French Rendez-Vous 2013: Moreau and more

More from Rendez-Vous with French Cinema:

In “A Lady in Paris” (“Une Estonienne a Paris”), Anne (Laine Magi) comes to Paris from her native Estonia to care for Frida (Jeanne Moreau), a much older Estonian who has long lived in France. Anne was hired by Stephane (Patrick Pineau), Frida’s younger former lover who is extremely concerned about Frida’s living alone.

Jeanne Moreau and Patrick Pineau in “A Lady in Paris”

Jeanne Moreau and Patrick Pineau in “A Lady in Paris”

Frida remains resentful of a stranger’s intruding on her privacy. She throws things. When Anne serves her breakfast Frida sarcastically accuses her of wanting her “to eat plastic’. While this film has a slight story line, “The Lady” is well worth seeing because of the legendary Jeanne Moreau (“Jules and Jim”, “The Bride Wore Black”) in a leading role. Moreau remains a fiery and formidable presence.

Laine Magi and Jeanne Moreau in “A Lady in Paris"

Laine Magi and Jeanne Moreau in “A Lady in Paris”

“You, Me and Us” (“Un enfant de toi”), written and directed by Jacques Doillon (“Ponette”), views a romantic triangle complicated by a seven year-old child. The lead role of Aya is played by Lou Doillon, daughter of the director who physically resembles her mother Jane Birkin. Aya, divorced, is living with and her young daughter Lina (Olga Milstein) and Louis (Samuel Benchetrit) with whom she wants to have a child. Since she split with her ex-husband Victor (Malik Zidi) three years ago, Aya feels enough time has passed for her to meet up with Victor. Both Aya and Lina become torn between Victor and Louis.

You-me-and-us-french-poster

Jacques Doillon has written good dialog, delivered with flair by the cast. Doillon keeps his film moving at a brisk pace, so it doesn’t drag, even at over two hours. After the screening, the director said that he did not write for specific actors. He added that Benchetrit is an ex-boyfriend of his daughter Lou.

Malik Zidi and Lou Doillon  in “You, Me and Us”

Malik Zidi and Lou Doillon in “You, Me and Us”

Doillon compared his camera movements to choreography. He described his characters as invaded by feelings. He added that for his film, there was no improvisation whatsoever, and that he used a lot of takes.

French Rendez-Vous 2013: “The Nun”

The finest film I saw at the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York City was “The Nun” (“La Religieuse”, a deeply emotional and compelling adaptation of the novel by French philosopher Denis Diderot. The book was published in 1796.

Suzanne (Pauline Etienne) is distressed when her parents send her to a convent to become a nun. After the revelation that she is illegitimate, Suzanne finds that she will be forced to remain. The Mother Superior (Francoise Lebrun, a warm presence) is kind to Suzanne and sympathetic to her reservations on convent life.

Pauline Etienne in "The Nun"

Pauline Etienne in “The Nun”

The Mother Superior dies and is replaced by the younger and strikingly beautiful Sister Christine (Louise Bourgoin) who restores some of the harsh measures, like wearing hair shirts, that had been eliiminated by her predecessor. When Suzanne rebels, she is faced with sadistic retribution and scorn by her fellow nuns. Director Guillaume Nicloux has staged vivid scenes of Suzanne’s torment in the religious order. Etienne gives a superb performance, showing the depth of Suzanne’s pain as well as her inner strength to endure.

Suzanne is transferred to another convent where the Mother Superior (Isabelle Huppert) becomes disturbingly attached to her. Huppert gives another fearless performance as her character slips into hysteria. “The Nun” is a powerful film on resistance against oppression.

Pauline Etienne and Isabelle Huppert in "The Nun"

Pauline Etienne and Isabelle Huppert in “The Nun”

After the screening, director Guillaume Nicloux, who co-wrote the screenplay, said he was fifteen when he read the Diderot novel which stayed with him for decades. Nicloux believes Diederot was not anticlerical, but against excess in religion. He believes the true essence of the book was an ode to freedom and destiny. He described Diederot as an atheist wanted people to think for themselves.

Guillaume Nicloux in New  York

Guillaume Nicloux in New York

For the leading role, Nicloux was looking for a combination of strength and vulnerability. As director he doesn’t talk much about a character. Nicloux feels the actor is the character. He wants to allow space for accidents to happen. This freedom makes it interesting for him.

In casting, what matters to Nicloux is what happens during a meeting with the actor. He does not have to have seen the actor’s previous work

French Rendez-Vous 2013: Audrey Tautou as Therese Desqueyroux

Audrey Tautou was in New York City for the the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema with her latest film “Therese Desqueyroux”, based on the classic novel by Francois Mauriac published in 1927. This was also the final film directed by the late Claude Miller (“Garde a Vue”, “A Secret”) who co-wrote the screenplay. A 1962 film version starring Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”) was also shown at Rendez-Vous.

Before the screening, Annie Miller, widow and producing partner of Claude, said that for her husband, Audrey Tautou was a Stradivarius. He had other projects in mind for her.

Audrey Tautou as Therese Desqueyroux

Audrey Tautou as Therese Desqueyroux

Therese (Tautou) believes that her head is “too full of ideas”, which scares her. She marries Bernard Desqueyroux (Gilles Lellouche) from another landowning family, hoping to “calm” herself. When her friend and sister-in-law confides to Therese about a secret romantic passion, Therese realizes how unfulfilled her own life has become. She plans an escape by secretly increasing the dosage of her husband’s medicine.

Audrey Tautou as Therese Desqueyroux

Audrey Tautou as Therese Desqueyroux

Therese is quite unlike the happy and optimistic characters Tautou played in films like “Amelie”. Tautou gives a strong performance, conveying Therese’s emotional conflicts, her awakening fervor, and chilly determination for revenge. Tautou gives Therese more depth than in her previous film characterizations.

As director, Claude Miller effectively builds tension in a stifling period setting. The film is absorbing. Therese’s actions have unexpected consequences. She finds that no matter what happens, her husband’s wealthy family is determined to keep up appearances.

Audrey Tautou in New York

Audrey Tautou in New York

At the screening, Tautou said that Therese Desqueyroux is the “most challenging part” she has played. She said that her character’s attempt to gain freedom is universal. She described Therese as an “anarchist of feeling”.

Audrey Tautou in New York

Audrey Tautou in New York