Vive le Cherbourg! Deneuve dazzles! Go, Goldblum, go!

Umbrellas posterThe Umbrellas of Cherbourg/1964/91 min.

A visual confection. A musical with a vibe both joyful and pensive. Catherine Deneuve’s break-through role. Superb music by Michel Legrand. One of France’s most famous and highly regarded films, “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” this year celebrates the 50th anniversary of its U.S. release.

Jacques Demy, a New Wave director, brings his distinctive vision to the movie musical resulting in a film that’s wistful and tender, exuberant and operatic. It’s a simple tale of harsh reality intruding on two gorgeous young lovers (Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo). Demy lends depth and resonance by conjuring a poetic mood and letting the story unfold at a meandering pace.

I imagine that watching Deneuve back in 1964 meant immediately recognizing her star power, perhaps like watching Marilyn Monroe (Deneuve’s favorite actress) in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.” For Deneuve’s longtime admirers or those still discovering her, this lovely digital restoration is a must-see treat.

“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” opens Friday, March 14, at Landmark’s Nuart Theatre, showing through Thursday, March 20, for an exclusive one-week engagement. On March 14, at the 7:30 p.m. show, dance critic Debra Levine will talk with actor/dancer George Chakiris, who worked in collaboration with Demy, Deneuve and Legrand in 1967’s “The Young Girls of Rochefort.”


On My Way posterOn My Way/2014/Cohen Media Group/113 min.

Catherine Deneuve at 70 is just as captivating to watch, maybe more so, as when she was a teenager. Her natural elegance infuses “On My Way,” a road movie in which she plays Bettie, a provincial French restaurateur and long-ago beauty-pageant queen trying to recover after she is jilted by her lover.

Or as director/co-writer Emmanuelle Bercot says: “It is the story of a woman who goes out for a drive and repeatedly finds reasons not to go back home.” One thing that sidetracks her is the fact that her grandson (Nemo Schiffman) happens to needs a ride to the home of his paternal grandfather (Gérard Garouste). Bettie agrees to drive him, though she is not on particularly good terms with the boy or his mother (the singer Camille).

The film feels realistic (an oafish fellow traveler calls Bettie a dog) and sometimes implausible (there are a few plot holes to be overlooked). It’s also very charming (the cast includes many non-actors such as Garouste as well as a porcine farmer, who rolls a cigarette for Bettie as he tells her why he never married) and very French (a leisurely family gathering includes cooking, singing, squabbling, smoking and drinking a nice glass of wine).

With Deneueve in the driver’s seat, “On My Way” is a trip you’ll want to take.

“On My Way” opens Friday, March 14, in New York and Friday, March 21, in LA.


Le Week-End posterLe Week-End/2013/Music Box Films/93 min.

Jeff Goldblum provides a welcome burst of obnoxious energy in the dark(ish) “Le Week-End,” a British comedy/drama set in Paris. Directed by Roger Michell and written by Hanif Kureishi, the film stars Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent as an English couple who spend a few nights in the City of Lights to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary.

Celebrate, however, is not be quite the right word. The accumulated disappointments and frustrations of their three decades together have yielded a fair amount of friction between domineering Meg and Milquetoast Nick. As Meg points out, love can turn to hate like the flip of a switch. That said, a grudging but abiding affection seeps through Meg and Jim’s disillusioned, resentful exteriors – thanks to graceful acting from Duncan and Broadbent, and seamless direction from Michell.

Goldblum shines as Morgan, a smarmy New Yorker (now living in Paris with a much younger second wife), who knew Nick when they were students at Cambridge. In the years since, Morgan has seemingly achieved the success that has eluded Nick. A chance meeting on the street leads to a rekindling of the friendship.

Though I felt Duncan’s part was somewhat underwritten, “Le Week-End” is a sharp, unvarnished portrayal of a frayed relationship at a turning point in the world’s prettiest city.

“Le Week-End” opens Friday, March 14, at Landmark Theatres in West Los Angeles and at Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in New York.

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Film Noir File: Deneuve, Buñuel cast spell with ‘Belle de Jour’

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

PICK OF THE WEEK: Two by Luis Buñuel as part of Catherine Deneuve Day

Tristana” (1970, Luis Buñuel). Monday, Aug. 12, 10 p.m., (7 p.m.).

Belle de Jour” (1967, Luis Buñuel ). Monday, Aug. 12, 2:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m.).

Icy, ravishing Catherine Deneuve stars in “Belle de Jour.”

The most beautiful movie actress alive paired with the most brilliantly rebellious filmmaker.

That was the incendiary match-up of star Catherine Deneuve and director Luis Buñuel – who were most famous for their 1967 French erotic drama “Belle de Jour.” In that great film, Deneuve – so lovely and so classically, radiantly, sexily blonde that she took up residence in male dreams forever – played Severine, a Parisian wife, who becomes a prostitute during the day to escape her boring bourgeois life and her handsome but boring husband (Jean Sorel). Severine then falls into a world of crime, hypocrisy, dreamlike perversity and peril. It was the most popular, and the best-remembered, film of Buñuel’s entire career.

But they made another film that Buñuel preferred and is one of his most personal: “Tristana (1970). Shot in Spain, based on a novella by famed author Benito Perez Galdos (adapted by Buñuel and Julio Alejandro), this not underrated but definitely underseen film starred Deneuve in a role just as alluring and frightening as the wayward Severine: Tristana, the young orphan seduced, exploited and virtually imprisoned by her guardian Don Lope (Fernando Rey). Don Lope, worldly and egocentric, is an aristocrat of radical political beliefs, whose desire for his ward undermines his ethics – even as Tristana, a seeming victim, turns exploiter herself and exacts a terrible revenge.

“Tristana” earned the admiration of Alfred Hitchcock.

“Tristana” is a masterpiece, but it’s also a grimmer, sadder, more psychologically disturbing picture than “Belle de Jour.” Buñuel, notorious for his audacity, has directed some of the cruelest scenes in cinema, in films like “Un Chien Andalou,” “Los Olvidados” and “Viridiana.“ But he never filmed a more wounding scene than Tristana on the balcony: a sequence that delighted no less an epicure of sadism than Alfred Hitchcock. “Tristana! That leg! That leg!” Hitch exclaimed when the two directors met at a party. Buñuel probably only smiled.

Other Deneuve Day highlights include: “Repulsion” (1965, Roman Polanski), “Mississippi Mermaid” (1969, François Truffaut) and “Un Flic” (1972, Jean-Pierre Melville). See TCM for the full list. Films are in French (“Tristana” in Spanish) with English subtitles. [Read more…]

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The Noir File: A toast to Truffaut’s elegant, edgy dark side

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

PICK OF THE WEEK: François Truffaut Film Noir on Fridays

As a movie loving juvenile delinquent – the life that he later fictionalized in “The Four Hundred Blows” – the young François Truffaut was an aficionado of all kinds of movies.

But his favorite genre was film noir. Truffaut, the “most feared” French film reviewer of the ‘50s, star critic of the famed film magazine Cahiers du Cinema and an international directorial sensation after he premiered “Four Hundred Blows” at the Cannes Film Festival, was a noir devotee. He especially liked films made by director-auteurs like Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, Orson Welles, Max Ophuls and Nicholas Ray.

Truffaut was also partial to the genre as a moviemaker. He made all kinds of movies himself, mostly romances in various keys, but he was obviously very inspired by the dark side of cinema.

He adapted two noir novels by Cornell Woolrich, one by Charles Williams and one by David Goodis (“Shoot the Piano Player”), giving each of them his special romantic spin. Tonight on TCM’s Friday Night Spotlight, David Edelstein looks at the work of this influential filmmaker.

The Bride Wore Black” (1968, François Truffaut). Friday, July 12: 8 p.m. (5 p.m.). One of Truffaut’s favorite actresses, Jeanne Moreau (“Jules and Jim”) is at her most sullenly sexy and mercurial here. Moreau plays Julie, a bereaved bride in black whose husband was unintentionally killed by five men, all of whom she intends to track down and murder. The men include those splendid French film actors Jean-Claude Brialy, Claude Rich, Charles Denner, Michel Lonsdale and Michel Bouquet. The music is by Hitchcock’s maestro of terror Bernard Herrmann. The source is one of Cornell Woolrich’s best known novels.

Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve star in “Mississippi Mermaid.”

Confidentially Yours” (1983, François Truffaut), Friday July 12: 10 p.m. (7 p.m.). Jean-Louis Trintignant is a businessman suspected of murder, hiding from the flics. Fanny Ardant (Truffaut‘s last lover) is his smart, love-bitten secretary, who is trying to find the real murderer. The plot may sound like Woolrich’s “Phantom Lady,” but the treatment is light and comic, like a “Thin Man” movie. Based on Charles Williams’ novel “The Long Saturday Night.”

Mississippi Mermaid” (1969, François Truffaut). Friday, July 12, 12 a.m. (9 p.m.). Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve are a plantation owner and his mail order bride, who get involved in murder and become lovers-on-the-run. Strange casting for two of the sexiest French stars, but the movie grows on you. It’s adapted from a first-rate Cornell Woolrich novel, “Waltz into Darkness,” which would have been a much better title for the movie.

Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me” (1972, François Truffaut). Friday, July 12, 2:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m.). A saucy, dark little comedy about the romance of an unrepentant murderess named Camille Bliss (played by Bernadette Lafont, who’s wonderful) and a smitten sociology student named Stanislas (Andre Dussollier), who wants to figure her out. (Fat chance.) The men Camille entices are Charles Denner, Philippe Leotard, Claude Brasseur and Guy Marchand.

Shoot the Piano Player” (1960, François Truffaut). Saturday, July 13, 4 a.m. (1 a.m.). With Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois and Nicole Berger. Reviewed on FNB June 13, 2013.

Saturday, July 13

7:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m.): “No Orchids for Miss Blandish” (1948, St. John Legh Clowes). With Jack La Rue and Linden Travers. Reviewed on FNB October 6, 2012. [Read more…]

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The Noir File: Five greats include ‘M,’ ‘Repulsion,’ ‘D.O.A.’

By Michael Wilmington and Film Noir Blonde

The Noir File is FNB’s weekly guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir on cable TV. All the movies below are from the current schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

In one of the best film noir weeks ever, TCM offers five noir greats: “M,” “Diabolique,” “D. O. A.,” “The Big Heat” and “Repulsion.”


Repulsion” (1965, Roman Polanski). Wednesday, Oct. 31, 11 a.m. (8 a.m.)

In Roman Polanski’s shiveringly erotic horror-suspense film “Repulsion,” the 22-year-old Catherine Deneuve plays Carol: a blonde French beauty, with a disarmingly lost-looking, childlike face – a girl who begins to go frighteningly mad when her older sister Helen (Yvonne Furneaux) leaves her alone a week or so. Soon, the beautiful, naïve and sexually skittish young Carol, the object of mostly unwanted desire from nearly every man in the neighborhood, starts sinking into alienation and insanity. When the outside world begins to intrude, Carol, repulsed, strikes back savagely, with a soon-bloody knife.

Catherine Deneuve’s nightmare becomes our own in “Repulsion” from 1965.

“Repulsion,” Polanski’s first English language movie and the first of his many collaborations with the reclusive, brilliant French screenwriter Gerard Brach (“Cul-de-Sac”), is one of the great ’60s black-and-white film noirs. It’s also one of the more frightening films ever made. Ultimately, “Repulsion” scares the hell out of us, because Polanski makes Carol’s nightmare so indelibly real, and so inescapably our own.

M” (1931, Fritz Lang) Sunday, Oct. 28, 2:45 a.m. (11:45 p.m.)

Fritz Lang’s great, hair-raising 1931 German crime thriller “M” is the masterpiece of his career, a landmark achievement of German cinema and a film that marks Lang as one of the most important cinematic fathers of film noir. “M” is a work of genius on every level.

Written by Lang’s then-wife Thea von Harbou (who also scripted “Metropolis”), and directed by Lang, “M” stars the amazing young Peter Lorre as the compulsive child-murderer Hans Beckert aka “M.” Beckert is a chubby little deviate who throws Berlin into turmoil with his string of slayings – a sweet-faced serial killer modeled on the real-life Dusseldorf Strangler. It is a role and a performance that plunges into the darkest nights of a lost soul.

Young Peter Lorre is unforgettable in Fritz Lang’s 1931 masterpiece.

Lang shows us both the murders and the social chaos triggered by the killer’s rampage. When M’s string of murders causes the police to clamp down on organized crime too, the outlaws strike back. Led by suave gentleman-thief Schranker (Gustaf Grundgens), they pursue the murderer relentlessly through the shadowy, mazelike world of Berlin at night. Just as relentlessly, the cops, with cynical detective Inspector Lohmann (Otto Wernicke) in charge, pursue him by day.

“M,” in its own way, is as much a creative movie milestone as Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane.” It’s one of the main progenitors of film noir and remains an all-time classic of suspense. (In German, with English subtitles.)

Saturday, Oct. 27

8 p.m. (5 p.m.) “Diabolique” (1955, Henri-Georges Clouzot).

10 p.m. (7 p.m.) “Games” (1967, Curtis Harrington). An American semi-remake of Clouzot’s “Diabolique,” with Simone Signoret starring again here, as an enigmatic interloper who moves in on New York married couple James Caan and Katharine Ross, unleashing a string of increasingly deadly games.

Sunday, Oct. 28

6: 30 a.m. (3:30 a.m.) “D.O.A.” (1950, Rudolph Maté).

8 a.m. (5 a.m.): “Kind Hearts and Coronets” (1949, Robert Hamer). From Ealing Studio with love: One of the best of the high-style British dark comedies of manners and murder. Silken schemer Dennis Price is the vengeful climber trying to kill his way to the Dukedom of D’Ascoyne. Alec Guinness plays all eight of his aristocratic victims or victims-to-be. Valerie Hobson and Joan Greenwood are the fetching ladies whom the would-be Duke is torn between. The peerless cinematographer was Douglas Slocombe.

Tuesday, Oct. 30

In 1932’s “Freaks,” by Tod Browning, Olga Baclanova plays a trapeze artist.

9:15 p.m. (6:15 p.m.): “Freaks” (1932, Tod Browning). Tod (“Dracula”) Browning’s macabre classic features a troupe of real-life circus freaks, all of them unforgettable camera subjects, in the bizarre story of a heartless trapeze artist (Olga Baclanova) who seduces a lovelorn midget (Harry Earle), marries him, and has to face the consequences.

Wednesday, Oct. 31

6:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m.): “The Body Snatcher” (1945, Robert Wise). Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Henry Daniell fight over corpses and medical experiments in this gripping adaptation of a Robert Louis Stevenson tale.

Thursday, Nov. 1

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “The Big Heat” (1953, Fritz Lang).

9:45 p.m. (6:45 p.m.); “Bullitt” (1968, Peter Yates). One of the more stylish cop-movie thrillers. With Steve McQueen at his coolest, Jacqueline Bisset at her loveliest, Robert Vaughn at his slimiest – plus the car chase to end all car chases.

11:45 p.m. (8:45 p.m.): “The Racket” (1951, John Cromwell, plus Nicholas Ray, Mel Ferrer and Tay Garnett, the last three uncredited). A battle of two Bobs, both film noir giants: good cop Robert Mitchum vs. gangster Robert Ryan, with Lizabeth Scott watching. From Howard Hughes’ RKO studio-head tenure, “The Racket” is a remake of Lewis Milestone’s 1928 mobster movie, based on Bartlett Cormack’s play, and also produced by Hughes.

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Poetic, mysterious ‘Americano’ lacks emotional resonance

Americano/2011/MPI Media Group/105 min.

“Americano,” Mathieu Demy’s first feature film, contemplates the passing of time and ghosts of memory, the grieving of a parent and letting go of the past. Poetic, dreamlike and visually compelling, the film has the makings of a personal odyssey meets noirish mystery but ultimately is undermined by a thin story that lacks emotional resonance.

Writer/director/actor Demy plays Martin, a real-estate broker who lives with his girlfriend Claire (Chiara Mastroianni) in Paris; he’s on the fence about raising a family with her. When his estranged mother dies, he travels to her home in Venice, Calif., where he spent part of his childhood before moving to France with his father (Jean-Pierre Mocky) after his parents divorced.

Returning to settle his mother’s affairs, with the help of a family friend named Linda (Geraldine Chaplin), Martin finds that in addition to the turmoil of pain, both raw and repressed, he is haunted by the recollection of Lola, a childhood acquaintance (Salma Hayek plays the adult Lola). She remained friends his mother while Martin was in France.

After learning that Lola was deported, Martin takes Linda’s red Ford Mustang convertible and heads to Tijuana (unfamiliar and dangerous territory that is all the more appealing in his grief) to find Lola and probe the relationship she had with his mother. There he finds the brassy, tough chick working in a strip club called Americano. It’s not exactly a happy reunion and Martin must decide whether he can trust this no-nonsense femme fatale.

Though a fictional film, “Americano” is also a valentine to Demy’s parents: French New Wave director Jacques Demy (he died in 1990) and Agnès Varda, who has been directing movies since the 1950s. Showing glimpses of Martin’s childhood in Venice, and simultaneously creating a more personal story, Demy uses footage of himself in Varda’s 1981 film “Documenteur.”

“I wanted the two films to echo one another, with 30 years separating them,” said Demy at a recent press conference in Beverly Hills. The desire to connect the films also prompted Demy to shoot “Americano” in super 16 mm cinemascope; “Documenteur” was shot in super 16 mm. And, of course, Hayek’s character name echoes Jacques Demy’s 1961 “Lola,” his first feature. Like Demy, Mastroianni (daughter of Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni) and Chaplin (daughter of Oona O’Neill and Charlie Chaplin) are artists with prodigious legacies.

A.O. Scott, writing for the New York Times, notes, “As a director, [Mathieu Demy] owes less of a debt to his parents than to the American film noir tradition and, above all, to the melancholy romanticism of Wim Wenders, the German auteur whose love of scruffy North American locations, ambiguous quest narratives and the color red seems to resonate through much of ‘Americano.’ ” [Read more…]

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‘Le Cercle Rouge’ is an icy thriller by an immaculate artist

“Le Cercle Rouge” plays Saturday, Nov. 6, at 4 p.m. at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood as part of AFI FEST 2011.

Le Cercle Rouge/1970/EIA, et al/140 min./in French with English subtitles

By Michael Wilmington

Jean-Pierre Melville (1917-1973) was, in some ways, the Vermeer of the heist movie. A master of classic noir and neo noir, Melville was a cool, sure-fingered expert and an immaculate artist. Like Vermeer, his pictures were deceptively simple and utterly haunting, punctilious and mysterious. And, like Vermeer, he didn’t leave many behind him.

One of the greatest of all Melville’s films, with one of his most spectacular heists, is “Le Cercle Rouge,” a neo-noir which has, as its centerpiece, a spine-chilling depiction of a jewel robbery at the Place Vendome in Paris.

The job is pulled off with rare skill by three strangely honorable thieves, played by three international film stars: ex-convict Corey (played by Alain Delon), escaped prisoner Vogel (Gian Maria Volonté) and ex-cop Jansen (Yves Montand).

Alain Delon

The movie is about how these three come together, how they execute the robbery, and how they’re finally driven apart – largely through the quiet skill and determination of their relentless police antagonist. Deceptively lumpish, bourgeois-looking Inspector Mattei is played by comedy star André Bourvil.

Mattei is keeping watch over his prisoner, Vogel, on a train journey. But Vogel slips out of his handcuffs and escapes from the sleeper car of the speeding train. Mattei is humiliated, then obsessed with finding Vogel. The broken handcuffs become a psychological link.

Mattei has an invaluable source in Santi (François Périer), a double-dealer and underworld mole, who looks like a ferret in a suit. Santi owns a nightclub that seems to specialize in crooked assignations and ersatz ’50s American movie musical numbers, set to a cool jazzy score by Éric Demarsan. (The chorus girls in those numbers are almost the only women we see in the movie, except for one faithless lover and one cigarette girl.)

The title “Le Cercle Rouge” refers to a story of Buddha, who supposedly draws a red chalk circle and explains to his students that those who are destined to cross paths will do so within the circle, no matter what.

Melville made and released Le Cercle Rouge in 1970, one year after making his World War Two French Resistance masterpiece, “Army of Shadows” (1969) and two years before making his last film (with his last heist), the flawed “Un Flic” (Dirty Money), starring Delon, Catherine Deneuve and Richard Crenna. “Le Cercle Rouge” was his last masterpiece.

Back to Vermeer for a moment. There is one vital quality of Vermeer’s that Melville misses completely, probably never tries for: warmth. Melville’s films noirs are cold, especially when cinematographer Henri Decaë (of Melville’s “Le Samourai”) shoots them. His crooks are cool. They speak little, wear raincoats and fedoras, and smoke cigarettes, like Bogie. His cops are icy. His world is dark: noir to the brim.

Why was Melville so obsessed with criminals, with heists and with heist movies? Maybe because this underworld reminded him of the world that was the French Resistance, in which he had fought during the war.

And maybe it’s because of the one that got away. In the ’50s, Melville was hired to direct the movie that became one of the greatest of all heist movies (François Truffaut’s choice as the greatest of all film noirs), 1955’s “Rififi.” Melville was later fired and replaced by Jules Dassin, who chivalrously refused to take the job without Melville’s consent (which Melville gave). [Read more…]

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Dark dramas shine at Chicago International Film Festival

Dark domestic dramas led the fine slate of high-style movies at the 47th Chicago International Film Festival, which boasted a lineup of nearly 200 titles.

In “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (UK) by Lynne Ramsay, neo noir meets New Age parenting in a haunting thriller. We witness, in jagged pieces that jump back and forth in time, the unthinkably brutal rupture of a dysfunctional but not entirely unhappy family.

Creating buzz at many fests, Tilda Swinton will doubtless continue to earn acclaim for her wrenching portrait of a mother struggling to love her son Kevin (Ezra Miller) who comes into the world seething with anger. Chicago-born John C. Reilly plays her denial-prone husband. Rich with visual metaphor and captivating performances (though the script is not fully there), this is destined to be a neo-noir classic. (“We Need to Talk About Kevin” does not release in the US until February.)

Samuli Niittymaki

I doubt Finnish director Zaida Bergroth had “Mildred Pierce” in mind when she made “The Good Son,” which won the top prize in the new directors competition. But I kept thinking of Michael Curtiz’s 1945 classic starring Joan Crawford as a flawed single mother of two daughters, the elder of whom is a bit of a snake, as I watched Elina Knihtila portray Leila, a flawed single mother of two sons, the elder of whom (Samuli Niittymaki as Illmari), is a bit of a psycho.

Eero Aho plays Leila’s new love interest, a kindly writer named Aimo. Anna Paavilainen is excellent as Illmari’s girlfriend as is Eetu Julin as Unto, the younger brother. Arresting images, subtle acting, nicely paced.

Arguably, “A Dangerous Method” (Germany/Canada) by David Cronenberg could be classified as a domestic drama, dealing as it does with the long-term adulterous relationship between renowned Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and a patient-turned-student-of-psychoanalysis Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley). Viggo Mortensen is Sigmund Freud; Sarah Gadon is Jung’s wife. This finely crafted film is already generating Oscar buzz.

“Martha Marcy May Marlene” (US) is the kind of film that leaves you reeling, then lodges in your mind for days. Elizabeth Olsen (sister of Ashley and Mary Kate) stars as a young woman who escapes from an evil cult and struggles to reconnect with her estranged sister (Sarah Paulson) and her new brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy). Writer/director Sean Durkin’s fragmented narrative swerves from past to present; the tension mounts masterfully to a claustrophobic level. Thoroughly mesmerizing, but as much as I admired Olsen’s presence and vulnerability (she may be an Oscar contender), I felt no sympathy for her character. John Hawkes (of “Winter’s Bone”) is unforgettable as the warped cult leader.

English actor Dexter Fletcher makes an impressive directorial debut with “Wild Bill.” Though the story is essentially rooted in cliché, the fresh writing and powerful acting inject vitality into this tale of an ex-con (Charlie Creed-Miles) reconnecting with his young sons (Will Poulter and Sammy Williams) in London’s East End.

A desire for a father-daughter reunion drives the ex-con (Mark Pellegrino) in “Joint Body” by Brian Jun. But he gets sidetracked when he meets a stripper (Alicia Witt) in a seedy residential motel in downstate Illinois and the two end up on the run. (The term joint body refers to a convict who works out and walks the walk with confidence.)

Too melodramatic to be a real thriller, Thierry Klifa’s “His Mother’s Eyes/Les Yeux de Sa Mère,” (France) about a writer’s plan to ingratiate himself into a fractured family, is still intelligent, engrossing and features an easy-on-the-eyes cast, which includes ever-lovely Catherine Deneuve, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Géraldine Pailhas and Jean-Baptiste Lafarge.

And though definitely not a noir, the festival’s grand-prize winner, “Le Havre” (Finland/France) by Aki Kaurismaki, recounts the forming of a temporary, makeshift family. A working class French man (André Wilms) befriends and protects an African boy (Blondin Miguel) who lands illegally in Le Havre on the way to reuniting with his mother in London. Lit and composed like an Old Master painting, Kaurismaki’s film brims with humanity and humor.

Tomorrow: More about movies at the festival

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On the radar: Sugar and spice Sydney style in ‘Recipe For Murder;’ cherchez la femme; Cannes kudos

Sonia Bible's film focuses on three notorious women.

Yesterday I found out about an intriguing new movie, “Recipe For Murder,” and I look forward to speaking with writer/director Sonia Bible. It was news to me that in the early 1950’s, Sydney was a city in the grip of a deadly crime wave. In just over a year, more than 100 people were poisoned; most of the killers were women. “Recipe For Murder” tells the true story of three notorious perpetrators: Yvonne Fletcher, Caroline Grills and Veronica Monty.
The 52-minute film combines gritty archive footage, film-noir re-enactments, interviews with witnesses and a score from “Animal Kingdom” composer Antony Partos. Last month, “Recipe For Murder” won a Silver Hugo award (documentary category, history/biography) in the Chicago film fest’s 2011 Hugo Television Competition.

Rachel McAdams

B&W Boudoir: In the June issue of Elle, Rachel McAdams and the magazine’s creative director Joe Zee reinterpret Catherine Deneuve’s look in “Repulsion,” from 1965, by Roman Polanski. “Noir, Now” also features boudoir dressing suggestions, edited by Kyle Anderson. McAdams nails the film-noir vibe and it’s an excellent issue overall, particularly Cintra Wilson’s piece on how learning flamenco changed her life.


Kirsten Dunst in "Melancholia"

In Cannesclusion: Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes film fest, which ended Sunday. Kirsten Dunst snared best female actor for her role in “Melancholia” by Lars Von Trier. Harvey Weinstein calls this the best Cannes in 25 years. Read Peter Bradshaw’s wrapup in The Guardian at
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COL•COA Festival offers first-rate lineup, mais oui!

Tickets are going fast for the 15th annual City of Lights, City of Angels (COL•COA) Film Festival that runs today through April 18 in Los Angeles.
In addition to 26 shorts, the festival will present 34 features, including several premieres. “The relationship between COL•COA and our audiences has evolved into a genuine love story over the last 15 years,” says Director and Programmer François Truffart. “We are thrilled that for this 15th anniversary year, we will bring an equally exclusive and high-profile lineup, keeping the passion for French cinema alive.”
And Friday, April 15, is the film noir series featuring:
At 5:45 p.m.: In “The Night Clerk” Vincent Rottiers plays Frédéric, a young man trying to return to society after his release from prison. He finds work in a mountain hotel owned by the bad-tempered Jacques (Jean-Pierre Bacri). Though Frédéric suspects Jacques may be involved in the mysterious disappearance of a hotel client, he remains silent to protect him. But police inspector Sylvie Poncet (Sylvie Testud) makes it harder and harder for Frédéric to keep quiet. Directed by Raphaël Jacoulot.

Romain Duris and Marina Foïs star in "The Big Picture."


At 7:45 p.m.: “The Big Picture” stars Romain Duris as a successful lawyer who seems to lead an enviable life. When he learns his wife is having an affair, he accidentally kills her lover. His orderly life now in ruins, he assumes the dead man’s identity and flees to the former Yugoslavia. Supporting actors include Catherine Deneuve, Branka Katic and Niels Arestrup. Based on a novel by Douglas Kennedy; directed by Eric Lartigau.

At 10:15 p.m.: “The Long Falling” tells the story of a battered woman (Yolande Moreau) who kills her husband of 30 years, tries to reunite with her estranged son and ends up on the run. Based on a novel by Keith Ridgway; directed by Martin Provost.
Other highlights include the following; see the site for details:
*CLASSIC REVIVAL: “Cold Cuts” (Bertrand Blier, 1977) With Gerard Depardieu, Bernard Blier, Jean Carmet. Classic black comedy about three inept murderers. Cast member Bernard Blier, a famous French actor, is director Bertrand Blier’s father.
*CLASSIC REVIVAL: “Les Bonnes Femmes” (Claude Chabrol, 1960). With Bernadette Lafont, Stephane Audran and Claude Berri. Noir master Chabrol’s classic New Wave tale of four Parisian shopgirls and their lives and dreams.

Catherine Deneuve

*“His Mother’s Eyes,” a drama starring Catherine Deneuve as a celebrity news anchor and Nicolas Duvauchelle as a troubled young author who wants to write her unauthorized biography and seduces her estranged daughter (Géraldine Pailhas) as a means of gathering information. Directed by Thierry Klifa.
*“The Clink of Ice,” Bertrand Blier’s new film; Blier will appear for discussion.
*Also be sure to check out: New films by well-known French directors Claude Lelouch, Guillaume Cantet, Catherine Breillat, Cedric Klapisch, Nicole Garcia, Jean Becker and Benoit Jacquot.
*To celebrate the announcement and recipients of the 2011 COL•COA awards, two of the winning films will be re-screened for free on Monday, April 18 at 7:30 p.m.
All films are screened at the Directors Guild Theater Complex, 7920 Sunset Blvd., in Los Angeles (half a block west of Fairfax Avenue and two blocks east of Crescent Heights). Free parking is available at the Directors Guild. Enter on Hayworth Avenue.
“The Big Picture” image from; Catherine Deneuve photo by Brigitte Lacombe, from
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Catherine Deneuve stars in comic confection ‘Potiche’

Screen icon Catherine Deneuve

This week, the French comedy, “Potiche,” directed by François Ozon, opens nationwide. Potiche is French for arm candy/trophy wife or husband. It stars Gérard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve, who recently came to the LA County Museum of Art for a Q&A after a preview of the movie. She was magnificent! Granted, “Potiche” is not a noir, but why pass up a chance to see a blonde legend like Deneuve on the big screen?

Chicago fans can see a sneak preview of “Potiche” on Wednesday, as part of the Music Box Theatre’s program that also includes “Repulsion,” “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” “Belle de Jour,” “ 8 Women” and “The Last Metro.”

Meanwhile, the Bazaar Report notes that the Brooklyn Academy of Music is hosting a retrospective of Deneuve’s work. It runs through March 31.

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