Young French Cinema 2016
July 1 - August 3
From July 1 through August 3, the Gene Siskel Film Center, in partnership with UniFrance films and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, presents Young French Cinema 2016, a series of ten films that showcases emerging French filmmakers. All films in the series are Chicago premieres.
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 been supported by such state-sponsored institutions as UniFrance, which promotes French cinema abroad, and the Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC), which earmarks funds for emerging filmmakers, with a mandate to favor films that are "independent" and "audacious." Typically, 35-40% of the yearly total of French films are made by first-timers. As film historian Tim Palmer has written, "This systematic emphasis upon young cinema makes France unique."
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 proclaiming the arrival of a distinctive new generation of French filmmakers, led by such talents as Sébastian Betbeder, Guillaume Brac, Yann Gonzalez, Antonin Peretjatko, Justine Triet, and Rebecca Zlotowski.
Several of those filmmakers were included in the first edition of Young French Cinema, which played at the Film Center in June 2015. In this 2016 edition, we are pleased to present an entirely new group of rising talents whose work testifies to the continual renewal of French cinema.
— Martin Rubin, Associate Director of Programming
Young French Cinema 2016 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; Denis Quenelle and Laurence Geannopulos of the Cultural Service at the Consulate General of France in Chicago; Lori Hile of the Gene Siskel Film Center.
The Last Hammer Blow
Le dernier coup de marteau
2015, Alix Delaporte, France, 83 min. With Romain Paul, Clotilde Hesme.
"A refreshing and perfectly restrained coming-of-age tale." – John Bleasdale, Cine-Vue
Delaporte’s impeccably observed drama tracks thirteen-year-old Victor (Paul, in his big-screen debut), a talented student and athlete growing up in grim circumstances: He and his single mother, Nadia (Hesme), severely ill with cancer, live in a trailer near Montpellier. Victor has never met his famous conductor father (Grégory Gadebois), who is in town to lead the local orchestra in a performance of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony. The film’s title refers to the "mighty strokes of fate" delivered by a percussionist at the composition’s end, a fitting motif for a teenager whose own fate hangs in the balance. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (Description courtesy of French Cultural Services)
2014, Stéphane Demoustier, France/Belgium, 95 min. With Olivier Gourmet, Charles Mérienne.
"An elegant thriller ... superbly unpredictable. Not since Hitchcock's 'Strangers On A Train' has a tennis match created as much suspense." – Anne-Katrin Titze, Eye For Film
An examination of ego, pride, and competition, Demoustier’s first feature highlights a fraught father-son relationship. After middle-aged Jérôme (Gourmet of THE SON) loses his sales-manager retail job, he goes to illegal lengths to reinvent himself. At home, he tunes out his tennis-prodigy son, Ugo (Mérienne), and his wife, Laura (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). When Jérôme’s professional dreams stall, he pins his frustrated ambitions on eleven-year-old Ugo’s extraordinary talents. Feeling responsible for his father’s happiness, Ugo takes a page from papa, attempting to sabotage his opponent at a tennis championship. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (Description courtesy of French Cultural Services)
Eat Your Bones
Mange tes morts
2014, Jean-Charles Hue, France, 98 min. With Jason Francois, Michael Dauber.
"A gritty Gallic noir set among the slang-spouting trailer park gypsies of Northern France." — Jordan Mintzer, Hollywood Reporter
Hue (THE LORD’S RIDE) uses a hybrid of documentary and fiction to spotlight a community rarely depicted in cinema — the Romany of northern France. Working with nonprofessional actors, Hue focuses on eighteen-year-old Jason (François), whose life is upended when his half-brother, Fred, returns after 15 years in prison. Fred recruits Jason, a third brother, and a cousin to join him in a heist, but the quartet prove to be incompetent thieves, with constant squabbling further undermining their mission. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (Description courtesy of French Cultural Services)
2014, Brigitte Sy, France, 97 min. With Leila Bekhti, Reda Kateb.
"Electric." — Leah Pickett, Chicago Reader
"In elegant black and white ... the film reveals an astonishing modernity." — Premiere
Sy’s fiercely intelligent adaptation of the eponymous 1965 semi-autobiographical novel by Algerian-born Albertine Sarrazin depicts a young woman living defiantly on the margins. The title is French for "anklebone," which the twenty-year-old Albertine broke while escaping from jail in 1957. Crawling along a French country road after her injury, Albertine — vividly portrayed by Bekhti — meets Julien (the charismatic Kateb of HIPPOCRATES), a fellow criminal who becomes her lover. Working as a Montmartre prostitute, Albertine is shown recording her conflicting desires — for autonomy and for Julien — in her notebook, which becomes the basis of her novel. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (Description courtesy of French Cultural Services)
2014, Cyprien Vial, France, 87 min. With Harmandeep Palminder, Élisabeth Lando.
"A touching and realistic immigrant drama from the Paris suburbs." — Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter
Vial’s striking feature debut follows the travails of Punjabi teenager Many (impressive first-time actor Palminder), an illegal immigrant in France who must balance his wish for assimilation with the pressure to send money to his Indian family. Two years after arriving in France, 17-year-old Many seems fully integrated: He’s living with a kind foster family, succeeding at his suburban Paris high school, and dating a West African classmate (Lando). But, succumbing to his parents’ pleas for cash, Many assumes some dangerous responsibilities. With insight and empathy, YOUNG TIGER points to the conflicting demands placed on immigrants everywhere. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (Description courtesy of French Cultural Services)
The Great Game
Le grand jeu
2015, Nicolas Pariser, France, 100 min. With Melvil Poupaud, André Dussollier.
"A thinking-man's debut from a French helmer to watch, this elegant political thriller plunges audiences into a world where a book can make a difference." — Peter Debruge, Variety
Compared by critics to Polanski's THE GHOST WRITER and "House of Cards," this winner of the Louis Delluc prize for best first feature uses a conspiracy-thriller framework to explore the confusions, compromises, and reconfigurations of radical leftism since its 1960s-70s heyday. Pierre Blum (Poupaud of Rohmer's A SUMMER'S TALE) is a disillusioned radical and burnt-out novelist who is enlisted by a crafty behind-the-scenes political manipulator (Resnais favorite Dussollier, in top form) to contribute his writing talents to a scheme to bring down a repressive government minister. But, when the other side retaliates, Blum finds himself caught in the middle, exposed to assassination from both sides. The story is based loosely on the controversial Tarnac Affair of 2008, in which nine members of a leftist commune were arrested on terrorism charges. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital from Distrib Films. (MR)
Vincent n'a pas d'écailles
2014, Thomas Salvador, France, 78 min. With Thomas Salvador, Vimala Pons.
"Exceptionally watchable ... shot beautifully, with a serene eye." — Nina Metz, Chicago Tribune
"The film is charming, poetic, beautifully nonchalant." — Pierre Murat, Telerama
Director and cowriter Salvador stars in the title role of this modest, charming superhero movie that reminds us the best special effects are ingenuity and imagination. Tall, lean, awkward Vincent leads a quiet life as a construction worker. But, whenever he encounters water, this beanpole acquires unsurpassed strength and speed, gliding through the deep like a dolphin. Though he tries to keep his spectacular gift hidden, he eventually shares his secret with his delighted new love Lucie (Pons), and, when his superpowers draw the attention of the police, he becomes the target of a massive manhunt. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (Description courtesy of French Cultural Services)
Please note: This trailer does not have English subtitles. Our screenings of the film will be subtitled in English.
Portrait of the Artist
Le dos rouge
2015, Antoine Barraud, France, 127 min. With Bertrand Bonello, Jeanne Balibar.
"A thorny, intangible and episodic cinematic dream." — Anne-Katrin Titze, Eye for Film
Barraud’s spellbinding film concerns the labyrinthine quest of an auteur named Bertrand (acclaimed director Bonello) to find the artwork that best exemplifies the idea of the "monstrous," the subject of his next film. Guiding Bertrand through various museums is art historian Célia, played alternately by Balibar and Géraldine Pailhas — a nod to a similar conceit in Luis Buñuel’s THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE. Other cinephilic salutes include a film-within-the-film reimagining of VERTIGO. These tributes add to PORTRAIT’s scene-by-scene unpredictability and sharpen its absorbing ideas about images. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (Description courtesy of French Cultural Services)
Story of Judas
Histoire de Judas
2014, Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche, France, 99 min. With Nabil Djeddouani, Mohamed Aroussi.
"A pleasingly nonconformist New Testament in the Pasolini tradition." — Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter
In this bold retelling of the infamous disciple’s saga, Ameur-Zaïmeche portrays Judas not as Jesus’s betrayer but as his most devoted friend. Filming in starkly beautiful desert locations in his native Algeria, Ameur-Zaïmeche — also the film’s writer, producer, and star — establishes the unshakeable bond between the two men. When Jesus’s teachings begin to attract large crowds in Judea, Judas serves as his friend’s protector, trying to shield him from Pontius Pilate’s Roman forces. In this reimagining of the Biblical story, Ameur-Zaïmeche presents both Jesus and Judas as victims of the occupying army’s power plays. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (Description courtesy of French Cultural Services)
Please note: This trailer does not have English subtitles. Our screenings of the film will be subtitled in English.
Sense of Humor
Le sens de l'humour
2014, Marilyne Canto, France, 90 min. With Marilyne Canto, Antoine Chappey.
"A subtle and nuanced story about a stepfamily in mourning." — Frédéric Strauss, Telerama
Best known as an actress, Marilyne Canto directed, co-wrote, and stars in this richly detailed first feature about relationships. Recently widowed Elise (Canto), a Paris museum guide and mother of ten-year-old Léo, finds herself pushing away her boyfriend Paul (Chappey), who forges a bond with her son. Keenly attuned to human contradictions and inconsistencies, SENSE OF HUMOR is the rare movie that embraces its characters’ complexities rather than turning them into clichés. In his film debut, Samson Dajczman gives a remarkable performance as Léo, a boy at once vigilant and carefree, loving and withholding. In French with English subtitles. DCP digital. (Description courtesy of French Cultural Services)