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For the twelfth consecutive year, Manhattan’s Film Society of Lincoln Center and Unifrance USA co-hosted a festival of new French films. Below, courtesy of the two institutions, is the program for Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2007, which opened with "La Vie en Rose," shown above. (For complete details, click here and visit the Film Society’s official site.)


La Vie en Rose / La Môme
Director: Olivier Dahan

We’re delighted and honored to present as the opening film of this year’s Rendez-Vous the North American premiere of La Vie en Rose, Olivier Dahan’s fascinating, deeply moving portrait of the great Edith Piaf. One of the iconic figures and voices of 20th century France, Piaf (Marion Cotillard) was born into poverty, abandoned by her mother and shuttled between her brothel-keeper grandmother and circus-performer father. Singing on street corners for pennies, she one day attracts the attention of Louis Leplée (Gerard Depardieu), owner of one of the most posh nightclubs in town. Soon she’s the toast of Paris, with friends ranging from Jean Cocteau to Marlene Dietrich to boxer Marcel Cerdan and a soaring, deep-throated voice that came to symbolize a certain kind of tenacious humanity, a willingness to go on no matter what the odds. Despite her fame and fortune, she would suffer more than her share of tragedies: the loss or abandonment of loved ones, as well as her own devastating abuse of her own body with drink and eventually drugs. Cotillard (A Good Year, A Very Long Engagement, Big Fish) gives one of the most remarkable performances seen anywhere in years; she brilliantly captures Piaf’s fragility, the constant, nagging fear that everything around her could disappear in an instant, leaving her back on the streets. A powerful supporting cast includes Depardieu, Sylvie Testud, Pascal Greggory, Emmanuelle Seigner and Marc Barbé.

The Valet / La Doublure
Director: Francis Veber

Prominent industrialist Pierre Levasseur (Daniel Auteuil) and his beautiful mistress Elena (Alice Taglioni) are in the midst of an argument when a photographer immortalizes the moment on film. It looks as if Mrs. Levasseur (Kristin Scott Thomas) would have all the evidence she needs of her husband’s infidelity—if someone else wasn’t in the photograph, a parking lot attendant named François Pignon (comedian Gad Elmaleh). Levasseur protests that Elena was actually with Pignon, and to bolster his claim he convinces Pignon to let Elena move in and pose as his fiancée. But the attendant has set his sights on the somewhat diffident Emilie (Virginie Ledoyen), who can’t believe that her mild-mannered admirer is suddenly all over the Paris gossip columns. A master comic filmmaker, Francis Veber (The Dinner Game, The Closet) has crafted a wry and revealing look at the uses (and misuses) of celebrity, drawing superb performances from an all-star cast.

Ambitious / Les Ambitieux
Director: Catherine Corsini

Trapped in a dead-end job in a provincial town, aspiring writer Julien (Eric Caravaca) manages to get an appointment with Judith Zahn (Karin Viard), a famous publisher in Paris. Judith does not think he has much talent, but does find him attractive. Soon the two are lovers, but staying at Judith’s apartment means Julien can look through her things. He learns that Judith’s father, a radical philosopher in the 1960s, had left France to join a Latin American guerilla movement and been killed. Suddenly, Julien has the idea for that novel he’s always wanted to write...Catherine Corsini, whose The New Eve was presented in Rendez-Vous 2000, returns with this coolly observed study of commitment and betrayal. Her characters seem almost shocked by what they’re capable of doing, but come to understand that their actions simply reveal parts of themselves they’ve always kept hidden.

Blame It on Fidel / La Faute à Fidel
Director: Julie Gavras

Set in 1970, Blame It on Fidel is a wry and engaging look at how personal the political becomes in the life of one nine-year-old girl. Fernando (Stefano Accorsi) and Marie (Julie Depardieu) are left-leaning and very comfortably upper middle class when a trip to Latin America convinces both to dedicate themselves full-time to the many causes they have only verbally supported. Soon they have moved out of their large house and into a small apartment, to the consternation of their daughter, Anna. Moreover, the girl fails to understand the late-night presence in her home of so many strangers, why her father forbids her to read Mickey Mouse, or why the nuns at school regard her strangely. Full of wonderful historical asides and period detail, Blame It on Fidel is about that moment when parents realize that their children are their own separate selves—and the moment when children discover the same thing about their parents. In the crucial role of Anna, Nina Kervel is a revelation.

Countdown / Il sera une fois
Director: Sandrine Veysset

A young boy, Pierrot, lives by measuring his moments. Each tick seems to leave a physical impression on him. Yet increasingly, Pierrot moves inward, living not for the moment but for the future he knows is speeding towards him. The inspiration for Countdown came when screenwriter Sébastien Regnier asked Sandrine Veysset, “If one day you met an old woman, and then realized she was actually you, what would you ask her?” From that discussion, Veysset (Will It Snow for Christmas?, Martha…Martha) has created a lyrical, provocative look at the terror that time holds for all of us, its control over even our simplest actions and relationships, and how it seems to gain power the less we’re aware of its effects on us. Sadly, Countdown was the last film completed for producer Humbert Balsan, but it is a perfect example of the innovative, challenging work he constantly championed throughout his career.

Don’t Worry, I’m Fine / Je vais bien, ne t’en fais pas
Director: Philippe Lioret

Returning home from a vacation in Barcelona, 19-year-old Lili (a wonderful performance by newcomer Melanie Laurent) discovers that her twin brother has disappeared after a fight with their father. When repeated messages to his cell phone go unanswered, Lili can’t understand her parents’ reticence to get involved in the search for their son. The fears and pressure begin to take their toll, forcing Lili to question herself and her relationship to her parents as she sets out to track down her brother. Lioret perfectly calibrates the growing sense of shock and awareness that begin to transform Lili’s life. What begins as a seemingly normal suburban family is gradually revealed to contain surprisingly dark secrets.

Flanders / Flandres
Director: Bruno Dumont

One of the most heatedly debated films at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Flanders begins among the sprawling, tilled farmlands of the northern reaches of France. The young people work their ever-less-profitable farms, go to local bars, and have sex—suddenly, rather emotionlessly, at times brutally. But they also go to war. This time, the fighting is in a distant desert land as visually distinct from their home turf as it could be. Strategies are meaningless; battles are exercises for both sides in brutality. And then we are back in the fields that began the film…Always controversial, director Bruno Dumont (La Vie de Jésus) once again brings us into a very human heart of darkness. The move from plowed fields to battlefields and then back again gives the film an almost seasonal feeling, as if what he is depicting, in all its horror, is part of a very natural cycle of life.

I Do! / Prête-moi ta main
Director: Eric Lartigau

Luis (Alain Chabat) pretty much has it made. He’s successful, handsome, and at 43, still single. He gets plenty of dates when he wants them, and every time he needs a home-cooked meal or clean laundry—well, he does have a mother and five sisters. But when his family decides they have had enough, arranging for Luis a series of grueling bad dates, Luis decides to take matters into his own hands, turning to his best friend’s sister, Emmanuelle (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who has just moved to Paris and is looking for work. One of the great hits of 2006, I Do! is a smart and very contemporary comedy of manners that features terrific work by Chabat (who also cowrote the screenplay) and Gainsbourg.

Inside Paris / Dans Paris
Director: Christophe Honoré

After his controversial adaptation of Georges Bataille’s My Mother, Christophe Honoré switches gears for this elegant, deeply felt tale of a family dealing with a son’s depression. When Paul’s (Romain Duris) relationship with girlfriend Anna (Joana Preiss) comes apart, he heads for the apartment shared by his brother Jonathan (Louis Garrel) and their divorced father Mirko (the wonderful Guy Marchand). Retreating into his brother’s room, Paul refuses to get out of bed, despite the entreaties of his father, a visit from his mother (Marie-France Pisier), and his brother’s doomed attempt to cheer him up. Calling the film a kind of New Wave homage also points to what makes Inside Paris so bracing. Honoré, with the invaluable aid of his great cast, has powerfully drawn these characters and created such a palpable world for them that the film feels as if it could veer off in any direction; it goes beyond simple realism to capture what might be called the texture of these lives.

The Man of My Life / L’Homme de sa vie
Director: Zabou Breitman

The scene is a beautiful patch of French countryside, perfect for a family vacation—which is exactly what Frédéric (Bernard Campan) and his wife Frédérique (Léa Drucker) are enjoying. When their new neighbor, Hugo (Charles Berling), comes over for dinner, he suddenly reveals that he is gay. Thus begins a complex, constantly shifting emotional tango between Frédéric and Hugo. Hugo’s lack of interest in any kind of emotional commitment—and his disbelief in love as anything but fleeting and physical—challenges some of Frédéric’s most deeply held convictions. Yet the experience of meeting Hugo seems to bring up some doubts and concerns Frédéric has long kept hidden...Also a well-respected actor, director Zabou Breitman expertly guides the two lead performances, bringing out nuances and details that continually transform these characters right before our eyes.

Murderers / Meurtrières
Director: Patrick Grandperret

19-year-olds Nina (Hande Kodja) and Lizzy (Céline Sallette) are living in a kind of asylum. Discovering in each other kindred spirits, they decide to take off, with no real destination in mind. Together they have a strength and energy, and at first handle everything the world throws at them. In time, things start to fall apart: their money runs out, and the people they meet sense the girls’ vulnerability and try to take advantage. Before long, the road has taken their friendship dangerously far...Based on a script idea by the late, great Maurice Pialat and produced by his widow, Sylvie Pialat.

One to Another / Chacun sa nuit
Director: Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr

A young woman, Lucie (Lizzie Brocheré), and four handsome young men sunbathe together, enraptured by their own youth and sensuality. Gradually, the complex network among them is revealed—the sexual and emotional entanglements, as well as those still waiting to be expressed. At the center is Pierre (Arthur Dupont), Lucie’s brother, occasional lover and front man of the local rock band. Inevitably, tragedy strikes, transforming the group and each member in it…For their fourth collaboration, writer and director team Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr fashion this haunting look at teenage fears and desires—based on an actual incident—memorably and powerfully capturing their sense of the evanescence of youth.

The Page Turner / La Tourneuse de pages
Director: Denis Dercourt

“A devastating, subtly reticent thriller that matches Hitchcock twist by twist.”—Phillip French, The Observer. The big day has finally arrived: Melanie, the only child of a butcher and his wife, is auditioning for a scholarship to advance her piano studies. One of her judges, famed concert pianist Ariane Fouchécourt (Catherine Frot), looks away during the young girl’s performance. Unnerved, Melanie loses her concentration—and the scholarship. Cut to several years later: Melanie (now played by Deborah François, so impressive in L’Enfant) is starting an internship at a prestigious Paris law firm run by a prominent attorney—who just happens to be married to a famed concert pianist named Ariane…Well received last year at the Cannes Film Festival and subsequently a popular hit in France, The Page Turner features some ingenious surprises as we follow Melanie’s plans for revenge. Director Denis Dercourt, a professional musician, gives a unique, insider sense to the peculiar rituals and hierarchies of The Page Turner's specialized world.

The Singer / Quand j’étais chanteur
Director: Xavier Giannoli

“One gets so used to Gérard Depardieu’s fine performances in film after film that one almost takes him for granted. Then along comes The Singer, in which he rattles your senses with a performance so simple and understated that we realize all over again what a profoundly brilliant and charismatic actor he is.”—Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter Alain Moreau (Gérard Depardieu) is a popular dance hall singer working the circuit in the provinces. Years on the road have taken their toll, but get him in front of an audience and his tried-but-true charm shines through. One night he spots a pretty blonde in the audience and succeeds in taking her home. There have of course been many one-night stands over the years, but something about the woman, Marion (Cécile de France), makes Alain want to keep it going—much to the concern of Alain’s ex-wife and manager, Michèle (Christine Citti), who fears that romantic turmoil is the last thing the increasingly fragile Alain needs. Depardieu’s performance is a tour de force—he does his own singing in the role— but beyond the excellence of the players is director Xavier Giannoli (Eager Bodies, New Directors/New Films 2004). His wonderful depiction of a little-seen part of France, a world of Saturday night dance halls and cheap drive-in motels in which a performance by even an over-the-hill crooner can spell a bit of glamour.

Tell No One / Ne le dis à personne
Director: Guillaume Canet

Popular American mystery writer Harlan Coben finally makes it to the silver screen in this powerful French adaptation of his novel Tell No One. Eight years ago, Dr. Alex Beck (François Cluzet) and his wife were vacationing at a secluded lake when she was abducted and murdered—a case that has remained a mystery. Since then, he has done what he could to rebuild his world, even though he has never stopped pining for his wife. On the anniversary of her death, evidence suddenly appears that may link Alex directly to the murder, while Alex receives an e-mail with a subject heading that only his wife could know...Actor Guillaume Canet (Merry Christmas), whose directorial debut My Idol was presented in Rendez-Vous 2003, expertly orchestrates the various themes and subplots of this complex thriller. The extraordinary cast includes Nathalie Baye, André Dussollier, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jean Rochefort, François Berléand and Marina Hands.

The Untouchable / L’Intouchable
Director: Benoît Jacquot

Last seen together in the astonishing À Tout de Suite, the extraordinary team of director Benoît Jacquot and actress Isild Le Besco set off on a tense, unsettling journey that spans continents and cultures. Le Besco plays Jeanne, an unsuccessful actor who compensates for her lack of a career with a continuing stint of casual and largely unsatisfactory relationships. One day, while talking to her mother, Jeanne asks about the unknown identity of her father. Her mother isn’t quite sure but thinks he might have been a man she met from India. The news hits Jeanne like a bolt. Suddenly, her long-held feelings of being an outsider start to make some sense. Though she has no real evidence of her father’s identity, she takes off for India in the hope that she will discover what she’s looking for. Again working with the remarkable French cinematographer Caroline Champetier, Jacquot plunges the viewer into the vastness and confusion of the new world Jeanne encounters. He is less interested in providing a guided tour than in capturing the strangeness of what his character sees and feels.