New York Rendez-Vous with French Cinema Early Bird highlights

Margaux Hartmann, Lovers, Love Affair(s) and Faithful

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Nicole Garcia’s Lovers (Amants) is a New York’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema highlight
Nicole Garcia’s Lovers (Amants) is a New York’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema highlight Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Emmanuelle Béart’s tour-de-force performance in Ludovic Bergery’s Margaux Hartmann (L’Étreinte, co-written with Julien Boivent); and Emmanuel Mouret’s The Things We Say, The Things We Do, aka Love Affair(s) (Les choses qu'on dit, les choses qu'on fait) with Camélia Jordana, Niels Schneider, Vincent Macaigne, Guillaume Gouix, Julia Piaton, Émilie Dequenne, and Jenna Thiam which both were produced by Frédéric Niedermayer (Mouret’s Lady J, Jean-Paul Civeyrac’s A Paris Education, Rebecca Zlotowski’s Grand Central); Hélier Cisterne’s Faithful (De Nos Frères Blessés, co-written with Katell Quillévéré, based on the novel by Joseph Andras), starring Vincent Lacoste and Vicky Krieps; and Nicole Garcia’s Lovers (Amants), with Stacy Martin, Pierre Niney, Benoît Magimel, and a brilliant score by Grégoire Hetzel are four of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema early bird highlights tackling the subject of love.

Sasha in the opening night selection, Sébastien Lifshitz’s Little Girl (Petite Fille)
Sasha in the opening night selection, Sébastien Lifshitz’s Little Girl (Petite Fille)

Opening the festival on March 4 is another highlight, Sébastien Lifshitz’s Little Girl (Petite Fille), a documentary on eight-year-old Sasha’s journey to win acceptance. Richard Peña will have a discussion with the UniFrance and Film at Lincoln Center Guest of Honour Emmanuelle Béart. Emmanuel Mouret’s The Things We Say, The Things We Do, aka Love Affair(s) has received a record 13 César nominations. The winners will be announced on March 12 live at the Olympia Theatre in Paris.

During Rendez-Vous with French Cinema there will be free talks presented by HBO. How Music Makes the Film organized in partnership with French In Motion, SACEM, and The Gotham Film and Media Institute and Vive la Résistance with French and American filmmakers.

In 2020, the 25th edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York was abruptly halted due to the announcement by New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo on the coronavirus pandemic. Rebecca Zlotowski’s An Easy Girl (Une Fille Facile) on Thursday, March 12, 2020 was the last screening of the festival. New York City cinemas remain closed to this day.

The four 2021 highlights above all have relationships at their core. Are they love stories? That entirely depends on your definition. They can function as a panorama of what last-minute pre-pandemic French cinema explored about romance.

Margaux Hartmann (L’Étreinte)
Margaux Hartmann (L’Étreinte)

Margaux Hartmann (L’Étreinte)

Margaux Hartmann is no Jeanne Dielman, but Emmanuelle Béart’s spectacular performance is no less a vessel to lead us into the very private life of a woman confronting her needs after the death of her husband. Muriel Rukeyser’s question what would happen if one woman told the truth about her life came to mind. Her answer was that “the world would split open.” Ludovic Bergery’s directorial debut feature doesn’t go that far, but Margaux’s experiences are eye-opening. She moves into her absent half-sister’s guest house in Versailles and enrols at University to finish her Master’s degree in German literature. Goethe’s colour theory, Kleist’s marionettes, and the nature of desire and longing are discussed and she befriends some of the much younger students in her seminars; most important among them, Aurelien (Vincent Dedienne) who doesn’t want the others to know that he is gay. What follows are her attempts to … I am struggling to find the right expression, which is precisely why the film works. Unlike films such as Sebastián Lelio’s Gloria and Gloria Bell, the protagonist’s pain and shame are not glamorized or celebrated and she is the stronger for it. Béart’s great acting skills make us care and cringe and applaud and silently shout out to her. No, the decision to go to this apartment or to accept that invitation will not lead to a happy ending but only deeper into the wasteland, marked by online transactions and the resulting degradations that have become commonplace.

Available to view starting on March 6 through March 11 at 12:00pm (EST) Q&A with Ludovic Bergery & Emmanuelle Béart. Moderator: Maddie Whittle Interpreter: Massoumeh Lahidji

Lovers (Amants)
Lovers (Amants)

Lovers (Amants)

Nicole Garcia’s Lovers, Lisa (Stacy Martin) and Simon (Pierre Niney), are haunted by a shared experience in their past when he was a high-end dealer of drugs and she was studying to be in the hospitality business. When they meet again by chance, she is married to Léo Redler (Benoît Magimel), who claims to be an insurance underwriter in the travel hospitality field. While they are vacationing by the Indian Ocean, her husband’s goal is for them to adopt a child. Rich and prone to collecting, Léo had picked Lisa out from a coat-check job and married her quickly, as though she were an object to own. Garcia, more than any of the other directors featured here, takes the socio-economic circumstances as the core and builds her elegant thriller around it. No wonder Simon and Lisa early on are seen watching Kubrick’s The Killing. Lisa is not the first woman for whom survival comes at a price. The filmmaker is wonderfully subtle when the concierge at the hotel in Madagascar asks if Lisa would like the 'Chinese massage' as she already had the “Thai massage.” All the luxury means nothing and this is the precise moment her former lover appears. Body language tells us more than the words, as was the case with Marion Cotillard in Garcia’s From The Land Of The Moon.

Available to view starting on March 11 through March 16 at 12:00pm (EST) Q&A with Nicole Garcia & Stacy Martin. Moderator: Florence Almozini Interpreter: Anna Ribotta

The Things We Say, The Things We Do, aka Love Affair(s)
The Things We Say, The Things We Do, aka Love Affair(s)

The Things We Say, The Things We Do, aka Love Affair(s)

Love Affair(s), not as circular as Ophüls’ La Ronde based on Schnitzler’s play, but with just as many entanglements, explores love lives in turmoil. Unlike Nicole Garcia’s Lovers, Emmanuel Mouret presents us with characters who seem to be under no economic or, god forbid, existential straits. Their jobs (documentary editor, translator, in the building business) are like accessories to meet the next person to become obsessed and then bored with. The frame narrative is simple. Maxime (Niels Schneider, whom I kept calling Maxence in my notes, because he reminded me of Jacques Perrin’s character in Jacques Demy’s Les Demoiselles De Rochefort), a translator and aspiring novelist, visits the countryside, where the pregnant Daphné (Camélia Jordana), partner of his cousin François (Vincent Macaign) plays host. There is Victoire (Julia Piaton) who likes to keep control and has a relationship with a man in Japan. Her sister Sandra (Jenna Thiam) begins a fling with Maxime’s roommate and translator colleague Gaspard (Guillaume Gouix). When the two move into the fantastic gigantic townhouse Sandra inherits, Maxime comes along, living out his tortured masochism in close proximity to the woman he had fallen for a long time ago. Louise (Émilie Dequenne), who has the best style in teapots and boots, maybe not in husbands, gives the film its most surprising twist, triggered, of all things by the documentary about a philosopher (played by Claude Pommereau), love and possession that got the ball rolling earlier in The Things We Say, the Things We Do.

Available to view starting on March 9 through March 14 at 12:00pm (EST) Q&A with Emmanuel Mouret. Moderator: Maddie Whittle Interpreter: Massoumeh Lahidji

Faithful (De Nos Frères Blessés)
Faithful (De Nos Frères Blessés)

Faithful (De Nos Frères Blessés)

Faithful takes us back in time to Algeria in 1956. It is the most political film with a true love story at heart. Fernand Iveton (Vincent Lacoste) meets Hélène (Vicky Krieps) in Paris. One of their early dates could be taken straight out of Jean Renoir’s Partie De Campagne. They get married and he takes her and her son to live in Algiers. A proud communist and fighter for Arab rights, Fernand ends up on trial for planting a bomb inside a locker at the Algiers Electric & Gas Company where he works. Hélène did not know what she was in for, but their convictions of right and wrong bind them even under the most strenuous of conditions. They turn out to be the most committed couple of all four films discussed here. Director Hélier Cisterne addresses matters of life and death, resistance and justice. “Chance saved you from becoming an assassin,” Fernand is told. The trial, based on real-life accounts, is described as a mockery, while the history of France is being written, as all histories of all nations are being written continuously to this very day.

Available to view starting on March 6 through March 11 at 12:00pm (EST) Q&A with Vincent Lacoste and Hélier Cisterne Moderator: Maddie Whittle Interpreter: Massoumeh Lahidji

The 26th edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, organised by Film at Lincoln Center’s Florence Almozini and Madeline Whittle with UniFrance, will run from March 4 to March 15 on Film at Lincoln Center Virtual Cinema.

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