French Rendez-Vous 2017: Marion Cotillard in “From the Land of the Moon”

“From the Land of the Moon” (“Mal de Pierres”) was the best selection I saw at the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series in New York City. In the film, Marion Cotillard gives a masterful performance as an extremely romantic woman with thwarted longings.

This film is impressively directed by Nicole Garcia who has acted in several films like the classic “Mon Oncle d’Amerique” (1980) and “La Petite Lili” (2003).

Gabrielle (Cotillard) is driving with her husband and son to an event where her son will perform at a piano competition. Gabrielle suddenly recognizes an address their car passes, and suddenly gets out. The film flashes back to a younger Gabrielle In 1950’s rural France.

Marion Cotillard and Àlex Brendemühl in “From the Land of the Moon”

Cotillard gives Gabrielle a passionate intensity, making for a gripping film. Gabrielle remains unfulfilled. Her mother (Brigitte Roüan) says her daughter has her “head in the clouds”. After an improper attraction from Gabrielle, her mother arranges a marriage with José (Àlex Brendemühl), a worker on the family farm. The marriage is described as “bought you off”. Gabrielle looks dazed after the wedding ceremony.

The screenplay, co-written by Garcia, develops sympathy for José as he tries vainly to understand or relate to his wife.

Gabrielle visits Switzerland for a rest cure. She becomes intensely drawn to Lieutenant André Sauvage (Louis Garrrel, “The Dreamers” (2003)), a sensitive veteran also in the sanatorium for care. He plays the piano. Marion’s developing relationship with André brings a fulfillment that has been lacking in her life. Andre will continue to dominate her life. The screenplay takes some unexpected twists.

Marion Cotillard in “From the Land of the Moon”

The photogenic scenery of Switzerland, emphasizes the healing aspects of the location. Director Nicole Garcia effectively builds tension from the raw emotion of Cotillard’s portrayal. Garcia also elicits fine performances from her supporting cast. Garcia’s other films as director have had notable performances. Her “Place Vendôme” (1998) contained one of Catherine Deneuve’s best.

After the film screening, Nicole Garcia discussed “From the Land of the Moon”. She said that the film is a free adaptation of a book by an Italian novelist set in Sardinia. She added that the subject “fit my manner”.

Nicole Garcia at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema

Garcia described the main character as “a woman who wants what everyone denies her”. She said that Marion Cotillard is “one of the very best”, and the “best” actress for the part, which is “particular to what she does”. She added that Cotillard brings something “unpredictable” to her characterization. Garcia described the casting as a “great actor” in a “great role.” She added that the strongest roles are ”roles that reveal as we go along.”

Garcia added that she wants “characters to be unpredictable” and that as a director, it is “nearly a duty to forget the script and invent something else.”

Garcia said that some people may see the pain Gabrielle puts her husband through, and “may dislike her, I hope not.”

Nicole Garcia at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema

Her background as an actor is the “strongest” thing that Garcia believes she brings to directing, to “show actors” aspects of their characters, adding “I don’t tell (them) how to say” the dialog.

When asked to explain the title of her film, Garcia declined, adding that unlike her colleague director Francois Ozon (“Frantz”)  who told her he has approval of foreign titles of his films, she “inherited” the title. She added that a critic told her the landscape in the final scene “looks like the desert, like the moon.”

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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 2015: “In the Name of My Daughter”, the latest Catherine Deneuve / André Téchiné collaboration

Some of Catherine Deneuve’s best performances have been in films of André Téchiné such as “My Favorite Season” (1992) and “Changing Times” (2004). Their seventh and latest collaboration, “In the Name of My Daughter”, directed and co-written by Téchiné, was a highlight of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York City. This fascinating film is inspired by real-life events in the struggle for control of a Riviera casino ending in a mysterious disappearance.

IN THE NAME POSTER

Renée Le Roux (Deneuve) runs the Palais de La Mediterranée casino in Nice. The role is appropriate for Deneuve who gives the part a cool elegance and a formidable presence in maintaining control of her casino.

Describing the character, Téchiné said that “Dressing up was part of her social ritual. Renée is like a goddess watching over her kingdom. But at the same time Renée Le Roux is probably the most resilient character out of all the characters Catherine Deneuve has ever played in my films. This character appears dominant, determined and ruthless and is the total opposite of the instability that was our chosen register (to capture the elusive)” in previous films.

Catherine Deneuve and Guillaume Canet in “In the Name of My Daughter”

Catherine Deneuve and Guillaume Canet in “In the Name of My Daughter”

Behind the scenes, a rival casino with mob ties is attempting to take over Renée’s casino. One of her trusted employees is lawyer Maurice Agnelet (Guillaume Canet).

Renée’s recently divorced daughter Agnès (Adele Haenel) returns to France. Agnes wants an identity apart from the casino. Instead of seeing her mother right away, she swims at the beach. Both Renée and Agnès have casino shares as part of an inheritance.

When Maurice does not receive an expected promotion from Renée, he aligns himself with the rival mob-controlled casino. Openly involved with other women, he begins a relationship with Agnès.

Guillaume Canet and Adele Haenel in “In the Name of My Daughter”

Guillaume Canet and Adele Haenel in “In the Name of My Daughter”

Téchiné has created emotionally complicated characters and builds tension from their interactions. Haenel impressively conveys Agnès’ determination for a life apart from her mother’s casino, as well as her increasing dependence on Maurice. Canet, who directed “Tell No One”, effectively combines Maurice’s surface charm and cold manipulation. Maurice convinces Agnès to side with him and vote control of the Palais de La Mediterranée away from her mother.

Téchiné said a “war-like aspect structures the narrative” and “What I show is a social class in turmoil, its turf wars, its calculating, predatory nature; all of this is ‘political’ in this story about inheritance. The film shows the way in which the people caught up in this are affected. Money and the hunger for power are clearly at the centre of this story, but there is something more, in the subconscious, something impulsive.”

Catherine Deneuve and Guillaume Canet in “In the Name of My Daughter”

Catherine Deneuve and Guillaume Canet in “In the Name of My Daughter”

After Renée’s betrayal by Maurice and Agnès, Deneuve skillfully shows her character’s initial attempts to keep up appearances with a cool surface.

Events turn ominous when Agnès disappears. In an absorbing aspect of the film, Renée spends decades trying to discover her daughter’s fate, leading to a courtroom face-off with Maurice. Deneuve is very moving in these scenes, as a grey-haired Renée, her face full of anguish at the loss of her daughter, tenaciously fights on for justice for Agnès.

French Rendez-Vous 2015: Catherine Deneuve at her best “In the Courtyard”

Catherine Deneuve continues to have one of the most enduring and notable acting careers in film, from youthful incandescence (“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”, 1964) to mental unraveling (“Repulsion”, 1965) to cool elegance (“Belle de Jour”, 1967) to alluring vampire (“The Hunger”, 1983) to her Oscar-nominated performance of a plantation owner in turbulent times (“Indochine”, 1992) to her terrific portrait of a former beauty queen in last year’s “On My Way”. (https://cinemasight.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/french-rendez-vous-2014-catherine-deneuve-in-on-my-way/)

Her latest, “In the Courtyard” (“Dans la Cour”) contains one of her strongest roles in her best recent film. The director and co-writer is Pierre Salvadori who previously made clever, character-driven comedies [“Après Vous” (2003), “Priceless” (2006)]. Salvadori successfully turns more serious “In the Courtyard.”

Feodor Atkine, Catherine Deneuve, Gustave Kervern in “In the Courtyard”

Feodor Atkine, Catherine Deneuve, Gustave Kervern in “In the Courtyard”

Antoine (Gustave Kervern) is a scruffy musician unable to find employment. Mathilde, (Catherine Deneuve), a retiree, encourages her husband (Feodor Atkine) to hire him as caretaker for an apartment building where they reside because she feels comfortable around Antoine’s disheveled appearance. She can become annoyed with the new employee as when she throws a pear at Antoine from the sixth floor.

A crack in the apartment wall causes Mathilde to become afraid of the ground sinking. Deneuve gives a deep emotional range to her character. Like the wall, Mathilde’s stylish façade begins to crumble. A disastrous slide show for the neighbors escalates into alarming turmoil for her. She develops a growing rapport with Antoine, confiding in him alone.

Catherine Deneuve and  Gustave Kervern in “In the Courtyard”

Catherine Deneuve and Gustave Kervern in “In the Courtyard”

Kervern is very effective as a man whose inner pain has controlled his life. Mathilde and Antoine become a compelling combination. Salvadori said he had wanted to work with Deneuve for ages and wrote “In the Courtyard” for her. The role is a great fit.

Catherine Deneuve and  Gustave Kervern in “In the Courtyard”

Catherine Deneuve and Gustave Kervern in “In the Courtyard”

The other characters Antoine encounters are fully realized with intriguing quirks that turn darker as Antoine finds he cannot remain apart from others. Salvadori expertly combines humor with poignancy.

Next post: another impressive Deneuve film

French Rendez-Vous 2015: “3 Hearts”

The annual Rendez-Vous with French Cinema co-sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and uniFrance films again showed a variety of contemporary French-language films at 3 locations in New York City. After some of the screenings, directors and actors gave insights into their films.

French icon Catherine Deneuve appeared in 3 selections. Denueve continues to make intriguing career choices, often to notable effect. Deneuve appeared in the opening film “3 Hearts” (“3 Coeurs”), in a supporting role, portraying the mother of real life daughter Chiara Mastroianni, as she has done in films such as “My Favorite Season” (1993) and “Beloved” (2011).

Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, and Charlotte Gainsbourg in “3 Hearts”

Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, and Charlotte Gainsbourg in “3 Hearts”

The film is directed and co-written by Benoit Jacquot, known for central female character in previous efforts like “Farewell My Queen” (2012). This film focuses on a conflicted male character. Marc (Benoît Poelvoorde, “Man Bites Dog”), is a tax inspector who misses his train to Paris, remaining in a small French town. He meets Sylvie (Charlotte Gainsbourg, “Nymphomaniac”). They have an immediate connection and spend the night together. They agree to meet in Paris.

Marc is prevented from making the meeting and is unable to contact Sylvie who returns to her unfulfilled life, moving to the US with her husband. Back in the town, Marc gives professional help to Sophie (Mastroianni) who has taken over her mother’s antique shop. Their friendly relationship deepens and they become engaged to marry. Marc is unaware that Sophie is the sister of Sylvie. He begins to wonder after he sees Sylvie’s unique lighter and spots her face in family photos. Sylvie returns to France for the wedding.

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Chiara Mastroianni in “3 Hearts”

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Chiara Mastroianni in “3 Hearts”

Deneuve is an elegant presence and skillfully shows her character’s growing awareness and concern of some connection between Marc and his sister-in-law. Will the memorable night between Sylvie and Marc disrupt the close relationship between the 2 sisters and threaten the marriage between Marc and Sophie? Ominous music builds up the tension.

Benoît Poelvoorde in “3 Hearts”

Benoît Poelvoorde in “3 Hearts”

Benoit Jacquot said that while writing the screenplay, he had in mind romantic film classics like “Back Street”, “Love Affair” and “An Affair to Remember,” as well as Douglas Sirk’s movies. While the film has a contemporary setting, the set up of the missed meeting seems to belong to an earlier era, as Sylvie and Marc could have exchanged phone numbers or emails.

A talented cast shows the emotional complications a man in love with 2 sisters, maintaining interest through some contrived and melodramatic events. Mastroianni is particularly effective.

Future posts include the latest films of Catherine Deneuve, Nathalie Baye, Guillaume Canet, Melanie Laurent (as director), Andre Techine, Cedric Kahn, and Christophe Honore.

French Rendez-Vous 2014: Catherine Deneuve in “On My Way”

The main event of the recent Rendez-Vous with French Cinema film festival in New York City was an appearance by cinema icon Catherine Deneuve to discuss her latest film “On My Way” (“Elle s’en va”), directed and co-written by Emmanuelle Bercot. This very entertaining film contains one of Deneuve’s best recent performances.

Deneuve plays Bettie, a former Miss Brittany who has remained in her small home town. Photos of the young Deneuve show Bettie’s past. She runs the family restaurant which is struggling financially. When her mother tells Bettie that Bettie’s married lover is leaving her for a younger woman, Bettie impulsively leaves the restaurant and drives away. Deneuve’s face conveys pain as well as a range of conflicted emotions. Bettie decides to resume smoking and the film amusingly shows her unsuccessful attempts to purchase cigarettes. In one of the film’s best scenes, an elderly man rolls a cigarette for Bettie.

Catherine Deneuve in "On My Way"

Catherine Deneuve in “On My Way”

When Bettie keeps driving, the film becomes a lively road movie that gives a comic twist to Deneuve’s image. Bettie stops at a bar called Le Ranch and ends up wearing a curly pink wig. A much younger man tells her that when she was younger, “you must have been stunning.”

Bettie gets a phone call from her daughter Muriel (French pop musician Camille) with whom she has a strained relationship. Muriel asks her mother to drive her son Charly to his paternal grandfather’s while she travels for a potential job. Bettie agrees and the driving continues.

Catherine Deneuve and Nemo Schiffman in "On My Way"

Catherine Deneuve and Nemo Schiffman in “On My Way”

Bettie gradually relaxes around the grandson with whom she has had little contact. Charly is played by Nemo Schiffman, a natural presence, the son of Emmanuelle Bercot and the director of photography. Deneuve an the boy have a good on-screen chemistry. Financial problems arise and Bettie and Charly end up at a reunion of beauty queens, a terrific sequence. All the generations of Bettie’s family end up together, and as Charly says “No one gets along in this family.”

Catherine Deneuve at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema

Catherine Deneuve at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema

After the film, I asked Catherine Deneuve the first question, why she wanted to make “On My Way”. She answered that she had seen previous films from director Emmanuelle Bercot and she wanted to “do a film with that woman.” She thought that the role of Bettie, written for her, was an “interesting, nice part” and she liked the story. Deneuve mentioned one of Bercot’s earlier films “Clement”, about a woman who falls in love with a boy in his early teens.

Catherine Deneuve at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema

Catherine Deneuve at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema

As an actress Deneuve remains open to new experiences. She spoke about the film’s short shooting schedule, due to budgetary constraints, that prevented a lot of improvisation. Many non-professionals were in the cast. Deneuve recommended a friend Gerard Garouste, a painter, for the role of Charly’s grandfather. She said that the old man who rolled the cigarette for her character was a peasant who “did not know til the last minute” he would be in the film as he was a “last minute replacement.” The man lived in a farm that has not changed since the middle of the 19th century.

Catherine Deneuve at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema

Catherine Deneuve at Rendez-Vous with French Cinema

I asked another question. I told Deneuve that I think some of her best performances (“My Favorite Season”, “Changing Times”) have been in the films of André Téchiné and asked her to describe him as a director. Deneuve replied that Téchiné is a “wonderful” director, a “favorite”, and “a great friend”. She said that Téchiné “demands a lot” from the actors, often filming takes in long shots. She added that he has exceptional taste and is “delicate with actors”. Deneuve has made six previous films with Téchiné, plus one not yet released.

When the moderator said it was time for her to leave, Deneuve said “One more question.” When asked about aging in film, she replied that it is “easier to grow old” in France than in the US.