The best film I saw at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema was “See You Up There” (“Au Revoir La-haut”) that had terrific, vivid cinematic storytelling. The film begins with a large-scale and harrowing sequence on a WWI battlefield where the commanding officer Lieutenant Pradelle (Laurent Lafitte), though he knows the war is over, shoots soldiers to keeps the troops remaining in a perilous assault.
Two very different soldiers bond after their battle experiences. The face of the younger Edouard (Nahubel Perez Biscayart, “BPM”) is disfigured in the war. The other Albert (Albert Dupontel who also directed) joins Edouard in Paris. To deal with the pain caused by his war injuries, Edouard uses opium and hides his damaged face with elaborate, colorful masks.
In the absorbing story with some clever twists, Edouard fakes his death. Albert ends up making contact with Edouard’s father (Niels Arestup) and sister (Emilie Dequenne). The sinister Lieutenant Pradelle also shows up in Paris. Edouard and Albert concoct an elaborate scam taking advantage of memories of the war.
“See You Up There” combines strong characterizations with an impressive production design of vibrant post-war Paris. The film received Cesars (French Oscar) for Direction, Adapted Screenplay (co-written by Dupontel), Cinemtography, Costumes and Production Design.
“A Paris Education” (“Mes Provinciales”) was one of the strongest films shown at Rendez-Vous. Young Etienne (Andranic Manet) leaves Lyon to study film in Paris. Director/co-writer Jean-Paul Civeyrac shot the film in black and white, giving it the look of the French new wave.
The film captures the all-consuming enthusiasm of the young would-be artists. Etienne meets fellow cinephiles, also sacrificing everything to get their films made. A character is told “You only love cinema”. Etienne also encounters rivalry among his fellow students. In a humorous touch, Etienne has a series of roommates whose languages he doesn’t understand.
This is a very well-written and acted film about how artistic endeavors affect personal relationships. This Parisian education builds in poignancy.