Taking place between October 26, 2021 and November 2, 2021, CINEFRANCO is a celebration of French-language Cinema. This year’s Festival includes a mixture of in-person and virtual events and premieres, with COMING HOME kicking-off the Festival and Closing Film VINLAND.
Here are our thoughts on some of the titles we’ve previewed in advance.
Only the French can take the conventions of a typical American Disaster Movie and it make it uniquely their own and original. Whereas TOKYO SHAKING deals with the effects on Tokyo of an earthquake, followed by a tsunami and, ultimately, a nuclear reactor meltdown, this beautifully crafted film deals with human and emotional issues of these terrifying circumstances rather than focusing on the paths of possible massive destruction. Alexandra (a stellar performance from Karin Viard), has recently moved to Japan from Hong Kong to pursue further notches in her already outstanding career belt as an executive at a bank. She has a great rapport with her Congolese intern Amani (Stephane Bak) and her Japanese assistant Kimiko (Yumi Narita), but a somewhat contentious one with her new boss Dominique (Philippe Uchan). When the disasters hit, she not only worries about the safety of her two children that moved with her and deals with constant pressures from her husband still in Hong Kong, she tries to ensure the safety and travel arrangements for everyone working at the bank. Eschewing the standard Disaster Flick clichés, TOKYO SHAKING deals with honour, corporate avarice, strengthening personal and work relationships and ultimately peace and spirituality with enough gentle humour interspersed throughout to lighten the loads. It is a towering, remarkable achievement.
Writer/Director Amro Hamzawi has manipulated the roncom tropes with an original piece of work to highlight the exceptional talents of his sister Nora Hamzawi. In the titular role of ELEONORE, she illuminates the screen and we quickly fall in love with this somewhat depressed, failed author who is working at a publishing house that focuses on erotic literature while dealing with continual put-downs from her mother and younger sister. When the working relationship with her boss Harold (Andre Marcon) morphs into one of friendship and respect, we watch Eleonore transform from a sarcastic young woman who could never commit to anything (dead end jobs, dead end one night stands, dead end family relationships) and blossom into a fascinating person. We root for her and want her to succeed and be happy! Many people erroneously associate movies from France as being mostly stylistically sexy or serious. I am here to tell you that they also excel at comedies (despite their love of Jerry Lewis movies!) and ELEONORE will have you at least giggling and smiling throughout as you traverse the scenic sidewalks of Paris while our cinematic heroine impetuously takes us on a hilarious journey of her own.
TA PLANETE NATALE
I was initially intrigued by the synopsis of TA PLANETE NATALE as I don’t think that I have ever seen a French language movie set in a small rural town in Ontario and was looking forward to an original spin to a story that may have been inspired by Writer/Director Sebastien Higgins growing up in such an environment. Instead, I was treated to an almost oppressively melancholic story with a Cast of characters that (to quote a classic blues song) “if it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all”. Higgins has an ear for authentic dialogue as I loved the throwing of “les mots anglaise” often into the conversations and the Cinematography was gloriously stark. As Nathan and Maripier (Samuel Glaude and Celia Fournier-Cantin respectively), the star-crossed lovers who dream of better lives, the young performers display great chemistry and elevate the Film when it is just these two characters together. They overcome the weaknesses of the Script with finesse.
EFFACER L’HISTORIQUE (DELETE HISTORY)
I tend to gravitate towards absurdist Comedies and when EFFACER L’HISTORIQUE opened with a lead character scratching her derriere against a tree, I knew I’d be in for a treat! What I did not know at that particular moment was just how much this Movie would turn into a delicious, hilarious smorgasbord of hysterical proportions! Marie (Blanche Gardin), Bertrand (Denis Podalydes) and Christine (Corrine Masiero), despite everything else that is going wrong with their lives, all desperate need a hacker to erase negative things from the internet that affect them adversely. Marie needs to have a sex tape erased as she is being blackmailed and can’t afford the cost. Bertrand wants to eliminate a tape where is daughter is being bullied. Corrine wants her many one-star Uber reviews vanished forever. How they go about it, alongside their other unique peccadillos, will keep you in stitches throughout. Look for American Indie star, Denis O’Hare, in a surprising cameo role but, most importantly, look for tissues to wipe away the tears emitted from laughter. EFFACER L’HISTORIQUE is a must-see!
PROFESSION DU PERE
I have a lot of respect for Writer/Director Jean-Pierre Ameris for tackling a difficult subject of a man suffering from wartime PTSD symptoms alongside the unequivocable love a young boy has for his father with PROFESSION DU PERE. Set in Lyons in 1961, 11 year old Emile (an outstanding performance from Jules Lefebvre) idolizes his dad André (Benoit Poelvoorde) much to the bemusement of his mother Denise (Audrey Dana). André regales his young son with tales of his being a parachutist, a Judo champ, a singing legend, a soccer player and being best friends with a man who is an advisor to President John F. Kennedy. When President de Gaulle starts a war with French Algeria, Andre’s lessons and demands of his child become more fearful and dangerous as together they hatch a plan to assassinate de Gaulle and his political advisors. Through no fault of the exceptional performance by Poelvoorde and Dana, I had great difficulty watching PROFESSION DU PERE as watching children being violently disciplined or placed in dangerous situations, personally distresses me. Whereas the clearer head of the mother ignoring many of the signs are authentic to the times and her actions may have been made clearer at the Movie’s closing scenes, it was a hard watch for me.
French screen legend, Emmanuelle Beart, has her meatiest role in years in L’ETREINTE. In the role of the recently widowed Margaux Hartmann who moves to a small town near Versailles to study German masters at a local university, Beart sears and dominates every scene with a performance that is perfectly modulated, intricate and fascinating to watch as it unfolds. The 50ish year old woman gets along fabulously with her younger fellow students and has the moral support of her older sister who lives nearby. Her failed sexual tryst with one of her professors is compounded with a night where she and her student friends sneak into an indoor swimming pool where she watches from afar as these younger people all strip naked and have sex. This ignites something inside her that was dormant for years. L’ETREINTE switches gears to an almost “Looking for Mr. Goodbar” vibe and Beart attacks these situations with fervour and internalized intensity. Special attention must be paid to the performances from Vincent Dedienne as Margaux’s friend and advisor and from TiboVandenborre as the professor who, unknowingly, initiated Margaux’s transition. L’ETREINTE is sexy and stylish with an unabashed adult sensibility. It is also a most welcomed return of Emmanuelle Beart to the silver screen.
LIVE STORY CHRONIQUE D’UN COUPLE
Quebec Director Jean-Sebastien Lozeau had the unenviable task of making unlikeable characters interesting to watch in LIVE STORY CHRONIQUE D’UN COUPLE.Sebastien Ricard plays Alex, a recently divorced Director, who unabashedly loves his young son to such a strong degree that it is the detriment of wives or girlfriends. He reignites a long-ago relationship with an old flame, Monica (Marilyn Bastien) who is also divorced and has her own issues being a single mother and employment mis opportunities. Their relatively new relationship suffers greatly when Alex starts to live stream their trysts on the internet. The entire movie consists of scenes with arguments, accusations, making out in hotel rooms, shouting matches, insecurities, the occasional lovey-dovey chatters and a few out of nowhere surreal scenes. By the time LIVE STORY CHRONIQUE D’UN COUPLE ended, I felt like I lived in a world with only one television station and all it played for eternity was endless “Dr. Phil” episodes.