French Rendez-Vous 2018: “See You Up There” and “A Paris Education”

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.

Albert Dupontel and Nahubel Perez Biscayart in “See You Up There”

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.

Albert Dupontel (left) and Nahubel Perez Biscayart (right) in “See You Up There”

“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.

“A Paris Education”

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.

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French Rendez-Vous 2016: Julie Delpy and “Lolo”

The Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series brought a wide variety of French films to Lincoln Center in New York City. An advantage of the series was having actors, directors and other filmmakers attending to discuss their films.

Julie Delpy (“2 Days in New York”, “Three Colors: White”) was in New York with her latest comedy “Lolo” which she starred in, directed and co-wrote. Before the screening, Delpy said “I like saying dirty things” which she included in her “little French comedy”.

_I7A4048 ∏ David Koskas  The Film

Delpy plays Violette, a Parisian involved with staging fashion shows. She and her friend Ariane (Karin Viard) are on vacation. They talk frankly and amusingly about their sexual relationships. While she speaks of “magic moments”, Violette later gets a fish dropped on her by Jean-Rene (Dany Bon). An attraction does build between Violette and the less sophisticated Jean-Rene, a computer programmer. Delpy and Bon have a good chemistry that makes the scenes of their different characters adjusting to each other engaging.

Jean-Rene joins Violette in Paris. She has a 19-year son Lolo (Vincent Lacoste) who deviously tries to sabotage his mother’s new relationship. As Lolo’s attempts to shame Jean-Rene become more sadistic, the film loses steam, becoming strained and predictable.

After the film, Julie Delpy held a lively discussion, saying she wanted to make a film about a “woman in her forties finding love.”

Julie Delpy at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema  (c) Ed  Scheid

Julie Delpy at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (c) Ed Scheid

She described Lolo as an “emperor child”, wanting his mother for himself. She said her own 7-year-old is the opposite of her cinematic son. Delpy said that she likes “dark stuff for comedy”, that when someone’s a sociopath, “It can be funny”. She added that for her it’s “fun to see mistreatment on film, maybe I’m sick.” She likes “sex talk very direct”, laughingly adding “no beating around the bush.”

When an audience member said he found no humor in the son’s disturbed behavior, Delpy responded “I’m sorry, I think mean people are funny. Sometimes I see humor in very dark things.”

Delpy said that it’s not sacred that she always writes for herself as in her previous directorial/writing efforts that began with “Looking for Jimmy” (2002), but “no one else wanted the part” in her latest film. She had worked with Viard and Lacoste and wrote the roles for them in “Lolo”. She wrote the male lead for Dany Bon but was told he was too big a star to be in her film. Bon liked the script and took the part.

Julie Delpy at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema  (c) Ed  Scheid

Julie Delpy at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema (c) Ed Scheid

She said she “used to play classical music” and likes “pretty lights and a playful orchestra”. Delpy added that she loves the comedies of Blake Edwards (“Victor/Victoria”) and Mel Brooks (“Blazing Saddles”) and these films “inspire me”, and that the “cartoon at the beginning credits is like ‘The Pink Panther’ (of Edwards).”

Delpy said that as a director she has learned to delegate more. She has gotten a bemused reaction when she says “action to myself”. She got Karl Lagerfeld to appear in a fashion sequence in “Lolo” since she’s known him over 20 years.

Delpy was asked if she would collaborate again with Ethan Hawke and director Richard Linklater with whom she made a trilogy of films following the same characters in “Before Sunrise” (1995), “Before Sunset” (2004) and “Before Midnight” (2013). She replied that she had a “great time with those guys, not sure if we want to do it again.”

She said financing is easier in France and is very structured. Her film did not receive funding from the French government which usually does not fund comedies. She said funding in the US is not as stable as with French premium cable channel Canal Plus. Another difference Delpy noted is that here is “no guilt” for the “working mother in France.”