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Vol. 11, No. 5, 2012
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nancy Snipper
Farzana Hassan
Daniel Charchuk
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
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Emanuel Pordes
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Film Reviews
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Shanghai Ghetto
Talk to Her
City of God
Magdalene Sisters
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Barbarian Invasions
Fog of War
Blind Shaft
The Corporation
Station Agent
The Agronomist
Maria Full of Grace
Man Without a Past
In This World
Buffalo Boy
Shake Hands with the Devil
Born into Brothels
The Edukators
Big Sugar
A Long Walk
An Inconvenient Truth
Sisters In Law
Send a Bullet
Banking on Heaven
Chinese Botanist's Daugher
Ben X
La Zona
The Legacy
Irina Palm
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Poor Boys Game
Finn's Girl
Leaving the Fold
The Mourning Forest
Beneath the Rooftops of Paris
Before Tomorrow
Paraiso Travel
Necessities of Life
For a Moment of Freedom
Blood River
By the Will of Genghis Kahn
The Concert
Weaving Girl
Into Eternity
When We Leave



2012 cinemania program


So far, A & O film critics Nancy Snipper and Daniel Charchuk have seen the following films. Here are their ratings and comments, always out of 4, reserving 2.5 or more for a noteworthy film, 3.5 for an exceptional film, 4 for a classic.



Nancy Snipper

Cinemania is North America's Favourite French Language Film Festival

Premieres, tributes and stars on board this exciting film experience!

Cinemania' sterling reputation continues to brilliantly shine as it celebrates its 18th year with Claude Milleran ambitious program of over 45 films. This year, Maidy Teitlebaum, festival founder and director is paying homage to France's legendary filmmaker Claude Miller who changed the face of cinema starting in the 40s. Five of his filmatic masterpieces will be shown, including his most recent work Thérèse Desqueyroux.. His wife Annie Miller, who worked closley with her husband as a writer and producer, is touring the world's festivals pays tribute to her husband's great artistic vision and contribution to the world of film. Her appearance this year at Cinemania is most appreciated.

In addition, the spotlight shines on actor and art director Sandrine Sandrine BonnaireBonnaire, as seven of her films will be screened, including Her Name is Sabine. In 2007, Ms. Bonnaire stepped behind the camera, as a director to make this poignant documentary about her autistic sister.

In recognizing new talent, Cinemania is bestowing a TFO Audience Choice Award for Best First Feature Film. Thirteen films are up on the screen for this prize which will not only honour one new director, but this award, presented by Ms. Amyot (she is the major force behind bringing TFO viewers a selection of the finest French-language films from around the world allow him/her to continue making films) will allow the recipient to continue on his cinematic career path. Enjoy the wonderful journey which, by the way, features four new promising Belgian directors.

2.0 -- AUGUSTINE, Alice Winocour
[reviewed by Daniel Charchuk] Though this period piece asserts itself as erotically charged and sexually open, it is actually almost as repressed as the 19th century era it presents, with only a handful of actual sex scenes. The bulk of the film is thus concerned with the titular housemaid’s struggle with ‘hysteria’ (likely epilepsy) in 1885 Paris, and her doctor’s growing infatuation with her. Though the kind of restraint exhibited by the film is sometimes admirable – and, indeed, could be said to reflect the time period it depicts – the narrative’s content is simply not engaging enough to welcome low-key storytelling. The result is, frankly, a boring historical drama, sprinkled with a few moments of raw passion, and thus all too familiar and bland. Last year’s "Hysteria" at least tackled similar subject matter with wit and verve; this is simply neither sexy nor funny enough to engender interest.

3.3 -- ARMED HANDS, Pierre Jolivet
[reviewed by Daniel Charchuk] One of the few unabashed genre films at this year’s festival, telling a compelling story of French cops and Serbian arms traffickers, stretching from Marseille to Paris. Though the narrative is clearly the focal point, containing enough twists and turns to remain engaging throughout, the film does not forget to develop its characters or delve into important thematic territory; like all first-rate genre works, though, it recognizes the value of a good story. The result is one of the best films of the festival -- a crime tale with compelling characters and juicy subtext. And while the formal elements are bare and basic, just enough to transmit the narrative in an interesting fashion, do not mistake this for artlessness; indeed, it’s rather refreshing to witness a work not overly concerned with its own style, but just willing to tell its story. Though perhaps not the best-crafted of films, it is undoubtedly the most entertaining movie I saw at this year’s festival.

3.6 -- THE CASE OF THE MISSING LADY, Pascal Thomas
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Totally entertaining with fantasy touches that make this Agatha Christie screen adaptation hilariously engaging. The acting is superb, the setting gorgeous and the plot as absurd as they come in French cinema. Prudence and Bélisaire are a wealthy couple: she's bored, he's a writer and a master escape artist who end up investigating the whereabouts of an heiress and a murder connected to a secret Ambroise egg. This hidden egg makes you at least 60 years younger in age and biology. A plastic surgery clinic headed by an evil trio of doctors who would like to get their hands on that egg make most of the action happen. Without revealing the ludicrous plot, suffice to say that there is comedic genius in the entire affair, and though no one ends up gaining tons of extra years looking younger, it is a rejuvenating film for viewers of all ages. same.

2.3 -- RENOIR, Gilles Bourdos
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] "A girl from nowhere sent to me by my dead wife." Those are the words of the famous painter Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) upon greeting Andreé, his new model. He has just lost his wife. The young capricious girl and Renoir form a wonderful relationship. She is totally pleasing to his eye, but when his son Jean -- the apple of Renoir's other eye -- returns from the war wounded, we see that he eventually falls for Andreé. There is no jealousy here. This is a happy story of love -- for family and women. The movie ends with Jean leaving once again, and in the ending text, we are told he returns and goes on to make movies making Andreé famous as the actor she always wanted to be ( screen name: Catherine Hessling). He of course, became the darling of cinema, before dying in 1979. It really is a picture perfect movie. The acting was terrific. Michel Bouquet as Renoir was captivating, and he played the painter's painful anguish caused by crippling arthritis with credible pathos. However, the film moved slowly, and nothing much really happens, but if you desire to gaze at beautiful nude women on and off the canvas, this film promises to please.

2.5 -- GEBO AND THE SHADOW, Manoel de Oliveira
[reviewed by Daniel Charchuk] An adaptation of a 1923 Portuguese play, brought to the screen by centigenerian filmmaker de Oliveira, suffers all of the common problems of cinematic versions of theatrical works – minimal settings, too much dialogue, and a reliance on static camerawork and stagey performances. De Oliveira seems aware of this, but does not attempt to overcompensate by spicing up the source material; instead, he embraces the material’s inherent limitations and uses it to his advantage. The result is a talky, single-location, familial melodrama, taking place in the early 20th century in a small coastal town. While this undoubtedly has the capacity for tedium and dullness – and, indeed, the film does drag at times – the high quality of the filmmaking on display is enough to sustain interest throughout. Though obviously not for the short of attention or easily-bored, for those looking for a stage-bound cinematic treat, you can do much worse.

3.5 -- 38 WITNESSES, Lucas Belvaux
[reviewed by Daniel Charchuk] Though it opens with a brutal homicide in the French port of Le Havre, this low-key drama is more mood piece than murder mystery – the killer is never apprehended, and the actual investigation of the crime is only cursory. Instead, director Belvaux – inspired by the infamous Queens murder of Kitty Genovese in 1964 – focuses on the shame and guilt felt by those who witnessed the crime but did nothing, and thus crafts a compelling rumination on social responsibility. Through one man’s (played by Yvan Attal) desire to do the right thing, the internal dilemmas and personal motivations of an entire apartment block are revealed; the title refers to the number of potential voyeurs to the crime, most of whom claim ignorance or apathy. Therefore, the film is more about the mob mentality to do nothing when faced with tragic circumstances, rather than those circumstances themselves. Shot mostly at night, with low-lighting, to emphasize sound and movement, Belvaux aims to put the audience in the position of the witnesses, and then ask what we would do in such a situation. Though somewhat heavy-handed in its approach, this is nonetheless powerful, important filmmaking.

2.0 -- ON AIR, Pierre Pinaud
[reviewed by Daniel Charchuk] Ostensibly a family dramedy about a radio talk show host’s search for the mother she never knew, it eventually becomes more of a social commentary on the stratification between city dwellers and suburban families, and their inabilities to understand each other. Though Karin Viard’s lead performance, blending elements of slapstick and tragedy, is highly impressive, she’s unfortunately stuck with mediocre material and forced to overact in order to hammer home the director’s points. Furthermore, both the form and content of the film – low-grade digital cinematography and soap opera storylines – seem more suited for television than film, and thus the movie simply feels out of place on the big screen. That’s not to say that there’s no room for melodrama in cinema anymore, but in this day and age, something a little more substantial – and intriguing – is required. Simply put, this is not engaging or interesting enough to warrant its runtime.

2.6 -- MADDENED BY HIS ABSENCE, Sandrine Bonnaire
[reviewed by Daniel Charchuk] In this heavy melodrama, Hollywood star William Hurt, speaking French as naturally and easily as any of his francophone co-stars, portrays Franco-American architect Jacques, who returns to Paris to clear up his recently-deceased father’s estate, and soon contacts his ex-lover Mado, with whom he separated after the death of their son. His deepening fixation with her new son soon worries Mado, and the two are soon forced to meet in private, leading to unfortunate results. Director Bonnaire, herself a renowned actress (best known for Agnès Varda’s "Vagabond"), captures the increasingly ridiculous circumstances with admirable restraint, though a third-act plot turn very nearly runs the whole film off the rails. Still, Hurt’s imposing presence manages to keep things together, and his performance, a mix of great sadness and deep obsession, is truly impressive. Though this could easily be lumped in with other films tackling similar subject matter, the tangents and diversion the plot take separate this one from the pack, for better or worse.

2.3 -- LAST SCREENING, Laurent Achard
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Sylvain is a quiet highly disturbed boyish-looking 32-year-old who is in charge of showing old films at a cinema house destined for the chopping block to be turned into a store. His favourite film is Jean Renoir's "Cancan" which he screens nightly. He lives in a basement cavern whose walls are plastered with posters of iconic female stars of glamorous Holly wood and France. One face on a poster particularly catches his attention. It is of his mother who was abusive. In flashbacks we see her treatment of little Sylvain. She was an aspiring actress who made her little boy practice scenes with her -- one which involved tearing an earring from her ear. After an anger fit, she encloses him in a closet and through the crack, he watches his own mother stab herself. Sylvain spends his post-screening time, stabbing lone women, and cutting off one ear with an earring in it -- except for one girl he falls for. Eventually, he kills himself. It's a film with Hitchock elements -- the silence, the close-ups, the lighting and the 'psycho' motif. After this film, I'll make sure to cozying up to any projectionist. The ending was so melodramatic; it could have been a scene from a 60s' horror film.

3.7 -- POSSESSIONS, Eric Guirado
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Bruno and Marilyn Caron, with their young daughter, move out of northern France for good, and are going to rent a chalet in the forested region of Haute Savoie from the wealthy Castang family, who own several luxury chalets in the resort village. But upon arrival the Carons are told by the charming Castangs they will be staying at a much larger chalet than they had anticipated, as the one they had booked is not near completion, but it will be. No sooner do they get settled, and they must move into a hotel, as this lovely chalet is about to be rented for a much higher price. Bruno takes a job as a mechanic, and Marilyn becomes the Castangs' cleaning lady. Nothing seems to be going well. Soon, they are kicked out of the hotel because they are far too rowdy, and with the arrival of their friends -- another couple -- things get worse. Now the Castangs arrange for them to stay at a little apartment. Bruno and Marilyn are furious by now. Bruno gets fired ffrom his job, and Marilyn is also asked to leave, as the Castangs figure out she is stealing from them, has looked at their business records filed on the computer. The Carons have a terrible case of envy; they loathe the entire village because it has money, and they don't. Bruno who started out as a happy-go-lucky guy gets more and more morose. He is being worn down, as his wife basically emasculates him. She tells him he is useless and ineffective; that he is allowing the Castang family to push them around. She lets him know they have been taken advantage of and lied to. The chalet is not happening for them at all. Bruno takes matters into his now deadly hands. He murders the entire family, forcing his own friend to help him retrieve the passports and documents to make it looks as if the Castangs made a run for it because they were in debt. What makes this movie all the more chilling is the fact that it is based -- word for word -- on a true story. All this actually happened in 2003. The film builds slowly into a thriller. It is a very important work, as it shows all too clearly that the haves and the have nots cannot coexist without someone paying the price. That price could be murder.

2.3 -- SUPERSTAR, Xavier Giannoli
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Martin Kazinsky works with the mentally handicapped taking apart computer parts. He's a gentle, quiet man who is as humble as apple pie. But one day while seated in the metro car, Martin hears his named being called out by a stranger who immediately takes a picture of him with his cell phone. Martin doesn't know him, but before you know it, everyone in the metro car is snapping his picture. He is hounded to go on TV, and he reluctantly agrees, just so he can try to understand why this is happening. The assistant manager Fleur plays a double game, befriending him, pretending to protect him, but she is really trying to keep the fame ball rolling for him, so the TV station excels in popularity. He becomes a sensation. He can't go anywhere without everyone following him and photographing him. Then during another interview, the TV host tells him it must be so frightening to be hunted down, and he is just a common man. Before you know it, Martin wins the hearts of all ordinary folk who immediately lambast the TV station for insulting just about everyone in France -- all are common. The next incident occurs when he is provoked by a shrink on TV, and Martin finally screams on camera at everyone. This is copied by most folk in France now. Everyone is letting out screams. Then, the same TV host of the same station -- it's always the same station -- takes him to a shady spot of hookers and the like, and he is photographed there. In the supermarket a woman hits and spits on him; that too is uploaded onto the Internet, as has every single move he' s made since that fateful day inside the metro. Martin falls instantly out of favour as the world watches him yelling at the lady in retaliation, but viewers don't know the whole story. In fact, everyone says he hit her. Martin is dogged for being abusive; he is a pariah. Such is fame. In the end he writes a book about the experience, and Fleur finds she has erred in her ways. There is a little book party attended by his best friends, including a transvestite who he had met at the TV station who completely understands what it is like to be misunderstood. This film shows just how dangerous the Internet can be -- that it can destroy a life. It also shows how the public herd changes its mind in a single moment to the extreme. Fame and falling are decided by the whim of the population. Both can happen in an instant. The message in this movie might have been better served had it been a comedy, and it went on way too long.

1.9 -- ONE NIGHT/38 WITNESSES, Lucas Belvaux
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A girl is found dead in a gruesome stabbing in Le Havre. None of the 38 people in the building say they heard anything. Pierre who works as a ship navigator is included in that lot until he finally comes clean and tells Louise, his wife (while she is sleeping), that he was at home and heard the horrible screaming, but did nothing. He goes to the police to confess, and a journalist on the case gets the leak from a cop that everyone did hear the screaming, but nobody helped or called the police. The police go and recreate the scene with Pierre and a few other tenants. Everyone not only feels terrible guilt but also anger that Pierre 'snitched' -- as they put it. The DA says you can't prosecute cowardice, so the 38 witnesses are not brought to trial. This movie is about indifference and the herd mentality of keeping quiet. It is also about individual cowardice -- not wanting to get involved. Even the DA wanted to sweep it under the rug. This first-time filmmaker was trying to make a point about the lethal consequences of complacency and total indifference. However, the lead actor, Yvan Attal was a total disaster, he slept-walked through the entire role. As for Pierre and his wife, she leaves him in the beginning of the film, even though she vowed nothing would ever make her leave him. Indeed, silence is a silent killer. The film is based on the brutal 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese. What is also tragic is the fact that she stumbled alive into the front hallway of the building, but the killer followed her in and stabbed her until she died. Had the cops been called in between her first screams and subsequent ones inside, she might have been saved. Genovese was young and beautiful; shamefully sad that her fame had to come about in this way.

2.2 -- LAST WINTER, John Shank
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Johann is caring for his farm, tending to the cows and doing his best to farm the way his father had. It is a co-op, and bad times have hit its members. They all want to accept the offer to be bought out by a man named Hervier who deals with an Italian. Johann is against it, knowing his deceased father detested this businessman. Johann is stubborn. There is a fire and he loses a lot, except a few cows and some hay. He finally relents, but it is too late. Hervier is dead, and so Johann is seen walking away in the cold winter landscape with a blanket and a knapsack. He has lost everything, including his girlfriend and any friend he might have had. Unfortunately, this film has a few snags, such as the appearance of a sister who has some kind of mental infirmity. Johann goes to the place she is staying at (we do not know if it is a hospital or what; we just see her in a sparse room). We also do not know how the fire started. The film makes an important point though about the demise of carrying on no matter what to protect your integrity in farming methods. It shows how an owner not wanting to change with the times combined with dogged stubbornness can lead to loss of everything -- the very land he owns with others. Johann keeps saying that he will continue to work the way he does no matter what. Shot in south-western France, the scenery is hypnotic, but even its beauty can't save Johann from ruin. Shank definitely shows promise as a director and the subject matter he chose was important. The film suffers from slowness and unanswered questions in plot. Still, people of the country of integrity must be protected and respected. They are a dying breed of tough human beings.

1.0 -- BERLIN TELEGRAM, Leila Albayaty
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Stream of consciousness filmmaking told in first-person by the lead -- the director herself, but she was totally boring, like watching someone navel gaze. Her moaning goes on and on about her heartbreak. Her boyfriend has left her without notice, and though she appears to be well over 29, she seems to act like an ingénue at her first kiss. She escapes her loneliness by moving from Belgium to Berlin. She fancies herself as a singer/songwriter. Singing saves her life according to her, but it makes us want to take ours! She can't sing at all and every song is irritatingly repetitive. Of course the same theme is about her love for this guy. Eventually she realizes guys like her, even those in her makeshift band. Scenes are disconnected and without impact. Even her going back to visit her dad in Cairo comes off as a sham throw-in scene with no purpose other than for her to try to heal. After this film, I needed healing. It's self-indulgent crap.

3.8 -- OMBLINE, Stephane Cazes
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A heart-wrenching, gutsy story about Ombline, a young woman sent to prison for stabbing a cop in the thigh for the murder of her husband caught with drugs at their home. In prison she gives birth under harrowing circumstances, as the wardens delay in getting her to a hospital. Her son Lucas is born and the bond is stronger than any love relationship one could imagine. But Ombline has a temper and rightfully so; her son gets sick, and the warden in charge once again delays helping her. She gets into fights and eventually her son is taken to a foster home so that he can grow up in a healthy environment. Ombline almost loses the chance to ever see him again if she doesn't calm down and play the game right, which almost happens when her friend Rachael, who is supposed to look after the boy once every two weeks, doesn't show up. Lucas needs to be in the real world, and so the foster parents arrive to take him away from her. But they are wonderful. They send letters and a video. Still, Ombline is so depressed, but she is eventually released; she has shown she has matured and become far more responsible. She reunites with her son. At that point out came the handkerchiefs -- so moved was the audience. This movie was made with great tenderness and realism. Melanie Thierry is astonishing. She carried this film, as did many of the supporting actors who played her pals and enemies in prison. French law allows prison births and the care and raising of infants for 18 months. The norm after that is adoption or a foster home if the mother still has time to serve. This film is important in that it shows some gritty injustices where mother and child suffer in a system that has no heart. "Ombline" was awarded the festival's Mel Hoppenheim prize.

4.0 -- SEX, LIES AND SURGERY, Artus de Penguern
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] What a hilarious film -- brilliant; absurdity at its best. It's Charlie Chaplin, the three Stooges, George Formby and Jacques Tati all as one in this film. At the clinic to a mega-medical company; the other brother is a hero and a great surgeon, played by comedic genius Penguern himself. Without going into the plot, suffice it to say that what seems is not so, and what should be happening never does until the end where everyone saves the clinic, finds out that they are all related and that babies and that surgery in an elevator can lead to marriage and babies. I fell in love with this director -- the savior surgeon in the film; I wanted to be his love interest in this outrageously entertaining comedy where the sequence of events evokes non-stop laughter. Clever, screwball situations at their finest!

1.8 -- THE ACCOMPIANIST, Claude Miller
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Unfortunately, this film about a young accompanist (Sophie) who becomes infatuated with Irene, an opera star, falls flat. Irene is more friend than lover to Charles, her adoring husband. Sophie gets close to them as she travels with them, even lives with them. The music is pleasant enough but the subplot concerning Irene's clandestine affair and a walk over mountains to escape Nazis organized by Charles is about as tense as a broken elastic band. Romane Bohringer as Sophie was deadpan throughout the entire movie. Her expression never changed, even when she falls for a young Jewish communist she meets and rejects -- thanks to Irene's controlling influence. No emotion at all from this actress whose real life father plays Charles. His raspy voice was annoying. In the end, we didn't care he shot himself because Irene loved another. The film takes place in 1942 when Miller was born. The tragedy in the film is not the suicide at the end, but that the complete lack of drama needed to evoke these terrible dangerous times. The film was devoid of any suspense and horror. Furthermore, sliding in clips out of the blue of a Nazi camp looked like a last-minute throw-in, ridiculously ineffective -- almost insulting given the gravity of the subject matter. Miller seems to indicate rather than direct a scene of impact. No drama at all in a film which was meant to be important. Think about it: an envious accompanist, and narcissistic opera star, Nazis, escape, a lover, a suicide. Sounds great, but don't get your hopes up with this one.

3.1 -- FREEWAY , Christophe Sahr
[reviewed by Daniel Charchuk] An atmospheric character study and mood piece, it follows Alex, a young car fanatic with a wife and daughter, who cares more about his souped-up vehicle than his family. But when he accidentally runs someone over on the freeway, he spirals out of control, overwhelmed with guilt and terror. First-time director Sahr shows a restrained temperament and a talented compositional eye, focusing more on the deterioration of Alex’s conscience than any narrative strands. Scenes of him driving alone at night are positively dripping with nocturnal ambience and thematic significance, but Sahr does not overdo it, simply underlining the eerie feel. Though the ending wraps things up a bit too nicely (something more ambiguous would’ve been preferred -- and, indeed, an earlier fade to black would’ve worked better), this is still an impressive debut and an uncommonly affecting work.

2.9 -- FREEWAY, Christophe Sahr
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Alex is 25 years old, but is about to feel like a truck ran over him. He lives with his wife and 2-year-old daughter, but the only aspect of life that enchants him is his yellow racing-type car and other speedy cars that his friend shows him at his body shop. Alex loves to race his car with his friend, and one day at night, he speeds down an underground freeway alone and hits and kills a young guy. He makes a run for it with his now damaged car. His life begins to unravel with guilt. He ends up meeting the mother of the victim and she instinctively know Alex was the culprit when he visits her at her house as she is packing up and getting ready to relocate. She lets him know her son was depressed and he committed suicide by throwing himself in front on the freeway. Both feel a weight off their shoulders, and they both break down in a passionate embrace initiated by Alex. His guilt transforms Alex into a silent brooder, so his marriage begins to unwind. He almost loses his wife, child and his best friend through the ordeal, but in the end, his wife stays with him. He begins to cry and let her know he loves and needs her. The brilliance in this film is the slow descent into guilt and how it can tear a life apart. This marvelously acted film puts Johan Libéreaul (Alex) in the award-winning category once again as 'Best Newcomer;' he has been nominated for César awards in the past. First-time director Christophe Sahr based his feature on a true story. It took this driven director ten years of planning to make this riveting film ride with rage and redemption.

3.2 -- A LADY IN PARIS, Llamar Raag
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A gem of a film primarily because of the acting and the endearing plot. Anne, an Estonian woman, takes a job in Paris to care for Frida, an old woman from Estonia who immigrated to Paris in the 30s. Frida has an acerbic tongue, and using it along with a variety of other strategies, she makes it clear she wants no one there to care for her, except her former much younger lover, Stéphane, who in fact hired Anne from an agency in Estonia to care for Frida. Proud and stubborn, she makes life so impossible for sweet, quiet Anne that she leaves her position, but has second thoughts, and returns to care for her at the end. Stéphane genuinely cares about Frida, but wants to shove her off to someone else. Frida has mood changes, and she seems to be warming up to Anne, until the well-meaning caregiver invites some people over for Frida -- not knowing the real story behind them. Everything backfires, and Frida demands Anne leaves. But she is missed. It requires Anne's intervention to let Stéphane know that Frida wants him, and not her, to be a part of her life. He relents and actually wants to visit her more. One gets the feeling this will end up not as a ménage à trios but à deux with Anne and Stéphane ending up together, happy to be with Frida, too. It is a quiet yet intense film that sympathetically shows the relationship between two women who end up needing one another. Jeannne Moreau was marvelous as Frida, as was Laine Magi as Anne

2.0 -- DO NOT DISTURB, Yvan Attal
[reviewed by Daniel Charchuk] This French remake of the American mumblecore film" Humpday" stands as one of the more bizarre re-imaginings, especially since director (and star) Attal seems content to merely copy the earlier work, instead of adding a distinctly francophone spin on things. And considering that "Humpday" is neither an exemplar of the mumblecore movement nor an exceptionally funny film in its own right, the existence of this version seems even stranger. As such, this is a remarkably banal and bland movie, with few laughs and even fewer insights into human relationships and sexuality. While one would think that the European flavour of this remake would enable more openness and boundary-crossing, apart from a few extra shots of gratuitous nudity, there is really nothing here that builds upon the original in any meaningful or even superficial manner. This film thus begs the question: why remake a film in another language if you’re not going to do anything interesting or innovative with it?

2.4 -- THÉRÈSE DESQUEYROUX, Claude Miller
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Therese is stuck in the Landes region of Southwest France at the estate of her husband, Bernard. All that is there are the copious amounts of acres of pines they both own from the marriage alliance. In the early 1900s, such alliances were based on financial gain rather than love. Thérèse is a chain smoker, with a nasty tongue. She is totally dissatisfied with keeping up appearances and with the mores of the time. She longs for freedom, but doesn't know what she wants -- only what she detests. Family life has no appeal for her, and as Bernard husband increasingly gets on her nerves, she finds a way to poison him using the arsenic he takes for his heart problems. Bernard nearly dies, but his family finds out that a forged prescription written by her was actually the cause of his serious illness. She is the culprit, having sneaked more drops into his water. Still, appearances are kept up, so Bernard can keep his reputation. She stays with him but is really locked up in another room. They make their appearances together in public. In the end Bernard releases her. She was certainly evil, having started a fire that destroyed most of the pine trees, betrayed her childhood friend with promises to help her unite with her boyfriend Jean, but she in fact sabotages that. She also had no interest in her daughter. Adapted from François Mauriac's 1920's novel, the story shows what happens when the need for family appearances and cohesion supersedes the desire for freedom and love. Thérèse Desqueyroux was surely an evil woman who took her confusion and deep unhappiness to the extreme, destroying everyone's lives her were in her circle of family and' friends'. This period piece was Claude Miller's last film, having passed away this fall. I did not think Audey Tautou was not well cast in this role -- one that demanded more than a continually stern look. She does did play madness with enough conviction.

2.2 -- THE GRILLING, Claude Miller
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A highly respected notary named Jérôme Martinaud (Michel Serrault) is brought into the police station for intensive interrogation. The chief (Guy Marchand) is determined to nail the notary for the rape and murder of two young girls, and when the chief discovers through Martinaud's wife (Romy Schneider) that her husband had inappropriate feelings for the little girl, it seems like a done deal. They got their guy -- or did they? The suspect confesses, but the ending has a double twist -- one of which lies in the trunk of a car that doesn't belong to Martinaud. The film moves slowly, and as most of it takes place in an office station, it suffers from a static set and feel. It's a cat and mouse dialogue game that is of interest to those who prefer intellectual suspense to one brimming with taut action.

3.0 -- THE HUSSY, Claude Miller
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Pouty brooding 13- year-old Charlotte (Charlotte Gainsbourg) feels trapped within herself and restricted in her motherless home tended to by an abusive maid and an absentee father whose time is taken up in his machine shop. Charlotte is constantly being pestered and admonished by everyone, including a little girl who has tuberculosis. She sleeps over at the house a lot as her mother is away. Charlotte is mouthy yet shy. She feels everything she wants to say never comes out right. She is leggy, gawky without much allure -- a misfit who is both lonely and longing to be loved. Her life takes on a fantasy when she becomes infatuated with Clara, a young beautiful pianist her age. Charlotte deludes herself into thinking that Clara was totally serious when she invited her admirer to be her impresario while touring in the summer. Charlotte's suitcase is packed and she's ready to go. But first she along with her little friend and the maid are going to attend a concert of Clara's. The intention is that Charlotte would leave with Clara after the performance. But the plan gets sabotaged. In the middle of the concert, the little girl stands up and yells out that she doesn't want Charlotte to go away. Charlotte's balloon gets burst, and as the film ends with her visiting the little girl in the sanitarium, we see that our two girls are once more friends and probably for life. This 1983 film was Miller's' most successful one as far as awards and box office popularity. The acting ensemble was second to none, and though it is a long film with a rather abrupt ending, I consider it a coming-of-age classic -- a timeless teenage tale where naivety, curiosity, dreams and boredom converge.

2.9 -- RUST AND BONE, Jacques Audiard
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A Québec premier, this interesting film opened the Cannes Film Festival, and was screened both at the Toronto and Munich Films Festivals. It is tops at the box office in France right now, and I suspect it will continue to garner attention in Europe. It is a low-key film about survival, resilience and found love. Stephanie meets Ali outside a disco, and nothing much comes of it, but he drives her home. Stéphanie has an engrossing job as a trainer of orca whales, but during a freak accident one of the whales lunges for the platform where she is standing. In an instant, her life changes; she loses both legs below the knees. Insufferably lonely and helpless, she calls up Ali, and they begin to form a relationship of convenience. Ali is a boxer who has brought Sam, his young son down from the north to try to start anew. Both of them are mooching off his poor sister who lives in rotten conditions. Ali is neglectful of Sam, seeks shady jobs and basically lives each day without much direction or attention to the people around him. In fact, he is far more brawn than brain, so the relationship between Stéphanie and him is a curious one. To make money, Ali begins boxing; bets are placed on him to fight different guys one after the other outside. Stephanie watches on from the truck. When she is fitted with her leg prosthesis, Stephanie comes out of herself, even goes to the discothèque and revisits her place of work. She seems to become dependent on Ali, but he is far more occupied with bedding women and collecting the money he gets from these beat-em-up fights. He is oblivious to her feelings. Furthermore, his treatment of his son is less than paternal. Another terrible accident occurs when Ali's young son falls through the ice; he survives. He was visiting his dad who is now up north training on some boxing team. Ali left without a word, having been kicked out of his sister's place. The son's near-death experience is a dramatic wake-up call for Ali. In the end, the three seem to become one, forming a bond that one knows will become the family that none of them had when the film started. Matthias Schoenaerts is so believable in the role of Ali, it's almost frightening. He plays mindlessness magnificently. Marion Cotillard as Stéphanie brought understated despair and gentleness to the role. Realistic and rare, the film slowly reveals devastation and loneliness with rare subtlety -- not common in the modern repertoire of French films dealing with this theme. Could this film be a marker for a new movement in this country's cinema?

3.0 -- RUST & BONE (DE ROUILLE ET D’OS), Jacques Audiard
[reviewed by Daniel Charchuk] A modern French melodrama, starring Marion Cotillard as a killer whale trainer and Matthias Schoenaerts as a washed-up boxer struggling to raise his young son; of course, tragedy soon strikes to bring the pair together, leading to an emotionally complex but ultimately cathartic relationship. Though rather contrived, even by melodrama’s usual standards, and boasting some rather goofy plot developments, it nonetheless rings true and feels genuine, even amidst the pulp. Director Audiard never lets the tone lapse into mockery or self-irony, and keeps things deadly serious throughout – for better or for worse. But the impressive performances of the leads – especially Cotillard, proving her time in Hollywood hasn’t dimmed her natural talents – and the authentic quality of the dialogue shine forth, overpowering even the most ridiculous narrative turns. It may not be high art, but it’s still powerful and well-crafted cinema.  

For the ratings of 2011 Cinemania Film Festival, HERE.

For the ratings of 2010 Cinemania Film Festival, HERE.

For the ratings of 2009 Cinemania Film Festival, HERE.

For the ratings of 2008 Cinemania Film Festival, HERE.

For the ratings of 2007 Cinemania Film Festival, HERE.



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