Presented by Carleton College, Weitz Center for Creativity
September 22 through October 20, 2011 at 7:30pm
Weitz Center for Creativity Cinema
Presented in collaboration with the Department of French and Francophone Studies
Support for the Tournées Festival is provided by The French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs / The Centre National de la Cinématographie/The Florence Gould Foundation / The Grand Marnier Foundation / highbrow entertainment. www.facecouncil.org
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Un Prophète (A Prophet)
Directed by Jacques Audiard
2008 / 149 min. / Rated R
Malik, the 19-year-old French-Arab criminal vividly portrayed by Tahar Rahim enters prison as an uneducated naïf. But by the time he leaves jail, he will know how to read—and how to kill. Audiard’s intricate study of the bloody rules and rituals behind bars never once glorifies the shocking violence that becomes a rite of passage for Malik, who, friendless, feels he must do the savage bidding of a ferocious Corsican crime boss in exchange for protection. Instead, the director (sometimes referred to as the “French Scorsese”) examines prison as its own specific social system, its corruption, cronyism, and racism a reflection of France at large. As Malik begins to defy the Corsican overlord and make decisions of his own, he becomes drawn to another Muslim inmate who teaches him how to read and write. For as much as we cheer Malik’s small victories on his slow road to redemption, he remains a deliberately ambiguous hero— one who will always have copious blood on his hands.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
L’Illusioniste (The Illusionist)
Directed by Sylvain Chomet
2010 / 80 min. / Rated PG
Chomet’s delightful follow-up to 2003’s The Triplets of Belleville is another exquisitely animated film, one based on an unproduced script by the French comic genius Jacques Tati (which was given to Chomet by Tati’s own daughter). The Illusionist is set in the early 1960s, the time when Tati wrote the screenplay after his huge success with Mon Oncle (1958). As an homage to the source material, Chomet’s title character is the spitting image of Tati. This middle-aged, slightly stoop-shouldered magician is upstaged by his rabbit during performances in Paris; at his shows his London, the Illusionist can’t begin to compete with a wildly popular proto-Beatles band. But he finds far more appreciative audiences in small pubs in Scotland—and makes a devoted teenage friend, Alice, a poor cleaning girl who follows him to Edinburgh. The two form a touching father-daughter bond, with the Illusionist determined to secretly provide Alice with the nice clothes she so admires—finery that isn’t procured through magic, but through a series of funny odd jobs that the conjurer takes. Though neither the magician nor his young charge speak each other’s language, The Illusionist, like Tati’s work, beautifully shows the ways people understand each other nonverbally.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
White Material (White Material)
Directed by Claire Denis
2008 / 102 min. / Not Rated (NR)
Marking the first collaboration between two titans of French cinema—director Claire Denis and actress Isabelle Huppert—White Material unfolds as a fever dream, a haunting, enigmatic look at the horrors of colonialism’s legacy, a subject that Denis first explored in her semiautobiographical debut feature, Chocolat (1988). Set in an unnamed African country during an unspecified time, White Material centers on Maria Vial, a coffee-plantation owner who is blindly determined to continue her business while civil war rages on around her. Chaos engulfs the nation, but Maria implores her workers, many of whom have already fled, to stay and harvest the coffee crop. Amid the increasingly violent anarchy, an injured rebel leader known only as “the Boxer” takes refuge at Maria’s farm; she offers him assistance but then becomes too distracted by her obsession to harvest the beans. Maria’s folly—though she’s a native Frenchwoman who immigrated to Africa to exploit the land, she proudly distinguishes herself from “dirty whites”—is matched by the sheer madness of child soldiers roaming the country, rifles in one hand, stuffed animals in the other.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Directed by François Ozon
2010 / 103 min. / Rated R
The thrillingly incongruous image of Catherine Deneuve, the long-reigning queen of French cinema, in curlers and a cherry-red track suit is just one of the many delights in François Ozon’s 1977-set comedy, a very loose adaptation of a boulevard-theater production. The film’s title translates as “trophy wife,” the position that Deneuve’s Suzanne Pujol has held for decades in her loveless marriage to philandering umbrella-factory owner Robert. When labor unrest causes the high-strung Robert to suffer a collapse, the intrepid Suzanne steps in, endearing herself to the workers and rekindling a romance with a Communist ex-lover and union liaison, Babin. Much as he did in his 1950s-set film 8 Women, Ozon creates a stunning period piece, perfectly re-creating the 1970s through costume, hairstyle, décor, and music, epitomized in Suzanne and Babin’s outing at a disco. But above all,Potiche is a showcase for the formidable talents of Deneuve, whose comic timing proves just as impeccable as her dramatic delivery. As Suzanne breaks free of her coddled life, she realizes, just like many other women who discovered feminism in the 1970s, that the personal really is political.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Un Secret (A Secret)
Directed by Claude Miller
2007 / 110 min. / Not Rated (NR)
A Secret follows the life of a Jewish family in post-World War II Paris. François, the son of Maxime and Tania, is a solitary and imaginative child who invents for himself a brother and the story of his parents’ past. One day, he discovers a dark family secret that shatters his life forever: before the war and well before François’s birth, his father Maxime was married to Hannah with whom he had a son. At a wedding Maxime met Tania, a young, athletic and beautiful swimmer. He felt madly in love but decided to remain faithful to Hannah. When the Nazis invaded France, their Jewish families and friends were deeply divided on what action to take and how they should live their religion and cultural heritage as Jews. Maxime decided to move his family to the free zone and left ahead of them. On her way with her son to meet Maxime, Hannah made a decision that would change her life and that of her family forever, leaving both Maxime and Tania to make difficult choices to survive the war. With the birth of François, the pair started a new family in post-war France, hoping that the existence of Hannah and her son would remain a secret. When François discovers the truth, the family will be forced to revisit their difficult past.