Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 10, 2019 5:36 pm 
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A lot of the films seem to fall into either silly comedies or earnest social studies, with playful philosophical stories in between, which may also be love stories. And a bit of genre (would that there were more!).


Silly comedies

Obvious silly comedies are the opening night film, Pierre Salvadori's THE TROUBLE WITH YOU, Quentin Duprieux's consistently nutty AU POSTE! (the English title KEEP AN EYE OUT! is a witty bit of word play), Gilles Lellouche's grandly appealing feel-good ensemble comedy SINK OR SWIM/LE GRAND BAIN, and (why not?) Bruno Dumont's COINCOIN miniseries. That may be a very peculiar auteur silly comedy, but silly comedy it is. Within his own self-defined genre, Dumont reigns supreme. I would like to see him do a serious feature film again.

Partly I feel these are brought into the series because they were very popular in France. But their success shows that actually, sometimes, a French comedy can make sense in English subtitles.


Earnest issue films.

Earnest "issue" films seem somehow more typical of French cinema, but it may be merely that they play better with the US arthouse audience. More of the Rendez-Vous fell into this category: Michaël Hers's AMANDA (about terrorism and grief), Thomas Lilti's THE FRESHMAN (about a cruel selection system), Eva Husson's GIRLS OF THE SUN (not a French story, but a woman director'e earnest war story). Jeanne Henry's IN SAFE HANDS/PUPILLE is about the fate of a baby. This might just be a TV movie here. But the French take their social issues seriously, so it's a good deal more.

INVISIBLES is about homeless women and the social workers who bend the rules trying to help them. It combines feel-good social issues picture with silly comedy. In so doing, it loads on more than one movie can easily carry.

THE TRUK/L'ENCAS is the reverse, a debut film so pared-down it leaves one cold. But its lead is charismatic and its storytelling impressively efficient.

MAYA is about a war correspondent recovering from hostage trauma by traveling in India. This is sweetening the pill too. But it is also a Mia Hansen-Løve film, so it is unpredictable and complex even if the reliance on English dialogue and the exotic setting lead her astray.

Vergil Vernier's willfully edgy SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS is about issues too, the issue of violence predominant. It's very serious, even if its prurience undercuts that and it fails to convince.


Philosophical and playful love stories

Good examples of these are Sophie Fillières' amusing MARGAUX MEETS MARGAUX/LA BELLE ET LA BELLE and Judith Davis' vivid WHATEVER HAPPENED TO MY REVOLUTION/TOUT CE QUI RESTE DE MA RÉVOLUTION. They're intellectual but also amorous studies. Romain Laguna METEORITES is a tale of young love - or a girls's sexual adventure - but it also has a mystical or spiritual element, hence the meteorites. This surely is an area in which the French excel.

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's THE SUMMER HOUSE/LES ESTIVANTS is bookended by the filmmaker's own character's abandonment by her man. In between there is all kinds of Checkovian family drama, and philosophy too, I'm sure.

Genre films.

A film festival is unlikely to include a pure genre film. But genre provides a welcome leavening of the mix. With SCHOOL'S OUT/L'HEURE DE LA SORTIE Sébastien Marnier delivers a mix of of horror and mystery within a familiar format: the teacher tormented and exploited by his students. Patricia Mazuy's PAUL SANCHEZ IS BACK!/PAUL SANCHEZ EST REVENU! is a genre-twister too, and both star the riveting Laurent Lafitte - the discovery, for me, of this year's Rendez-Vous.


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