Three Sisters (Les Trois Soeurs) director and star of Paolo Virzi's Human Capital, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
This year's New York Rendez-Vous with French Cinema opens with Guillaume Nicloux's Valley Of Love, starring Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert. Jacques Audiard's Cannes Palme d’Or winner Dheepan closes the festival. Melvil Poupaud, Julie Delpy, Alice Winocour, Diane Kruger, Maïwenn, Louis Garrel, Emmanuelle Bercot, Eva Husson, Rudi Rosenberg, Emmanuel Finkiel, Danielle Arbid, Nicolas Pariser, Clémence Poésy, Nabil Ayouch, Grégoire Hetzel, Mathieu Lamboley, Alain Resnais' composer Mark Snow, Huppert, Nicloux and Bruni Tedeschi are expected to attend.
Bercot's Standing Tall (Catherine Deneuve, Sara Forestier, Benoît Magimel, Rod Paradot); Winocour’s Disorder (Diane Kruger, Matthias Schoenaerts); Pariser's The Great Game (André Dussollier, Poésy) and Bruni Tedeschi's Three Sisters with cinematographer Simon Beaufils - who also brilliantly shot Paolo Virzi's study of capitalism in crisis Human Capital - are four of the early bird highlights.
The Great Game (Le Grand Jeu)
The Great Game
Nicolas Pariser's intricate political thriller feels so very much of the post Charlie Hebdo present as it looks back to the activism of the Nineties and the rapidly changing times ahead. Has been one-book literary darling Pierre Blum (Melvil Poupaud), on a casino balcony during a wedding he attends, encounters a man named Joseph Paskin (André Dussollier is wonderful and different from his roles in Volker Schlöndorff's tense Diplomacy and Arnaud Desplechin's witty My Golden Days), who asks a lot of questions and describes his own job as doing favors. "I connect people," he says and "there are many of us - the Republic functions that way." Pierre is to become ghostwriter of a book called Insurrection and part of the puzzle of surveillance, manufactured opinions and threats of a world at war already or almost. Pierre, perpetually wrapped in his camel coat, not only learns that "the public space doesn't exist," he also falls for Laura (Clémence Poésy) an activist living in a commune on a farm and realizes that he has to make some uncomfortable decisions. Pariser in his debut feature manages to create a mood of sea change not unlike that Michel Houellebecq conjures up on the pages of his novel Submission.
US Premiere Friday, March 4, 6:30pm - Saturday, March 5, 9:15pm (Q&As with Nicolas Pariser, Clémence Poésy and Melvil Poupaud following both screenings)
Disorder, from the very start attaches us to Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts), a soldier returning from Afghanistan. The remarkable sound design, links the noises in his head to the present, where he works as a security guard, protecting an influential Lebanese businessman's wife (Diane Kruger) and son in their immense chateau while the husband is away on a trip to Switzerland. Never quite sure if what we see stems from Vincent's paranoia or is a real threat due to the husband's links to high government officials, the intense exquisitely paced drama unfolds like a thriller. Can it be that this trophy wife - with a swan boat in their pool and the Minister of the Interior at their parties - has no friends or family to turn to, besides her husband whose dealings she is ignorant of? Costume design by Pascaline Chavanne emphasizes Kruger's exposure and strength. She is an enigma for Vincent and very much alive and he does his best to keep her that way. Following her enticing and spirited debut, Augustine, Alice Winocour again proves that she can package troubled states of mind in lush images and strong plots. Shifting social dynamics create fears of what is to come unless we identify with the little boy shoved into the closet to hide.
Saturday, March 5, 6:30pm (Q&A with Alice Winocour and Diane Kruger) - Monday, March 7, 4:00pm
Standing Tall (La Tête Haute)
The Grimms' tale about the Boy Who Went Forth To Learn What Fear Was begins with the heartbreaking sentence that he will never amount to anything and always be a burden to his family. Bercot's Cannes opener, Standing Tall, mirrors that starting point and then ties us to the ferocious little boy, soon to be delinquent (teenage Malony is played by Rod Parodot with great nuance in aggression and calm), who was dealt such bad cards. The acting all around is superb. His utterly incapable mother (a perfect, fearless Sara Forestier) wants to get rid of him and keep him, love him and kill him. A caring juvenile court judge (Catherine Deneuve) and social worker (Benoît Magimel) do the best they can to create hope for a violent young man whose fate seems to have been decided upon from birth. The film is a plea for a system that gives chances - over and over again, when necessary. One glance at the prosecutor's baby face and the self-righteous judgements of the rookie DA are all an audience needs to understand that some will never give chances because they don't have to.
Sunday, March 6, 3:30pm (Q&A with Emmanuelle Bercot) - Sunday, March 6, 9:00pm (Introduction by Emmanuelle Bercot)
Three Sisters (Les Trois Soeurs)
I'm leaving in the morning. I'm taking my chances. I'm taking the cat. Song lyrics from the future are twirling through the Russian countryside in Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's marvelously tactile take on Anton Chekhov's play. The trip never happens and Bruni Tedeschi gives us a bouquet of the gentlest and boldest reasons why not. In what might be the finest ensemble cast of the year, her actors from the Comédie-Française turn every stolen whisper, every inspection of one's toes, each averted glance and devastating compromise into a starting point for possible wisdom. The emotional truths vivisected over a century ago are as relevant today as they were when Lou Reed sang about "leaving the small town" - a song used to great effect with a silent movie projected on a white sheet, depicting the faraway metropolis of a state of mind. Three Sisters, written in 1900, is all about the dream of leaving, to at last start a meaningful life.
US Premiere Wednesday, March 9, 3:30pm – Friday, March 11, 6:30pm (Q&As with Valeria Bruni Tedeschi following both screenings)
The uniFrance and Film Society of Lincoln Center's 21st Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York, runs from March 3 through March 13. Screenings and filmmaker appearances will take place at the Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center.