Thursday, October 26, 2006

Briefs from France

No time to post in Paris as I was busy rediscovering the city on foot (biggest change: the enormous amount of people on bicycles and the effort spent on building new bike paths), spending hours reading the paper in cafés, talking politics with friends (go Ségolène!) and going to the movies. A quick rundown:

- Christophe Honoré's Dans Paris, greeted by very positive reviews, including constant positive nods to the way Honoré honors the New Wave. And he really shoves it down our throats: a direct visual reference to Truffaut's Domicile Conjugal here, a female character named Anna there, and especially Louis Garrel's character, a sub-Jean-Pierre Léaud who didn't get the memo about how Antoine Doinel is meant to remain endearing even when he's irritating. The scene in which Romain Duris and Joana Preiss sing to each other on the phone is really moving, however, a successful Demy pastiche. But the movie tries too hard to be quirky, to be touching, to simply be. Add an awful jazz-lite score and painfully ugly cinematography, and you're left with a piece that does not bode well for French auteur cinema.

- Equally disappointing in a completely different way is Rachid Bouchareb's Indigènes, which won its four lead actors an interpretation prize in Cannes. The movie is about men from the French colonies of North Africa fighting in the French army in 1944-45, and a typical example of how meaning well does not often translate into making good. The actors are indeed excellent, though there's a credibility gap as wide as the Grand Canyon at the center of the movie: Jamel Debbouze has a lame right arm and there's no way a man with only one functional arm would have been accepted in the army, and he certainly would not have been sent to battle with a rifle. To have Debbouze in the part does not make sense, and his handicap is never addressed in the film. Insane! From there on I could not take the movie as seriously as it deserves to be taken.

- two Frenchy-French-French comedies: Eric Rochant's L'école pour tous and, er, some no-name director's Poltergay. Both are ripe for American remakes, though only the former is likely to remain the better version. In L'école pour tous, a banlieue dude poses as a French teacher in a middle school smack in the middle of an at-risk neighborhood in order to evade the police. Various shenanigans and hilarity ensues. The best part of the movie is that the main character does not really improve at the end and does not miraculously become a brilliant teacher. The second best part is director Noémie Lvovsky stealing every scene she's in as a flamboyant fellow teacher. Poltergay benefits from a brilliant title and premise (in addition to Clovis Cornillac's pecs, wasp's waist and excellent comic timing): a couple moves into a house haunted by the ghosts of five gay men who died in a disco fire in 1979. Only other men can see them. Genius! The execution does not always follow but there's nothing a team of Hollywood rent-a-hacks couldn't fix.

- Les honneurs de la guerre, a 1960 movie set in 1945 and scripted by future director Jean-Charles Tacchella. No music, very odd mood for this UFO of a film in which the French villagers are shown as pretty deluded and pathetic, especially the eleventh-hour resistants.

As a side note, going to the movies in Paris is an exquisite pleasure: The screening conditions are generally nice (and often superb) and the silence among the audience nearly absolute. None of that constant bovine munching that accompanies movies in the US, and which I am completely fed up with.

Hey, time for Desperate Housewives dubbed in French! Next post: Heiner Müller's Quartett.

1 comment:

magneticat said...

What about new pastry shops and exquisite "macarrons" ?