Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2016 5:48 pm 
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New French films this fall (2016).

I like to keep up on the best new French films and try to catch as many of them as I can in French-dedicated series of the SFFS and the FSLC and in Paris. The following are just opening. I am reporting plots and press reception; I have not yet seen them. The end of August is the beginning of the French season, "La Rentrée," when best new French films often open. These four interesting new French films just came out yesterday;

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Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello). The NYFF is featuring Sarah Winchester, a 24-min. short by the director. Bonello has a new feature film - not in the NYFF - that just opened in Paris theaters yesterday. Nothing about it on IMDb yet. A picture about nihilistic youth featuring Finnegan Oldfield, Vincent Rottiers, Hamza Meziani, Manal Issa, Martin Guyot. Up-and-comer Oldfield got attention recently for his performances in Les Cowboys and Bang Gang, which I reviewed earlier on Filmleaf as part of the FSLC's 2015 and 2016 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. The AlloCiné press rating of Nocturama is a good 3.4 (public online rating a not-so-good 2.8), with top reviews from these important journals: aVoir-aLire.com, Les Inrockuptibles, La Septième Obsession, Télérama, Le Journal du Dimanche, and Le Monde, whose comments suggest Bonello continues to wander at home in the world of his rich, dark, decadent and surreal vision, which here becomes apocalyptic. There will always be strong detractors.

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Divines (Houda Benyamina). with Oulaya Amamra, Déborah Lukumuena, Kevin Mischel. Drugs, religion, and young Arab women in the French ghetto. It received this year's Cannes Caméra d'Or award for an outstanding first film. AlloCiné's 3.7 press rating indicates enthusiastic reviews, LCI says the film is "everything at once: a tale of apprenticeship, depicting a sentimental education as well as a social and religious one, a declaration of love for cinema and dancing, a tense female thriller, and the story of a friendship. The whole recounted sometimes with lyricism and poetry, sometimes with realism and violence. with humor. Divines is unclassifiable, on the edge, free - and therefore unique." For some English-language review excerpts, go here.

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Un petit boulot (Odd Job), 97 mins., was directed by Pascal Chaumeil, director of the Romain Duris-starred comedy L'arnacoeur (Heartbreaker), who, sadly, passed away last year. It again stars Romain Duris, this time with Michel Blanc, and Alice Belaïdi. Jacques (Duris) lives in a little town all of whose inhabitans are on their uppers from a mass corporate layoff to benefit stockholders. The factory has closed, his girlfriend has gone and his debts are mounting up. Therefore when the local mafioso bookie (Michel Blanc) proposes that he kill his wife, Jacques willingly accepts. A Little Job is a multifaceted piece of black humor hovering between the real and the absurd, a tricky mix that may not always work, though the AlloCiné press rating is 3.6. Les Inrocks says it treads on Coen brothers territory, and sometimes clumsily. It's a good cast who, critics say, are evidently enjoying themselves playing bad guys.

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Le fils de Jean (Jean's Son) , directed by Philippe Lioret, who made Don't Worry, I'm Fine and Welcome, the latter with Vincent Lindon, is based on a novel, which some say is sentimental, about a French man in his thirties who doesn't know who his father is. One day he gets a call from Québec, with news of his father's death, and decides to go there, and meets the man who called, learning he has two brothers who know nothing of him and are not friendly. Feelings shift. Some find the film touching and enlivened by terrific French Canadian actors and awesome scenery, others think the settings a clicheed effort to garner audience approval. An interest certainly is the cast and the starring role of the now in-demand Most Promising César winner of a couple years ago for Guiraudie's Stranger by the Lake, Pierre Deladonchamps (featured on the poster), with fine French Canadian actors Gabriel Arcand and Catherine de Léan, AlloCiné press rating 3.5.

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Blood Father. "Le grand retour de Mel Gibson." Also opening this day is Jean-François Richet's Blood Father, with Avec Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, Diego Luna. An ex-con reunites with his estranged wayward 17-year old daughter Lydia to protect her from drug dealers who are trying to kill her. A LCI review refers to the "falsely badass scenario" (using the English word "badass"). But some English-language reviews seem more favorable. The director is French, but the film is in English and came out in the US five days ago; Metacritic rating 67%. Both critics and public AlloCiné ratings are a lukewarm 3.2. Many of the hipper or more prestigious French publications didn't review it. Manohla Dargis makes it sound like fun; but Boyd van Hoeij calls it in Hollywood Reporter "a serviceable piece of B-movie entertainment without an ounce of originality." They could both be right.

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