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Festival of New French Cinema

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The sixth annual Festival of New French Cinema, presented by Facets Multimedia Center and French Cultural Services in Chicago, runs Friday through Thursday, December 6 through 12, at Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton. Unless otherwise noted, films are in French with subtitles. Tickets are $7, $5 for Facets members; for more information call 773-281-4114.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Audrey Tautou (Amelie) uses her gamine charm to neat effect in this psychological thriller about an art student who falls in love with a married cardiologist. There's something about her character that's a bit off, and her declarations of love are so fanatical that she becomes the immediate object of suspicion when bad things start to happen to anyone who gets in the way of her affair. Director Laetitia Colombani creates an odd feeling of pleasurable dread and carefully lays the groundwork for the wild plot twist at the film's midpoint. 91 min. (Hank Sartin) (7:00)

An Outgoing Woman

A woman in a provincial town (Agnes Jaoui, from Un air de famille) learns of her husband's adultery and angrily discards her disciplined, middle-class facade for a volatile, dangerous life of club hopping, one-night stands, and sexual experimentation. This 1999 French drama by Christophe Blanc charts the wife's gradual disintegration with restless but probing camerawork that recalls A Woman Under the Influence, and like Cassavetes's actors, Jaoui burrows into the role: her disorderly air, her hateful glances at her ex, and her temper tantrums all signal self-destruction on a path that initially held the promise of liberation. Unfortunately the script, cowritten by Blanc, becomes repetitive and stretches scenes well past their point; instead of understanding or empathizing with the woman's boredom, we end up sharing it. 118 min. (TS) (9:00)

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7

Very Opposite Sexes

Yet another relationship comedy tracing the arcs of several love affairs, with beautiful and self-absorbed characters periodically addressing the camera about their heartache. Writer-director Eric Assous may want to lay bare the complications of modern romance, but his characters are as simple as they come: a gorgeous but brain-dead beautician (Stephanie Lagarde) who takes up with a pipe-smoking professor (Patrick Chesnais); a gorgeous but flaky librarian (Veronique Boulanger) who falls for her conniving downstairs neighbor (Jean-Noel Broute); a gorgeous but shallow real estate agent (Elisa Tovati) who listens to George Michael on her headphones while being mounted by her irrationally jealous lover (Antoine Dulery); a gorgeous but--well, you get the idea. Roxane Mesquida (the sexually adventurous sister in Fat Girl) arrives late in the film as a student who shows the professor her perfect breasts and then charges him with sexual harassment, a particularly embarrassing example of the film's cosmopolitan misogyny (2001, 85 min.). (JJ) (3:00)

The Crossing

In this emotional 2001 documentary Sebastien Lifshitz (Come Undone) follows his friend Stephane Bouquet on a quest to find his father, an American serviceman stationed in France in the 1960s who transferred before learning that his lover was pregnant. Bouquet seems withdrawn, distrustful of people, and simply self-absorbed, but his willingness to let Lifshitz paint an unflattering portrait makes his search all the more moving. The director overdoes the shots of Bouquet looking out of windows, and sometimes he deliberately and needlessly misleads us to maintain the suspense. But it's hard to forget images like Bouquet's halting approach to a house where he thinks his father may be. 85 min. (Hank Sartin) (5:00)

Land of the Singing Dog

A distinguished film editor who's worked with Francois Truffaut (The Story of Adele H), Maurice Pialat (Under Satan's Sun), and Claire Denis (Nenette and Boni), Yann Dedet makes his feature directorial debut with this whimsical, quietly observant 2001 tale of a Japanese couple visiting a village in eastern France. The husband (Gen Shimaoka) is a musicologist intrigued by reports of a singing dog, and the wife (Katsuko Nakamura) is an anthropologist studying ancient religious rites, but they've also come to the region to conceive a child. Dedet documents the couple's mix of kimono-garbed tradition and electronic accessorizing, of mysticism and practicality, that piques the villagers' curiosity, and Nakamura and Shimaoka are understated and believable as obsessive academics. The striking cinematography captures the majestic beauty of the woods and lakes of the Jura region, though ultimately the film is too cryptic for its tragic end to stir any emotion. In French and Japanese with subtitles. 95 min. (TS) Dedet will attend the screening. (7:00)

Blame It on Voltaire

The French title--which translates as "Poetical Refugee"--more aptly describes this lackadaisical narrative about a hunky and sincere Tunisian immigrant to Paris (Sami Bouajila) who hooks up with two sexually enticing women: a statuesque single mother (Aure Atika) who agrees to an arranged marriage but walks out at the last minute and then a charming but unbalanced nymphomaniac (Elodie Bouchez from The Dreamlife of Angels) who follows him around the streets of Paris. This 2000 feature by Abdel Kechiche, an award winner at the Venice film festival, contains some strong character work, particularly from Bruno Lochet as the middle-aged ringleader of a group of derelicts and Bouchez as the urgent young castabout. The abrupt ending only underscores the fact that there wasn't much of a plot to begin with, but this offers an interesting look at street life in contemporary Paris. 130 min. (JJ) (9:00)

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 8

Land of the Singing Dog

See listing for Saturday, December 7. (3:00)

Deep Breath

Damien Odoul directed this 2001 black-and-white feature about a young punk coming of age on his uncle's farm. 71 min. (5:00)

17 Times Cecile Cassard

Novelist Christophe Honore makes his directing debut with this story of a woman trying to start over after her husband dies. (6:30)

MONDAY, DECEMBER 9

Gregoire Moulin Versus Humanity

See Critic's Choice. (7:00)

Blame It on Voltaire

See listing for Saturday, December 7. (9:00)

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 10

An Outgoing Woman

See listing for Friday, December 6. (7:00)

Deep Breath

See listing for Sunday, December 8. (9:15)

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 11

God Is Great, I'm Not

A romantic comedy about a model (Audrey Tautou of Amelie) who falls in love with a Jew and decides to convert from Buddhism. Pascale Bailly directed. 95 min. (7:00)

17 Times Cecile Cassard

See listing for Sunday, December 8. (9:00)

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 12

Hair Under the Roses

Agnes Obadia and Jean-Julien Chervier take a ground-zero look at adolescence in this 2000 drama about Roudoudou (Julie Duranda), a gawky but fetching 14-year-old plunging into adult sexuality as anxiously as if she'd been pushed. And she has been--her family is frank about sex, and at one point she picks up a phone only to hear her best friend and her older brother noisily masturbating together. The directors toss in some simple but effective animation for the heroine's dream sequences (she flies like a superhero but is pulled earthward when her single breast begins to expand), and a later party scene offers an even weirder displacement: Roudoudou passes out drunk on the bathroom floor just as her friends are watching the broadcast of a man-on-the-street documentary for which she's made several extremely outspoken comments. In the last half hour Obadia and Chervier unwisely turn to the neurasthenic Romain (Alexis Roucout), whom Roudoudou has met in a therapist's reception room. He and a male friend plot to seduce each other's mothers--a notion weird enough for a movie of its own--and the abrupt finale, a halting sexual encounter between Romain and Roudoudou, doesn't deliver much insight. 85 min. (JJ) (7:00)

Gregoire Moulin Versus Humanity

See Critic's Choice. (9:00)

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