This year, there are a lot of pleasant surprises from the RENDEZ-VOUS WITH FRENCH CINEMA playing at the Walter Reade Theater from March 11th - 20th. The highlight is HAPPILY EVER AFTER (Kino, opens 4/8/05) which is funny, charming, and very well-written and directed by Yvan Attal. It also has a very pleasantly surprising cameo by a famous American actor. A real crowd-pleasing film! Then there's A TOUT DE SUITE (Cinema Guild, opens 4/29/05) which is beautifully filmed in black-and-white with a very charismatic performance by its talented young star, Isild Le Besco. She carries this moving film very well and shines throughout it. Also quite affecting is CLEAN (Palm Pictures, opens 4/28/06) with Maggie Chung and Nick Nolte. It is directed with plenty of style by Olivier Assayas. Chung gives a strong performance as a drug addict who is trying hard to quit and start a better life. Not an uplifting film, but the performances and directing are very powerful.
Two movies with very famous french stars include CHANGING TIMES (Koch/Lorber Films, opens 7/14/06 at the Paris Theater) with Jerard Depardeu and Catherine Denueve as well as ME AND MY SISTER with Isabelle Huppert. Both have a boring plots with few surprises, but in each film, their performances make both films much more engaging than the screenplays allow them to. CHANGING TIMES, in particular, is confusing at times but it does have excellent cinematography. CLARA AND ME is also a film with a very simple, unengaging, and predictable plot but there is plenty of chemistry between the two lovers (Julie Gayet and Julien Boisselier) which also elevates the film. Then there is THE ROLE OF HER LIFE, which boasts a very appealing performance by its lead, Agnes Jaoui, who can also be see in Sony Picture Classics' LOOK AT ME, which was the opening film of the 2004 New York Film Festival.The writing is weak and has very little humor, but her performance is a pure joy to watch.
Unfortunately, there is one film that does not have enough good qualities to recommended it. That film is THE INTRUDER, by director Claire Denis. The plot is boring and confusing, the acting is mediocre, and the film overstays its welcome with a running time of 123 minutes. It does have good cinematography and nice scenery, but everything else is simply sleep-inducing.