Barbara - Mathieu Amalric
Barbara

Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, the celebrated annual series showcasing the variety and vitality of contemporary French filmmaking, returns to the Film Society of Lincoln Center for the 23rd edition, from March 8 to 18, 2018, with 24 diverse films on display.

The Opening Night selection is the U.S. premiere of Mathieu Amalric’s transfixing, meta-cinematic Barbara, starring Jeanne Balibar as the iconic French chanteuse. The film was nominated for nine César Awards, including Best Film, Actor, and Actress. Amalric, who also co-wrote and co-stars, will appear in person along with Balibar at the festival.

Highlights from the lineup include Montparnasse Bienvenüe, Serraille’s complex portrait of a newly single woman rebuilding her life, which won the Camera d’Or (best first film) at Cannes; the North American premiere of Jean-Paul Civeyrac’s black-and-white ode to cinema and young adulthood, A Paris Education;Tomorrow and Thereafter, an enchanting mother-daughter tale from acclaimed actress-director Noémie Lvovsky; Xavier Legrand’s harrowing domestic drama Custody, winner of the Silver Lion at Venice; the U.S. premiere of The Guardians, an affecting World War I drama from Xavier Beauvois (Of Gods and Men); the North American premiere of Nobuhiro Suwa’s ghost story The Lion Sleeps Tonight, starring Jean-Pierre Léaud; a special Film Comment presentation of the North American premiere of Eugène Green’s uniquely 21st-century metaphysical odyssey Waiting for the Barbarians; and additional premieres from Rendez-Vous favorites including Bruno Dumont (Jeannette, The Childhood of Joan of Arc), Emmanuel Finkiel (A Memoir of War), and more.

Selections in the 2018 edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema garnered an impressive 49 combined nominations for this year’s César Awards. In addition to Barbara, Albert Dupontel’s See You Up There, a comic caper set in Jazz Age Paris, topped the nominations with 13 total, including Best Film; Hubert Charuel’s Petit Paysan, about a farmer’s desperate attempt to shield his cows from an epidemic, received eight nominations; and wedding comedy C’est la vie!, by the directors of Rendez-Vous 2012 opener The Intouchables, Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, was nominated for 10 awards. The acting categories also included nominations for the brilliant Emmanuelle Devos as an ambitious businesswoman in feminist drama Number One, Marina Foïs as a Parisian novelist in Laurent Cantet’s The Workshop, and Laure Calamy as a single mother whose daughter is going blind in Léa Mysius’s breathtakingly bold Ava.

This year’s festival will also feature two special panels—one focusing on female empowerment and the place of women in the French film and corporate industries, and the other about first-time feature films—headlined by guests from the lineup. Filmmakers and talent who will be in attendance at this year’s festival include, in alphabetical order: Mathieu Amalric, Jeanne Balibar, Richard Bausch, Xavier Beauvois, Gilles Bourdos, Laurent Cantet, Jean-Paul Civeyrac, Raymond Depardon, Bruno Dumont, Emmanuel Finkiel, Marine Francen, Eugène Green, Rachid Hami, Xavier Legrand, Vincent Macaigne, Tonie Marshall, Claudine Nougaret, Julie Roué, and Léonor Serraille.

The 2018 festival will also place a spotlight on young people by hosting a “Salut les Jeunes” day on Monday, March 12,  featuring four handpicked screenings of films from the lineup that focus on the experiences of young people today, with special perks for attendees under 30. In conjunction, the festival is holding a contest for people in this age group: interested writers can submit a review of a Rendez-Vous film of their choice, and the best critique will win a round-trip flight to Paris and a year’s subscription to TV5 Monde.

Co-presented with UniFrance, Rendez-Vous with French Cinema demonstrates annually that the landscape of French cinema is as fertile, inspiring, and distinct as ever.  All films are screened digitally at the Walter Reade Theater.

FILMS & DESCRIPTIONS

MAIN SLATE

Opening Night
Barbara
Mathieu Amalric, France, 2017, 98m
French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
The legendary chanteuse known only as Barbara, gifted with a tremulously expressive voice and striking stage presence, is an enduring icon of French culture. In this tantalizing tribute from actor-director Mathieu Amalric, a transfixing, chameleon-like Jeanne Balibar stars as Brigitte, a film actress cast in a biopic about the singer. This conceit yields, à la Cassavetes’ Opening Night, a mesmerizing meta-cinematic high-wire act about the slippery nature of performance and identity as Balibar’s Barbara merges with footage of the real-life diva until the two become virtually indistinguishable. The result is both a captivating experiment and a love letter to a singular artist. Nominated for nine César Awards, including Best Film, Director, Actress, Cinematography, and Original Screenplay.

12 Days / 12 jours
Raymond Depardon, France, 2017, 87m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere
Continuing a 30-year collaboration with sound recordist and producer Claudine Nougaret, renowned photographer and documentarian Raymond Depardon has made a startling, face-to-face look at mental illness and the French legal system. According to the law, anyone admitted to a psychiatric hospital against their will must be evaluated by a judge within twelve days to determine whether they are fit to be released or must continue treatment. With disarming, fly-on-the-wall immediacy, Depardon brings the viewer into the room for these charged encounters, which are by turns heartrending, unnerving, and deeply humanizing. Crucially, Depardon and his impassive, vérité camera refuse to pass judgment, letting the subjects—among society’s most vulnerable and marginalized—speak for themselves. Nominated for a Best Documentary César Award. A Distrib Films release.

Ava
Léa Mysius, France, 2017, 105m
French and Spanish with English subtitles
New York Premiere
The bold, bracingly original debut feature from Léa Mysius is a coming-of-age tale unlike any other. While on summer vacation on the crystal blue coast, tempestuous 13-year-old Ava (Noée Abita) learns she is quickly going blind. It’s a revelation that leads to a breathtaking turn of events, as the newly emboldened Ava turns her back on her single mother (Laure Calamy, nominated for a Best Supporting Actress César Award) in favor of the outlaw teen Juan (Juan Cano) and the wild freedom of the road. Dazzling 35mm cinematography—with sun-splashed beach images by day and rich, inky blacks by night—evokes the increasingly dark world of a girl taking in as much of life as she can, while she can.

Before Summer Ends / Avant la fin de l’été
Maryam Goormaghtigh, France/Switzerland, 2017, 80m
French and Persian with English subtitles
New York Premiere
Thirty-something Iranian friends Arash, Hossein, and Ashkan embark on a late summer road trip through the sunny South before Arash heads back to Iran. The three camp under the stars as they guzzle beers, join up with a rock ‘n’ roll girl duo, and reflect on the cultural differences between their home and adopted countries. With a wry, improvisatory sense of humor and spare but striking compositions, director Maryam Goormaghtigh crafts an endearing and perceptive semi-documentary travelogue that speaks to both the challenges and freedoms that come with being an outsider in a foreign country. Bonus: a hilarious language lesson on the various Iranian terms for farts.

C’est la vie! / Le sens de la fête
Olivier Nakache & Éric Toledano, France/Canada/Belgium, 2017, 117m
French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Nominated for 10 Césars, including Best Film, this deliciously deadpan comic soufflé from the directors of The Intouchables concerns the behind-the-scenes planning of an elaborate wedding. Max (Jean-Pierre Bacri) is a veteran event coordinator who thinks he’s seen it all—until he must pull off a spectacular wedding at an 18th-century chateau (complete with waitstaff in powdered wigs). Between an epic catering mishap, an egomaniac groomsman, and a photographer who’s more interested in his Tinder matches than in taking pictures, it’s sure to be a night to remember… Like Altman with a featherlight, Gallic touch, C’est la vie! expertly juggles a sparkling ensemble cast including Vincent Macaigne, Gilles Lellouche, and Suzanne Clement.

Comfort and Consolation in France / Pour le réconfort
Vincent Macaigne, France, 2017, 91m
English and French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
After squandering their inheritance while living la vie de bohème abroad, siblings Pascal (Pascal Rénéric) and Pauline (Pauline Lorillard)—scions of an old money, aristocratic family—return to their ancestral estate and their childhood friends in the Loire Valley. Awaiting them is a tidal wave of pent-up resentment as their presence unleashes the ire of all those in their orbit, in particular a bitter, virulently anti-bourgeois nursing home manager who will stop at nothing to see the pair humiliated. One of France’s most distinctive rising talents, Macaigne pulls no punches in this daringly iconoclastic tale of the clash between the haves and have-nots and the struggle for the soul of Europe.

Custody / Jusqu’à la garde
Xavier Legrand, France, 2017, 93m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere
Winner of the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival, this riveting domestic drama is a harrowing study of a family coming undone. When his parents separate, a bitter custody battle results in 11-year-old Julien (a heartrendingly naturalistic Thomas Gioria) being shuttled between his fearful mother (Léa Drucker) and abusive father (Denis Ménochet), who uses the boy as a pawn to manipulate his ex-wife—a volatile situation that pushes everyone to the breaking point. Expanding on his Oscar-nominated short Just Before Losing Everything, director Xavier Legrand displays a distinctive touch that imbues each frame with quivering tension. A Kino Lorber release.

Endangered Species / Espèces menacées
Gilles Bourdos, France/Belgium, 2017, 105m
French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
Drawing from Richard Bausch’s short stories, Renoir director Gilles Bourdos delivers an explosive emotional epic about the tangled relationships among parents, children, husbands, wives, and lovers. At the heart of this multi-strand ensemble piece is Josephine (Alice Isaaz), a young newlywed fearfully taking first steps to escape from her abusive, possessive husband (Vincent Rottiers). Swirling about her are a host of turbulent lives in various stages of free-fall, from a lonely student (Damien Chapelle) caring for his mentally ill mother (Brigitte Catillon) to a middle-aged father (Eric Elmosnino) starting over after a divorce. Masterful crosscutting creates a charged sense of anticipation, while virtuoso cinematographer (and regular Hou Hsiao-hsien collaborator) Mark Lee Ping-bing contributes stunningly dynamic, color-saturated compositions.

The Guardians / Les gardiennes
Xavier Beauvois, Switzerland/France, 2017, 138m
French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
A quietly affecting human drama of love, loss, and resilience unfolds against the backdrop of World War I in the new film from Of Gods and Men director Xavier Beauvois. France, 1916: due to a shortage of men, teenage orphan Francine (Iris Bry) is hired to work on the farm of the hardened Hortense (Nathalie Baye) and her loitering daughter Solange (Laura Smet). When a romance forms between Francine and Hortense’s son Georges (Cyril Descours), a soldier on leave from the frontlines, their love is tested not only by the war but also by the complex social fabric of the community. Composed in painterly images bathed in natural light, in moments reminiscent of Maurice Pialat’s Van Gogh, this intimate epic traces the journey of a young woman weathering turbulent times—and refusing to be defeated. A Music Box Films release.

Jeannette, The Childhood of Joan of Arc / Jeannette, l’enfance de Jeanne d’Arc
Bruno Dumont, France, 2017, 105m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere
The ever-unpredictable Bruno Dumont (Slack Bay) takes another thrilling hairpin turn with this audacious, 15th century-set heavy metal musical composed by Igorrr (aka Gautier Serre). It’s 1425, and 8-year-old shepherdess Jeannette—the future Joan of Arc—already has the weight of the French nation on her shoulders as she grapples with matters of the soul, the ongoing Hundred Years’ War, and the feeling that she is meant for something great. Along the way there are head-banging nuns, surreal angelic visions, and a cavalcade of hard-stomping electro-rock song and dance numbers recorded live on location. The result is an ecstatically unique and transportive experience that is, at heart, the story of a young heroine realizing her destiny. A KimStim release.

July Tales / Contes de juillet
Guillaume Brac, France, 2017, 68m
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Two languorous summer days, two thorny tales of romantic misunderstanding: in part one, two girlfriends (Milena Csergo and Lucie Grunstein) head to the Cergy leisure park for a day of swimming and equally vigorous flirtation; in the second, a Norwegian exchange student (Hanne Mathisen Haga) finds herself the target of unwanted attention from two would-be suitors. Channeling the spirits of Éric Rohmer and Jacques Rozier in its sunny summer setting and concern with the erotic entanglements of the young and idle, this deceptively breezy diptych is, on the surface, a charming diversion. Look a bit closer and you’ll find an incisive study of the ever-complicated relationships between men and women.

Just to Be Sure / Ôtez-moi d’un doute
Carine Tardieu, France/Belgium, 2017, 100m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere
Family ties don’t get much more complicated than the ones in this witty, winning seriocomic charmer. Erwan (François Damiens) is a middle-aged bomb disposal expert who finds himself facing a different kind of explosive situation when he learns that the man who raised him is not, in fact, his biological father—and that the woman (Cécile de France) he is seeing may in fact be his half-sister. What sounds like the makings of a Greek tragedy plays out with sparkling élan thanks to the clever script and sharply drawn characters—flawed, flesh-and-blood people fumbling their way through extraordinary circumstances.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight / Le lion est mort ce soir
Nobuhiro Suwa, France/Japan, 2017, 103m
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Living legend Jean-Pierre Léaud stars in this playfully self-reflexive ghost story, which functions as a consideration of cinema, mortality, and the actor’s own status as an emblem of film history. He plays Jean, an aging movie actor who, as he prepares to shoot a death scene, finds himself visited by the spirit of a dead, long-ago lover (Pauline Etienne). Meanwhile, he has visitors of another kind: a band of children who cast him in the DIY haunted house movie they are making. Director Nobuhiro Suwa channels the spirit of Rivette as he spins a wonderfully loose-limbed tale that delights in the infinite possibilities of filmmaking. Plus: the gratifying sight of Léaud chucking apples at a gaggle of pesky youngsters.

A Memoir of War / La douleur
Emmanuel Finkiel, France, 2017, 127m
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Marguerite Duras’s autobiographical memoir—a heartrending reflection on wartime grief—receives a haunting and hypnotic adaptation. Mélanie Thierry, her face a transfixing canvas of emotion, plays the writer, a member of the Resistance living in Nazi-occupied Paris. Desperate for news of her husband, who has been arrested by the Germans, she enters into a high-risk game of psychological cat and mouse with a Nazi collaborator (Benoît Magimel). But as the months wear on without word of the man she loves, Marguerite must begin the process of confronting the unimaginable. Through subtly expressionistic images and voiceover passages of Duras’s writing, director Emmanuel Finkiel evokes the inner world of one of the 20th century’s most revolutionary writers. A Music Box Films release.

Montparnasse Bienvenüe / Jeune femme
Léonor Serraille, France, 2017, 97m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere
When the toxic 10-year relationship that has defined her adult life implodes, 31-year-old Paula (rising star Laetitia Dosch, nominated for a Best Newcomer César Award) finds herself adrift on Paris’ Left Bank. With no money, no job, and no idea what’s next, the turbulent Paula resorts to a series of desperate lies in order to keep a roof over her head. But this young woman is more resilient than even she initially realizes. Made by an almost entirely female crew, Léonor Serraille’s debut feature—winner of the Camera d’Or at Cannes for best first film—is a refreshingly complex portrait of an all-too-human heroine veering between instability and strength as she makes a place for herself in the world.

Number One / Numéro une
Tonie Marshall, France, 2017, 110m
English and French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
An ambitious woman treads a dangerous path as she attempts to crash the corporate boys’ club in this timely feminist drama. Emmanuelle (César nominee Emmanuelle Devos) is a successful energy company executive tapped by a feminist lobbying group to step into the soon-to-be-open CEO position at France’s national water company—a move that would make her the first woman to lead a major French corporation. But first, Emmanuelle must navigate a treacherous minefield of sexism, blackmail, and a smear campaign designed to squash her. Director Tonie Marshall (Venus Beauty Institute) blends twisty boardroom intrigue with an impassioned message about the need for female solidarity in the workplace.

Orchestra Class / La mélodie
Rachid Hami, France, 2017, 102m
French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
This inspiring ode to the transformative power of music unfolds with a refreshingly low-key naturalism. Simon (Kad Merad) is a classical violinist who finds himself way out of his element when he signs on to teach music to a class of unruly and generally apathetic middle-school students on the multicultural outskirts of Paris. One exception: Arnold (Renely Alfred), the sensitive son of a single mother from Côte d’Ivoire, whose passion for the violin gradually energizes both his classmates and the disillusioned Simon. Empathetic without being maudlin, Orchestra Class is distinguished by the way it roots its uplifting teacher-student saga in the socioeconomic realities of immigrant life.

A Paris Education / Mes provinciales
Jean-Paul Civeyrac, France, 2018, 137m
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Etienne (Andranic Manet), a serious and impressionable shaggy-haired young cinephile, leaves behind his steady girlfriend (Diane Rouxel) in Lyon to study film in Paris. Settling into a dingy flat with a rotating cast of roommates, he immerses himself in a bohemian world of artists, intellectuals, and fellow film geeks who excitedly share their passion for Bresson, Ford, and obscure Russian directors. It’s a seemingly idyllic life of the mind—until more complicated matters of the flesh, as well as jealous creativity, intrude. Shooting in timeless black and white and interweaving references to philosophy, music, and cinema—from Pascal to Mahler to Parajanov—unsung auteur Jean-Paul Civeyrac conjures a bittersweet ode to the heady days of student life.

Petit Paysan
Hubert Charuel, France, 2017, 90m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere
A farmer’s desperate attempts to save his cows from a deadly epidemic yields a surprisingly tense exercise in low-key suspense, which has been nominated for eight César Awards, including Best Film, Director, and Actor. Pierre (Swann Arlaud) is a dedicated dairy producer whose worst fears are realized when one of his cows contracts a Mad Cow-like disease. If reported, there will be one outcome: the slaughter of the entire herd. Rather than lose his livelihood, Pierre makes the risky decision to take matters into his own hands—and soon finds himself behaving with the panicked recklessness of a killer covering up his crime. Director Hubert Charuel draws on his own experiences growing up on a dairy farm to craft a vividly realistic thriller rooted in everyday life.

See You Up There / Au revoir là-haut
Albert Dupontel, France/Canada, 2017, 117m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere
Nominated for a whopping 13 César Awards, including Best Film, this stylish comic caper is a breathless, whimsical wild ride through Jazz Age Paris. After an accident in the trenches leaves him disfigured, ex–World War I infantryman and artist Edouard (BPM star Nahuel Perez Biscayart) takes to opium and creating outrageously stylized masks to hide his scarred face. Along with a fellow former soldier (director Albert Dupontel), he hatches an audacious get-rich-quick scheme: designing and collecting on war monuments, then absconding with the money before building them. What ensues is a dizzying adventure bursting with elaborately staged set-pieces and spectacularly surreal costume design.

The Sower / Le semeur
Marine Francen, France/Belgium, 2017, 98m
French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
In the midst of Napoleon’s 1851 coup d’état, a remote French village is depleted of all its men, leaving only the women to tend to the fields while wondering what became of their husbands, sons, fathers, and brothers. Into this matriarchal society wanders a stranger (Alban Lenoir), his presence stirring up both political suspicion and carnal desire among the young women, who view him as their last chance to repopulate the community. Through bucolic, golden-hued images that recall the paintings of Jean-François Millet, director Marine Francen weaves a quietly provocative, fable-like tale that rewrites its historical moment from a female perspective.

Tomorrow and Thereafter / Demain et tous les autres jours
Noémie Lvovsky, France, 2017, 91m
French with English subtitles
U.S. Premiere
It’s rare to see a mother-daughter portrait as idiosyncratic and personal as the one at the heart of the new film from acclaimed actress-director Noémie Lvovsky. She stars as an erratic Parisian mother steadily losing her grip on reality as her young daughter (impressive newcomer Luce Rodriguez) escapes into a fantastical world of her imagination: holding conversations with her pet owl, giving a biology class skeleton a proper burial, and even creating her own Christmas when her mom no shows. Dedicated to Lvovsky’s own mother, Tomorrow and Thereafter is alternately enchanting and cathartic as it explores how the spirit of childhood bumps up against the often-bitter realities of adulthood. With Mathieu Amalric.

Film Comment Presents:

Waiting for the Barbarians / En attendant les barbares
Eugène Green, France, 2017, 76m
French with English subtitles
North American Premiere
Six strangers—fleeing hordes of much-feared, but never-glimpsed barbarians—seek refuge in the ancient home of a sorcerer and sorceress. After being promptly asked to surrender their smartphones, the guests are treated to an alternately deadpan and philosophical odyssey involving magic, ghosts, painting, and an extended reenactment of an Arthurian romance as they confront their uniquely 21st-century insecurities and anxieties. Part playful performance art piece, part metaphysical consciousness-bender, Eugène Green’s entrancing, oddly life-affirming fable is a thought-provoking and slyly humorous exploration of the filmmaker’s ongoing concerns with Baroque traditions and the search for meaning in the age of social media. Produced as part of the Les Chantiers Nomades Spring 2017 “Waiting for the Barbarians” workshop.

The Workshop / L’atelier
Laurent Cantet, France, 2017, 113m
French with English subtitles
New York Premiere
The Class director Laurent Cantet returns with another unique, provocative exploration of French society as seen through the eyes of the next generation. In the sunny coastal town of La Ciotat, a diverse group of teenagers assembles for a summer writer’s workshop led by Parisian novelist Olivia (César Best Actress nominee Marina Foïs). As the group talks through the novel they are co-writing—a murder mystery set in their town—the ethnic and political fault lines between them are gradually exposed, provoked by the brooding Antoine (Matthieu Lucci), whose fascination with far-right extremism grows increasingly worrying. What plays out is a tense, gripping, up-to-the-minute dispatch on the state of contemporary France. A Strand Releasing release.

Free Talks

Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Though French cinema is a world leader in making female directors central to the industry, there is still a strong male chauvinism throughout society, pervasive in both art and in the workplace. Director Tonie Marshall—whose latest film, Number One, depicts how women still have to struggle to climb the social ladder—will join special guests for a special talk about issues around female empowerment and the place of women in the French film and corporate industries.

First Films
What does it take to make a first feature? And how is it different to do so in France, as opposed to the U.S.? First-time filmmakers Marine Francen (The Sower), Xavier Legrand (Custody), Reinaldo Marcus Green (Monsters and Men, winner of the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Outstanding First Feature at Sundance), and Jeremiah Zagar (We the Animals), alongside producers Amy Lo (Mental Pictures) and Jean-Louis Livi (Ava), will discuss strategies and challenges in producing and directing a successful debut film. Presented in partnership with French in Motion & IFP.

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