Film Noir Series at COLCOA celebrates 10th anniversary with Jean Dujardin’s new film

The Connection posterThe Franco-American Cultural Fund Tuesday night announced the lineup for this year’s COLCOA French Film Festival. The fest, now in its 19th year, runs April 20-28 at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles.

Speaking at the Consul General of France in Beverly Hills, COLCOA’s executive producer and artistic director François Truffart revealed that 68 films (including three world premieres and 14 U.S. premieres) will be shown over nine days. Additionally, COLCOA will introduce a new competition dedicated to films and series produced for television.

The festival will open with the North American premiere of “A Perfect Man,” a thriller co-written and directed by Yann Gozlant. It stars Pierre Niney and Ana Girardot.

COLCOA will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its Film Noir Series with Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin’s new film “The Connection,” co-written and directed by Cédric Jimenez. The other two films in the series are: “SK1,” co-written and directed by Frédéric Tellier, and “Next Time, I’ll Aim For the Heart,” written and directed by Cédric Anger.

La Chienne posterAs part of the COLCOA Classics Series, an exclusive program of digitally restored premieres, master director Jean Renoir’s first-rate pre-noir from 1931 “La Chienne” will screen. This was remade in the U.S. in 1945 by Fritz Lang as “Scarlet Street.”

All other series are back as well: the After 10 Series (April 21-25); the Happy Hour Talk Panel Series in association with Variety (April 21-25); the French NeWave 2.0 Series presented in association with IndieWire (Saturday, April 25); the Short Film Competition (Sunday, April 26); the Focus on a Filmmaker (Michel Hazanavicius) (Thursday, April 23) and the Focus on Two Producers: Maxime Delauney and Romain Rousseau (Saturday, April 25).

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Dita dazzles; France celebrates Oscar wins for ‘The Artist’

Dita Von Teese wore a Jenny Packham gown on Sunday.

So it looks like I lied re: my fave Oscars dress. My No. 1 is now the vintage-inspired gown by Jenny Packham that Dita Von Teese wore to the Elton John AIDS Foundation viewing party.

Also my treasured friend Veronique in Paris wrote me this cute and over-the-moon email about France’s five Oscar wins: “Cocorico! On est les champions, On est les champions … Sorry! I’m sounding like a bragging football supporter full of beer.

“But well 5 Oscars … I just can’t help some chauvinistic boasting tonight! A special mention to the handsome Jean Dujardin who is one of the most suave and entertaining French actor at the moment.”

Read more about France’s wins for “The Artist” from Reuters and the New York Times.

AP photo of Dita Von Teese

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Holiday movie magic: A brand-new black and white, the blonde bombshell, a bad cop, Cronenberg and Scorsese

It’s that time again … Oscar season is here. Starting Wednesday, Nov. 23., there is much to see at the movies; these films surely will appeal to noir fans. (Check your local listings for details.) Enjoy!

‘The Artist’

Bérénice Bejo

“The Artist,” set in 1927 Hollywood, is writer/director Michel Hazanavicius’ visually resplendent ode to the vivacious beauty of silent cinema. Debonair heartthrob and household name George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) coasts from movie to movie and lives in high style – posh home, trophy wife (Penelope Ann Miller), loyal valet (James Cromwell) and faithful companion, a Jack Russell terrier.

Ambitious actress and dancer Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) has talent, looks and perfect timing – the introduction of sound is reshaping the way films are made. She’s drawn to George but, at first, he doesn’t pay her much attention beyond an admiring glance. George’s idyllic world starts to collapse when he sees that his style does not work with the latest and greatest technical advance, talkies. Can he find a way to keep up with the times and salvage his career?

The story, though a bit of a stretch, is delightful. The era is fastidiously recreated and Hazanavicius draws fine work from his cast. Dujardin neatly balances pomposity with humility and Bejo dazzles as Peppy. Her high energy nearly sparks off the screen and it’s a joy to watch her marvelously expressive face. And John Goodman is spot on as blustery producer Al Zimmer. The film has won several awards from festivals, including best actor for Dujardin at Cannes.

“The Artist” is a tender-hearted, near-perfect pastiche of a classic art form.

‘My Week with Marilyn’

Kenneth Branagh

Manipulative, desperate, vulnerable. Funny, gifted, magical. Never dumb. In “My Week with Marilyn,” Simon Curtis’ portrait of ’50s screen icon Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams), we see her multiple sides and many problems through the prism of chaste voyeurism and our jaded, tell-all modernity.

“They like to keep her doped up, she’s easier to control. They’re terrified their cash cow will slip away,” says one observer, during the shoot, in England, of 1957’s “The Prince and the Show Girl.” Her co-star and director Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) takes issue with her erratic behavior, but he also envies her raw, intuitive talent.

Adrian Hodges wrote the screenplay, based on “The Prince, the Showgirl and Me,” a memoir by Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne). Clark was an assistant director on the film and the son of art historian Sir Kenneth Clark (of “Civilisation” fame). Dame Judi Dench plays actress Dame Sybil Thorndike; Dougray Scott plays Arthur Miller.

Curtis creates a beguiling visual confection with tour-de-force Oscar-caliber performances.

In “Rampart,” directed by Oren Moverman, Woody Harrelson plays a corrupt cop in early 1990s Los Angeles. Moverman wrote the screenplay with James Ellroy. Also stars Steve Buscemi, Sigourney Weaver, Robin Wright, Brie Larson, Anne Heche and Ice Cube.
Note: “Rampart” is out for one week only in Los Angeles and New York; wider release hits in January 2012. We at FNB are looking forward to seeing it!

‘A Dangerous Method’

David Cronenberg speaks at a press conference last week.

David Cronenberg brings his consummate eye to a remarkable historical drama in “A Dangerous Method.” Flawlessly photographed, the story is rendered with intelligence, austerity and precision. Though the chilly, almost clinical, tone undermines the film’s emotional buildup, it’s nevertheless a gripping saga.

Under Cronenberg’s lens is the groundbreaking work of Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) in the pioneering days of psychoanalysis when ethical boundaries had yet to be drawn. Jung’s intent on helping a young woman named Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), who enters his clinic flailing, wild and barely able to speak.

Beaten by her father as a child, Sabina is emotionally shattered as an adult. She makes rapid progress with Jung and the two begin an illicit, intimate relationship. Eventually Sabine decides to become an analyst and in the course of her study challenges some of Freud’s work.

Vincent Cassel plays psychiatrist Otto Gross; Canadian newcomer Sarah Gadon plays Jung’s wife. Christopher Hampton wrote the screenplay from his play “The Talking Cure,” which was based on the book “A Most Dangerous Method” by John Kerr.

“We’ve all been influenced by Freud whether we know it or not,” said Cronenberg at a press conference last week in Beverly Hills. Cronenberg added that though Freud fell out of favor, his professional stature has recovered lost ground in the last 15 years. “Some of his theories have been absolutely confirmed.”

He pointed out that despite his stern and uptight reputation, Freud was in fact “handsome, charming, witty and funny.” That called for “slightly oblique, non-traditional casting” so Cronenberg said he talked Mortensen into the part. This is their third collaboration, following “History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises.”

Of Knightley’s portrayal of Sabine, Cronenberg said, “I’ve always thought she was an underrated actress. … It’s a really beautiful performance.”


From a champion of film noir and master neo-noir director Martin Scorsese comes “Hugo,” an adaptation of Brian Selznick’s novel, “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” It is one of Scorsese’s most accomplished productions ever (stunning 3D color cinematography; gorgeous production design by Dante Ferretti) and one of the year’s very best films.

Georges Méliès

In 1930s Paris, a boy named Hugo (Asa Butterfield) lives in the walls of a railway station and keeps all the clocks running. He clashes with an over-zealous station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), flirts with a pretty young girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) and meets her family, including the great but forgotten filmmaker, Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley).

The movie is Scorsese’s Valentine to the cinema, and few more sumptuous love-notes have been made. Filled with clips from silent classics, including Méliès’ 1902 masterpiece “A Trip to the Moon,” this is a jewel no genuine movie lover should pass by.

“Hugo” review by Michael Wilmington

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CIFF closes with ‘The Artist,’ Marilyn photo show opens in LA

The Chicago International Film Festival closes tonight with a much anticipated French film, “The Artist,” by writer/director Michel Hazanavicius. Described by the festival as “a love letter to the movies,” the story is set in 1927 Hollywood as silent films gave way to sound.

“The Artist” stars Jean Dujardin (he snared the Best Actor award at Cannes in May), Bérénice Bejo and John Goodman. It opens in the U.S. on Nov. 23.

I will posting in more detail about the films I saw and people I met at the fest as well as some ideas for retro chic dining in Chicago.

Meanwhile, in LA, the Hollywood Film Festival starts today at the ArcLight Cinema in Hollywood and runs through Oct. 24.

And on Friday from 7-9 p.m., the Duncan Miller Gallery is hosting the opening reception of 12 Photographs (and more) of Marilyn Monroe.

In addition to 12 large-format images from Lawrence Schiller, the exhibition features iconic prints from other photographers who captured Marilyn, including Philippe Halsman, Milton Greene, Bob Willoughby, Murray Garrett and Benn Mitchell.

The show runs through Nov. 26 at the Duncan Miller Gallery, 10959 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, 90034, 310-838-2440.

Marilyn Monroe image copyright Murray Garrett

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COL•COA welcomes Blier for ‘The Clink of Ice’ premiere

Guests mingle at a COL•COA reception before the film.

The Clink of Ice/2011/87 min.

In film noir, Fate bides its time and waits patiently for opportunity. In acclaimed writer/director Bertrand Blier’s new black comedy, Fate — in the form of cancer — barges in, bosses characters around and jumps into bed with them.

“The Clink of Ice” made its West Coast premiere on Thursday night at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles, as part of the COL•COA film festival.

“I have good news for you,” Blier told the audience before the film started. “My film is funny. It is about cancer.”

His deadpan preface was apt for this wry, contemplative movie.

FNB at the pre-film reception.

Dour, binge-drinking writer Charles Faulque (Jean Dujardin) has distanced himself from the people closest to him (his wife and son, for instance) and lives alone with his maid Louisa (Anne Alvaro). Her employer’s cranky demeanor is a draw and she fantasizes about sleeping with him.

Charles’ discontent morphs into full-on angst when a malignant doppelganger (Albert Dupontel) shows up and inserts himself into Charles’ life. Not long after, Louisa finds that she too has cancer that’s represented by a random interloper (Myriam Boyer). Nothing like evil twins to bring two people together, right?

But Blier’s upbeat, good-looking film, with its spare script and arresting mix of music, doesn’t dwell on prognoses or potential farewells. Instead, the disease takes a backseat to the characters’ inner lives and evolving relationships, before Charles and Louisa concoct a brilliant plan to banish it once and for all.

From left: Director Jon Amiel talks with Bertrand Blier and his interpreter Thursday at the DGA.

After the film, Blier was interviewed on stage by another director, Jon Amiel, who described Blier’s film as “a beautiful, profound, funny and ultimately deeply optimistic.” Blier revealed a bit about his process, explaining that there are no rehearsals before shooting in order to heighten spontaneity (he just asks actors to learn their lines). “I like to discover the story at the same time the actors do,” he said, also acknowledging that he wants them to hold precisely to the script.

The son of veteran French character actor Bernard Blier, auteur filmmaker Bertrand Blier has consistently elicited powerful performances from his actors, particularly in his 1974 box-office hit, “Going Places,” which helped launch the careers of Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert.

Guests sipped St-Germain cocktails.

Blier, who had the idea for “Clink of Ice” 25 years ago, said he still thinks of Depardieu when he’s writing any character, man, woman or animal. Blier also praised American actors, such as Robert DeNiro and Jack Nicholson, adding that Nicholson plays more like an Italian or French actor, with an air of, “I’m Jack Nicholson and you’re still going to believe what I’m telling you.”

Before seeing “Clink of Ice,” I attended a lovely reception in the DGA atrium. Guests sipped St-Germain cocktails and nibbled on delicious savory fare from caterer WCEP (West Coast Event Productions, 323-930-6785) and, for dessert, authentic French macarons, which were all-natural, handmade and gluten-free, from Les Macarons Duverger.

Authentic macarons for dessert.

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