French Female Directors Continue Hot Streak at Rendez-Vous Festival

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Intercourse and the town, false identities and love triangles characteristic prominently on this yr’s Rendez-Vous With French Cinema, an annual showcase of latest French filmmaking held by Movie at Lincoln Middle.

Since final yr’s digital version, feminine administrators from France have been making headlines, with two main European festivals awarding their prime prizes to Frenchwomen: Julia Ducournau took residence the Cannes Palme d’Or for her gender-bending love story “Titane”; and Audrey Diwan nabbed Venice’s Golden Lion for “Occurring,” a couple of younger lady within the Sixties looking for an abortion. Even the grasp filmmaker Claire Denis acquired one in every of her solely aggressive awards when she gained finest director for “Fireplace” final month at Germany’s Berlinale.

“Fireplace,” a brooding melodrama, would be the opening-night movie when Rendez-Vous make its return to in-person screenings on Thursday in New York. A pared-down pandemic manufacturing stocked with booming performances by Juliette Binoche, Vincent Lindon and Grégoire Colin, the movie is Denis’s second collaboration with the screenwriter and novelist Christine Angot. Not like their first effort, “Let the Sunshine In” (2018), a sly romantic comedy wherein Binoche performed an artist drifting by way of a succession of irritating relationships, “Fireplace” is all Sturm und Drang. It focuses on the love lives of a late-middle-age couple with the form of tempestuous ardour befitting an adolescent affair. Although Denis obliquely weaves in broader social commentary with a subplot involving a troubled mixed-race son, the movie’s shambolic qualities stoke the erotic follies at its core with transportive delirium.

At Rendez-Vous, Denis is joined by different established French administrators like Arnaud Desplechin (“Deception”), François Ozon (“The whole lot Went Wonderful”) and Christophe Honoré (“Guermantes”). However a more recent era of filmmakers is making a powerful exhibiting as nicely, and lots of of them are constructing on the nice promise of the festival-winning streak for Gallic ladies.

Three of the 4 characteristic debuts in this system are by ladies, together with Constance Meyer’s “Sturdy,” a handsome-looking dramedy about an growing older actor (Gérard Depardieu) who strikes up a friendship along with his feminine bodyguard (Déborah Lukumuena). Although considerably much less flamboyant, “Sturdy” takes cues from the 2012 interracial buddy blockbuster “Les Intouchables.”

What often is the strongest debut within the lineup is Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s “Anaïs in Love,” which might make a fantastic double characteristic with “The Worst Individual within the World”; each are about impulsive 30-somethings who fall in love and lust on the clip of a pop music. “Anaïs,” a jaunty summer time story filled with droll chatter and glowing countryside vistas, follows its capricious heroine as she enters into an affair with an older man, solely to seek out herself extra desirous about his novelist spouse.

Movies like “Anaïs in Love” that relish the frisky humor and whimsy of recent romance with out moralizing guilt would appear to suit squarely within the sexually liberated custom that many see as central to France’s inventive heritage. The talk between a youthful era of feminists spearheading the nation’s #MeToo motion, which has been gaining momentum after a feeble begin, and elite figures who denounce the motion as excessive and puritanical continues to solid a shadow over the French movie trade. This yr’s Rendez-Vous choice actually straddles the previous and the brand new — although conspicuously absent is the Rendez-Vous common Jacques Doillon, whose robust, if thorny, new movie, “Third Grade,” issues the playground intrigue between two youngsters, one in every of whom sexually harasses the opposite. Nonetheless, this system retains in line with the nationwide penchant for sexual audacity.

Male administrators have not often had any qualms about analyzing the intimate lives of girls, and Jacques Audiard’s “Paris, thirteenth District,” a punchy drama in slick black and white in regards to the messy relationship lives of younger Parisians, continues that tendency. It’s a nice shock, although the auteurist concept clarification for a movie’s success (or failure) is especially questionable right here. Take into account the compelling performances by the movie’s lead actresses: Noémie Merlant performs a regulation pupil whose life is thrown into shambles when her classmates mistake her for a preferred camgirl; and Lucie Zhang makes her auspicious debut as a first-generation Franco-Chinese language immigrant, a punkish, bedraggled younger lady with a self-sabotaging romantic streak. Complicated and never essentially likable with out falling into the “messy lady” archetype of so many pop feminist characters, the ladies of “Paris, thirteenth District” will need to have benefited from the august scriptwriting group — Audiard, Céline Sciamma (“Portrait of a Woman on Fireplace”) and Léa Mysius — who mood the director’s penchant for vacuous stylization with grounded humor and pathos.

The Tunisian writer-director Leyla Bouzid additionally takes a stirring take a look at the intercourse lives of Parisian college students in her sophomore characteristic, “A Story of Love and Want,” solely this sexual awakening drama speaks to completely different aspects of the Arab diaspora. Ahmed (Sami Outalbali), who comes from a conventional family, yearns all of the extra intensely understanding the forbidden nature of his wishes when he meets a forthright younger lady from Tunisia. The lip-biting restraint and Bouzid’s surreal prospers make the movie among the many most tantalizingly erotic entries of the collection — a reminder that the slippery nature of need isn’t essentially finest captured by explicitly sexual means.

Final month, Xavier Giannoli’s staid Honoré de Balzac adaptation, “Misplaced Illusions,” took residence finest movie on the Cesars, France’s Oscar equal. You may verify that movie out at Rendez-Vous as nicely, however a worthwhile various is the pluckier costume drama “Secret Identify.” Directed by Aurélia Georges, it follows Nélie, a maid turned intercourse employee turned frontline nurse at the start of World Struggle I. When a bomb hits, Nélie swaps identities with somebody she believes to be useless and assumes a comfortable place as a reader to a noblewoman.

What the script lacks in nuance is made up for in eerie, noirish stress, eventfully constructing towards a climax that unexpectedly facilities the connection between Nélie (a hypnotizing Lyna Khoudri, who you may acknowledge from “The French Dispatch”) and the aristocrat who comes to like her (performed by the veteran Sabine Azéma).

Additionally price recognizing is Rachel Lang’s “Our Males,” an assured portrait of International Legion troopers drawn from the filmmaker’s personal experiences within the French military. Led by Louis Garrel and Camille Cottin (the “Name My Agent!” actress who arguably stole the present from Matt Damon in “Stillwater”), this understated movie bobs between operations in Mali and household tensions in Corsica, the place the wives of the emotionally stunted troopers are casualties themselves. Lang’s method by no means slips into treacly sentimentality; fairly it soberly considers the incompatibility of the army life-style with the home goals that troopers and their households are concurrently anticipated to uphold.

Quite a lot of Rendez-Vous movies are elevated by acclaimed French actresses actually strutting their stuff: Virginie Efira (“Benedetta”) in “Madeleine Collins,” Léa Seydoux in “Deception,” and Binoche in “Between Two Worlds.” However I used to be notably struck by this system’s youngest lead, Jade Springer, who performs the eponymous heroine of “Petite Solange,” Axelle Ropert’s luminous coming-of-age movie. It faucets into the internal world of a buoyant 13-year-old woman rattled by her mother or father’s imminent divorce, with furtive whispers and closed-door arguments filtered melodramatically by way of the lens of her weak inexperience. A critic turned screenwriter and director, Ropert isn’t notably well-known exterior of France, although she ought to be. Situations of deceit and adultery are a dime a dozen in French cinema, a first-rate practitioner of the nationwide “artwork of seduction”; towards the percentages, “Petite Solange” places the sting again in it.

Rendez-Vous with French Cinema runs Thursday by way of March 13 at Movie at Lincoln Middle. For extra data, go to filmlinc.org.

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