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Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2007
(Feb. 28th - March 11th, 2007)

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Ambitious- Directed by Catherine Corsini. Julien (Eric Caravaca), an aspiring writer, has a romance with Judith (Karin Viard), his publisher, and secretly digs information about her deceased father for his new novel. This French film has a rather formulaic “Hollywood” script, yet still manages to be engaging thanks to strong performances by its two leads, Karin Viard and Eric Caravaca. They have plenty of chemistry on-screen and their characters are complex and developed enough so that you care about them. The later part of the second act does get a bit contrived and over-the-top, but co-writer/director Catherine Corsini manages to keep everything moving along at a brisk pace so that there’s never a dull moment. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Screens March 3rd, 9:30 PM, March 4th, 4:15 PM and March 6th, 1:00 PM. No distributor, yet.

Blame it on Fidel

- Directed by Julie Gavras. During 1970, 9-year-old Anna (Nina Kervel-Bey) struggles to accept and understand that her mom (Julie Depardieu) and Spanish-born dad (Stefano Accorsi) are communists when they move to a smaller apartment and invite strange guests over. Her younger brother, François (Benjamin Feuillet) doesn’t mind the new changes in their lifestyle. The surprising performances from the two kid actors, Nina Kervel-Bey and Benjamin Feuillet, make this film thoroughly engaging. It’s quite refreshing to watch a film centering on a 9-year-old protagonist who tries to grasp very grown-up issues such as communism and abortion. She’s at that point in her childhood when she questions things a lot, which frustrates her private Catholic school teacher Writer/director Julie Gavras does a great job of combining humor and drama with attention to period detail and, especially and fortunately, enough character development to keep you fully absorbed. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: High. Screens March 7th, 7:00 & 4:00 PM and March 10th, 9:00 PM. Released by Koch Lorber Films. Opens August 3rd, 2007 at the Cinema Village.

Dans Paris

- Directed by Christophe Honoré. Two brothers, Paul (Roman Duris) and Jonathan (Louis Garrel) search for love in Paris. Not enough happens in the thin, tedious plot. Paul and Jonathan are quite different in terms of their personalities, but none of them stand out in any interesting way. Why should we care about their relationship problems to begin with? Much of the film feels pretentious, excessively talky and somewhat dull. On a positive note, writer/director Christophe Honoré films with impressive cinematography and Roman Duris and Louis Garrel give convincing performances, but that’s not enough to keep you truly entertained. Entertainment Value: Low, Spiritual Value: Low. Screens March 1st, 3:45 PM & 9:00 PM and March 6th, 6:15 PM. Released by IFC First Take. Opens August 8th, 2007.

Don’t Worry, I’m Fine- Directed by Philippe Lioret. 19-year-old Lili (Melanie Laurent) searches for her missing twin brother, Loïc, who ran away from home after a fight with his father, Paul (Kad Merad). Loïc seems to mean a lot to Lili since she spends the entire film trying to find any clues that would indicate where he may be. Her mother (Isabelle Renaud) refuses to help her, but her father does let her look at some letters Loïc wrote. Not surprisingly, Lili loses her mind early on and gets admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Meanwhile, she begins a relationship with a young man named Thomas (Julien Boisselier). It would have been more helpful if director Philippe Lioret would have included a first act that actually showed Loïc and Lili interacting, instead of just letting the audience take it for granted. Lioret does include a few interesting twists, but the plot often meanders with not enough imagination. On a positive note, the sizzling Melanie Laurent gives a decent performance in her acting debut. Entertainment Value: Moderate, Spiritual Value: Moderate.S creens March 8th, 4:15 & 9:00 PM and March 11th, 6:30 PM. No distributor, yet.


- Directed by Bruno Dumont. Demester (Samuel Bodin), a farmer, serves time in the military while his on-and-off girlfriend, Barbe (Adélaïde Leroux), has an ephemeral affair with another man, Blondel (Henri Cretel). Although it has beautiful scenery, the plot feels rather unfocused and often drags. Demester doesn’t want to commit a serious relationship with Barbe even though she wants one—sex is not enough for her. When he goes off into the military, Flanders goes back and forth between battle scenes and dramatic/romantic scenes with Blondel back at the farm. Not enough happens to hold your attention, though. The graphic violence in the war scenes add realism, but the plot would have been much more interesting if it includes more scenes with Demester trying to adjust to his life back at the farm after the war. Director Bruno Dumont moves the film at an excruciatingly slow pace at times with minimal camera movement and, sadly, no musical score. Entertainment Value: Moderate, Spiritual Value: Low. Screens March 4th, 6:30 PM and March 5th, 3:45 & 9:00 PM. Released by International Film Circuit. Opens May 18th, 2007 at the Cinema Village.

I Do!- Directed by Eric Lartigau. Luis (Alain Chabat), a middle-aged single man, pays Emmanuelle (Charlotte Gainsbourg) to pretend to be his fiancée and ditch him at wedding to stop his overbearing mother (Bernadette Lafont) and seven sisters from pressuring him about marriage. This charming situational comedy has plenty of delightful, imaginative scenes. It initially seems far-fetched, but it eventually works thanks to the energetic ensemble cast. Alain Chabat, sometimes referred to as the French version of George Clooney, gives a hilarious performance. It’s not quite clear why he hasn’t had success with women in the past given his decent looks and charm—perhaps he works too much at a perfume company. Director Eric Lartigau keeps the pace moving at a brisk pace with a running time of 90 minutes, ideal for a feel-good romantic comedy. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Screens March 9th, 4:00 & 9:10 PM and March 11th, 4:00 PM. No distributor, yet.

The Man of My Life- Directed by Zabou Breitman. While vacationing in the countryside with his wife and kids, Frédéric (Bernard Campan), allows his new gay neighbor, Hugo (Charles Berling) to flirt with him. Although it seems somewhat like a French Brokeback Mountain, the plot gets stuck in the meandering second act as Frédéric continues to bond with Hugo instead of his own wife. Unfortunately, there’s not enough character development to explain why Frédéric suddenly explores his sexual identity. His mid-life crisis doesn't seem believable enough. A subplot involving Hugo and his father, who kicked him out of the house when he was younger, doesn’t get explored enough until the end. Director Zabou Breitman includes exquisite cinematography with breathtaking, picturesque scenes of nature, but if only she showed the same care for her characters, this would have been a much more powerful, imaginative and perhaps even surprising film, which it never actually becomes. Entertainment Value: Moderate, Spiritual Value: Low. Screens March 3rd, 4:00 PM and March 5th, 1:30 PM and 6:15 PM. Released by Strand Releasing. Opens September 21st, 2007 at the Quad Cinema.

The Page Turner

- Directed by Denis Dercourt. Mélanie (Deborah Francois) becomes a page turner for her boss’ wife (Catherine Frot), a professional pianist who led to her failure of the Conservatory entrance exam for piano players when she was 10. Despite outstanding performances from the very sexy Deborah Francois and the radiant Catherine Frot, co-writer/director Denis Dercourt doesn’t offer enough thrills to keep you truly engaged by the slow-moving plot. Mélanie has a hidden agenda that’s not exactly hidden given the unsubtle first act. If only Dercourt wouldn’t have included this first act so that there’s some mystery, this could have been a much more mysterious and suspenseful film. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: Low. Screens March 2nd, 1:00 PM & 6:15 PM and March 4rd, 9:00 PM. Released by Tartan Films. Opens March 23rd, 2007 at the Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

The Valet

- Directed by Francis Veber. When a photograph in a newspaper reveals Pierre (Daniel Auteuil) with his mistress, Elena (Alice Taglioni), and a valet (Gad Elmaleh), Pierre tries to convince his wife (Kristen Scott Thomas) that Elena is the girlfriend of the valet. After The Dinner and The Dinner Game, writer/director Francis Veber has finally loses his comic edge here. Paying a valet to pretend to have a hot girlfriend doesn’t even sound funny enough to begin with and way the plot unfolds is unimaginative compared to the hysterically funny and surprising film The Dinner Game. The humor depends on Elmaleh’s comic timing, which often works, but too many of the jokes are a rather repetitive and forced. Veber ends the film too abruptly and leaves you feeling underwhelmed. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: None is required or desired. Screens March 10th , 6:30 PM and March 11th, 1:30 PM at the Walter Reade Theater. Released by Sony Pictures Classics. Opens April 20th, 2007.

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