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Festival of New French Cinema

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Presented by Facets Cinematheque and French Cultural Services in Chicago, this festival of recent French features runs Friday, December 2, through Sunday, December 11, at Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton. Following is the schedule through Thursday, December 8; a full schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com. For more information call 773-281-4114. Unless otherwise noted, all films are in French with subtitles.


R Let's Be Friends

Two losers in love--a pale nebbish (Jean-Paul Rouve) and an older divorced man (Gerard Depardieu)--band together in their dating efforts, a functional relationship whose ups and downs turn out to be the real subject of this romantic comedy by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano. Strangely, the movie shares gags with two American hits released months later: as in Wedding Crashers the two pals try to score by making the rounds of reception halls, and as in The 40-Year-Old Virgin they participate in a speed-dating round-robin, which introduces them to seven women in seven minutes. It's not as funny as either of those movies by a long shot, but I was impressed by its mix of sour satire and genuine pathos. 100 min. (JJ) (7 PM)

R Violent Days

Four disaffected and economically marginal French people--three guys and the often mistreated girlfriend of one of them--drive to Le Havre for a 50s-style rock concert in this 2004 feature. First-time director Lucile Chaufour juxtaposes intense but stilted performances of songs with fights at the entrance to the concert, and her black-and-white cinema verite close-ups of the characters reflect how hopelessly they're trapped in their world. This makes their aimless and alienated lives vivid, but they're not pleasant characters to spend time with. 80 min. (FC) (9:15 PM)


R Let's Be Friends

See listing for Friday, December 2. (1 PM)

Thirtyfive Something

Warning: this French knockoff of Sex and the City includes a scene with its three attractive Parisians bopping around a living room to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." Even before that atrocity, this is pretty familiar stuff, though first-time writer-director Cecile Telerman invests the bourgeois moping with considerable intelligence. Mathilde Seigner (With a Friend Like Harry) is a sharp-tongued single lawyer with cash-flow problems and a series of dud boyfriends, Judith Godreche is a sweet mother and nurse who's grown tired of supporting her smug painter husband, and the always striking Anne Parillaud (Sex Is Comedy) is a put-upon advertising exec whose spouse has disappeared into his corporate job. 105 min. (JJ) (3 PM)

Ma Vie en l'Air

The winsome male lead of this romantic comedy, Vincent Elbaz, is a safety examiner for a French airline who tests pilots in a giant cockpit simulator but is himself afraid to fly. Writer-director Remi Bezancon has a similar occupation, testing his characters in a giant fear-of-flying metaphor. The hero meets and falls for a pouty-lipped honey (Elsa Kikoine) who promptly leaves to spend a year in Australia, and because his phobia prohibits a long-distance relationship, he comforts himself with a bouncy sex therapist (Marion Cotillard). The aeronautic motif is the only thing holding this wan satire together, and the cockpit-simulator scenes introduce the funniest character, a flustered pilot who keeps taking hundreds of theoretical passengers to their deaths. 103 min. (JJ) (5 PM)

Les Invisibles

This first feature by film and jazz critic Thierry Jousse, a former editor of Cahiers du Cinema, seems as obsessed with sound as its hero, a composer and performer of electronic music (Laurent Lucas) who's preparing an album with a musician friend (Noel Akchote--the focus of Jousse's first documentary short). After encountering a woman in a telephone chat group, he agrees to meet and have sex with her in a dark hotel room, then spends much of the rest of the movie fanatically and paranoiacally pursuing this mystery figure. Jousse explores the notion that sounds produce visual images by plotting out entire scenes in darkness (an effect lamentably muted by subtitles), yet part of the film's strangeness, abetted by Michael Lonsdale as an eccentric jazz guru, is that it sometimes seems more theoretical than suspenseful. 95 min. (JR) Jousse will attend the screening. (7 PM)


Set in the Rue Saint Denis garment district of Paris, this derivative gangster flick is worth seeing only for its two charismatic male leads: Simon Abkarian (Yes) as an Armenian cardsharp and enforcer and Pascal Elbe as his cohort, who gets in trouble for protecting an illegal Chinese emigre. Linh Dan Pham, so beguiling in The Beat That My Heart Skipped, plays the femme fatale who's dumped Elbe, but she's just another generic staple in a movie that uses the tensions roiling France's immigrant underclass to drive an action plot. Frederic Balekdijan directed. In French, Mandarin, Armenian, and Arabic with subtitles. 80 min. (AG) (9:15 PM)


Les Invisibles

See listing for Saturday, December 3. Reader critic Jonathan Rosenbaum will interview director Thierry Jousse at the screening. (1 PM)

A Song of Innocence

Antoine Santana follows her 2002 feature debut, Un Moment de Bonheur, with this late-19th-century story about a teenage shepherdess (Isild Le Besco of A Tout de Suite) who becomes a wet nurse for the daughter of a girl the same age (Emile Dequenne of Rosetta). Gregoire Colin plays the child's father, an architect who feels threatened by the growing friendship between the two women. 90 min. (3 PM)

R Le Pont des Arts

French film director (and philosophy professor) Eugene Green hails from New York, but you'd never guess it from the gentle Bressonian drifts of his style and the curious ways his actors address the camera. In his three features to date he's moved from a Flaubert story (Every Night, 2001) to a medieval fairy tale (The Living World, 2003) to this tale (2004) set around the title bridge in Paris, interweaving the stories of a drifting, suicidal literature student (Adrian Michaux) and a classically trained singer (Natasha Regnier). The mannerist mood verges on deadpan parody, yet this is far from cynical or unfelt, and the music is potent. With Denis Podalydes and Olivier Gourmet. 126 min. (JR) (5 PM)

R Violent Days

See listing for Friday, December 2. (7:30 PM)


Work Hard, Play Hard

Capitalist intrigue and moral scruples are the focus of this 2003 first feature by Jean-Marc Moutout, about a rising young executive in a management consulting firm. 99 min. (7 PM)


See listing for Saturday, December 3. (9 PM)


R The Giraffe's Neck

The title of this 2003 domestic drama refers to a bookshop once owned by the protagonist (Claude Rich), now an elderly cardiac patient consigned to a nursing home by his grown daughter (Sandrine Bonnaire). His preternaturally wise granddaughter (an astonishing Louisa Pili) unearths some old letters revealing that her grandmother is still alive and persuades the old man to track down his estranged ex-wife; assisted by the other residents, they set off for Biarritz in the nursing home's van. The exchanges between the aged conspirators are so cute they're patronizing, but the moving interaction of father, daughter, and grandchild adds resonance to a story about the weight of history, the limits of memory, and the possibility of renewal. Safy Nebbou directed,0 with confidence and restraint. In French, Spanish, and Italian with subtitles. 83 min. (AG) (7 PM)

Thirtyfive Something

See listing for Saturday, December 3. (9 PM)


Ze Film

A slacker from a Parisian housing project wakes up on a park bench in the middle of a commercial film shoot, gets mistaken for a gofer, and makes off with a van full of equipment because his pal is obsessed with making a movie. If that doesn't strain credibility enough, he and his two buddies torch the perfectly good vehicle, no one comes looking for the gear, and the cops never bust them for filming without a permit. Everything in this contrived comedy drama panders to budding cineasts, from the lead character's nickname (Kubrick) to the men's easy acquisition of a lab, a screening room, and some compliant babes. Luc Besson coproduced and Guy Jacques directed. In French with subtitles. 99 min. (AG) (7 PM)

A Song of Innocence

See listing for Sunday, December 4. (9 PM)


When the Sea Rises . . .

Yolande Moreau--the Belgian-born comic actress who played the downcast concierge in Amelie--wrote, codirected (with Gilles Porte), and stars in this tale about a comedian who's wooed by a young homeless man (Wim Willaert) during a tour of northern France. 90 min. (7 PM)

R The Giraffe's Neck

See listing for Tuesday, December 6. (9 PM)

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