Tuesday, October 25, 2016

CINEMANIA DELIVERS A GORGEOUS PROGRAM OF FRENCH FILMS


              
                                                                                                 

                                             HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!                                                                                                                                                                      

Vital Variety in Film Viewing… with English Subtitles

Cinemania is 22 years young!! It’s the most exciting French language film festival in Canada, and the largest of its kind. At this year's press conference - held at Montreal's sleek Sofitel Hotel - Maidy Teitelbaum – Cinemania’s founder and director proudly presented an enormous program that for 11 days takes the audience on a whirlwind adventure with films from France, Belgium, Senegal French Polynesia, Switzerland, Algeria which also includes co-productions with partnering countries. More than 50 films including 40 premieres, 16 celebrities and VIP guests will expose the creativity of the francophone film world as it unfolds its cultural and geographic diversity.


Maidy Teitelbaum


  
Nicole Garcia
Nicole Garcia – one of the world’s great actors and directors with 69 films to her credit (not to mention her television and theatre career) will grace the stage with the latest film she directed. On November 3rd, she will be presenting her film, From the Land of the Moon – Cinemania’s opening film. Also present will be Jacques Fieschi who co-wrote the screen play with Mlle Garcia. Based on the novella, Mal di Pietre, by Sardinian author Milena Agus, this fabulous work that’s set in the 1950s in the Alps is full of  drama and love's torments and twists. It’s an enthralling saga where the heroine is a brazen as she is sensual. Starring Marion Cotillard, the film will also be screened at 1:15   on November 5th at Cinema Imperial.(See my review below).

Equally dazzling is the fact that  the beautiful  actor Virginie Efira will be another festival guest. She’ll be with Cinemania from November 10th to the 13th to present her newest films: Elle, Up for Love, and In Bed with Victoria (the closing film on November 13th). Not only we will see her live just before she introduces these films, but she stars in them!  Rich in tone, each one offers a distinctive tone for its genre: a romantic comedy,  a thriller and  a light-hearted.. Judging by the many amazing features which includes 40 North American and Quebec premieres, the 11-day outstanding film festival offers.


Virginie Efira

     
Historical dramas, such as A Woman’s Life, adapted from a Guy de Maupassant novel; art biopics – Cezanne and I; and WW11 dramas based on true stories – Fanny’s Journey, and The Poisoning Angel – are only part of the poignant potpourri of the delicious films set to tease your senses, stimulate your mind and move your emotions during these turbulent times.  Remember, though, Cinemania is exhilarating and entertaining. This festival is about quality, brilliance and films that audaciously raise the bar on the world’s greatest cinematically savvy festivals. 


                                                             I can hardly wait!
                                                                                                  
                                    
Cinemania runs from November 3 to the 13. 
For information on all films, venues, schedules and tickets, visit: www.festivalcinemania.com

                                                    Maidy and her team await you.


Film reviews follow:  
My two favourite films: MEDECIN DE CAMPAGNE and
My  two least favourite films : THINGS TO COME and UPSTREAM





MAL DE PIERRES (Directed by Nicole Garcia) ***
From The Land Of The Moon


Without a doubt, Marion Cotillard superbly plays a demented woman desperately living in the country in the 1950s with her parents and younger sister. Gabrielle is desperately searching for love, so much so, that she’s eager to take her clothes off to achieve it in front of those who really have no use for her. Nothing is as she would like it to be. She is clearly an unstable woman, full of passion and self-pity. She’s heading for an unfulfilled life, until she goes to the Alps and meets the man of her dreams.
                        

Despite Mlle Cotillard’s extraordinary acting, she can neither save her character nor the film. There is too much spent on Gabrielle’s suffering. Still, the film is a marvellous showpiece for her talent.

The plot is somewhat weird, and contrived, but the acting is so good; and the ironic twist at the end of the film makes up for the slow almost melodramatic moments.When her mother marries her off to  Jose, one of the workers, she treats him with loathing, but he is relentless in taking care of her, despite her emotional fits and attacks of physical pain.
He puts her in a treatment centre in the Alps after she is diagnosed with the “stone disease”. The doctor declares she will never conceive, but doctors have been known to be wrong – just as Gabrielle finds out. She discovers how her delusions can mix her up so much that she is blind to true love. Still, somehow, love has a way of telling the truth to the one in need of feeling its beauty and experiencing it, even if it takes many years to do so.



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MÉDECIN DE CAMPAGNE (Directed by Thomas Lilti) *****




This director actively injects such authentic characters, plot and dialogue, you simply feel part of the endearing yet dramatic scenarios that occur in the country setting of this French community that relies on one doctor – Doctor Jean-Pierre Werner. He visits his patients in their houses, and practices as well in his house. But the good doctor has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Still, he refuses to stop or cut down on his work load. 




Enter Nathalie, a cracker-jack freshly graduated emergency doctor – who also was a nurse. She arrives to assist him, but he puts her into near impossible situations to test her mettle, and she passes with flying colours – especially when she darts through the farm life that would instantly impede any visiting doctor from reaching the door to the patients.




The film shows the dire situation patients must endure in the impersonal French medical system -especially for those living in villages and rural settings. Will Natalie and the good doctor ever see eye to eye on anything?  After a medical conflict, the climax finds its own healing way, and sometimes it does involves line dancing, a meat grinder and spots on an X-ray that can’t be ignored. Doctor Werner finds his worst patient ever, and it’s looking at himself in the mirror.  



François Cluzet and Marianne Denicourt are marvelous together. Superb acting with on-screen charisma and credibility. A wonderful film of humour, human stubbornness and good old fashioned values.


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                                      BEING 17 (Directed by André Techiné) ***




In the French Pyrenees, 17-year-old Damien lives with his doctor mother. The father is on a tour of duty, and so his role is via Skype and in person via a short Christmas leave to join the family. But why does Tom, an adopted school classmate keep bullying smart Damien.
                                                           

The two are brought together, when Damien’s mother offers for Tom to live with them while his mother is about to give birth, but is hospitalized at least a week before the event. 

The turn of events is so ludicrous and the gay motif presentation poorly crafted. It had a good start and a pretty lousy finish. The scenery however, was stunning.                                                 _________________________________________________



                                       
HEAL THE LIVING (Directed by Katell Quivévéré Chokri)***


 
An exquisitely paced film whose tone and tempo cocoon within the tragic car accident that hurdles Simon, out of a car and into a brain dead state within seconds. And to think Simon was joyously surfing with his two buddies a mere half hour earlier. This moving film gently packed with profound meditative moments vividly demonstrates the anguish of losing a son and then the angst of deciding about donating his organs.

We meet the woman whose heart is fast failing, and her own ambiguous feelings about receiving a heart as she confronts her mortality. Adapted from Mayalis de Kerangal’s novel, the film dramatically replicates the two operations. It would seem that the ultimate sacrifice leads to the continuation of life for another.

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ROAD TO ISTANBUL (Directed by Rachid Bouchareb) *****




Elisabeth, an independent woman living in the Belgian countryside with her 18-year-old daughter Élodie suspects nothing amiss will happen in their peaceful life.  The loving mother waits up for her to return home from her school friend’s place; she said she was  staying there. The lie begins. 


Through assertive searching, Elisabeth discovers Élodie has gone to Turkey with her Muslim boyfriend. It is a parent’s worst nightmare, and this one draws the mother in to face the incontrovertible truth that her daughter has converted and wishes to join ISIS.  Élodie is on her way from Turkey to Syria. Intent on finding her, Elisabeth travels to Hatay at the Turkish/Syrian border. Trying to gain entrance into Syria is yet another segment of the nightmare that ends with a bang and a whimper.

 



Astrid Whettnall is magnificent in her role as the grieving mother. She cries more in the movie than she speaks, and her emotions are strongly felt by the viewer. The film is a raw and realistic portrayal of what goes on when Western youth converts to the other side, and never looks back to their loving homes. Connecting to the wrong place looking for love necessitates the complete and absolute disconnection from one’s real family when it comes to fanatical radicalization. The beginning of this film is particularly effective.
                                                                                    


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UPSTREAM (Directed by Marion Hansel) Bomb


A totally boring film that goes “downstream” in more ways than one the minute two brothers who do not know one another rent a pontoon-type motorboat in Croatia to head towards waterfalls and as we find out – a monastery.

The chance meeting of a man brings them both answers to what happened to their dead father who was found dead by the monastery years earlier. It just so happens that this man was friends with their father. The two non-talkative brothers become a bit closer as the journey continues. One brother is always drunk; he never knew his dad, and he periodically bombards the other with questions about the kind of father he missed out on.  



This amateur piece of film was unworthy of watching.  It was disturbing to see the dog drown.  The pause between the sparse dialogue when the brothers did talk evoked audience yawns.



This amateur piece of film was unworthy of watching.  It was disturbing to see the dog drown.  The pause between the sparse dialogue when the brothers did talk evoked audience yawns.

                                 ________________________________



WULU (Directed by Daouda Coulibady) ****




 
Ladji loves his job choosing which people he’ll let ride the local bus. He’s been doing it for five years, and dreams of one day owning his own bus in Bamako, Mali. It’s one of the poorest countries in the world. One day he loses his job – shoved out by the boss’s nephew. Ladji turns to delivering coke traveling in peril with two runners to Senegal, Guinea, even Timbuktu where gun fire changes the course of things.



 Ladji turns a lot of the drug money over to his whoring sister, who becomes the biggest greedy girl in town.  The film shows how drug kings control the government, generals the military personnel. Al Qaeda gets involved in collecting the coke. The film vividly reveals how the drug cartel in Mali caused its destruction by the time 2012 hit. What a mess! A realistic, eye-opening film where political greed, personal ambition and population poverty coalesce in mounting corruption. 


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MOKA (Directed by Frédéric Mamoud) ****



In Lausanne, Switzerland, Diane Cramer has been confined to a sanitarium after the loss of her young teenage son, Luc in a hit-and-run car accident. The police have stalled. Diane escapes and spends most of her time tracking down the culprits – using strategies to find out who did this, and then how to confront them.

                         
Part Chabrolesque, part modern-day Hitchcock, the film is a thrilling look into a mother’s love, vengeance and conscience.


Emanuelle Deovs as Diane, and Nathalie Baye as Marlène who is tracked down by Diane’s clever spying create outstanding on-screen characters in a psychological game that rich irony.






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                                FANNY'S JOURNEY (Directed by Lola Doillon) ****




In 1943, Jewish children were hidden away in French boarding schools. Madame Forman heads one, but soon the kids lose their safe haven, as they begin a treacherous bus and train journey, playing cat and mouse with the Nazis.  Madame Forman is to meet up with them part way into their escape towards Switzerland.




 She disappears and the eight kids are left to be led by 12-year-old Fanny.  Suspenseful moments full of close calls that nearly bring the brave group into the hands of the Nazis – forever. This wonderful film that’s based on the autobiography of 86-year-old Fanny Ben-Ami is an astounding testament to the courage and sacrifice of great human beings who risked all to save children who faced each day as possibly their last.





The cast of kids was a tribute to excellence in their craft and most of all, to the youngsters they portrayed.   
                                                           ______________________



CEZANNE AND I (Directed by Danielle Thompson) ***


Despite the brilliant acting, particularly that of Guillaume Canet in the role of Paul Cézanne and the inspiring setting of Aix en Provence, the shouting matches between Emil Zola and Cézanne became unseasonably predictive. Cézanne’s temperament was despicable and his constant attacks on his supposed best friend for putting his life in his novels – albeit disguised in another character - played like a broken record.


 The two deeply loved each other in a strangely intense yet toxic way.  To think that Cezanne slashed most of his paintings, and was repeatedly refused into Paris’s prestigious Salon exhibits is unconscionable.


                                        ______________________________ 



                            KEEPER (Directed by Guillaume Senez) ***



 Mélanie is pregnant and Maxime, her 15-year-old boyfriend is not pleased. He freaks out – initially.  He’s on his way to being accepted as a soccer player on his way up. Mel’s mom is wickedly against her daughter’s decision to keep it. Things are going well between the two teens, but a selfish reversal takes the young parents into a dead-end relationship. The hero in this film is Maxime.





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CHOUF (Directed by Karim Dridi) ***



Sofiane decides to rejoin the drug gang that he once worked with before he quit to become a business student. The killing of his older brother who also worked in the same hood drug gang prompted Souliane to track down the killer. The gang leader tells him it’s Farouk, and so one by one, the leader’s members are offed to avenge the brother.  Souliane is kept under close wraps by the leader, even promoted to replace a loyal member who is also offed. Irony occurs when the truth comes to a head, and Souliane has the last moment of vengeance. The cast was composed of real people, and they were highly convincing. A unique take on the precarious positions held by drug leaders.

 
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SIBERIA (Directed by Safy Nebbou) *****



Magnificently crafted whose theme about solitude, self-sufficiency and determination to face oneself alone could not have been more eloquently made. Teddy goes to Lake Baika, Russia during the dead of winter, Russia to hole up in a log cabin. He faces a grizzly while enjoying a cold dip naked in the hole he dug in the ice of the lake. A man who murdered someone eventually saves Teddy, and after 12 years of living alone in the harshest of elements, he finds companionship with Teddy. His name is Alexsei, and it’s a name that Teddy will never forget. 



Living in nature is many people’s dream, including my total wish for that. The acting was exquisite, the restraint remarkable and the cinematography stunning yet not a shot was made for gratuitous effect. This film certainly put Lake Baikal on the tourist map


                                                       
                                                    _______________________



THINGS TO COME (Directed by Mia Hansen-Love) *



I am sorry but this film is such a disappointment. Isabelle Huppert as Nathalie walked her way throughout the film. Not an ounce of emotion, except a few splices of her crying. Despite losing her mother, her husband to another – even gives away her mom’s cat  away though she misses it dearly, Nathalie’s professorship in philosophy  does nothing to put a dent into her stone cold personality. I recall how exuberant an actor Ms Huppert is, but she failed miserably to unravel as the character should on screen despite the losses in her life. Things never did come as they should have in this film. What a yawn!

                                                          _________________      


                       


ELLE (Directed by Paul Verhoeven) ***


A sexual psychological thriller that stars Isabelle Huppert. She owns a video game company that makes monster sexual aberrant video games. It’s right up her alley considering she is an obvious sociopath herself. 



Rape, a murderous father, weird sexual thrills and a cat and mouse despicable game that leads to lethal consequences – all these dangerous events do not seem to faze her. Despite the twists and suspense, the plot becomes so far-fetched that Hitchcock himself would have had a good laugh as did.

                                                                                                                                                              
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SNOW IN VENICE (directed by Elliott Covrigaru) ***



 Based on the play by Gilles Dyrek that wowed France for some ten years, the director took this comedy of errors to the screen. It’s funny and most unbelievable, but who cares? Christophe and Patricia are not doing well with the audience turn-out of his play. He needs a backer for yet another play. He turns to an old school chum he hasn’t seen in years, but he and his wife who incessantly kiss and call one another Chouchou one too many times end up being fooled by Patricia.  Here’s the crux of the comedy: Patricia is furious her man Cristophe will not use her in his next play, so she fakes begin from a fictitious country that the gullible couple swallow. Over lots of wine and food the farce emerges beyond credibility, and when Patricia refuses to stop pretending she knows no French, the laughter exceeds anyone’s expectations of a French comedy. It goes on too long, but the film is worthy of seeing to lighten your mood.  Juliette Arnaud was great in fooling the couple and angering Cristophe.


 

















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