At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm
At Alliance Française on Friday, April 10: L'Ami de mon amie / My Girlfriend's Boyfriend / Boyfriends and Girlfriends (1987) by Eric Rohmer – 102 mins – France, Comedy. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 78 out of 100.
With Emmanuelle Chaulet, Sophie Renoir, Anne-Laure Meury, Eric Viellard.
Blanche has recently moved to Cergy-Pontoise, to work at the town hall. During a lunch break she meets the vivacious and immediately likeable Léa. Although not fond of sports, Léa agrees to go swimming with Blanche, at the local pool. There they meet Alexandre, one of Lea's acquaintances, along with Adrienne, his current girlfriend. Blanche finds herself under the spell of the young engineer. The holidays arrive. Léa leaves while Blanche stays on. By chance, Blanche bumps into Alexandre in the street. She clumsily tries to make a pass at him. Soon she's also bumping into Fabien, Léa's boyfriend...
– Alliance description
Roger Ebert: The movie is essentially about bad timing. Two young women are friends, not deep lifelong soul sisters, to be sure, but friends. They see a handsome young man. One likes him, the other gets him, and then, in a sense, they trade, with an additional boyfriend and a few other friends thrown into the mixture. All of the permutations are unimportant, because we are not dealing with the heart here, but with fashion.
There is a sense in which none of these characters can feel deeply, although they can admittedly experience transient periods of weeping and moaning over their cruel fates. That's because their relationships are based essentially on outward appearances; they choose lovers as fashion accessories. In conversation, they find they have "a lot in common," but that's easy to explain: They all hold exactly the same few limited opinions.
When one girl thinks she has a boy and another girl gets him, there is a sense of betrayal, all right, but it's not the kind of passionate betrayal that leads to murder or suicide. It's the kind of betrayal that leads to dramatic statements like "I'm not ever going to speak to you again!" Rohmer knows exactly what he is doing here. He has no great purpose, but an interesting small one: He wants to observe the everyday behavior of a new class of French person, the young professionals whose values are mostly materialistic, whose ideas have been shaped by popular culture, who do not read much, or think much about politics, or have much depth. By the end of this film you may know his characters better than they will ever know themselves.
Reelviews, James Berardinelli: Throughout his long, respectable career, French auteur Eric Rohmer has been known for three qualities: a gentle touch, a simple style, and the ability to craft some of the most delectable dialogue ever to grace the screen. The magic of Rohmer's films is that nothing is allowed to get in the way of people talking to one another. In fact, many of his best efforts are little more than several lengthy conversations strung together. Through such seemingly banal interaction, Rohmer surprises us by revealing more about his characters and their motivations than many filmmakers get across through lengthy scenes of exposition.
Throughout his career, Rohmer has worked with themed sets of movies. During the '60s and '70s, he made a series of movies that, when grouped together, formed "The Moral Tales." In the '80s, he moved on to "Comedies and Proverbs". And, during the '90s, he worked on "The Tales of Four Seasons." Boyfriends and Girlfriends, released in 1987, was the final installment of Rohmer's "Comedies and Proverbs". As its jumping-off point, it used the following adage: "The friends of my friends are my friends." Through his consummate skill as an observer of human interaction, Rohmer finds a way to apply this common phrase to the minutiae of everyday living - meeting new people and embracing some attractions while fighting others.
The characters in Boyfriends and Girlfriends are all self-centered and shallow. They rarely speak or think about anything deeper than their feelings, and never seek anything more substantial than transitory satisfaction. They are four young yuppies - twenty-somethings who have embraced the age of materialism and self-gratification that characterized the '80s. They live in a new, sleek Parisian suburb that has none of the old world charm of the ancient city. It's modern and sterile, and the closest it gets to Paris is a distant view of the Eiffel Tower peeking up over the horizon.
In the hands of another director, Boyfriends and Girlfriends might have turned into a biting satire, but Rohmer [shown at right]is a sympathetic filmmaker. He never condemns his characters - he merely presents them as they are and lets the viewer decide whether or not they are deserving of affection. In this case, he shows that, despite their superficialities, they are flesh-and-blood individuals, not comic contrivances or caricatures. The little touches that make them come alive also make them compelling individuals. Ultimately, this film isn't really about much, but we are drawn into it because of the way in which the artist sketches his subject. Many important aspects of their portraits are left out, but the intriguing details incorporated are what make them fascinating.
At Alliance Française on Friday, April 17: 7 ans / 7 Years (2006) by Jean-Pascal Hattu – 82 mins – France, Drama. English subtitles. Mixed or average reviews.
With Valérie Donzelli, Pablo De la Torre, Cyril Troley, Bruno Todeschini, Nadia Kaci.
Maïté faithfully visits her sexy, intense husband Vincent, when she's spotted by a pale, pointy-faced man who says he's there to visit his brother Jean. Having been advised by her nurse friend Djamila to take a lover, she consents to mechanical sex with Jean in a car. The relationship continues and intensifies. It's not till some time later that Maïté learns Jean is a guard at the prison...
– Alliance description
Variety: The devoted wife of a prisoner takes a lover in poised, well-crafted drama 7 Years. Although film features a few R-rated scenes of a sexual nature, astringent treatment by helmer Jean-Pascal Hattu, maker of several well-received shorts, drains most of the eroticism away to create a cool-toned study of a fraught emotional ménage a trois.
Like clockwork, Maite (elegantly-limbed beauty Valerie Donzelli) regularly visits the nearby prison to see her husband Vincent (brooding Bruno Todeschini) now a year into his seven-year sentence for a crime never specified here. The two are clearly crazy about each other, and exchange stolen kisses and sexy sentiments during their visits, but otherwise the closest Maite can get to Vincent is drinking in his smell off the dirty laundry she collects and washes for him each week.
When Jean (Cyril Troley), a ferrety young man who says he's visiting his brother, approaches Maite outside the prison, she gives him the brush off at first, but later accepts a lift from him. Encouraged to take a lover by her nurse friend Djamila (Nadia Kaci), Maite starts having loveless sex with Jean in his parked Renault on quiet country lanes.
Screenplay by director Hattu, Gilles Taurand and Guillaume Daporta neatly drops in its first twist at the half-hour mark, revealing that Jean is actually a guard at the prison whose protection of Vincent is making life easier for the inmate. Film settles into a bit of lull for a spell until yet another twist makes the whole set-up more interesting and considerably darker. . . .
Film Lounge, Neil Young: A decidedly unusual (yes, perhaps even bizarre)love-triangle develops between a prison-inmate serving some way into a seven-year sentence (Bruno Todeschini as Vincent), his guard (Cyril Troley as Jean) and his wife (Valérie Donzelli as Maïté) in this reasonably well-observed, strongly-acted, character-based drama . . . 7 Ans is undeniably well done, in a low-key, uninflected style (significant looks prove more eloquent than dialogue).
At Alliance Française on Friday, April 24: Les Amants réguliers / Regular Lovers (2005) by Philippe Garrel – 178 mins (a long bugger!) – France, Drama .B&W. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 76/67 out of 100.
With Louis Garrel, Clothilde Hesme, Julien Lucas.
In 1969 a group of young people get hooked on opium after living through the events of 1968 together. A crazy love affair begins between two twenty-year-olds in the group who spotted each other during those heady, hazy days of the student uprising...
– Alliance description
The New York Times, Manohla Dargis: This tender portrait of late-1960s French youth stars Louis Garrel as François, a 20-year-old Parisian struggling through the fires of revolutionary promise and its smoldering remains. Written and directed by his father, the celebrated auteur Philippe Garrel, the film begins with a handful of gangling young men sharing a pipe filled with hashish and talking of poetry. It is early 1968 in Paris, moments before the revolution or, rather, moments before that nearly forgotten flashpoint when cities across the world lighted up with radical promise and burning cars.
Soon after the film opens, François and his friends exit their narcotic haze and almost instantly take to the newly formed barricades, replacing one dream with another. Idealistic and naïve — one would-be Communard solemnly wonders if this can be “‘a revolution for the working class despite the working class” — these would-be insurgents fight with ideas and gestures that seem confused and at times haphazard, but their optimism has delivered them into a state of grace.
The older Mr. Garrel was himself all of 20 when Paris erupted that shocking May, and this achingly poignant film is a testament to that time as well as somewhat of a memento mori.