Friday, April 8, 2011

Michel Legrand in Boston

The legendary French jazz composer and pianist performed at the Regatta Bar in Boston on April 6th. He played in this intimate setting with New York based bassist, Francois Moutin and drummer, Louis Nash. At age 79 he was an amazing virtuoso, improvising his own tunes like "I Will Wait for You," from the film, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, in styles from tango to polka. He also sang "The Windmills of Your Mind" in French and played the famous "Summer Song" from the film, The Summer of '42.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gainsbourg (Une vie heroique)

This creative film by cartoonist Joann Sfar was an engaging look at the French cultural icon and singer, Serge Gainsbourg. Sfar starts with Gainsbourg's childhood in Nazi occupied Paris where as a Jew, he had to wear a gold star. However despite this being a tense time in French history, a sense of whimsy is introduced with the imaginings of a fantastical creature who accompanies the young Gainsbourg while he was hiding from the Germans. This comes from Sfar's cartoonist imagination, which is in turn carried on to the singer's adulthood, where Gainsbourg's alter-ego, a very tall creature with an exaggerated nose and fingers, critiques and advises him about his life. The film is not a biography of Gainsbourg per say, but more of a interpretation of his myth. But a biographical chronology is followed including the episodes of his relationships with Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin. The self-destructive nature of his smoking and drinking is not ignored, but forms a part of the persona that was this man, rather than having you feel any kind of pity for him. The actor who played Gainsbourg, Eric Elmosnino, portrayed such a strong likeness of the singer and won a French Cesar award for his performance. Laeticia Casta was also excellent as Brigitte Bardot. A number of Gainsbourg's songs were also performed in the film, which added to the authenticity of the film and the character.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cesars du Cinema: Results

The big winner at the Cesars du Cinema in Paris on February 25, 2011 was The Ghost Writer with Roman Polanski winning as Best Director for this film. This film also won for Best Adaptation, Best Music, and Best Film Editing. The film, Gainsbourg (Vie Heroique), about the French pop singer won the Best Actor award as well as for the Best First Film for its director, Joann Sfar. This film will be showing at Brandeis University on March 12, 2011. Des hommes et des dieux, about Trappist monks living in an impoverished community in Algeria who are threatened by terrorists won Best Film. This film will be opening in Boston in late March 2011.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tamara Drewe

Tamara Drewe is the excellent new film by veteran director, Stephen Frears (The Queen and Cheri). Frears makes films that defy pigeonholing him into a single style. Tamare Drewe is an adaptation of Guardian cartoonist, Posy Simmonds graphic novel of the same name. It follows the story of the protagonist, Tamara Drewe who has come back to her native English village in rural Dorset after becoming a successful journalist in London, and having a nose job to rid of her of the large nose she had a child. She is now a sophisticated and beautiful young woman and has suitors vying for her attention. The original graphic novel was loosely based on Far from the Maddening Crowd by Thomas Hardy. What transpires upon Tamara's return is a comedy of manners and satire of the English middle classes in the 21st century. The amusing story is hastened along by two bored, mischievous adolescent village girls who spy on Tamara, make commentary, and upon whose interventions puts into a action a set of comic yet also tragic events. This is a really clever film, and the actors are perfect for all of the roles, and in fact resemble the characters in the original graphic novel.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nowhere Boy

The film, Nowhere Boy, by Sam Taylor-Wood is a biopic about the early life of John Lennon. (English artist, Taylor-Wood already made a name for herself in the art world with her photographs and conceptual art pieces.) It tells the story of his being raised by his Aunt Mimi after his mother disappeared from his life at age 5. The story begins as he re-connects with his mother at about age 16, and in turn discovers a love of and talent for music. It is a coming of age story that convincingly shows Lennon's pain at dealing with his reconciliation with his mother. It also focuses on Lennon's forming his first band, The Quarrymen and meeting and playing with Paul McCartney and George Harrison. I thought I would like this film, but I really was riveted by the wonderful, convincing performances of the principal actors: Aaron Johnson as Lennon, Kristin Scott Thomas as Mimi, and Anne-Marie Duff as his free-spirited mother, Julia. The emotional interactions between them was especially moving. But, it was also exciting to watch the scenes of these young men playing music at the beginning of what would be an illustrious musical career. Yoko Ono and Paul McCartney actually were consulted while making this film, and this contributes to the authentic feeling of it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cesar Award nominations are out

The Cesar Awards for those of you who do not know, are the equivalent of the Academy Awards in France and for French cinema. This year there are a few films that have made it to the States that have been nominated for one award or another. One is L'Arnacoeur, or Heartbreaker, a comedy where Romain Duris was nominated for Best Actor. Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories also have nominations for this as well. This was an amusing film and well done for its genre, but I am surprised that it was nominated. One excellent film that was nominated in a number of categories including Best Adaptation, Best Direction, and Best Film was The Ghost Writer adapted and directed by Roman Polanski. I am surprised an English-language film was nominated in this category, but Polanski is a French citizen, and the film was made in Europe despite its being set in New England. (Polanski can't travel to the United States because his charges of sex with a minor in 1977 in the US still stand).
Tete de Turc
mentioned in my last post, was nominated for in the Best First Film category. In the Best Actress category, Catherine Deneuve was nominated for Francois Ozon's much acclaimed Potiche which I am sure will eventually be distributed in the United States. Kristin Scott Thomas who works more and more in French film, was also nominated for Best Actress. She lost in 2009 for her role in I've Loved You So Long, for which I thought she should have won. Catherine Deneuve has won the Cesar twice for Truffaut's masterpiece, Le Dernier Metro and for Indochine, another excellent film. Isabelle Carre another nominee, also won in 2003 for Se souvenir des Belles Choses (another great film), so I hope Thomas has a chance this year. Lastly, in my last post, I spoke of the film, Bus Palladium. Well, one of the young actors in it has been nominated for "Best Male Hope" (Meilleur Espoir Masculin), so I guess my picks from the French online film festival were good ones since they were nominated for Cesar Awards.

Monday, January 24, 2011

My French Film Festival

This past week, I have been spending more time at my computer at home. No, not to do work thank goodness, but to watch French films streaming to my computer at My French Film Festival:
It is organized by uniFrance (the organization that bring French film to foreign countries:, and there are 10 feature films in competition fore best film prizes in a number of categories which include an prize awarded by an official jury of from the international, a prize voted for by film goers, and a jury of foreign bloggers. The films are very diverse in their subjects from comedies like Maiwenn's Le Bal des Actrices to dramas such as Pascal Elbe's Tete de Turc and Christopher Thompson's Bus Palladium. Many films are from first-time directors such as Maiwenn, Elbe, and Thompson who are all French actors. So far, my vote for the best film is Elbe's Tete de Turc. This gripping drama sensitively depicts some of the issues facing multicultural and multiracial France, but also is very humanistic in its depictions of family relationships. It is very reasonable to watch a film which is $2.63, but you can buy a package of all 10 films for $13.65. There is also a package to watch the shorts film selection as well. Subtitles in the language you choose are included. Except with some technical issues with streaming to my Internet service provider's server, this has been a good experience, and I have had access to some some really good French films I might not have been able to see otherwise.