By RUBY GARA
Asst. News Editor
The 23rd edition of “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema” made its annual return to the screens of the Walter Reade Theater on March 8. The 10-day film festival, hosted by The Film Society of Lincoln Center and the UniFrance organization, showcased a great variety of French films, many of which were either U.S or New York premieres and therefore are films that had never been seen by U.S audiences.
As stated on the pamphlet, the festival essentially “demonstrates that French cinema is vast and inspiring as ever,” by featuring films of different genres that explore “unconventional biopics to tales of families on the edge.” In addition, some of the selected movies won prestigious awards at the Cannes Film Festival, such as “Montparnasse Bienvenϋe (Jeune Femme)” by director Léonor Serraille.
All of the films were displayed in French with English subtitles, allowing “Rendez-Vous” to broaden their audience and make it accessible not only to French viewers.
The films for “Rendez-Vous” were carefully sorted as “emerging talents and established masters alike are highlighted in this selection, which is as full of surprises as always.” On opening night, “Barbara”, a movie that is a “tantalizing tribute from actor-director Mathieu Amalric”, made its U.S premiere following its nine César Awards nominations. The movie explores the life of an actress who agrees to portray the famous French singer Barbara in a movie directed by the devoted character Yves.
Balibar’s character carefully, and perhaps obsessively, studied the national icon’s gesture and voice, ultimately showing the merge between the actress and the singer, made possible due to the undeniable talent of “chameleon-like Jeanne Balibar [who] stars as Brigitte.” The two main actors, and Mathieu Amalric who embodied Yves’ character, appeared onstage to introduce the first of the 24 films of the festival.
This year, the French Film Festival also featured two special panels; one of them focused on the notion of female empowerment and the treatment of women in the French film and corporate industries. Entitled “Women, Work and the Will to Lead”, the panel was held at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center a day after opening night, on March 9. The second panel, “First Films”, was held on March 12 and discussed first-time feature films, as well as the difference between making a first feature in France and in the U.S.
On March 12, “Rendez-Vous” hosted a special screening day: “Salut Les Jeunes,” that was mainly targeted towards younger audiences. They held a writing contest where participants had to write a detailed critique of only one of the showcased films. The grand prize winner, Amy Chabassier, wrote her review on the coming-of-age movie “Ava” by Léa Mysius and won a free round-trip flight to Paris. The Second Prize winner, Daniel Witkin, reviewed Eugène Green’s “Waiting for the Barbarians” and won a year’s subscription to the French television channel TV5 Monde.
“Salut Les Jeunes” also included four selected screenings of films that focus on young people and their experience in today’s world. One of the movies featured on March 12 was “L’Atelier,” or “The Workshop,” by director Laurent Cantet. The film is a “unique, provocative exploration of French society as seen through the eyes of the next generation,” set in contemporary France. The breathtaking visuals and the intense storyline left the audience on the edge of their seats.
After the film, the director Laurent Cantet, as well as his translator, sat for a brief Q&A and instructive discussion about “L’Atelier.” The audience could openly ask Cantet any questions they had about the movie itself, that he revealed was largely inspired by his own personal experiences in La Ciotat, the city in which the movie was set. One audience member in particular asked whether the protagonist’s monologue in the last scene of the movie was inspired by the existentialist author Albert Camus.
The “Rendez-Vous with French Cinema” ran through Sunday, March 18 and continued to remind viewers that French cinema persists to be unsurpassable, ultimately promoting the French culture and the diversity that flourishes from it.