I am kind of in a bind with the people running the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema festival that starts Thursday at Lincoln Center. I promised them that I would do a grand curtain raiser extolling the festival and how good the films are (they really really are good) however while I have seen a good number of the films I still have a enough where I feel comfortable writing about the length and breadth of the whole thing.
The problem has been that while the films came in a timely manner to be reviewed, they came in much too close to where I normally schedule a curtain raiser. Normally I like to do the raiser days before the fest but I have so many that to see them all I would be posting the curtain raiser on the first night of the fest – which maybe fine for some but honestly won't give you time to go buy tickets before all the good ones sell out (and they will sell out because the filmmakers are appearing at the screenings). To that end I am going to give some recommendations of what I’ve seen and that you should make an effort to see.
THE TRUTH- Opening Night film is the latest from Hirokazu Kore-eda. I know that after his masterful THE SHOPLIFTERS many people were disappointed in this rambling slice of life. However I suspect that anyone disappointed hasn’t seen the masters earlier films. I also think they weren’t paying attention since this film is a killer that demands multiple viewings. The plot about a family getting together and getting pissed about the matriarch’s newly published memoirs is a fantastic examination of family and memory. It contains a killer performance from Catherine Deneuve and some of the most wonderful sequences in any films in years. (And yes I know it opens in theaters March 20- but you want to go to the festival where Juliette Binoche and Ethan Hawke will be appearing)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY- Another Catherine Deneuve film has her her family gathering together for her 70th birthday. All is well until her prodigal daughter arrives and her unsteadiness causes ripples through the family unit. It is a film of wonderful moments and great people.
WHO YOU THINK I AM - Juliette Binoche gives an Oscar worthy performance in a the story of an older woman who begins an online affair with a younger man. While the plot drifts into potboiler territory, Binoche is rock solid and proves why she is one of the greatest actresses working today.
BURNING GHOST – ethereal romance about a young man who helps the recently dead cross over. If you can click with this film and it’s dreamy style you are going to find this to be one of the most wonderful romances in years. How good is it? I have a ticket so I can see it again on big screen with an audience. Oneof my favorites of 2020.
THE SPECIALS is the multiple Cesar Nominated comedy drama about the people trying to take care of some autistic and special needs adults and kids. Containing one of Vincent Cassel's best performances, ever it is a kick in the heart and an absolute marvel (bring tissues). Why people haven't been talking this up over the last year is beyond me because it is that good. Actually it is better than that good and is in the top tier of films I've seen in 2020.
I should also point out that the fest is the place to see several other nominees and winners for the Cesar Awards which were handed out Friday. ALICE AND THE MAYOR which has Anaïs Demoustier's Best Actress Award winning performance is one of the films playing. Personally while I liked the film, I think Karin Virard's chilling turn in PERFECT NANNY is better but I'm guessing the pitch black ending caused her to not get the nod. (Do me a favor, see both and let me know what you think). Other films with nominations or wins playing include PROXIMA (Eva Green was nominated for Best Actress), the multi-award winning PAPAICHA and the winner for Costume Design JOAN OF ARC.
Go here for information on tickets, the other films and all the really cool special events. Reviews start Tuesday and run through the festival