Wednesday, December 17, 2008
No Denying It
In November, Michael Kimmelman – typical of his arrogant assuredness – wrote in the New York Times that French film had been shying away from tackling meaty issues since the New Wave because of an identity crises sparked by their collaboration with the nazis. He calls it Cinema of Denial. Sure, there was "La Haine (Hate),"in 1995, but not much else. And it’s true, there are a lot of stupid, provincial comedies coming out of France, usually involving a likeable, well-dressed guy, his slightly mean but beautiful wife and his beautiful lover.
But what Kimmelman overlooked are recent films coming out of France that do one of the things the French do best: psychology. And I think that’s both meaty and honest. It's this conflicted, tense psychology that people are seeing when they say a movie is “so French,” I think.
Here are a few noteworthy examples I’ve seen of late:
"Kings and Queen" and "A Christmas Tale" (now out in theaters). Both directed by Arnaud Desplechin and staring actor Matthieu Amalric – playing appealing rebel characters in both (above in "Kings and Queen"). Now these are both all about completely fucked-up and complex families, but life goes on in a non-sentimental way and that’s what I like about them.
Then there’s Olivier Assayas’s "Late August, Early September," which is beautifully edited. Great fades! And while there are a lot of romantic triangles and accepted sexual no-no’s– and I think very erotic sex scenes - it really gets into people being blunt with each other both with words and in action in ways we Americans just aren’t. The story mostly centers around a writer who falls ill, and the changes that that spurs within himself and those around him. No violins, thank god, but realism, yes.