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Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2022

Between to Worlds
Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2022
Through March 16, 2022
Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street, New York, NY
In March 2020, Film at Lincoln Center was in the midst of its annual Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series when it was shuttered by COVID. Last year, Rendez-Vous returned in a hybrid form, with in-person screenings complemented by streaming, which allowed French film fans, near and far, to see their favorites without leaving the house. Now, in 2022, as things get back to what might charitably be considered comparatively normal, Rendez-Vous has returned for its 27th season, back in its fully in-theater model.
Of the series’ 23 films—many New York premieres and a classic by director Jacques Becker, 1954’s Touchez pas au grisbi—I got to see ten (three of those already have a distributor and are scheduled to be released at some point this year). 


Films about women taking on others’ identities make for a fascinating sidebar. In Emmanuel Carrère’s Between Two Worlds (Cohen Media Group, to be released later this year), Juliette Binoche gives her usual intensely committed performance as Marianne Winckler, a writer posing an an unemployed divorcee who takes a menial cleaning job in order to detail an exposé about corrupt practices. Based on investigative journalist Florence Aubenas’ book—a French bestseller when it was published in 2010—Binoche and Carrère have created an incisive look at a harrowing, mainly women’s problem.
Madeleine Collins
For most of Antoine Barraud’s mysterious movie, the viewer won’t understand why it’s titled Madeleine Collins: Virginie Efira is spectacular as Judith, a professional with one family in France and another in Switzerland. Slowly, Barraud reveals why Judith lives a double life, and the culmination of this slow-burn psychological study is devastating, dramatized with steely resolve by Efira’s performance and Barraud’s insightful writing and precise direction.
Secret Name
Set during World War I, Aurélia Georges’ Secret Name follows Nélie, a young nurse at the front who hatches an audacious scheme to take the place of Rose, whom she believes is killed in an attack, to become reader and confidante to Eléonore, an elderly widow. Nélie soon becomes a member of the family until Rose, who has survived, tries to disrupt her scheme. With understanding and subtlety, Georges has made a multilayered exploration of identity, lost and found, with fantastic acting by Lyna Khoudri, remarkably poised as Nélie, the ageless Sabine Azema as Eléonore and Maud Wyler as Rose.
Gallant Indies
Gallant Indies (Distrib Films US, to be released later this year), a bracing, exhilarating documentary by director Philippe Béziat, chronicles the sweeping production of French baroque composer Jean-Philippe Rameau’s epic opera Indes galantes at the Paris Opera in 2019, staged by director Clément Cogitore and choreographer Bintou Dembélé, who push back against racist tropes in the story by casting dancers and performers of all genres and backgrounds to create a work that transcends all categories. 
The Horizon
Environmental activism is the theme of The Horizon, an intelligent character study about 18-year-old Adja, aloof and uninterested in anything outside her friends, but who finds herself changed when she falls for a guy who’s part of a local group of young activists. Soon she is tagging along and participating in more dangerous protests, and finds her life changing irrevocably. Emilie Carpentier’s direction is spot-on, and Tracy Gotoas’ Adja is a powerhouse at the movie’s center.
Our Boys
Our Boys is Rachel Lang’s unflinching look at how war destroys relationships alongside bodies and minds, as French soldiers at an outpost in Corsica deal with being away from their wives and girlfriends back home, who are actually the focus of Lang’s penetrating but thoughtful gaze. Louis Garrel and Aleksandr Kuznetsov are fine as the soldiers, but Camille Cottin (as Garrel’s wife) and especially Ina Marija Bartaité (as Kuznetsov’s fiancée) give performances of touching elegance.
Petite Solange
Petite Solange, an exquisitely crafted character study, is writer-director Axelle Ropert’s insightful glimpse at Solange, a teenager unmoored from her family, friends and school following her parents’ sudden separation and divorce. Buoyed by the exceptional acting of young Jade Springer as Solange, Ropert’s engaging coming-of-age film nods to Francois Truffaut’s classic debut, 1959’s The 400 Blows, with its own ambiguous final freeze-frame.
A Tale of Love and Desire
Leyla Bouzid’s A Tale of Love and Desire (Distrib Films US, to be released later this year) threads the needle between modern and traditional in a sensitive love story of people who meet in an Arab poetry class: Ahmed is a conservative young Algerian while Farah is a modern young Turnisian. Bouzid explores with great resourcefulness and tact how differences in outlook threaten to torpedo their relationship, but she’s after something deeper: a thoughtful, poetic study of the diversity of Arab cultures in the heart of thriving metropolitan Paris. There are two wonderful performances at the film’s center: Sami Outalbali (Ahmed) and newcomer Zbeida Belhajamor (Farah).
Bruno Reidal—Confessions of a Murderer
Bruno Reidal—Confessions of a Murderer follows the eponymous teen in early 1900s France who kills a young child in cold blood, even decapitating him in a grisly manner. This sordid true story is brought to the screen by director Vincent Le Port, who never shies away from the more unpleasant parts of Bruno’s depressing existence—there are a few ugly moments that however need to be shown—and his psychologically acute direction is complemented by Dimitri Doré’s miraculous portrayal of Bruno as a confused young man, not a mere monster.
Pampered, aging hill actor Georges has a new assistant, Aïssa, a female wrestler, and Constance Meyer’s Robust runs through all the predictable situations of this odd couple to arrive at a familiar but entertaining vibe, mainly thanks to the inspired pairing of Gérard Depardieu—who gives an amusingly self-aware performance—and Déborah Lukumuena, whose empathetic presence prevents it from ever getting too sappy.

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