French Rendez-Vous 2016: “Standing Tall” with Catherine Deneuve

“Standing Tall” (“La Tete Haute”) was the best of the 13 films I saw in this year’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York City. Before the film was shown, Emmanuelle Bercot, the film’s director and co-writer said that “very little is known of the justice court for children”.

Standing Tall theatrical poster_lg

She said that she wanted bring a sense of hope and to instill compassion toward those who fall into a delinquent life through a lack of education. Bercot also wanted pay tribute to people in the system trying to help juveniles break out of the spiral of delinquency.

“Standing Tall” is a compelling, well-written film with distinctive characterizations from a strong ensemble.

The film follows Malony, a young delinquent, for 10 years from age 6. During a meeting with a children’s magistrate (Catherine Deneuve), his messed-up, unstable mother (extremely well-played by Sara Forestier) calls Malony, who has missed 2 months of school, “rotten” and more than she can handle. Also with a crying baby, she leaves Malony in the judge’s office. Malony’s time in courts and detention centers begins.

Catherine Deneuve  and Rod Paradot as Malony (right, in grey jacket)  in "Standing Tall"

Catherine Deneuve and Rod Paradot as Malony (right, in grey jacket) in “Standing Tall”

Bercot who gave Catherine Deneuve one of her best recent parts in “On My Way” (2014) has written another good part for her. Deneuve impresses yet again as the firm but concerned judge wanting to do the best for Malony throughout the years.

Rod Paradot who portrays Malony from ages 13 -17 is an amazing discovery. He gives a vivid performance. The film has a gripping tension as Malony explodes in volcanic rage in frustration from being part of the juvenile justice system and losing his freedom. After a long search Paradot, who lives in the projects, was found in a vocational school, training for his certificate in carpentry. He was awarded the Cesar, the French Oscar, for Most Promising Actor.

Rod Paradot  in "Standing Tall"

Rod Paradot in “Standing Tall”

Benoit Magimel received the Cesar for Best Supporting Actor for his intense performance as a caseworker who had a troubled childhood and remains determined to help Malony break his cycle of incarceration.

Malony, who has periodic reunions with his mother and younger brother, is often his own worst enemy as his fights those trying change his life. Malony and the justice system are treated realistically, without easy answers.

French Rendez-Vous 2016: Huppert and Depardieu in Valley of Love”

The Rendez-Vous with French Cinema opened with “Valley of Love”, most notable for the first collaboration between 2 icons of French cinema, Isabelle Huppert and Gerard Depardieu, since “Loulou” in 1980. The setting is Death Valley. Before the film, Huppert spoke of the “very hot” temperature during filming. It was announced that Huppert was in New York to promote the film for just 24 hours as she was involved in a stage performance.

Isabelle Huppert and Gerard Depardieu in "Valley of Love"

Isabelle Huppert and Gerard Depardieu in “Valley of Love”

Huppert and Depardieu portray divorced actors. Their son whom they had neglected has committed suicide. Each has received a letter, supposedly from their deceased son, that if they visit certain locations in Death Valley, he will appear to them. They have reunited in Death Valley to follow the instructions in the letter.

The film takes a while to build interest, from other than the star pairing, mainly because of the rambling dialog in the screenplay written by director Guillaume Nicloux.

Gerard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert in "Valley of Love"

Gerard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert in “Valley of Love”

Huppert is the best thing about the film. She gives another remarkable performance, showing the depth of her character’s anguish and fear at a possible metaphysical encounter. Like his character, Depardieu’s performance lacks energy for much of the film. Depardieu’s wide girth is addressed as he speaks dialog about not being happy with the way he now looks.

The film improves as it focuses on the tragedy of the son’s death, as does Depardieu’s performance. Depardieu becomes more emotional, glowing with remembrance of an experience at a hotel with his ex-wife. He also shows intensity at a climactic encounter.

In a future post, Isabelle Huppert discusses her enduring career.