At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
Friday, August 29: Serko (2006) by Joël Farges – 80 mins – France, Drama. English subtitles.
With Jacques Gamblin, Alexei Chadov, Marina Kim.
A captivating, exquisitely lensed widescreen tale inspired by a true incident, Serko follows a young Cossack as he rides his pony-sized horse 4,000 miles from southern Siberia to St. Petersburg, ca. 1889, to give the czar a polite piece of his mind. Veteran director Joel Farges imbues this tale with effortless visual sweep and salutary emotion. A genuine charmer for kids on up.
The year is 1889, and the local bad guys, malevolent followers of a corrupt governor, offer a handful of guns and a few sacks of flour to the indigenous Evenk tribe of Siberia for their herd of special horses. They believe the horses will come in handy as grub for the workers on the Trans-Siberian railway. When our hero, a teenage Cossack, Dimitri, sees a murderous henchman gun down his Evenk friend in cold blood, he soon makes it his mission to ensure that no further harm comes to the peaceful tribe. Despite the fact that the teenager has never ventured beyond the borders of the small village in which he was born, Dimitri’s drive to earn the respect of his distant father prompts the brave youngster to rechristen his fallen friend's horse “Serko” and bring the matter to the czar's attention, who has made a promise to protect the indigenous population of Siberia. Over the course of the next 193 days, Dimitri finds his noble quest growing increasingly arduous as the fearful governor sets out to insure that his message never reaches the powerful monarch.
Dimitri has adventures along the way, living off the land – be it tundra, ice or snow – and, in his headlong innocence, making exceptional time. (Although the real historical journey was prompted by religious faith rather than social ecology, his feat – riding from Blagovechtchensk to St. Petersburg in 193 days using a single mount – has never been equaled.)
Friday, September 5: Un homme et une femme / A Man and a Woman (1966) by Claude Lelouch – 125 mins – France, Drama/ Romance. In French with English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 64 out of 100.
With Jean-Louis Trintignant, Anouk Aimée, Pierre Barouh, Valérie Lagrange, Simone Paris, Paul Le Person, Henri Chemin.
“Jean-Louis Duroc and Anne Gauthier meet incidentally at the boarding school where they visit their children each weekend. He visits his son, she her daughter. She misses her train and he offers her a ride back to Paris in his car. Slowly and cautiously we learn about them as they learn about one another. We learn about their jobs, their former spouses, and other details of their lives that have the movie viewer hoping this man and woman can become a couple.”
– Alliance description
Review by Christopher Null, Filmcritic.com
French writer/director Claude Lelouch remains a prolific artist (he even made a 9/11 movie), but it's one of his first films, made almost 40 years ago, for which he remains best known.
A Man and a Woman was France's definitive love story for a decade, the Love Story of its generation and a thoroughly French example of its take on romance. Laconic, wandering, and bordering on hopeless, it's easy to see why the film has more fans among the heartbroken than the lovey-dovey.
Anouk Aimée and Jean-Louis Trintignant play the titular characters, both young widows with complicated lives: He's a race car driver, she's got kids. Okay, they're complicated for French lives, anyway.
What follows their chance meeting is a series of abortive dates, daydreams, and endless car races. Lelouch jumps between color and black & white willy-nilly. He flashes back, even to a musical number. In the end, he won a Best Foreign Film Oscar.