Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 10, 2018 8:12 am 
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Brac's summer tales evoke, but contrast with, Éric Rohmer

Brac's 2013 Tonnerre was shown in the 2014 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema and I reviewed it then.

The word "conte" and a summer setting for two short films with young people flirting with each other sounds like Eric Rohmer, but in Guillaume Brac's more contemporary "tales" set in the suburbs of Paris there is a lot less civility and restraint and the disappointments are brutal and quick. In the first, "L'Amie de dimanche" ("The Sunday Friend"), two young women coworkers, Lucie (Lucie Grunstein) and Milena (Milena Csergo) go on a park outing to the greater Paris amusement center at Cergy-Pontoise.

After a bathe and a picnic lunch, they are approached by a young male park worker called Jean (Jean Joudé) whose design is clearly not to help but to connect. This deeply disappoints Lucie, the one he doesn't focus on, and that she is described as always pouty and unhappy sounds like Rohmer. True to Rohmer plot patterns, when the shy Lucie goes off by herself, she does quite well, actually better than her friend.

Lucie meets a young man practicing fencing, Théo (Théo Chedeville), who develops an interest in her and a connection, through giving her an impromptu fencing lesson. They plan on a date. Meanwhile the other couple discover they went to the same schools, only then Jean was a fat boy ("like all teens," he says) and now he's dark, well-built and robust. When they return to a park base his involvement with Milena causes his girlfriend, Kenza (Kenza Lagnaoui), who is at the park working too, to break up with him, and they come to blows. Things between Jean and Milena end messily.

The second "conte" is called "Hanne et la fête nationale" ("Hanne and the National Holiday"). The national holiday is France's, July 14th. Hanne, a Norwegian university student who has been studying in Paris, has encounters with three boys on this day, which ends with tragic news of the terrorist attack in Nice. When Hanne wakes up in her dorm room, an Italian student, Andrea (Andrea Romano) is lying beside her touching her and apparently beginning to masturbate - a situation one can't imagine happening in Rohmer. All day Hanne fends off Andrea, who claims to be in love with her. She meets a more polite but pushy French boy out on the street, Roman (Roman Jean-Elie), who invites her to a holiday party with friends that evening in a flat he says has a view of the Eiffel Tower.

Hanne resists Roman but is on the verge of accepting when Andrea appears and punches Roman in the nose - another very un-Rohmer event. He bleeds profusely, or thinks he does, and after a visit from a campus fireman called Sipan (Sipan Mouradian), Roman departs, expecting Hanne to come to his party. But she stays with Salomé (Salomé Diénis Meulien), a student of quantum physics, Andrea, and Sipan, who's invited to stay. This little multinational gathering at the Ciné Universitaire in the 14th arrondissement of Paris goes well till, during an interpretive dancing performance by Sipan accompanied on the guitar by Andrea, Salomé goes off in a huff after Hanne, now drunk, seems to make a play for Sipan, whom Salomé had her eye on. Left alone, and beginning to see a lost opportunity in her rejections of Andrea, Hanne hears the news from Nice and gets ready to fly home to Norway.

Have times changed for the worse since Rohmer, or is Brac's film stye just rougher than his? Nonetheless Brac's two tales are well constructed, even if they come off a little more like student short films than the work of a finished auteur, though for the younger generation of French cinephiles, as indicated by a well-informed piece about these Tales on the film website Citizen Poupe that I've drawn on for information in this review, do consider him to be one.

Joseph Owen wrote a short English language review of this film at Locarno, in August 2017, in The Upcoming , but it seems to have been little commented on.

July Tales/Contes de juillet, 68 mins., debuted at Locarno, Aug 2017. It was screened for this review as part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (UniFrance/FSLC), New York, March 2018. French theatrical release coming "prochainement," according to AlloCiné. If the Tales do come out in French cinemas, we will see how the Parisian critics receive them.
Showtimes March 9 2:15 PM
March 12 9:30 PM

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