2008 Festival

2008 Poster2008 Poster

Michel Blanc began his film acting career in 1973 and made his directorial debut in 1984. Long-known for playing losers and lovable idiots in French comedies and cameos in international films, Blanc has more recently turned his attention to directing and to more somber roles. The films we are presenting cover the full range of his acting abilities. Blanc has received numerous awards during his career, including Award for Best Actor, Cannes 1986 (Tenue de soirée) and Award for Best Screenplay, Cannes 1994 (Grosse fatigue). Note that Blanc has been nominated for a César for Best Actor for his performances in Les Témoins and Je vous trouve très beau.

A number of Festival regulars have urged the addition of short films from France. The issues and themes play large in these short films-immigration, loss of job, aging, voting-all compactly and sharply addressed. These will be shown in succession with no break between films. Total running time of shorts is 95 minutes.

directed by Guillaume Martinez

France | 2005 | 8 m
MA MÈRE, HISTOIRE D'UNE IMMIGRATION (My Mother, Story of an Immigration)
directed by Felipe Canales
France | 2005 | 15 m
JE SUIS UNE VOIX (One Voice, One Vote)
directed by Jeanne Paturle and Cecile Rousset
France | 2007 | 13 m

directed by Olivier Bourbeillon
France | 2006 | 12 m
L'ORIGINE DE LA TENDRESSE (Origin of Tenderness)
directed by Alain-Paul Mallard
France | 1999 | 32 m
directed by Alice Winocur
France | 2004 | 15 mn


Poison Friends
directed by Emmanuel Bourdieu, France 2006, 100 minutes
cast Malik Zidi, Thibault Vinçon, Alexandre Steiger, Thomas Blanchard

The fits-and misfits-among a group of graduate students. Director Bourdieu, who cut his writing teeth on two Arnaud Desplechin films, is in control in the sharp and biting turns among these friends. This is one of those films in which it seems that everyone connected gives one hope for the future of French cinema.

Before I Forget
directed by Jacques Nolot, France 2007, 108 minutes
cast Jacques Nolot, Jean-Pol Dubois, Marc Rioufol, Bastien d'Asnières

A former gigolo who has been HIV- positive for 24 years navigates a slew of physical and emotional obstacles with mordant aplomb.... This pragmatic side of gay life finds the straight-shooting poet of matter-of-fact sexual transactions in fine narrative form, exhibiting his aging body and mindset without a trace of vanity.... A touching glimpse of faded beauty and looming decrepitude (Lisa Nesselson, Variety).

Terror's Advocate
directed by Barbet Schroeder, France 2007, 138 minutes
cast Jacques Vergès, Klaus Barbie, Abderrahmane Benhamida, Bachir Boumaâza

Communist, anticommunist, right-wing extremist? What convictions guide the moral mind of Jacques Vergès? Barbet Schroeder takes us down history's darkest paths in his attempt to illuminate the mystery behind this enigmatic figure. Inevitably, Schroeder follows a winding path with such figures as Carlos the Jackal, Klaus Barbie, Pol Pot, Magdalena Kop, and Yasser Arafat having all been defended by Vergès. This documentary has the feel and flow of a narrative film.

The Red Balloon & White Mane
directed by Albert Lamorisse, France, 1956 & 1953, 74 minutes

Newly restored and available for the first time in almost a decade, Albert Lamorisse's The Red Balloon remains one of the most beloved children's tales of all time. In this deceptively simple, nearly wordless tale, a young boy discovers a stray balloon that seems to have a mind of its own...The Red Balloon has enchanted the young-and the young at heart-for decades, and it will surely find a new generation of fans with this rerelease. Shown with White Mane, another film by Lamorrisse beloved by generations of French children. A friendship develops between a young fisherman and White Mane, a horse, as they elude wranglers and herdsmen to live freely. (Janus Films)

directed by Olivier Assayas, France 2007, 105 minutes
cast Asia Argento, Michael Madsen, Carl Ng, Kelly Lin

The obligatory new Olivier Assayas film for the Festival. While always fascinating, Assayas pushes his zigzag, uneven cinematic template: jittery narratives, near-excessive handheld camera, strong female leads, hip, eccentric soundtracks. Asia Argento-whom you shall see in Catherine Briellat's The Last Mistress-has a passionate affair in London with former financial superstar played by Michael Madsen. Guns, drugs, talk, sex, conspiracies abound...all with an improvisational look and feel.

Love Songs
directed by Christophe Honore, France 2007, 85 minutes
cast Louis Garrel, Ludivine Sagnier, Chiara Mastroianni, Clotilde Hesme

This is not Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly living, singing, dancing life to the fullest in New York from On the Town. Nor is it Catherine Deneuve from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. But Honoré's contemporary musical may come close. Lightness, with a dash of the great issues of life, as three lovers sing and sort things out in Paris.

Private Fears In Public Places
directed by Alain Resnais, France/Italy, 2006, 120 minutes
cast Sabine Azéma, Isabelle Carré, Laura Morante, Pierre Arditi

The 84-year old Resnais, influential in the history of film, effortlessly creates another wonder. Interconnected livesseven contemporary Parisians form the core for what may be Resnais' human comedy-"human comedy" in a high, philosophic sense. Resnais' subtle and simple framing provides such ocular relief from the mainstream. Take note of films shown by other "oldies but goodies:" Chabrol and Rivette.

Inside Paris
directed by Christophe Honore, France/Portugal, 2006, 92 minutes
cast Romain Duris, Louis Garrel, Joana Preiss, Guy Marchand

One of two Honoré films in the Festival and the one that shows that the New Wave influence is alive and kicking...and talking. A mixture of comedy and tragedy as siblings fathom their relationships. Striking cinematography along with a quirky soundtrack add to the gives-and- takes within the narrative. Worth contrasting with the family struggles dissected by Joachim Lafosse in Private Property showing later in the Festival.

Her Name is Sabine
directed by Sandrine Bonnaire, France 2007, 85 minutes
cast Sabine Bonnaire, Sandrine Bonnaire

Famous actress Sandrine Bonnaire takes the directorial helm in this painfully up- close portrait of her autistic sister, Sabine. Utilizing 25 years home movies, Bonnaire's account can be read as a history of mental health organizations views and "treatments" of autism. The triumphs and uplifting moments are certainly tempered by misdiagnoses-e.g., a five year stay in a mental institution.

The Girl Cut in Two
directed by Claude Chabrol, Germany/France 2007, 115 min
cast Ludivine Sagnier, Benoît Magimel, François Berléand, Mathilda May

The 77-year old Chabrol effortlessly and assuredly spins the following tale: A French TV weather girl is torn between a famous, older, married author and a semi-deranged young heir to an industrial fortune. What will happen? Chabrol's oeuvre takes us on a serpentine journey in the gray mergings of the normal and the abnormal.

directed by Heddy Honigmann, Netherlands 2006, 85 minutes
cast Leone Desmasures, Yoshino Kimura, Stephane Heuet, Reza Khoddam

A poignant tour of art in the lives of visitors to the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, the final resting place for legendary writers, composers, painters and other artists from around the world (First Run/Icarus Films synopsis) An ideal project for Honigmann's considerable skills. Swaddled in an array of sumptuous images, the personal stories she elicits, without a hint of mawkishness or condescension...create a rich fabric of historical reference and cross-cultural identification. (Paul Arthur, Film Comment)

You Are So Beautiful
directed by Isabelle Mergaultl, France 2006, 97 minutes
cast Michel Blanc, Medeea Marinescu, Wladimir Yordanoff, Benoît Turjman

Widower Aymé is in search of a wife to help with the back-breaking work required on a farm. He travels to Romania, where the situation is so desperate women will do anything to go abroad, and finds Elena. First-time director Mergault uses a light touch in exposing the developing relationship-while also exposing the imbalance of the "two Europes" and its social consequences.

Don't Touch the Axe
directed by Jacques Mergault, France 2007, 137 minutes
cast Jeanne Balibar, Guillaume Depardieu, Michel Piccoli, Bulle Ogier

Yes, this cinema is based upon Balzac's 1834 La Duchesse de Langeais in which the kidnapped seduces the kidnapper. But very soon one can see this is the rigorous, singular aesthetic of Jacques Rivette. The long takes, spare music, and effectively languid pace dance at the edges of the "Rivette touch." The performances by Guillaume Depardieu and Jeanne Balibar are especially nuanced. The "Rivette touch" brings out strong, surprising performances. Savor the experience of losing yourself in this film.

Private Property
directed by Joachim Lafosse, France, 2006, 95 minutes
cast Isabelle Huppert, Jérémie Renier, Yannick Renier, Kris Cuppens

Director Lafosse wisely keeps the camera at a distance as the family psychodramas play out. Huppert's intense, striking performance is proof positive that she will never choose a light, sleepwalker of a role. Deceptively simple in plot, a shattering resonance in its psychodynamics of family life. The battlefield of family is the dining room table.

The Witnesses
directed by André Téchiné, France 2007, 112 minutes
cast Michel Blanc, Emmanuelle Béart, Sami Bouajila, Julie Depardieu

Set in Paris, 1984, during the first outbreak of the AIDS epidemic. Accomplished director Téchiné deftly prevents this narrative from going to Phi l adel phi a/Hollywoodland. As the group of friends responds to the crisis, one can observe director, writer, actors, actresses adding depth and complexity; no character would be easily reduced to one and only one response-e.g., denial. While all performances are solid, take note of Michel Blanc and Sami Bouajila's performances. Take note that the Festival is showing Jacques Nolot's documentary Before I Forget.

The Last Mistress
directed by Catherine Breillat, France 2007, 114 minutes
cast Asia Argento, Fu'ad Ait Aattou, Roxane Mesquida, Claude Sarraute

Secrets, rumors and betrayals surround the upcoming marriage between a young dissolute man and a virtuous woman of the French aristocracy. At the risk of unfair simplicity, imagine the wonderment, necessary baggage, and excess of Catherine Breillat's aesthetics and sexual politics brought to the literature of Choderlos de Laclos (author of Dangerous Liasions). While Breillat's films, set in contemporary times, draw most response on their sexual politics, not enough attention is paid to her direction of actors.

Flight of the Red Balloon
directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien, France 2007, 113 minutes
cast Juliette Binoche, Simon Iteanu, Fang Song, Hippolyte Girardot

As was related in the Jacques Rivette film, soon in one knows it is a Rivette film. So with Le Voyage...as soon as one knows to be in Hou territory, that of the very important Taiwanese director-a French production, French actresses, Paris location. The important Taiwanese director Hou's adult remake of the family classic Le Ballon rouge. This French production with French actresses and set in Paris has the unmistakable signature of the director.