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The Chicago French Film Festival 2016

July 21, 2016

brandnewtest

 

The 6th annual Chicago French Film Festival opens on Friday, July 22nd and will run through Thursday, July 28th, 2016 at The Music Box Theatre. Co-presented by The Consulate General of France in Chicago and Alliance Francaise, this is where you will find the latest in French cinema. The festival kicks off with Jaco Van Dermal’s “The Brand New Testament” and closes with the surreal animated feature “Phantom Boy”.  Some of these films have been making the rounds on the festival circuit already, while others are premiering at this festival. I’ve seen some of these films already and will post my reviews below. 

An opening night pre-reception will be held in The Music Box Theatre Lounge and Garden. For further information, visit www.musicboxtheatre.com. Pricing and scheduling are listed below….

Individual tickets:  $12 GA / $10 for Music Box and Alliance Francaise Members
Full Festival Pass: $80 GA / $70 for Music Box and Alliance Francaise Members (includes Opening Night Pre-Reception in Music Box Lounge & Garden)

 

 

Friday, July 22nd – OPENING NIGHT!

 

The Brand New Testament  (Le tout nouveau testament)

directed by: Jaco Van Dormael

2015/113 min./comedy, fantasy/7:30pm

An off-the-wall fantasy that finds God (Benoît Poelvoorde) living in human form as a curmudgeon in present-day Brussels, whose spiteful excesses are only restrained by the actions of his plucky 10-year-old daughter, Ea (the much-acclaimed Pili Groyne), who concludes that her dad is doing a terrible job and decides to rewrite the world, which leaves God angry, powerless and adamant to get his job back.

 

Paris, Love, Cut (Arnaud fait son 2e film)

directed by: Arnaud Viard

2015/80 mins./comedy/10:00pm

Director Arnaud Viard stars as a variation of himself, also named Arnaud, who, at 45 years-old wants to have a child with the love of his life, Chloé (Irène Jacob) and shoot his second movie – but, he is blocked by sexual and financial failures. After leaving Chloe he goes back to teaching theater at Florent in order to pay his rent, where he falls under the spell of Gabrielle (Louise Coldefy).

 

 

microbegasmondo

 

Saturday, July 23rd

 

Microbe & Gasoline (Microbe et Gasoil)

directed by: Michel Gondry

2015/105 min./comedy, action, drama/4:45pm

Written and directed by Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Mood Indigo”), the story follows the adventures of two teenage boys (played by newcomers Théophile Baquet and Ange Dargent) from Versailles who befriend each other and take a road trip in their self-assembled vehicle in order to get away from their stifling parents and peers.

 

Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) (une historie d’amour moderne)

directed by: Eva Husson

2015/98mins./drama/9:15pm

July 23 at 9:15pm; July 27 at 7:30pm

A heat wave isn’t the only thing in full swing in this steamy drama about rich kids in the coastal town of Biarritz stripping down and shaking off that mid-summer ennui. Young George (Marilyn Lima, think adolescent Bardot painted by Botticelli) unexpectedly falls for Alex after he coaxes her into a casual encounter. When the feelings aren’t reciprocated, George tries to remind him what he’s missing by instigating a game of truth or dare with enough dare in it to put a glint in the eye of a porn impresario. Aided by some selfies and the internet, word spreads, and what began as an attempt to spark a little jealously explodes into a furious wildfire of sexual discovery. George, Alex, and their growing circle of libertine teens are now determined to find their limits, consequences be damned.

 

Les-Cowboys-Poster

 

Les Cowboys

directed by: Thomas Bidegain

2015/104 mins./drama/12:30pm; July 28 at 9:30pm

A vast prairie, a country and western gathering somewhere in the east of France. Alain is a central figure in this community. He’s dancing with his daughter Kelly, 16, as his wife and their young son, Kid, watch from the sidelines. But on this day, Kelly disappears, and the family falls apart. Alain embarks on a relentless search for his daughter, even though it costs him everything and takes him to some far-off places. Dark unsettling places, where his sole support is Kid, who sacrifices his youth to accompany his father on this seemingly endless quest. An inventive, dramatic update of The Searchers set amid France’s rarely explored modern cowboy subculture.

 

Phantom Boy

directed by: Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol

2015/84 mins./animation, fantasy/2:45pm

The highly anticipated new film from the Academy Award®-nominated writers and directors of A Cat In Paris is a stylish noir caper, set in the shadowy streets and alleyways of New York. Leo has a secret. A mysterious illness has transformed him into a phantom boy, able to leave the confines of his body and explore the city as a ghostly apparition. While in the hospital, he befriends Alex, a New York City cop injured while attempting to capture a nefarious gangster who has taken control of the city’s power supply, throwing the metropolis into chaos. Now they must form an extraordinary duo, using Leo’s phantom powers and Alex’s detective work to foil the plot and save New York from destruction. Phantom Boy continues Gagnol and Felicioli’s fascination with animated film noir, in a heart-thumping adventure that pushes their trademark visual style to literal new heights, as Leo swoops and soars above the greatest skyline in the world.

 

Disorder (Maryland)

directed by: Alice Winocour

2015/98 mins./drama, thriller/7:00pm

Alice Winocour, writer of Oscar-nominated “Mustang”, wrote and directed this dramatic thriller that follows Vincent (Matthias Schoenaerts,”Rust and Bone”), a tightly-wound Afghanistan veteran with untreated PTSD, prone to anxiety and hallucinations, who takes on a bodyguard job watching the wife (Diane Kruger, “Inglorious Basterds”) of a wealthy Lebanese businessman on an French estate called “Maryland”. As much as his colleagues make it seem like a routine job, Vincent suspects the estate is about to receive some hostile unwanted guests. What may seem like a basic home invasion thriller, actually becomes an atmospheric examination of paranoia and trauma, grounded by a powerful performance from Schoenaerts. He masters the internal struggle of his character and thankfully Winocour doesn’t develop any kind of love story between his and Kruger’s character. The ending is somewhat of a letdown, but the fine character study makes up for it.

RATING: ***

 

 

Sunday, July 24th

 

Scene of the Crime (Le Lieu du Crime)

1986/90 mins./drama/12:00pm

30 Anniversary – Digital Restoration

Thomas is fourteen and perhaps because not much happens in his remote village in southwestern France, he likes to tell tales. But then one day, something really does happen to him, something that upsets his life and the lives of everyone around him. The lives of his grandparents. The life of his father Maurice. The life of Martin, a stranger and fugitive he meets one day. The life of Alice, the companion of the two brothers, attached to them by childhood love, an attachment she will break only in death. The life of Lili, his mother, above all. Lili loves Thomas more than anything, but she has never done anything she should have done. Dissatisfaction is brewing in her like the storm that hits the village that day; she was only waiting for a flash like Martin to leave everything behind and go off to follow her destiny.

 

seasons

SEASONS (LES SAISONS)

Seasons (Les Saisons)

directed by: Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud

2015/97 mins./documentary/2:00pm

After traveling the world alongside migrating birds and diving the oceans with whales and manta rays, Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud return to more familiar ground, the lush green forests and megafauna that emerged across Europe following the last Ice Age. Winter had gone on for 80,000 years when, in a relatively short period of time the ice retreated, the landscape metamorphosed, the cycle of seasons was established and the beasts occupied their new kingdom. It was only later than man arrived to share this habitat, first tentatively as migratory hunter/gatherers, then making inroads in the forest as settled agriculturalists, and later more dramatically via industry and warfare. Seasons, with its exceptional footage of animals in the wild, is the awe-inspiring and thought-provoking tale of the long and tumultuous shared history that inextricably binds humankind with the natural world.

 

Come What May (En mai, fais ce qu’il te plait)

directed by: Christian Carion

2015/114 mins./historical drama/4:15pm

July 24 at 4:15pm; July 25 at 7:00pm

May 1940: German forces roll into France. Led by their reluctant mayor (Olivier Gourmet), the inhabitants of a small Northern French village are forced to flee along with millions of others throughout the country. The villagers take with them a German child whose father (August Diehl) opposed the Nazi regime and has been jailed for lying about his nationality. The father escapes into the fog of war in search of his son, accompanied by a Scottish soldier (Matthew Rhys, star of FX’s The Americans), who is trying to get back to England. With a transporting score by Oscar-winning composer Ennio Morricone and lush cinematography by Pierre Cottereau, Come What May celebrates everyday acts of resilience and heroism ordinary people carry out in the face of life-altering historical events.

 

Down by Love (Eperdument)

 

directed by: Pierre Godeau

2016/110 mins./drama/6:45pm

Adéle Exarchopoulos (“Blue is the Warmest Color”) sizzles in this story of a young inmate who falls for her married prison director (Guillaume Gallienne, “Yves Saint Laurent”). The film is based on true events that occurred in a Versailles prison in 2011, causing a national scandal.

 

News From Planet Mars (Des Nouvelles de la planete Mars)

directed by: Dominik Moll

2016/101 mins./comedy/9:00pm

Philippe Mars wants to please everyone. He wants to be a good father, a friendly ex-husband, a helpful colleague and an understanding brother. Unfortunately, his little world goes out of its planned orbit. His son becomes a hardcore vegetarian, his daughter a compulsive swot, whilst his sister exhibits giant paintings of their naked parents. At the office he must face the rampages of his mentally unstable colleague Jerôme who one night turns up at his door with a young woman in tow who has just been released from a clinic.

 

 

Monday, July 25th

 

Scene of the Crime (Le Lieu du Crime)

 

directed by: Andre Techine

1986/90 mins./drama/9:30pm

30 Anniversary – Digital Restoration

Thomas is fourteen and perhaps because not much happens in his remote village in southwestern France, he likes to tell tales. But then one day, something really does happen to him, something that upsets his life and the lives of everyone around him. The lives of his grandparents. The life of his father Maurice. The life of Martin, a stranger and fugitive he meets one day. The life of Alice, the companion of the two brothers, attached to them by childhood love, an attachment she will break only in death. The life of Lili, his mother, above all. Lili loves Thomas more than anything, but she has never done anything she should have done. Dissatisfaction is brewing in her like the storm that hits the village that day; she was only waiting for a flash like Martin to leave everything behind and go off to follow her destiny.

 

The Brand New Testament  (Le tout nouveau testament)

directed by: Jaco Van Dormael

2015/ 113 min./comedy, fantasy/4:45pm

An off-the-wall fantasy that finds God (Benoît Poelvoorde) living in human form as a curmudgeon in present-day Brussels, whose spiteful excesses are only restrained by the actions of his plucky 10-year-old daughter, Ea (the much-acclaimed Pili Groyne), who concludes that her dad is doing a terrible job and decides to rewrite the world, which leaves God angry, powerless and adamant to get his job back.

 

Come What May (En mai, fais ce qu’il te plait)

directed by: Christian Carion

2015/114 mins./historical drama/7:00pm

May 1940: German forces roll into France. Led by their reluctant mayor (Olivier Gourmet), the inhabitants of a small Northern French village are forced to flee along with millions of others throughout the country. The villagers take with them a German child whose father (August Diehl) opposed the Nazi regime and has been jailed for lying about his nationality. The father escapes into the fog of war in search of his son, accompanied by a Scottish soldier (Matthew Rhys, star of FX’s The Americans), who is trying to get back to England. With a transporting score by Oscar-winning composer Ennio Morricone and lush cinematography by Pierre Cottereau, Come What May celebrates everyday acts of resilience and heroism ordinary people carry out in the face of life-altering historical events.

 

Tuesday, July 26th

 

Microbe & Gasoline (Microbe et Gasoil)

directed by: Michel Gondry

2015/105 min./comedy, action, drama/9:30pm

Written and directed by Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Mood Indigo”), the story follows the adventures of two teenage boys (played by newcomers Théophile Baquet and Ange Dargent) from Versailles who befriend each other and take a road trip in their self-assembled vehicle in order to get away from their stifling parents and peers.

 

Seasons (Les Saisons)

directed by: Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud

2015/97 mins./documentary/5:15pm

After traveling the world alongside migrating birds and diving the oceans with whales and manta rays, Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud return to more familiar ground, the lush green forests and megafauna that emerged across Europe following the last Ice Age. Winter had gone on for 80,000 years when, in a relatively short period of time the ice retreated, the landscape metamorphosed, the cycle of seasons was established and the beasts occupied their new kingdom. It was only later than man arrived to share this habitat, first tentatively as migratory hunter/gatherers, then making inroads in the forest as settled agriculturalists, and later more dramatically via industry and warfare. Seasons, with its exceptional footage of animals in the wild, is the awe-inspiring and thought-provoking tale of the long and tumultuous shared history that inextricably binds humankind with the natural world.

 

Down by Love (Eperdument)

directed by: Pierre Godeau

2016/110 mins./drama/7:15pm

Adéle Exarchopoulos (“Blue is the Warmest Color”) sizzles in this story of a young inmate who falls for her married prison director (Guillaume Gallienne, “Yves Saint Laurent”). The film is based on true events that occurred in a Versailles prison in 2011, causing a national scandal.

 

down_by_love_still_-_h_2016

DOWN BY LOVE (EPERDUMENT)

 

 

Wednesday, July 27th

 

Scene of the Crime (Le Lieu du Crime)

directed by: Andre Techine

1986/90 mins./drama/5:30pm

30 Anniversary – Digital Restoration

Thomas is fourteen and perhaps because not much happens in his remote village in southwestern France, he likes to tell tales. But then one day, something really does happen to him, something that upsets his life and the lives of everyone around him. The lives of his grandparents. The life of his father Maurice. The life of Martin, a stranger and fugitive he meets one day. The life of Alice, the companion of the two brothers, attached to them by childhood love, an attachment she will break only in death. The life of Lili, his mother, above all. Lili loves Thomas more than anything, but she has never done anything she should have done. Dissatisfaction is brewing in her like the storm that hits the village that day; she was only waiting for a flash like Martin to leave everything behind and go off to follow her destiny.

July 24 at 12:00pm; July 25 at 9:30pm: July 27 at 5:30pm

 

Paris, Love, Cut (Arnaud fait son 2e film)

directed by: Arnaud Viard

2015/80 mins./comedy/9:30pm

Director Arnaud Viard stars as a variation of himself, also named Arnaud, who, at 45 years-old wants to have a child with the love of his life, Chloé (Irène Jacob) and shoot his second movie – but, he is blocked by sexual and financial failures. After leaving Chloe he goes back to teaching theater at Florent in order to pay his rent, where he falls under the spell of Gabrielle (Louise Coldefy).

 

Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) (une historie d’amour moderne)

directed by: Eva Husson

2015/98 mins./drama/7:30pm

A heat wave isn’t the only thing in full swing in this steamy drama about rich kids in the coastal town of Biarritz stripping down and shaking off that mid-summer ennui. Young George (Marilyn Lima, think adolescent Bardot painted by Botticelli) unexpectedly falls for Alex after he coaxes her into a casual encounter. When the feelings aren’t reciprocated, George tries to remind him what he’s missing by instigating a game of truth or dare with enough dare in it to put a glint in the eye of a porn impresario. Aided by some selfies and the internet, word spreads, and what began as an attempt to spark a little jealously explodes into a furious wildfire of sexual discovery. George, Alex, and their growing circle of libertine teens are now determined to find their limits, consequences be damned.

 

banggang

BANG GANG (A MODERN STORY) (UNE HISTORIE D’AMOUR MODERNE)

 

 

Thursday, July 28th

 

News From Planet Mars (Des Nouvelles de la planete Mars)

directed by: Dominik Moll

2016/101 mins./comedy/7:15pm

Philippe Mars wants to please everyone. He wants to be a good father, a friendly ex-husband, a helpful colleague and an understanding brother. Unfortunately, his little world goes out of its planned orbit. His son becomes a hardcore vegetarian, his daughter a compulsive swot, whilst his sister exhibits giant paintings of their naked parents. At the office he must face the rampages of his mentally unstable colleague Jerôme who one night turns up at his door with a young woman in tow who has just been released from a clinic.

 

Les Cowboys

directed by: Thomas Bidegain

2015/104 mins./drama/9:30pm

A vast prairie, a country and western gathering somewhere in the east of France. Alain is a central figure in this community. He’s dancing with his daughter Kelly, 16, as his wife and their young son, Kid, watch from the sidelines. But on this day, Kelly disappears, and the family falls apart. Alain embarks on a relentless search for his daughter, even though it costs him everything and takes him to some far-off places. Dark unsettling places, where his sole support is Kid, who sacrifices his youth to accompany his father on this seemingly endless quest. An inventive, dramatic update of The Searchers set amid France’s rarely explored modern cowboy subculture.

 

Phantom Boy

directed by: Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol

2015/84 min./animation, fantasy/5:15pm

The creative writers/directors of the Oscar-nominated animated feature “A Cat in Paris”, Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol are back with another feature-length film, “Phantom Boy”, using the same distinctive and vibant style to tell another adventure. Acquired by American distributor GKIDS (the folks who gave us “The Boy & the World” and “Song of the Sea”), this French-language film is yet another fun and clever story that combines a pop-art, hand-drawn style with Squigglevision, which can be enjoyed by all-ages, especially those American kids who feel like their growing out of the typical animation fare offered in the U.S. 

Felicioli and Gagnol switch the setting from Paris to New York City (a French-speaking Big Apple, that is) this time around, while staying within the crime genre yet adding a supernatural element to the story. The city is threatened by a boisterous kingpin with a deformed cubist face (resembling a twisted Picasso) who is threatened to leak a deadly electronic virus throughout the city unless the mayor hands over a billion dollars. In the city hospital, Alex, a resilient cop confined to a wheelchair with a broken leg, befriends Leo, a terminally ill young boy who has the unexplained ability to take on an astral form and fly around the city without being seen. Alex learns of the precocious boy’s secret and the two wind up assisting Alex’s plucky journalist friend, Mary, as they try and bring this kingpin to justice.

There are evident noir conventions at play in “Phantom Boy”, especially in relation to the Dick Tracy-type villain and the fact that there is a criminal threat to the city, but it’s all quite light-hearted and in the same vein as “A Cat in Paris”. The unique and intriguing aspect of the film is the magical out-of-body adventures Leo has as the titular character and the limitations such power has. Between his stealth powers and Alex’s resourcefulness (not to mention the aide of a cell phone), the two become quite an impressive crime-fighting duo. Featuring the voice work of Audrey Tautou, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Edouard Baer, Jackie Berroyer, Gaspard Gagnol and Noa Bernaoui-Savreux.

“Phantom Boy” has been working the festival circuit, appearing at TIFF last fall and Closing Night film for the Chicago European Union Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center back in March.

RATING: ***

 

phantomboyflying

 

 

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