French Film Festival at Carleton
Carleton College hosts The Tournées Festival, a festival of new French films, April 6-22, 2015. Six French films will be shown at Carleton's Weitz Center Cinema to celebrate French cinema and culture. The festival is open to the public.
Carleton is one of 30 colleges and universities nationwide selected to receive a grant to participate in this year’s Tournées Festival. The festival is a program of FACE (French American Cultural Exchange), in partnership with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. The program distributes close to $200,000 in grants annually to encourage colleges and universities to begin their own self-sustaining French film festivals.
Now in its 19th year, 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.
La Vénus à la Fourrure
dir. Roman Polanski, 2013, 96 mn
Monday, April 6
Weitz Center Cinema
After his nimble adaptations of the plays Death and the Maiden (1994) and Carnage (2011), Roman Polanski continues his success in bringing the stage to the screen with Venus in Fur, which originally premiered off-Broadway in 2010. (David Ives, the playwright, co-wrote the film’s script with Polanski.) In this constantly surprising, multilayered two-hander, stage writer-director Thomas (Mathieu Amalric), all alone in a Parisian theater, despairs of ever finding the right actress for his adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s infamous 1870 novella Venus in Furs. Just as he’s about to leave for the day, in walks Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner, Polanski’s wife), a blowsy performer who insists that she has an audition scheduled—and who just happens to have the same name as the character she’s trying out for. Highly dubious, Thomas relents, convinced that this coarse woman will never be right for the part. Yet as the two begin to rehearse, he is astounded to discover not only that Vanda has memorized the entire play but that she is capable of complete transformation, becoming the character right before his eyes. While reality and illusion become blurred, so, too, do the roles of seducer and seduced.
Venus in Fur finds Roman Polanski transferring a New York stage hit to the screen with maximum fidelity and facility, and a minimum of fuss.
—Scott Foundas, Variety
dir. Mahamat Saleh Haroun, 2013, 101mn
Wednesday, April 8
Weitz Center Cinema
Director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, who was born in Chad in 1961 but has lived in France since 1982, has returned to his native country time and again to tell indelible stories played out against the near-constant civil war and economic hardship that have racked this former French colony for decades. His latest film blazingly opens at a disco in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, where Souleymane (Souleymane Deme)—nicknamed “Grigris”—dazzles the crowd with his spectacular dance moves. His adoring fans don’t seem to mind this lithe man’s paralyzed leg, particularly Mimi (Anais Monory), a prostitute who recognizes a kindred soul in this exuberant but marginalized dancer: Grigris’s physical disability has made him all but a pariah outside the world of nightclubs, relegated to only the most menial jobs. In an act of desperation, Grigris, who has vowed to pay his gravely ill stepfather’s exorbitant hospital bill, joins an illegal gas-smuggling operation, setting off a chain of events that lead him to escape the city, with Mimi in tow, in fear for his life. Finding shelter in a rural village, these two outcasts are soon astonished to discover how far their hosts will go to protect them. -
An engaging tale of quiet desperation… —Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter -
La Grande Illusion
dir. Jean Renoir, 1937, 114mn
Monday, April 13
Weitz Center Cinema
Set during World War I, this masterwork by Jean Renoir, once hailed by Orson Welles as the “greatest of all directors,” was shot just three years before the beginning of World War II. Renoir, who himself had flown reconnaissance missions during WWI, examines the relationships that form among a group of French officers held in a German prisoner-of-war camp. Within this detention center, class, religious, and national divisions increasingly cease to matter: An indestructible fraternity forms among the Breton working-class Lieutenant Maréchal (Jean Gabin, a Renoir regular); the aristocratic Captain de Boeldieu (Pierre Fresnay), never without his white gloves; and the Jewish Lieutenant Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio). Even the man responsible for their imprisonment, the German Captain von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim), invites Maréchal and de Boeldieu to lunch. As the film historian Peter Cowie once astutely noted, “Grand Illusion escapes the confines of the war movie genre. Scarcely a gun is fired in anger. The trenches are nowhere in sight. Yet through some alchemy, Renoir imbues the film with his passionate belief in man’s humanity to man. . . . The accident of war brings out the fundamentally decent nature of people who in peacetime would be unbending strangers to one another.”
It is not enough to say that it has retained its power… The stature of the film remains undiminished by the passage of time.
dir. Asghar Farhadi, 2013, 130mn
Wednesday, April 15
Weitz Center Cinema
Full of the same astute and compassionate observations about unraveling, unhappy relationships, conjugal and otherwise, that distinguished his previous work, A Separation (2011), Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s latest film is set in a working-class suburb of Paris. It is there that Marie (Bérénice Bejo) lives in a cramped house with three children, her two daughters and the young son of her boyfriend, Samir (Tahar Rahim), whom she hopes to marry soon. But before the couple can even begin to consider wedding plans, Marie must finalize her divorce from her estranged husband, Ahmad (Ali Mousaffa), who flies into Paris from Tehran for the court procedure. While staying with his soon-to-be ex-wife, Ahmad immediately becomes aware of the resentment, rage, and hurt harbored by many of those living under Marie’s roof: Her older daughter, the teenage Lucie (Pauline Burlet), for example, seems to be excessively hostile to Samir. As Ahmad tries to make sense of all this misery, including his own with Marie, Farhadi masterfully mines the regrets that have bedeviled The Past’s adult characters—whose despair permanently marks the younger ones.
Farhadi proves again that he can craft a domestic drama that has all the tension of a thriller.
—Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail
dir. Frederick Wiseman, 2009, 159mn
Monday, April 20
Weitz Center Cinema
Frederick Wiseman’s magnificent La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet offers a portrait of suppleness and agility—not just that of the dancers’ bodies but also of the august institution of the title. Like all of Wiseman’s documentaries, La Danse forgoes voice-over and identifying intertitles, allowing for spectators’ full immersion into the action within the walls of the Palais Garnier, the 19th-century, neo-Baroque opera house where the company rehearses and performs. The film also demands that we pay closer attention, with none of nonfiction film’s usual cues to guide us. Roughly two-thirds of La Danse is devoted to rehearsal and performance, shot in deeply satisfying long takes of gorgeous young men and women starting, stopping, listening, questioning, repeating, perfecting. The rest is behind the scenes, and as Wiseman shows empty corridors, the cafeteria, sewing rooms, and the nightly clean-up of the 2,200-seat theater, the stealth star of La Danse emerges: Brigitte Lefèvre, the company’s composed, elegant artistic director. Shown in a meeting discussing the finer distinctions between “benefactors” and “big benefactors,” Lefèvre nimbly tackles the potential messiness—but absolute necessity—of crass commerce fueling high art. When not administrating, Lefèvre seems happiest as a maternal martinet, reminding one new student, “To do is the most important.”
“La Danse, however, does more than offer intimate access to great dancers. It showcases performers like Nicolas Le Riche and Agnès Letestu and choreography by Rudolf Nureyev and Pina Bausch, but it also ventures beyond the stage and studios and into sewing rooms, cafeterias and administrative offices. Like most of Mr. Wiseman’s movies it is above all a portrait of an institution.
Dennis Lim, The New York Times.
Couleur de peau: Miel
dir. Laurent Bóileau, Jung
Wednesday, April 22
Weitz Center Cinema
An enchanting hybrid of animation and live-action, this adaptation of co-director Jung’s autobiographical graphic novel recounts his childhood and adolescence after a Belgian couple adopts him from a South Korean orphanage in the early 1970s. Though Jung—who, we learn, was just one of many adopted Asian kids in his Belgian town during this era—is raised by loving parents and supported by his four older siblings, he often feels like an outsider. During his teenage years, he endures many painful episodes, some self-inflicted, in his struggle to define his identity. Interspersed throughout the animated sequences—rendered in beautiful sepia hues—of this lively character’s youth is footage of the real Jung, now 43 years old, in his native country, trying to learn more about his past. Approved for Adoption poignantly traces one man’s interrogation of ethnicity and culture. During this memorable quest, Jung learns to redefine “home”—and, in the process, discovers the seeds of his many talents.
“A black and white comic with round lines and a sense of innocence, Couleur de peau: miel is an unabashed cathartic process. Far from being a mere animated reproduction, this film adaptation displays a pretty visual inventiveness so as to materialize the hybrid identity of an adopted child.” Carole Millerili, Critikat.com