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Festival of New French Cinema

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Presented by Facets Cinematheque and the French Cultural Services in Chicago, the eighth annual Festival of New French Cinema runs December 3 through 12 at Facets. Tickets are $9, $5 for Facets Cinematheque members; for more information call 773-281-4114. Unless otherwise noted, all films are in French with subtitles.

As if Nothing Happened

A promising theater director (Pierre-Olivier Mornas) and a fetching museum docent (Alice Carel) fall madly in love and cut short numerous dates so they can dash through darkened streets to his flat and hump like bunnies. When he overhears that she has a brain tumor, he decides to cast her as the star of his new play, apparently believing that her last days on earth would be best spent memorizing lines and sweating a debut performance. Mornas wrote and directed this ridiculous 2003 soap opera, which is pulled over the finish line by a strong cast. 97 min. (JJ) (Wed 12/8, 9 PM, and Thu 12/9, 7 PM)

R As Life Goes By

This 2003 video documentary originated in the mid-90s when director Jean-Henri Meunier moved to Najac, a small medieval town nestled in a rugged cul-de-sac of the Midi-Pyrenees. His affection for his eccentric and resourceful neighbors translates here into a rhapsody of the quotidian: among the dozen villagers he celebrates are an indefatigable mechanic who channels his longing for his dead wife into his doll collection, a farmer whose Lithuanian Jewish family was inspired to emigrate by the humanist ideals of the French Revolution, and a philosophical eco-activist who blithely ignores his persistent bill collectors. Funny, sweet, and oddly reassuring, the video shows how people can bloom in isolation like the rare orchids that dot the mountainside. 94 min. (AG) (Fri 12/3, 9:15 PM)

R Capone

A small-time crook (Serge Riaboukine) steals the title racehorse from a couple of mobsters and then talks a stoic cabdriver (Gerald Laroche) into transporting the horse to Finland for a big race. Jean-Marc Brondolo, who cowrote and directed this engaging road movie for French TV, nicely handles the expected bonding between the two men, favoring droll humor over buffoonery and cheap sentimentality. In English and subtitled French and Finnish. 100 min. (Reece Pendleton) (Sat 12/4, 9:15 PM, and Sun 12/5, 8:30 PM)

Demi-tarif

French actress Isild Le Besco (Sade, Right Now) has been working in movies since she was 14, so her fascination with the secret world of childhood in this handmade 2003 video seems natural enough. Three young children left alone for days on end by their mother--a prostitute, according to one school-yard taunt--fend for themselves in their apartment and run wild in the streets, shoplifting and sneaking into movies. Le Besco supplies sparing, subtitled voice-over from the kids' perspective, but their dialogue is unsubtitled, which adds to the sense of a private world. Filmmaker Chris Marker has hyperbolically compared this to Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless for its "physical sense of freshness and urgency," an appraisal that reflects the kids' limitless energy more than Le Besco's craft. 63 min. (JJ) (Sat-Sun 12/4-12/5, 1 PM)

Eager Bodies

A young woman diagnosed with cancer tries to orchestrate a romantic union between her boyfriend and her cousin in this 2003 feature by Xavier Giannoli. 94 min. (Tue 12/7, 9 PM)

Green Paradise

While struggling to finish an oral history of his rural grade school, a young Parisian sociologist (Denis Podalydes) realizes he's fallen in love with a childhood friend he's been interviewing (Natacha Regnier). The feeling is mutual, but an incident involving his tape recorder convinces him that she loves another former classmate, distracting him further from his project. The story unfolds so moderately that it barely registers at times, but director Emmanuel Bourdieu reveals his characters' emotional lives with uncommon subtlety and grace, aided by an excellent ensemble. 88 min. (Reece Pendleton) Bourdieu will attend the screenings. (Sat 12/4, 7 PM, and Sun 12/5, 2:30 PM)

Hypnotized and Hysterical (Hairdresser Wanted)

Claude Duty directed this 2002 musical melodrama about the friendship among three young women. 100 min. (Mon 12/6, 7 PM)

Illumination

A disturbed young man falls in love with his grandmother's nurse in this feature by Pascale Breton. 135 min. (Tue 12/7, 6:30 PM)

It's Easier for a Camel...

Veteran actress Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi makes her writing and directing debut with this 2003 feature about a troubled rich girl. 116 min. (Fri 12/3, 7 PM)

Leave Your Hands on My Hips

Chantal Lauby wrote, directed, and stars in this 2003 feature about a despondent middle-aged woman who unexpectedly strikes up a flirtation with a carnival entertainer. 108 min. (Sat 12/4, 2:30 PM, and Mon 12/6, 9 PM)

R The Living World

Writer-director Eugene Green was born in the U.S. but is currently an academic based in France, and this 2003 oddity, his second feature, seems more classically French than many French releases. A charming medieval fairy tale (in partially modern dress) about two knights trying to rescue children from an ogre, it periodically suggests the work of Robert Bresson, though largely stripped of its materiality and violence. The handling of animals--most notably a dog playing a lion--is especially sweet and gentle, and for all its mannerist tics, this has its share of enchantments. 75 min. (JR) (Sun 12/5, 4:30 PM, and Sun 12/12, 1 PM)

Moi, Cesar

The title character is a ten-year-old boy wrestling with his first romantic feelings. Richard Berry directed this 2003 feature. 91 min. (Wed 12/8, 7 PM, and Sat 12/11, 1 PM)

Monsieur N.

Antoine de Caunes speculates about the last days of Napoleon Bonaparte in this 2003 feature. 127 min. (Thu 12/9, 9 PM)

My Idol

Guillaume Canet directed, cowrote, and stars in this slick satire (2002), playing an ambitious young gofer on the set of a popular TV game show--"It's Tissue Time!"--that reduces contestants to tears. He fawns obsessively over the dictatorial producer (a charmingly sleazy Francois Berleand) and eagerly accepts an invitation to the man's vacation home, where he's promptly humiliated himself by the boss and his sexy younger wife (Diane Kruger of Troy). Unfortunately this lacks any nuance or sophistication, hammering home the cynicism until it becomes as smugly contemptuous as its targets. 110 min. (Reece Pendleton) (Sat 12/4, 4:30 PM)

Process

An actress racked by illness and personal tragedy (Beatrice Dalle) loses her voice onstage, and amid a series of sex-and-drug orgies she tries repeatedly to kill herself. This experimental feature by English-born director C.S. Leigh is restricted to 29 interior shots (most of them very long takes) and accompanied by John Cale's morose piano music. The set decoration is stunning, and both Dalle's mute performance and the choreographed camerawork of Yorgos Arvanitis (who has worked with Theo Angelopoulos and Catherine Breillat) are flawless. But enter at your own risk: this is at once challenging,

pretentious, tedious, and harrowing. 90 min. (JR) (Sun 12/5, 6:30 PM)

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