The annual March Rendez-Vous with French Cinema again showed a wide range of contemporary French films at different locations in New York City. The series is sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Unifrance which promotes French films. Many screenings included appearances from actors and directors.
Two of the strongest films gave vivid views of two very different settings. “Farewell, My Queen” is directed and co-written by Benoit Jacquot who has made other notable films centering on female characters like “The School of Flesh” and “A Single Girl”. “Farewell” unfolds in the court of Marie Antoinette as revolutionary fervor spreads and the aristocrats begin to realize they are in danger.
Diane Kruger (“Inglourious Basterds”) is a splendid Queen, full of imperious hauteur. The focus of the film is on a lady in waiting (Lea Seydoux, “Midnight inParis”) who remains loyal to the Queen. Marie Antoinette is mainly concerned with her court “favorite” (Virginie Ledoyen, “Single Girl”).
Jacquot shot “Farewell” in the actual opulent location setting ofVersailles. After a screening, he said that it’s very simple to shoot there, but films can only be shot when Versailles is closed to visitors – on Mondays and evenings. Jacquot added that he wanted a rigorous recreation of history, but to make the spectator feel very contemporary, with the past seeming like the present. Jacquot has created a fascinating view of a world in chaos.
At the other extreme, and reminiscent of the Dardenne Brothers, “Louise Wimmer” takes a documentary-like view of a financially strapped woman who describes herself as “50 and I live in my car”.
This is the first fiction feature from writer/director Cyril Mennegun who previously made documentaries. He gives “Louise” a gritty realism as the title character struggles to survive. She changes clothes standing outside her car or in rooms she is supposed to clean. Working as a maid, she has been late because of “car trouble”. Louise is divorced and her possessions have been seized by the bailiff until payment.
Corinne Masiero gives a forceful performance as Louise. The character’s stubbornness and self-destructiveness add a tension to her desperation. Mennegun describes her as “a character who won’t give in.” She was inspired by actual characters, including bits of Mennegun’s mother and aunt who “had money and lost everything overnight when their husbands left them.”
More Rendez-Vous films to come.