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11 Films Screening at Rendez-vous With French Cinema

Picture of Graham Fuller
Film Editor
Updated: 3 March 2017
The traveling festival of new French films, co-presented by UniFrance, has arrived at Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York City. Here’s a quick guide to 11 of the best—including intriguing vehicles for Juliette Binoche, Marion Cotillard, Soko, and Natalie Portman. The festival subsequently moves on to Miami.

Django

Directed by Étienne Comar, tonight’s festival opener depicts the heroic struggle of the great Romani jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt (Reda Kateb) to resist Nazi bullying in occupied Paris. The film also stars Cécile De France.

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‘Django’ | © Pathé

Frantz

Based on Ernst Lubitsch’s Broken Lullaby (1932), François Ozon’s film filters its anti-war statement through the quietest of romances. Set during the aftermath of World War I, it depicts the tentative relationship between a German woman (Paula Beer) grieving for her dead combatant brother and the young French veteran (Pierre Niney) who claims he had befriended the brother in pre-war Paris. Predominantly shot in black and white (but occasionally bursting into color), Frantz was visually influenced by the landscapes of the German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich.

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‘Frantz’ | © Music Box Films

Nocturama

A group of hip young multiethnic radicals plan and execute a series of terror attacks in Paris—then hide out in a luxury department store. Influenced by Gus Van Sant’s Elephant (2003) and presumably Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987), Bertrand Bonello’s incendiary film was written long before the wave of terrorism that began with the Charlie Hebdo massacre in 2015. It’s up to the viewer to decide if the movie is irresponsible or a bitter satire.

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‘Nocturama’ | © BIM Distribuzione

150 Milligrams/ La Fille de Brest

A hospital pulmonologist in Brest (Sidse Babette Knudsen) takes on France’s equivalent of Big Pharma after she discovers a diabetes drug is causing a fatal valve disorder. Directed by Emmanuelle Bercot.

The Stopover/ Voir du Pays

Returning from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, the only two women in a French army unit deal with PTSD and ingrained military sexism while being debriefed in Cyprus. Sisters Delphine and Muriel Coulin directed; Soko and Ariane Labed are the leads.

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‘The Stopover’ | © First Run Features

Planetarium

Shown as an extended flashback, this ambitious, sensual, and unwieldy drama stars Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp as sibling mediums working the European spiritualism circuit on the eve of World War II. Though their act is transparently fake, it fools France’s leading film tycoon (Emmanuel Salinger), whose adoption of the pair precipitates a tragedy. Directed by Rebecca Zlotowski, Planetarium pays homage to Jean Renoir’s 1939 masterpiece The Rules of the Game.

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‘Planetarium’ | © Ad Vitam Distribution

Slack Bay

Having tentatively unleashed his inner comedy director on 2014’s Li’l Quinquin, erstwhile ascetic scold Bruno Dumont goes for broke with this seaside farce-cum-detective story set in 1910. The calculated over-acting is by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Fabrice Luchini, and Juliette Binoche. Downton Abbey meets Maigret meets Monty Python.

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‘Slack Bay’ | © Kino Lorber

The Dancer

Stéphanie Di Giusto’s lavish Belle Époque costume drama stars Soko as the American modern dancer Loïe Fuller and Lily-Rose Depp as her rival, Isadora Duncan. Fuller’s shimmering, serpentine routines—which inspired one of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s most famous lithographs—have been exquisitely rendered.

From the Land of the Moon

Nicole Garcia’s tortured tomance is a film of secrets that no one who’s seen it should disclose to anyone who hasn’t. Based on a novella by the Sardinian author Milena Agus and set mostly in the 1950s, it stars Marion Cotillard as a sickly woman in a loveless marriage who becomes obsessed with an ailing war veteran she meets at a Swiss spa. Cotillard’s performance has been widely acclaimed.

Mum’s Wrong/ Maman a Tort

Is Mum’s Wrong, directed by Marc Fitoussi, the next Toni Erdmann (2016)? A child-parent film that takes issue with corporate ethics, it certainly sounds like it. Interning for a week at her mother’s insurance company, 14-year-old Anouk (Jeanne Jestin) is appalled at some of the compromises and acts of cowardice she witnesses. It’s a coming-of-age story with a difference. Émilie Dequenne plays the mother, Cyrielle.

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‘Mum’s Wrong’ | © Unifrance

Struggle for Life/ La Loi de la Jungle

Antonin Peretjatko’s anti-colonial eco-farce sounds like a zany riff on Fitzcarraldo (1982). It’s about an intern with the Ministry of Standards who’s sent to oversee the construction of an Amazonian ski slope in French Guiana. Starring Vincent Macaigne, Vimala Pons, and Mathieu Amalric.

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‘Struggle for Life’ | © Haut et Court

Ticket information at the Film Society of Lincoln Center can be found here.