Carleton College is once again partnering with FACE, the French American Cultural Exchange, to present the Tournées Film Festival, bringing five acclaimed contemporary French films to the campus and the Northfield community.
The Tournées Festival offers a wide variety of films that represent the best of contemporary French cinema. The films span generational and geographic borders, offer a range of genres and subjects, and showcase innovations in both style and storytelling. There are films by first-time directors alongside those from respected and revered figures in French cinema.
The films will be shown in French with English subtitles. Carleton College faculty members will provide a brief introduction prior to each film. All screenings are at 7 p.m. in the Weitz Center for Creativity Cinema and are free and open to the public.
Tuesday, Feb. 4, Apres mai (Something in the Air)
Directed by Olivier Assavas, 2012, France, 122 minutes
Set in the early 1970s, this bracing semi-autobiographical film resists easy nostalgia, focusing instead on the turbulence of one’s late teens and early twenties. The writer-director’s surrogate is a high-school student named Gilles (played by terrific newcomer Clément Mettayer), who was born too late to take part in the insurrections of May ’68 but is still consumed with revolutionary zeal. Over the course of this exceptional coming-of-age tale, Gilles will become disenchanted with the political hair-splitting and inflexible positions of the far-left movements he has devoted himself to, eventually finding a new purpose in painting and cinema. Playing out against a backdrop of perfect period detail (particularly evident in the sound-track choices), Something in the Air is the rare film that skillfully operates on both a micro and macro level. While delving deeply into Gilles’s private dramas as he tries to define himself as an artist, Assayas never lets us forget that this richly drawn adolescent protagonist is also a player in a much broader historical moment: the era when revolutionary hopes began to splinter and fade.
Thursday, Feb. 6, De rouille et d’os (Rust and Bone)
Directed by Jacques Audiard, 2012, France, 120 minutes
This invigorating melodrama from Audiard—the director of the compelling, multilayered prison drama A Prophet (2009)—centers on the explosive chemistry between two damaged souls. The beefy, penniless Ali and his five-year-old son have traveled south to Antibes, where they settle with Ali’s sister in the hopes of starting a new life. Ali’s part-time job as a club bouncer leads to his meeting Stéphanie, a whale trainer who becomes a double amputee after a freak accident at the marine mammal park where she works. Unfazed by Stéphanie’s disability (rendered with astonishing CGI effects), the often brutish Ali shows his gallantry by carrying her in and out of the Mediterranean on his broad back. For her part, Stéphanie takes a keen interest in Ali’s amateur ultimate-fighting bouts, eventually becoming his manager. As Ali and Stéphanie evolve from friends to casual sex partners to deeply connected soul mates—despite (or because of) their many differences and the obstacles they face—Rust and Bone becomes nothing less than a great love story, recalling the sublime melodramas of the 1950s directed by Douglas Sirk
Tuesday, Feb. 11, Amour
Directed by Michael Haneke, 2012, France/Germany/Austria, 127 minutes
A staggering, profound examination of love, this compassionate film centers on Georges and Anne, long-married octogenarians and retired music teachers who still take great delight in each other. Their bonds will be tested, however, as Anne grows increasingly debilitated, both mentally and physically. In depicting what has rarely been shown onscreen before—two elderly people struggling to maintain their dignity in the face of the unremitting cruelties of aging—Haneke brilliantly shows that the greatest crucible of life’s final chapter is figuring out how to best honor the past. Never sentimentalizing his two main characters, Haneke nonetheless portrays them tenderly; viewers grow deeply attached to Georges and Anne thanks to the astonishing performances by Trintignant and Riva. Both actors are legends of French cinema: he is best known for Eric Rohmer’s My Night at Maud’s (1969), and she for Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959). Watching these two icons, we are reminded of nothing less than our own mortality—and our own past and present relationships.
Thursday, Feb. 13, Monsieur Lazhar
Directed by Philippe Falardeau, 2011, Canada, 94 minutes
“A classroom is a place of friendship, of work, of courtesy, a place of life,” says the new teacher of the title to his sixth-grade students in a Montreal public school. That profoundly touching statement evinces the deep respect Monsieur Lazhar (the phenomenal Mohamed Fellag) has for his charges, who are still reeling from a beloved teacher’s very public suicide. Writer-director Philippe Falardeau’s unforgettable movie, based on a one-person play by Evelyne de la Chenelière, explores the intricate process by which M. Lazhar earns the respect and trust of his pupils, some of them the children of immigrants or, like this devoted instructor, recent arrivals to Quebec. As the reasons for M. Lazhar’s immigration to Canada from Algeria are made clear, so, too is his rather unconventional method for applying for the teaching position. Yet this educator isn’t the film’s only multifaceted character: the preteen students are also fascinatingly complex, struggling with roiling emotions and troubles at home.Monsieur Lazhar is that rarest of movies about education: one that avoids clichés and sentimentality in favor of honesty and clear-eyed compassion.
Tuesday, Feb. 18, Holy Motors
Directed by Leos Carax, France, 2012, 115 minutes
Expansive, breathtaking, and thrillingly unclassifiable, Holy Motors is writer-director Leos Carax’s first feature since Pola X (1999), and only his fifth in three decades. Both a lamentation for and celebration of cinema, the film opens with Carax himself, walking down a long corridor to a movie-theater balcony that overlooks a roomful of motionless, stony-silent spectators. After this dream-like prologue, we are introduced to the movie’s main character, Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant, Carax’s frequent collaborator), a professional chameleon inhabiting nearly 12 different personas over the course of a single day. Steered through the streets of Paris in a white-stretch limo, Oscar consults a thick dossier for the particulars of his next “appointment.” These scenarios require him to play, among others, a homeless old woman shaking a tin cup, a performer bending and contorting for a motion-capture sex scene, and a feral leprechaun. Oscar continually reinvents himself, exhausting work that he still pursues for “the beauty of the act,” as he explains to a mysterious executive who suddenly appears in the limo’s back seat. The “beauty” the shape-shifter refers to may be either moviemaking or movie-watching; both activities, like Oscar himself, are, as this extraordinary film reminds us, in a constant state of flux.
The Tournées Festival is designed to bring contemporary French cinema to American college and university campuses. The program distributes close to $200,000 in grants annually to encourage schools to begin their own self-sustaining French film festivals. Now in its 16th year, The Tournées Festival has partnered with more than 350 universities, making it possible for more than 450,000 students to discover French-language films.
The Tournées Festival at Carleton College is made possible with the support of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and the French Ministry of Culture (CNC). Support is also provided by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the US, the Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée, the Florence Gould Foundation, Campus France USA, and highbrow entertainment. For more information, visit www.facecouncil.org/tournees/.
This event is presented by the Carleton College Department of French and Francophone Studies. The Carleton College Weitz Center for Creativity is located at 320 North Third Street in Northfield. For additional information, including disability accommodations, call (507) 222-4389.