directed by Merzak Allouache
cast Marie Brahimi, Karim Bouaiche, Nazim Boudjenah, Michéle Moretti
France| 2001 | 95 min.
Yasmine, French of Algerian descent, leaves Paris for Algeria in search of her boyfriend Rachid, who disappeared suddenly six months ago. Speaking only French, she travels through the cities and deserts of modern Algeria following a trail she hopes will lead to her true love. In the process she confronts a traumatized country, and experiences the violence, generosity, fatalism and hope of its people. Allouache's first film shot in Algeria since 1993.
A perfect antidote to the film genre of trendy Parisians whining about their mid-life crises. A rare blend of virtuosic camera movement, striking acting, and directorial restraint create a searching and stunning account of separate lives intersecting in one moment around a bag of pastry. Juliette Binoche gives her most sublime, believably unglamorous performance to date.
Director Sébastien Lifshitz's intimate direction evokes hot summer nights in France which many of us wish we'd had. The love of Mathieu and Cédric moves almost dreamlike, flowing back and forth between the narrative's past and present.
In late 19th-century London, Esther Kahn, daughter of a Jewish immigrant family living in the East End, pursues an acting career. Rather than playing that as a melodrama, director Desplechin opts for a more realistic, serious, and somewhat restrained style. In English.
Catherine Briellat, with previous films Romance and 36 Fillette, further examines female sexuality from a woman's point of view. Two sisters — one beautiful, the other an ugly duckling — experience sexual awakenings during the traditional Family Summer Vacation — and a family adventure to end all family adventures. An unflinching, provoking, deliberately paced view of adolescent female sexuality. A catalogue of power games played by and on teenage girls.
Chéreau's first English-language film, based on a story by English writer Hanif Kureishi, about lost people trying to find connection in their lives in a London where connection seems next-to-impossible. Fine performances by Mark Rylance and Kerry Fox. N.B. Includes graphic sex scenes. In English.
In Tangiers, the on-again/off-again relationship between Serge, a young truck driver working a route between Europe and Northern Africa, and Sarah, a Moroccan Jew. In his first film shot on digital video, Téchiné uses the medium perfectly in balancing the demands of a love story against the backdrop of illegal smuggling and immigration.
A fish is the unlikely narrator of this urban folktale about material worth, personal loss, and the possibility of redemption. This haunting narrative, marked by breathtaking imagery, won five GENIE awards including Best Picture, and Best Canadian film awards at both the 2000 Montreal and Toronto Film festivals.
Mehdi Charef's first feature (and perhaps his only U.S.-known film) Tea in the Harem began an exploration of the lives of illegal immigrants. In his newest project, Charef focuses on the plight of Marie-Line, an illegal immigrant working as a chief cleaner in a mall. Robin received a César nomination for her captivating performance.
While Claire Denis (Chocolat, Le Beau Travail, Trouble Every Day) may be considered the cinematic poet among French women film directors, Sandrine Veysset may be labeled the brutal, bleak realist. And one can see the aptness of such a label in Martha...Martha as Veysset continues her exploration of deeply damaged families living on the poverty line, a suicidal mother, and a current of emotional violence running through everyday life. Particularly well-acted. Veysset deserves wider play among the U.S. arthouse circuit.
THE MILK OF HUMAN KINDNESS
Christelle, having just given birth to her third child and suffering from severe post-partum depression, runs away from her family and takes refuge in the apartment of her upstairs neighbor. A sensitive and intimate portrait of a woman, a family, and a community dealing with personal crises. Frequent use of hand-held camera and extreme close-ups contrast with stunning shots of the Besançon region of France.
This violent and disturbing tale of a killer may find a place among the great films about killers — e.g., In Cold Blood, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Psycho, Deranged: The Ed Gein Story. A very cool, stunningly shot account of a man who can kill in quite a matter-of-fact way — and nurture a love affair. As with Henry and Psycho, director Kahn mixes in some dark humor. The performance of lead Stefano Casseti haunts.
SOBIBOR, OCTOBER 14, 1943, 4 P.M.
Based on unused footage filmed in the making of Shoah (1985), Sobibor is a distinct and self-sufficient work — more concentrated, story-oriented, and philosophical than its monumental predecessor. It centers on an extended interview with Yehuda Lerner, a Warsaw Jew who was deported at age sixteen and ran away eight times, miraculously avoiding execution until he arrived at the infamous Sobibor death camp. A documentary which plays like an intense narrative of courage and suspense.
Cantet's haunting and ambiguous follow-up to Human Resources, a favorite from last year's festival. Family man Vincent has been fired — which will anger and disappoint his father, a wealthy, successful businessman. Rather than disclose the termination, Vincent pretends he is still working. With a strong performance by Serge Livrozet (Vincent), an effective musical score, and near-expressionist sets, Cantet molds an unforgettable portrait of a man disintegrating from within.
TROUBLE EVERY DAY
The subject of a major retrospective in French Film Festival 1999, Claire Denis creates an inimitable view of the Contemporary Urban Vampire Flick (The Addiction, The Habit, Nadja, Dracula 2000, The Breed, The Hunger). A film exploring obsessive desires and transgressive fulfillment — not unlike Denis' Le Beau Travail.
VICTOR... PENDANT QU'IL EST TROP TARD
Directors such as Bruno Dumont (Life of Jesus, Humanité), Erick Zonca (Dreamlife of Angels, The Little Thief), Laurent Cantet (Human Resources, Time Out), Sandrine Veysset and others have moved French cinema to space outside of Paris among the working class. Bringing creative variations on cinematic realism, along with the use of both actors and non actors, these directors have enlivened French cinema. Veysset examines the relationship between Victor, a runaway at age 10, and Triche, a prostitute.
A gritty, realist take on French farming society as a woman and her seven children encounter and embody the dysfunction and exploitation such a group can spawn.