanish with English subtitles. DCP digital widescreen. (MR)
Age of Panic
La bataille de Solférino
2013, Justine Triet, France, 94 min.
With Laetitia Dosch, Vincent Macaigne.
"No caffeine is necessary before watching AGE OF PANIC... There’s not a chance that anyone will nod off."
— Kent Turner, Film-Forward
Like MEDIUM COOL and OFFSIDE, Triet’s electrifying first feature throws a loosely scripted fictional story into an unpredictable whirl of filmed-on-the-spot real events--in this case, the election-day frenzy of Paris on May 6, 2012. TV reporter Laetitia (Dosch) is covering the events for a news channel; meanwhile, her volatile ex Vincent (Macaigne in a sensational loose-cannon performance) is relentlessly attempting to get around a restraining order limiting his access to their two young daughters. The personal and the political chart a collision course whose junction is the Rue de Solférino, where an excited crowd is massing outside the headquarters of underdog socialist candidate François Hollande. Selected by Cahiers du cinéma as one of the ten best films of 2013. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
The Rendez-vous of Déjà Vu
La fille du 14 juillet
2013, Antonin Peretjatko, France, 88 min.
With Vimala Pons, Vincent Macaigne.
"A loopy and audacious comedy... Peretjatko gleefully unleashes the brazen energy of youth – on both sides of the camera."
— Richard Brody, The New Yorker
Another attention-getting first feature produced by Ecce Films, premiered at the 2013 Cannes festival, and featuring the recently ubiquitous Vincent Macaigne, RENDEZ-VOUS is often bracketed with AGE OF PANIC as emblematic of the new youth movement in French cinema, although Peretjatko’s film is more overtly comic and anti-realistic. A museum guard (Grégoire Tashnakian) is smitten by an activist/acrobat (Pons) and invites her and her gal-pal (Marie-Lorna Vasonsin) to join him and his mate (Macaigne) on a road trip that plays like a genially goofy version of Godard’s WEEKEND. The journey ends up at a beach resort where the winds are heavy and the swimwear light, but the plot is only a pretext for a gag-a-minute mash-up of surrealism, social satire, and screwball comedy. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
Miss and the Doctors
Tirez la langue, mademoiselle
2013, Axelle Ropert, France, 102 min.
With Cédric Kahn, Louise Bourgoin
"A sharply observed love triangle backed by beautiful lensing and compelling performances."
— Jordan Mintzer, Hollywood Reporter
The doctors of the title (whose more vivid French original would translate as STICK OUT YOUR TONGUE, MISS) are two eccentric but dedicated brothers who practice together in a Paris neighborhood--Boris (“the gruff one)” and Dmitri (“the shy one”). Neither has much of a romantic life, and that’s where “miss” comes in--mixologist Judith (Bourgoin), the mother of a diabetic girl who is their patient. Both brothers fall in love with Judith, but the resulting strain on their fraternal bond might be obviated by the reappearance of her long-absconded ex. A little too moody to be a rom-com, a little too buoyant to be a melodrama, former actress and film critic Ropert’s second feature benefits from superb ensemble acting (Kahn, better known as a director, is outstanding as the saturnine Boris) and a wonderful up-all-night ambience centered on the little-filmed 13th arrondissement, where Asians, bohemians, and cash-shy young professionals rub shoulders. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
2013, Rebecca Zlotowski, France/Austria, 94 min.
With Tahar Rahim, Léa Seydoux
"A love triangle so intense it’s practically radioactive foregrounds GRAND CENTRAL, an engrossing, superbly acted working-class melodrama." — Scott Foundas, Variety
Zlotowski’s 2010 BELLE ÉPINE won the Prix Louis Delluc for Best First Film and provided Léa Seydoux (BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR) with one of her most important early roles. For her second feature, she reunites with the sultry Seydoux, adds charismatic Tahar Rahim (THE PROPHET) to the romantic chemistry, and channels Ken Loach and Nicholas Ray (especially THE LUSTY MEN) in a socially conscious tale of passion among outsiders in a dangerous profession. Gary (Rahim) is a drifter who finds lucrative but hazardous work among a band of nuclear-plant troubleshooters; when he falls hard for his best friend’s fiancée (Seydoux), the hazards of his personal life begin to rival those of his professional life. Zlotowski’s striking visual style juxtaposes documentary detail of the power plant (filmed in HD digital) with the lush lyricism of the lovers’ riverside trysts (filmed in 35mm). In French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
Macaroni and Cheese
2012, Sophie Letourneur, France, 75 min.
With Sophie Letourneur, Camille Genaud
“Demonstrates Ms. Letourneur’s modest yet ferocious talent... wry humor and unrelenting energy." — Miriam Bale, The New York Times
Swift, breezy, and often very funny, MACARONI AND CHEESE gives us a fictionalized glimpse behind the scenes at a real film festival. You may have thought that those festivals were about films, but director/star Letourneur, who evidently knows whereof she speaks, demonstrates that they are really about going to the right parties, getting wasted, and getting laid. Sophie (Letourneur) and her two BFFs descend upon the Locarno Film Festival, where Sophie has a film in competition--and a determination to track down Louis Garrel, who, she is convinced, would be the love of her life, if only she could meet him. Like Lena Dunham, to whom she is frequently compared, Letourneur is a connoisseur of shameless behavior and the highs and humiliations it brings. In French, Italian, and English with English subtitles. DCP digital. (MR)
La vie domestique
2013, Isabelle Czajka, France, 94 min.
With Emmanuelle Devos, Julie Ferrer
“Arthouse prospects are strong for this assured, well-acted film." — John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter
Adapted from the British novel “Arlington Park” by Rachel Cusk, DOMESTIC LIFE focuses on a day in the life of frustrated suburban housewife Juliette (Devos) as she deals with an unappreciative husband, two hyperactive children, a long-out-of-touch schoolmate (Julie Ferrer), a last-minute dinner party, and a crucial interview for a cherished publishing-house job that would take her out of her rut. In her third feature, director Czajka rinses the subject of all soapiness, instead striking a delicate balance between satire and kitchen-noir as she draws us into a sharply observed world where finding a babysitter can be as nerve-wracking as pulling off a bank robbery. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital widescreen. (MR)