Rendez-Vous With French Cinema smiles

When Margaux Meets Margaux, The Art Of Seduction, Amanda and The Trouble With You

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Jeannette, L'Enfance De Jeanne D'Arc and Ma Loute director Bruno Dumont will present Coincoin And The Extra-Humans
Jeannette, L'Enfance De Jeanne D'Arc and Ma Loute director Bruno Dumont will present Coincoin And The Extra-Humans Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

New York's Rendez-Vous with French Cinema opens with Pierre Salvadori's The Trouble With You (nine César Award nominations), starring Adèle Haenel and Pio Marmaï with Audrey Tautou, Vincent Elbaz, and Damien Bonnard, preceded by Clément Cogitore's Les Indes galantes. Eva Husson, Élodie Bouchez, Mia Hansen-Løve, Sophie Fillières, Hélène Fillières, Judith Davis, Mikhaël Hers, Emmanuel Mouret, Sébastien Marnier, and Bruno Dumont are are expected to attend.

Bertrand Tavernier free talk with Russell Banks
Bertrand Tavernier free talk with Russell Banks Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Sandrine Kiberlain and Agathe Bonitzer in When Margaux Meets Margaux (La Belle Et La belle); Vincent Lacoste, Isaure Multrier, and Greta Scacchi in Mikhaël Hers' Amanda; Cécile de France, Edouard Baer, and Laure Calamy in Emmanuel Mouret's Mademoiselle de Joncquières (The Art of Seduction), and The Trouble With You (En Liberté!) - give some of the early bird performance highlights with their smiles.

Eva Husson's Girls Of The Sun (with Golshifteh Farahani, Emmanuelle Bercot); Gilles Lellouche's Sink Or Swim (Mathieu Amalric, Benoît Poelvoorde, Guillaume Canet); Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's The Summer House (Valeria Golino, Oumy Bruni Garrel), and Bruno Dumont's Coincoin And The Extra-Humans are four films to look forward to. Russell Banks, uniFrance’s American ambassador for Rendez-Vous with French Cinema will have a free talk with Bertrand Tavernier and will also introduce François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows with Serge Toubiana, president of uniFrance.

This year's edition of Rendez-Vous With French Cinema at the Film Society of Lincoln Center is marked by a number of exceptional performances that elevate the films to a different level. And the actors do it with a smile. That is, a variety of smiles which speak of the human condition. Laughter in fiction can be happy, destabilizing, even traumatic - the smiles presented here are hinting, healing, and hiding what is at stake.

When Margaux Meets Margaux (La Belle Et La Belle)

Sandrine Kiberlain and Agathe Bonitzer in When Margaux Meets Margaux (La Belle Et La Belle)
Sandrine Kiberlain and Agathe Bonitzer in When Margaux Meets Margaux (La Belle Et La Belle)

What would you do if you could meet yourself, only 25 years older, or younger, respectively? Would you smile at what you became or what you once were? This is the premise of Sophie Fillières' When Margaux Meets Margaux, starring Sandrine Kiberlain and the director's daughter Agathe Bonitzer as the title character(s). Whereas the 20-year-old Margaux mostly applies the poker face cool her age group demands, Kiberlain revels in fine-tuned screwball comedy timing. Her gung-ho approach to the absurdity of meeting her younger self and thus to the chance to change her fate, is as casual as it is unexpected. The French title, La belle et la belle, a take on Beauty and the Beast with no beast and two beauties, sets the tone that this is a tale of magic that speaks of deeper meaning in the language of whimsy, not science.

Public screenings: Friday, March 1, 6:15pm (Q&A with Sophie Fillières) - Wednesday, March 6, 8:45pm

Mademoiselle De Joncquières (The Art Of Seduction)

Cécile de France and Edouard Baer in Mademoiselle De Joncquières (The Art Of Seduction)
Cécile de France and Edouard Baer in Mademoiselle De Joncquières (The Art Of Seduction)

Cécile de France, who has one of the most charismatic smiles in French cinema, uses the expression at top level in Mademoiselle de Joncquières, Emmanuel Mouret's take on an episode from Diderot's Jacques the Fatalist, the same one Robert Bresson so brilliantly turned into his 1945 film Les dames du Bois de Boulogne. De France gives her Madame de La Pommeraye a quickness and ease of deception, that is, in an elegant subtle way, very 21st century. The smile comes easily, the strain is still visible, but the facade has to be held up while powerful feelings of love and despair, unspoken, reinforce the loneliness. In particular the scenes with her friend, Lucienne (played beautifully by Laure Calamy), are a standout of acting on at least three levels. Their conversations function like a palimpsest, questioning with the slightest winks, Diderot's plot, its current incarnation and what both imply about female friendship. The Marquis des Arcis (Edouard Baer) can only scratch the surface, his smile remaining that of the born yesterday toxic masculinity.

Public screenings: Friday, March 1, 9:00pm (Q&A with Emmanuel Mouret) - Monday, March 4, 4:00pm

Amanda

Vincent Lacoste and Isaure Multrier in Amanda
Vincent Lacoste and Isaure Multrier in Amanda

Mikhaël Hers puts us on a roller-coaster with Amanda, a film that captures the beauty of quotidian pleasures - bike rides, the changing Paris sky, visits to the park, a tennis match - by juxtaposing them with a disastrous event of terror that changes the lives of his protagonists forever. Vincent Lacoste, an actor who grows with every new role (especially good opposite the masterful Pierre Deladonchamps in Christophe Honoré’s Sorry Angel) and thus successfully escapes typecasting, plays David Sorel, a young man who hasn't made up his mind what to do with his life when we meet him and finds himself more involved with caring for his little 7-year-old niece Amanda (Isaure Multrier) than he planned for. Amanda's dance to Elvis Presley's Don't Be Cruel even made me think of the pinnacle of kids amusing themselves through dance in cinema: Ana Torrent in Carlos Saura's Cría cuervos from 1976. Shared activities and truly being in the moment bond Amanda and David. During a scene on Hempstead Heath, the great Greta Scacchi (as Alison) joins them and with a smile, all age differences disappear.

Public screenings: Saturday, March 2, 6:00pm (Q&A with Mikhaël Hers) - Saturday, March 9, 1:30pm

The Trouble With You (En Liberté!)

Adèle Haenel and Pio Marmaï in The Trouble With You (En Liberté!)
Adèle Haenel and Pio Marmaï in The Trouble With You (En Liberté!)

The Trouble With You foregoes subtleties in offering two more severe versions of the smile. Pio Marmaï plays Antoine Parent, an innocent man who spent 8 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. His smile has become crazed; he is unhinged and injustice has made him unpredictable. Adèle Haenel as Police Lieutenant Yvonne Santi mostly keeps a straight face with tiny smiles of wonder how she ended up in this film in the first place. F. Scott Fitzgerald knew how to impart the vast subjective potential of a smile in The Great Gatsby: "It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”

Public screenings: Opening Night - Thursday, February 28, 6:30pm and 9:00pm (Introductions by Pierre Salvadori and Pio Marmaï)

The uniFrance and Film Society of Lincoln Center's 24th edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York, runs from February 28 through March 10. Screenings will take place at the Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center.

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