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Monday, February 25, 2013

A LADY IN PARIS

By D.E.Levine

A Rendez-Vous With French Cinema 2013 Selection

After the death of her bedridden mother, a mousy Estonian caretaker, Anne (Laine Magi), accepts an assignment from a nursing home to go to Paris and provide live in companionship and care for an elderly Estonian, Frida (Jeanne Moreau).

Picked up at the airport by cafe owner Stephane (Patrick Pineau) and dropped off at an elegant apartment with few instructions except to keep Frida away from the medical cabinet, Anne soon learns that not everything and everyone is as they appear.

Anne evolves in both her interaction with people and her style of dress the longer she stays and explores Paris.  Delving into both the reason that Frida has become a pariah to her Estonian compatriots and the true nature of her relationship with Stephane,

There are no surprises in this pleasant and interesting story directed and co-written by Ilmar Raag.  The real reason to sit through the 1 1/2 hour film is to see Moreau, who has impeccable timing and delivery and steals every scene in which she appears.





Saturday, February 23, 2013

JAPPELOUP

By D.E.Levine

A Rendez-Vous With French Cinema 2013 Selection

It's human nature that people like to root for the underdog in which case this film is the perfect vehicle to fulfill that need.

This is the real life sports story of Jappeloup, a horse that not only was an underdog without proper blood lines, but was also smaller than other competition jumpers..

Written and starred in by Guillaume Canet, the film follows equestrian Pierre Durand and his favorite horse, Jappeloup from their start on a small family farm in Saint-Savin through lots of disappointments and obstacles to an Olympic gold medal in the 1988 Summer Olympics.

It's really a feel good film.  As he grows up Pierre decides to abandon equestrian competition to study and practice law.  After several years when he meets and marries an accomplished horsewoman, Nadia (Marina Hands), fathers a child and finds it impossible to stay away from his favorite sport, Pierre is faced with difficult decisions, lack of funds and the inability to get along with the French national team's coach.

Directed by Christian Duguay, the film has exciting training and tournament scenes done in wide-screen and accurately re-enacted from the real events (many of which can be seen on You Tube or archival news film).  This real story is filled with excitement as Pierre Durand goes through ups and downs, including an embarrassing fall at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and the difficult road to a comeback before he could earn his gold medal.

The film is definitely enhanced by Canet, who looks amazingly like the real Pierre Durand he portrays, and as an accomplished horseman does many of his own jumping stunts. This is a film about a story that has a happy ending for Durand, Jappeloup and the French people.


Friday, February 22, 2013

GRANNY'S FUNERAL

By D.E.Levine

A Rendez-Vous With French Cinema 2013 Selection

Denis Podalydes stars in this comedy he co-wrote with his brother Bruno, who also directed the film.  Denis, as Armand, is a pharmacist in business with his wife,(Isabelle Candelier) of many years.  Together they run a pharmacy in a Parisian suburb.  He also has a mistress , Alix (Valerie Lemercier) and has to juggle the two women on a daily basis since he can't seem to give either one up..

While he wasn't very close to his paternal grandmother during her final years, Armand decides to make funeral arrangements and the first decision is whether to bury her or cremate her.  To help make the decision he consults two funeral homes. - one that is technically savvy and has ties to his mother-in-law, and the other that is very easy going and is actually a mortuary for pets (where director Podalydes plays Gronda the owner).  Promising his mistress a romantic day in the country, they head off to the nursing home where she died, arranging to meet the funeral director he selected there and see that the body is picked up.

The first half of the film goes smoothly and swiftly with lots of funny situations and good comedic acting.  Then the film slows as the two brothers-actors-writers try to make some deeper relevant statements.  In doing so they lose some of their humor but overall, the film is amusing, inventive and doesn't require deep thinking.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

RENOIR

By D.E.Levine

A Rendez-Vous With French Cinema 2013 selection.  New York Premiere

Directed by Gilles Bourdos and set in the beautiful south of France in 1915, we see the lushness of the countryside, vital and alive, contrasted with the elderly and infirm French Impressionistic painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Now a widower and confined to a wheelchair, Renoir is lovingly looked after by an assortment of devoted women who bath him, cook for him and in general keep his life running smoothly despite the fact that his hands are so crippled it's difficult to detach his paint brushes from his hands each evening.  They even carry him in his wheel chair to different sites where he can paint outdoors.  And, relentlessly, he does get up and paint every day.

His youngest son, a boy of about 12 lives with him and develops an easel that's easier for his father to use..  We hear about his oldest son Pierre, who has a crippled arm and hand due to injuries sustained fighting in World War I..  We also hear about his middle son Jeannot (Jean) who's away at war, fighting on the front lines.,

The film initially centers around the painter Renoir and his latest model, Catherine Hessling, and daily life both inside and outside the painter's studio.  The youngest son has a crush on the beautiful model who confides that she wants to give up modeling and become an actress in America,

About half-way through the film, Jean, returns home.with a serious leg wound and falls in love with Catherine while his leg is mending.  He's a hard drinking, socializing fellow, but there's a serious side to him too and he seems very patriotic..  His father, who doesn't show much warmth to his sons, is genuinely glad to have Jean back alive and on the mend.  He's deeply shocked when Jean, having professed his love for Catherine, decides to join the French Air Force and return to active duty.  However, before he leaves Jean assures Catherine that he will return alive and make a star out of her in the movies.

While the film ends at this point, additional text on the screen tells us that Jean did indeed return and started making movies starring Catherine Hessling, after he married her.  They split in 1930 and she died in 1979, a forgotten individual and pretty much a pauper.  Jean Renoir, on the other hand, became one of cinema's most  prominent writes, actors, and directors whose work lives on well after his death.

He died in Hollywood in 1979 after having left France when the Nazis invaded, and become an American citizen.