New York Rendez-Vous with French Cinema Early Bird Highlights

From The Land Of The Moon, Nocturama, Frantz and The Dancer.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Marion Cotillard stars with Alex Brendemühl and Louis Garrel in Nicole Garcia's From The Land Of The Moon (Mal De Pierres)
Marion Cotillard stars with Alex Brendemühl and Louis Garrel in Nicole Garcia's From The Land Of The Moon (Mal De Pierres) Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

New York's Rendez-Vous with French Cinema opens with Étienne Comar’s biopic Django, starring Reda Kateb (Wim Wender's Les Beaux Jours d'Aranjuez) as Django Reinhardt with Cécile de France (Catherine Corsini's Summertime) and closes with Jérôme Salle’s The Odyssey (L'Odyssée) starring Lambert Wilson as Jacques Cousteau with Audrey Tautou and Pierre Niney (Jalil Lespert's Yves Saint Laurent).

Emmanuelle Bercot, Stéphanie Di Giusto, Caroline Deruas, Sébastien Marnier, Marina Foïs, François Ozon, Nicole Garcia, Katell Quillévéré, Justine Triet, Rebecca Zlotowski, Marc Fitoussi, Bertrand Bonello, Julia Ducournau, Christophe Honoré, Antonin Peretjatko, and Martin Wheeler are expected to attend.

La Danseuse (Soko, Lily-Rose Depp, Gaspard Ulliel, Mélanie Thierry); Nocturama (Finnegan Oldfield); Frantz (Paula Beer, Niney), and From The Land Of The Moon (Mal De Pierres - Marion Cotillard, Alex Brendemühl, Louis Garrel) - are four of the early bird highlights.

A number of films in this year's Rendez-Vous with French Cinema have multiple César nominations with François Ozon's Frantz leading the pack with eleven.

The César awards will be handed out tonight, February 24 in Paris.

From The Land Of The Moon (Mal De Pierres)

From The Land Of The Moon
From The Land Of The Moon

Nicole Garcia with From The Land Of The Moon (Mal De Piers), based on the novel by Milena Agus, carefully chisels out something about women growing up in the 1950s, claiming themselves. Gabrielle (Marion Cotillard) lives with her parents and sister in the post-war French countryside. She is married off to one of the Catalan guest workers, there to help harvest lavender. José, played by Alex Brendemühl who can also be seen as a Nazi Colonel in Rendez-Vous' Opening Night selection, Django, resembles at times an August Sander photograph. He is as good as Cotillard in keeping us guessing what this mis-matched couple is really thinking. After Gabrielle is diagnosed with Stone Sickness she is sent to a clinic in Switzerland for a cure. This is where she meets Indochina veteran André Sauvage (Louis Garrel, excellent at physical suffering). This Magic Mountain encounter changes everything and is in line with what we already know about Gabrielle's force of imagination.

Public screenings: Friday, March 3, 6:30pm - Sunday, March 12, 1:00pm (Q&A with Nicole Garcia on Friday)

Nocturama

Nocturama
Nocturama

Nocturama begins with helicopter noises - Paris feels under siege from the start. Romantic notions that so often accompany establishing shots of this city are drained from the get-go. This is a thriller about a massive attack, shouldered by a group of millennial militants of different cultural backgrounds. At least since William Holden, as blocked screenwriter Richard Benson in Richard Quine's Paris When It Sizzles explained to Audrey Hepburn as his newly hired secretary, the tricks of the trade, do we know that an aerial shot of Paris means nothing until it is accompanied by the right soundtrack. It is in the second half of Nocturama - which takes place in a department store by night - that Bertrand Bonello's prowess of showing us worlds closing in on themselves come to full force. It is not an emptied-out one like the Samaritaine in Léos Carax's Holy Motors, where former lovers meet to say goodbye to a past. The present is all there. Packing a whole life in one night in one place is what movies have set as an objective before. Nocturama makes it terrifyingly clear that saying "help me" is not the same as "help us."

Public screenings: Saturday, March 4, 6:15pm (Q&A with Bertrand Bonello) - Sunday, March 5, 9:00pm (Introduction by Bertrand Bonello)

Frantz

Frantz
Frantz

Frantz is François Ozon's take on Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 post-World-War I drama Broken Lullaby which tells the story of a French soldier, here called Adrien (César best actor nominee Pierre Niney) who locates the family of a German soldier who died at the front. Based on the play by Maurice Rostand, Ozon switches perspective to that of the grieving fiancée Anna (César best female newcomer nominee Paula Beer), an orphan living with Frantz's parents. The small German town is as picturesque in black and white as if it had actually been built for a Lubitsch musical where Maurice Chevalier could chase Jeanette MacDonald along the cobble-stoned alleys into a cheery inn. Are lies justified when the truth would hurt too much? Does being the keeper of a secret provide a Caspar David Friedrich respite or is it a different kind of loneliness? Anna and Adrien's travels circle around a corpse, an almost blank slate, that haunts their every act.

Public screenings: Thursday, March 2, 9:15pm - Saturday, March 11, 1:00pm (Q&A with François Ozon on Thursday)

The Dancer (La Danseuse)

The Dancer
The Dancer

The Dancer is Soko's film. Her performance as American choreographer Loïe Fuller, whirling dervish of late 19th century modern dance and innovator of colorful theatre lighting, carries us through the serpentine plot from wild-westerly Illinois to the Paris stage. A chance dress malfunction turns out to be a blessing in disguise - new ideas are born, important friends are made, above all Count Louis d'Orsay (Gaspar Ulliel) who arranges for her to perform in France. When Isadora Duncan (Lily-Rose Depp) arrives on the scene as one of the pupils in her troupe, we enter All About Eve territory. Depp's Duncan has evil intention written on her face as if the Nazi sausages from Kevin Smith's Yoga Hosers were still in pursuit of her. Thomas Bidegain collaborated on the script and his Les Cowboys star François Damiens plays Edouard Marchand, Artistic Director of the Folies Bergère. Stéphanie Di Giusto creates many enchanting, atmospheric tableaux that speak of her heroine's struggles without a word necessary to be spoken.

Public screenings: Thursday, March 2, 1:45pm - Monday, March 6, 9:30pm (Q&A with Stéphanie Di Giusto)

The uniFrance and Film Society of Lincoln Center's 22nd edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York, runs from March 1 through March 12. Screenings will take place at the Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center.

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