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ROMAIN DURIS, PAUL KIRCHER IN LE RÈGNE ANIMAL - THE OPENING NIGHT FILM

RENDEZ-VOUS WITH FRENCH CINEMA 2023: PROGRAM
February 29- March 10, 2024


FILMS & DESCRIPTIONS.

(All films screen at the Walter Reade Theater, 165 W. 65th St., unless otherwise noted.)

Opening Night
The Animal Kingdom / Le Règne animal
Thomas Cailley, 2023, France/Belgium, 128m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere

In the striking opening scene of The Animal Kingdom, an argument between father François (Romain Duris) and son Émile (Paul Kircher) takes an unexpected turn when a man with the wings of a gigantic bird of prey makes a violent escape from a nearby ambulance. With his long-awaited follow-up to Love at First Fight (a highlight of Rendez-Vous 2015), Thomas Cailley, who most recently won Best Director at the 29th Lumière Awards in France, envisions a mysterious infection that selectively mutates the bodies of ordinary people into animal hybrids at unpredictable speeds. Nominated for 12 César Awards including Best Director and Best Film, this chilling scenario, conjured with vivid specificity and immediacy via dazzling, impeccably deployed special effects, serves as a relentlessly compelling backdrop to the central performances of Duris (The Three Musketeers), Kircher (the breakout star of Christophe Honoré’s Winter Boy), and Adèle Exarchopoulos (also in Rendez-Vous 2024 selection A Real Job). Together, the trio of actors breathe life into this darkly imaginative exploration of a human ecosystem undergoing inexplicable—but potentially liberating—transformation. A Magnolia Pictures release.
Thursday, February 29 at 6:00pm (Introduction with Thomas Cailley)
Thursday, February 29 at 9:00pm


All to Play For / Rien à perdre
Delphine Deloget, 2023, France/Belgium, 112m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere

Once again confirming her status as one of contemporary French cinema’s most magnetic and sensitive performers, Virginie Efira (Other People’s Children, Rendez-Vous 2023) stars in All to Play For as single mom Sylvie. A bartender, Sylvie gamely works late shifts to support her two beloved sons, adolescent Sofiane (Alexis Tonetti) and teen Jean-Jacques (Félix Lefebvre, Summer of ’85, Rendez-Vous 2021). But after Sofiane has an accident while she’s at work, Sylvie must contend with a stubbornly dispassionate child welfare service system to regain custody of her youngest. Making her feature debut, writer-director Delphine Deloget operates in the finest traditions of French realism, offering a compassionate, carefully observed perspective on the travails of a loving parent contending with the mechanisms of an inflexible bureaucratic system. At the center of this multifaceted portrait is Efira, delivering a richly layered performance as an overwhelmed but fiercely dedicated mother.
Friday, March 1 at 1:30pm
Friday, March 8 at 9:00pm (Q&A with Delphine Deloget)


Àma Gloria
Marie Amachoukeli, 2023, France, 84m
French and Cape Verdean Creole with English subtitles
New York Premiere

Six-year-old Cléo (Louise Mauroy-Panzani) has been raised primarily by her nanny, Gloria (Ilça Moreno Zego). When Gloria must return home to her native Cape Verde to take care of family, Cléo is devastated. To soften the blow, Gloria proposes to Cléo’s father Arnaud (Arnaud Rebotini) that the child come with her for the summer. This sensitive portrait of a young girl struggling to adjust to dramatic change hinges upon the star-making performance of Mauroy-Panzani. In the tradition of François Truffaut’s child protagonists, Cléo is equal parts innocent and casually selfish, delightful and devastating—and as she integrates herself in the lives of Gloria’s own children, the ripple effect of her presence brings underexplored emotions and familial tensions to the surface. Beautifully animated interludes add an unexpected touch of stylization to a film about the complicated, slowly dissolving bond between a young girl just beginning her life and a caretaker re-entering hers.
Saturday, March 2 at 3:45pm (Q&A with Marie Amachoukeli)
Thursday, March 7 at 1:30pm


Auction / Le tableau volé
Pascal Bonitzer, 2023, France, 91m
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere

First known as a regular screenwriter for Jacques Rivette and a contributing critic at Cahiers du Cinéma, Pascal Bonitzer emerged in subsequent decades as an esteemed director in his own right (Spellbound, Rendez-Vous 2020). This closely observed drama, for which he also penned the script, follows André Masson (Alex Lutz), a modern art appraiser who works for an auction house. As boldly assured in his professional expertise as he is unflaggingly cool and collected with his colleagues—including his ex-partner Bettina (Léa Drucker, Last Summer), with whom he maintains a careful friendship—André’s routine is unexpectedly disrupted by the discovery of a long-lost work by Egon Schiele, a masterwork that had gone missing decades earlier following its confiscation by Nazi officials. Initially skeptical that any such undiscovered painting could still be recovered, André grows convinced of its authenticity—but the ramifications for his career, as well as his contentious relationship with his intern Aurore (Louise Chevillotte), are unexpected and transformative.
Friday, March 1 at 9:00pm (Q&A with Pascal Bonitzer)
Sunday, March 10 at 6:30pm


Banel & Adama / Banel e Adama
Ramata-Toulaye Sy, 2023, France/Senegal/Mali/Qatar, 87m
Pular with English subtitles
New York Premiere

In a rural village in Senegal, Banel (Khady Mane) is happily married to Adama (Mamadou Diallo), the younger brother of her deceased first husband. Though their love is passionate, the relationship is tested by pressures from the community, which expects Banel to assume traditionally feminine domestic responsibilities, while her husband is meant to inherit the role of village chief from his late brother. Both young adults resist the mandate to fill these assigned duties, incurring disapproval from those around them—and possibly triggering supernatural repercussions. In her feature debut, Senegalese-French writer-director Ramata-Toulaye Sy conjures lyrical imagery reminiscent of Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, placing two memorable young lovers against a landscape as beautiful as it is inscrutable. A Kino Lorber release.
Sunday, March 3 at 1:00pm (Q&A with Ramata-Toulaye Sy)
Wednesday, March 6 at 3:45pm


The Book of Solutions / Le livre des solutions
Michel Gondry, 2023, France, 103m
French and English with English subtitles
New York Premiere

When his backers threaten to wrest control of his new film away from him, director Marc Becker (Pierre Niney) steals the hard drives that store the existing footage and heads to the countryside. There, he holes up at the house of his aunt Denise (the legendary Françoise Lebrun) and strives to complete the feature with the help of his most loyal crew members, most notably his harried but devoted longtime editor (Blanche Gardin)—but finds his grip on the project slipping as he cycles from one manic idea to the next. Loosely drawing on his own experience making Mood Indigo (Rendez-Vous 2013), the ingenious director Michel Gondry’s first feature in eight years is characteristically imaginative and surprisingly heartfelt. Shooting in a house belonging to his own late aunt Suzanne (profiled in the 2009 documentary The Thorn in the Heart), Gondry delivers a memorably madcap portrait of a creative filmmaker struggling to find his way.
Thursday, March 7 at 6:00pm
Sunday, March 10 at 4:00pm


Consent/Le Consentement
Vanessa Filho, 2023, France/Belgium, 119m
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere

After precocious 13-year-old Vanessa Springora (Kim Higelin) meets famed middle-aged writer Gabriel Matzneff (Jean-Paul Rouve) at a mid-1980s soirée where her mother (Laetitia Casta) is a guest, the preteen falls quickly into a romantic relationship with the decades-older man. As Matzneff—whose books detailing his own relationships with adolescents gained him a prominent status within the French literary establishment—exercises increasingly insidious forms of control over Vanessa, his monstrous intentions gradually reveal themselves in tandem with the young woman’s dawning consciousness of her own exploitation. This disturbing real-life story became a sensation in France when Springora published her memoir in 2020, with the subsequent scandal leading to the passage of long-overdue age-of-consent legislation. Springora worked alongside director Vanessa Filho to adapt her book for the screen, resulting in a powerful and unflinching examination of sexual predation hiding in plain sight.
Tuesday, March 5 at 6:15pm (Q&A with Vanessa Filho)
Saturday, March 9 at 9:15pm


First Case / Première affaire
Victoria Musiedlak, 2023, France, 98m
French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

When she’s abruptly called into work after a night at the club, inexperienced 26-year-old lawyer Nora (Noée Abita) must travel in the wee hours to the northern city of Arras, where she’s tasked with monitoring the interrogation of Jordan (Alexis Neises), the teenage suspect in a murder case. Drawing on prior professional experience mostly limited to financial disputes, Nora finds herself challenged by both the complications of the investigation and her uneasy attraction to the officer in charge, cocky and dominant Servan (Anders Danielsen Lie, The Worst Person in the World). With her tense feature filmmaking debut, writer-director Victoria Musiedlak constructs a thoughtful thriller around a captivating and textured performance from Abita, a rapidly rising star of French cinema last seen at Rendez-Vous 2021 in Slalom.
Sunday, March 3 at 9:00pm (Q&A with Victoria Musiedlak)
Friday, March 8 at 1:30pm


Les Indésirables / Bâtiment 5
Ladj Ly, 2023, France/Belgium, 104m
French, Bambara, Syrian, and English with English subtitles
New York Premiere

In a Parisian suburb, two different visions for the community clash. On one side there’s pediatrician Pierre (Alexis Manenti), drafted by the leftist ruling political party to serve as interim mayor after the abrupt death of his predecessor. With old public housing towers demolished and plans for new construction under review, Pierre comes into conflict with community activist Haby (Anta Diaw), who is outraged that the proposed replacement facilities won’t be configured to accommodate large families—part of a larger push to displace migrants and other so-called “undesired” members of the community. Following his Cannes Jury Prize–winning feature debut Les Misérables, Ladj Ly returns with another incisive look at racial and social tensions in contemporary France, depicted with an artistry that is every bit as dynamic and urgent as the story is complex and politically nuanced.
Saturday, March 2 at 9:15pm (Q&A with Ladj Ly)
Thursday, March 7 at 8:30pm


Just the Two of Us / L’amour et les forêts
Valérie Donzelli, 2023, France, 105m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere

The sixth feature from writer-director Valérie Donzelli (also an accomplished actress in her own right), co-written with the filmmaker Audrey Diwan (Happening), features a virtuosic Virginie Efira (star of this year’s Rendez-Vous selection All to Play For) in a double role as twin sisters Rose and Blanche. After Blanche falls for Grégoire (Melvil Poupaud) at a party, the two quickly marry and relocate far away from her beloved sibling. But, as an opening scene of Rose telling her story in a lawyer’s office suggests, a sinister dimension to Grégoire quickly emerges, and a marriage that seemed to offer a bright new beginning soon takes on the appearance of something more like a trap. Donzelli’s César-nominated film is a tensely effective erotic thriller that doubles as an acute psychological study of a profoundly disturbing relationship.
Sunday, March 3 at 6:15pm (Q&A with Valérie Donzelli)
Tuesday, March 5 at 9:15pm


Little Girl Blue
Mona Achache, 2023, France/Belgium, 99m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere

The lives and legacies of three generations of extraordinary women artists are unpacked in Mona Achache’s César-nominated hybrid documentary. Achache, herself an accomplished writer and filmmaker, turns her gaze on her mother, Carole—a writer, photographer, and actress, and the daughter of novelist and screenwriter Monique Lange (goddaughter of William Faulkner). Carole’s myriad professional achievements notwithstanding, her private life was indelibly marked by predatory behavior she experienced at the hands of those close to her, including family friend Jean Genet. Marion Cotillard brilliantly embodies Carole across a series of hauntingly resonant reconstructions that, alongside a generous archive of video, photography, and personal writing, create a rounded portrait of a troubled but outstandingly creative mind. Achache blurs the line between truth and fiction, producing a work as fittingly unsettling and unforgettable as her mother’s own story.
Friday, March 1 at 6:15pm (Q&A with Mona Achache and Marion Cotillard)
Wednesday, March 6 at 8:30pm

Marguerite’s Theorem / Le théorème de Marguerite
Anna Novion, 2023, France/Switzerland, 112m
French and English with English subtitles
New York Premiere

“Elite female mathematicians are rare,” professor Werner (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) tells Marguerite (Ella Rumpf), a PhD student he’s supervising as she labors on the final stages of developing an ambitious proof. When a flaw is discovered during the presentation of her research, three years of work are invalidated in one fell swoop, and Marguerite finds herself rethinking the parameters of the life she’s made for herself. Abandoning both her dissertation and her academic environment, Marguerite finds new friends and an unexpected use for her math skills in the world of gambling—where she soon embarks on an even more unexpected romance. Winding a fluent, accessible tour through the arcane world of high-level math, Anna Novion’s feature always remains grounded in the affecting story of a young woman who must reinvent herself in order to find a fresh new perspective on her vocation and on life itself. A DistribFilms release.
Saturday, March 2 at 6:15pm (Q&A with Anna Novion and Jean-Pierre Darroussin)
Monday, March 4 at 3:30pm


No Love Lost / La fille de son père
Erwan Le Duc, 2023, France, 91m
French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

When young Étienne (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) meets the vibrant, beautiful protester Valérie (Mercedes Dassy), he immediately falls for her—only to be abruptly devastated when she leaves him after the birth of their child. Sixteen years later, Étienne has made a good life for himself with new girlfriend Hélène (Maud Wyler) and Rosa, his now-grown daughter (Céleste Brunnquell). As Rosa prepares to depart for art school, simultaneously navigating her own apprehensions and her comfortable, loving relationship with Youssef (Mohammed Louridi), the makeshift family unit’s tentative stability has already begun to erode when an unexpected echo from the past sets father and daughter alike on a new path of self-discovery. From the nearly wordless romantic montage that opens his César-nominated sophomore film, Erwan Le Duc delivers a stylistically bold, warmly eccentric examination of the ties that bind us—for better or for worse.
Monday, March 4 at 1:15pm
Saturday, March 9 at 1:00pm (Q&A with Erwan Le Duc and Maud Wyler)


On the Adamant / Sur l’Adamant
Nicolas Philibert, 2023, France/Japan, 109m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere

The Adamant is the name of a barge in central Paris that’s also a day care facility for neurodivergent adults—and the setting for veteran documentarian Nicolas Philibert’s latest feature, which was awarded the prestigious Golden Bear at last year’s Berlinale and this year nominated for a César. In this characteristically humane examination of an institution and its deeply invested employees, Philibert trains his empathetic gaze on the facility, its dedicated caretakers, and their regular patients, who include musicians and other creative souls. Their day-to-day challenges and triumphs, mediated through artistic workshops that facilitate bracingly personal moments of vivid self-expression, are at the core of a film that finds profound beauty and inspiration in a vital, all-too-rare haven of community and caretaking. A Kino Lorber release.
Monday, March 4 at 6:00pm (Q&A with Nicolas Philibert)
Friday, March 8 at 3:45pm


The Rapture / Le ravissement
Iris Kaltenbäck, 2023, France, 97m
French and Serbian with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

In the wake of an unexpected breakup with her boyfriend, midwife Lydia (Hafsia Herzi) throws herself into her work, riding the bus late into the night following long shifts at her job. Observed during these nocturnal rounds by her regular bus driver Milos (Alexis Manenti), Lydia is a restless soul who gradually sublimates her emotional life into the pregnancy of her best friend, Salomé (Nina Meurisse). Anchored by a riveting central performance from Herzi, Iris Kaltenbäck’s dreamily stylish César-nominated feature debut is a deceptively slow-burning portrait of a woman whose actions grow ever more desperate, even as she stubbornly persists in holding herself at a distance, remaining inscrutable both to herself and to the increasingly confounded loved ones caught up in her turmoil.
Sunday, March 3 at 3:30pm (Q&A with Iris Kaltenbäck)
Tuesday, March 5 at 1:30pm


A Real Job / Un métier sérieux
Thomas Lilti, 2023, France, 101m
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere

Having previously drawn upon his background as a doctor for the films Hippocrates (Rendez-Vous 2015) and The Freshmen (Rendez-Vous 2019), in his latest dramatically inflected comedy writer-director Thomas Lilti trains his characteristically observant and empathetic eye on a new milieu: high school. Actor Vincent Lacoste, a regular leading man for Lilti, is freshly accredited substitute teacher Benjamin, whom we meet as he’s setting out to launch his career at the suburban Victor Hugo School. Joining a diverse group of colleagues including older Pierre (The Intouchables star François Cluzet) and divorced mother Meriem (Adèle Exarchopoulos), Benjamin quickly encounters the challenges of balancing an involving home life with the varied demands of students, parents, and administrators who rely on the group of harried but compassionate and deeply dedicated educators for guidance, wisdom, and a path forward.
Friday, March 1 at 4:00pm
Sunday, March 10 at 1:00pm (Q&A with Thomas Lilti)


Red Island / L’île rouge
Robin Campillo, 2023, France/Belgium/Madagascar, 116m
French and Malagasy with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

Rendez-Vous and NYFF veteran Robin Campillo, whose 2017 period drama BPM: Beats Per Minute reconstructed and celebrated ACT UP’s legacy of AIDS activism in France during the 1990s, once again draws on personal history with his latest film, reaching back further to evoke a sumptuously visualized 1970s childhood spent with his military family on Madagascar. Growing up on one of the last remaining French colonial bases on the island, young Thomas (Charlie Vauselle) keeps a curious and observant eye on the adults around him, not least his parents (Nadia Tereszkiewicz and Quim Guterriez). Bonding with young Suzanne (Cathy Pham) over the Fantômette comic books, Thomas’s imagination and observational powers grow even as the world around him is about to die. Making striking use of a child’s perspective, Campillo’s carefully observed drama of a lost world is lyrical and clear-eyed in equal measure.
Tuesday, March 5 at 3:45pm
Saturday, March 9 at 6:15pm (Q&A with Robin Campillo)


Sisterhood / HLM Pussy
Nora El Hourch, 2023, France, 100m
French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

Our introduction to longtime best friends Amina (Léah Aubert), Djeneba (Médina Diarra), and Zineb (Salma Takaline) finds them fielding the taunts of a group of teen boys at a fast-food restaurant, and their mutual affection and loyalty is immediately apparent: The girls move through high school as an inseparable unit, in the habit of pushing back collectively against anyone who comes at them. But when Zineb is harassed at a party by the drug-dealing cousin of a fellow student (Oscar Al Hafiane), the subsequent decisions made by each member of the tightly knit trio have repercussions that begin to tear the group apart. Casting an unflinching eye on the everyday sexual harassment faced by young women in a social-media-drenched environment, and its unpredictable consequences, this remarkably assured debut feature from writer-director Nora El Hourch is anchored by vivid, fiery, and entirely unexpected turns from the trio of exciting newcomers at its center.
Wednesday, March 6 at 1:30pm
Saturday, March 9 at 3:30pm (Q&A with Nora El Hourch)


Spirit of Ecstasy / La Vénus d'argent
Héléna Klotz, 2023, France, 95m
French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere

This up-to-the-minute, stylishly directed look at the world of high finance is built around a nuanced character study of nonbinary Jeanne (Claire Pommet, also known as indie pop musician Pomme). For Jeanne, high finance isn’t just something they’re good at but a chance to get out of their family’s dead-end lifestyle on a military base. While working as an intern at a finance company, they latch onto an unexpected chance to rocket to the top of the professional ladder after ruthless trader Farès (Sofiane Zermani) takes Jeanne under his wing. The sophomore feature from director Héléna Klotz (whose debut, The Atomic Age, played at Rendez-Vous 2013) is a brilliantly staged depiction of a young person’s personal and professional emancipation, following its protagonist’s initiatory journey with great complexity and sensitivity.
Monday, March 4 at 9:00pm
Friday, March 8 at 6:15pm (Q&A with Héléna Klotz)

The Temple Woods Gang / Le gang des Bois du Temple
Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche, 2023, France, 113m
French and English with English subtitles
North American Premiere

Festival regular Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche (South Terminal, Rendez-Vous 2020; Story of Judas, Rendez-Vous 2016) returns with a richly imagined, arrestingly original perspective on the heist genre. Bébé (Philippe Petit) and five friends from his housing project decide to rob a Saudi prince (Mohamed Aroussi); although the scheme is initially successful, its consequences set off a series of events that none of the participants could have anticipated. It’s a familiar enough premise, but Ameur-Zaïmeche is as interested in the men, their background, and their precarious position in the French social structure as he is in the dramatic interplay of crime and punishment. Named one of the 10 best films of 2023 by Cahiers du Cinéma, The Temple Woods Gang is the boldest accomplishment yet from a filmmaker rightly acclaimed within France, and deserving of similar recognition beyond its borders.
Wednesday, March 6 at 6:00pm
Thursday, March 7 at 3:30pm


Toni / Toni, en famille
Nathan Ambrosioni, 2023, France, 96m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere

A former pop sensation whose once successful career has long since dwindled, middle-aged Toni (Camille Cottin) is now first and foremost a single mother of five. Though she loves her children fiercely, the sense of stagnation that accompanies her domestic obligations leads Toni to wonder if it’s time to start a new chapter by enrolling at a university—or if it’s even still possible to alter her family’s well-established rhythms and routines. In his sophomore feature, director Nathan Ambrosioni crafts an effortlessly affecting study of a woman and her lively brood adapting to a moment of collective transformation. At the group portrait’s center is Cottin, best known to English-speaking audiences for her celebrated performance in the TV series Call My Agent!, delivering a lived-in, sneakily touching performance as a woman ready to make a change. A DistribFilms release.
Saturday, March 2 at 1:00pm (Q&A with Nathan Ambrosioni)
Sunday, March 10 at 8:45pm


UNIFRANCE
Founded in 1949 and strengthened thanks to its merger with TV France International in 2021, Unifrance is the organization responsible for promoting French cinema and TV content worldwide.

Located in Paris, Unifrance employs around 50 staff members, as well as representatives based in the United States, in China, and in Japan. The organization currently brings together more than 1,000 French cinema and TV content professionals (producers, talents, agents, sales companies, and the like) working together to promote French films and TV programmes among foreign audiences, industry executives, and media.

Unifrance is supported by the French government, the CNC, the PROCIREP, and many public and private partners. Visit unifrance.org for more information and follow @unifrance on Facebook, X, and Instagram.

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©Chris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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