French Cinema Delivers Again…Or Does It?

There seems to be a surplus of great French movies these days, and guess what… I have one more!

Rust and Bone, or its French title, De Rouille et d’os, is about an unlikely couple who fall in love after Ali, a Belgian fighter (Matthais Schoenaerts) moves himself and his son in with his sister.  Along the way, he meets Stephanie (Marion Coutillard), a Killer Whale trainer, and the two fall in love.  The plot takes a tear-jerking turn after a tragic accident causes Stephanie to lose both of her legs, which in turn only enhances the amour the two have for each other.

Sounds like a good movie to me and audiences appear to have the same reaction:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three of many positive receptions of “Rust and Bone” via Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The film even took away the “best film” prize at the London Film Festival.  Tack that up on France’s recent slew of cinema accolades.

Hold up!  What’s this?

 

 

 

Two tweets calling for a Boycott of “Rust and Bones” for animal rights purposes via Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boycott?  How can a film that will be nominated for an Oscar be boycotted?

It’s a little confusing to me why someone would boycott a fictional movie, but doing some good ol’ fashioned research led me right to the heart of the problem.  It appears that animal rights organizations such as Animal Defenders International (ADI) believe that filming confined Killer Whales translates to condoning their captivity as stated by ADI’s chief executive, Jan Creamer:

We are dismayed that the director, Jacques Audiard, gave his approval to the incarceration of orcas by using performing animals in the film.

Valid point, Ms. Creamer, but does a boycott of this film accomplish some goal?  For me, when I think of the word “boycott” juxtaposed with the word “film,” it brings back memories of my high school days when firebrand Christians protested  The Da Vinci Code. Boycotts like these don’t deter me from seeing the film.  Whether or not I choose to investigate more about the issues surrounding film controversies, the snubbing of a it makes me want to see the movie all the more.

But just to clear my conscience (I am an animal lover, by the way) I chose to dive deeper into my search.  According to SeaWorld, hunting and harassing Killer Whales is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).  Under this Act I found the following section to be particularly interesting:

The MMPA does allow for certain exceptions: native subsistence hunting; taking marine mammals for research, education, and public display; and taking restricted numbers of marine mammals incidentally in the course of fishing operations.

Okay, I understand native subsistence hunting, research, education, but the fourth criterion, “public display,” is a little unsettling to me.  I can understand how captive marine mammals for the sole purposes of human entertainment would cause Jan Creamer and other animal rights activists to see red.  Even Marion Coutillard expressed a discomfort with interacting with the detained dolphins:

I’ve always had a repulsion going in a place where animals are in captivity.

Like I said, the whole situation makes me a bit uncomfortable, which makes the whole boycotting issue a bit difficult.  Here are some other opinions from an article in The Telegraph:

 

Responses concerning animal rights issues in “Rust and Bone” via The Telegraph.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These people bring up some reasonable points, but does this film still have a glimmer of hope left in it?  Yes.  Yes it does.

Rust and Bone seemed to resonate with at least one individual on a profound level.  Stuart Holt, from the Limbless Association, was interviewed by The Guardian about how well Coutillard embodied an individual who has lost a limb.  As an amputee, he believes the film and Coutillard did an excellent job depicting the emotional turmoil that follows an amputation.

Based entirely off of the receptions of its audiences, there seems to be a lot of hope in this film.  It has only been available for American viewership since the 2nd of November, but I can guarantee that I will see it soon.  I know, perhaps I am a terrible person for wanting to watch a movie with captive Killer Whales, but Stuart Holt’s personal anecdote makes up for at least some of my folly.  Oh, as well as the constant high remarks coming in from Twitter.  Check out what people are saying when you search “Rust and Bone” on Twitter.  You’ll probably want to see it too.

 

French New Wave Cinema: You Have to See It to Believe It

I don’t have a Twitter (don’t judge me, it stresses me out), but I am on a mission, a journey perhaps, to find what you (the tweeter) have to say about French cinema.  So I am deciding to set aside my anxiety and venture down the path of a ‘Twitter Search’ in hopes of finding the Promise Land.  The search is easy.  All that I have to do is type “French cinema” and, voila!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A smattering of results from the search “French Cinema” pertaining to “French New Wave Cinema” -Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do we have here?  People tweeting about French New Wave Cinema.  Great!

 

Wait, what is French New Wave Cinema?

 

My investigation continues…

 

La Nouvelle vague, or French New Wave, is a movement that has its genesis back in the late 1950s in a France left destitute of funds from the Nazi occupation of decades past.  It opposed the old French traditions of filmmaking that have been described as “more literature than cinema.”  Instead, New Wave was a movement of directors more interested in showing the story by means of camerawork.  It is also noted as being the forbearer of jump cuts (slight changes in the angle of a camera on the same object) and the de-emphasis of linear structure.  One blogger writes:

 

Besides directing films, the directors also play a role as the author.  They used film as a medium to express their thinking, feeling, and criti[que] things that happened around them.

 

Personally, the style is a little confusing to understand on paper.  But the style is best seen rather than read. Here is a good example of the popular “are you talking to me?” scene in Taxi Driver juxtaposed with the same scene transmogrified into French New Wave style.

Chauffeur De Taxi from Luke Collins on Vimeo.

 

See the difference?

 

I like the style, but unfortunately it formally died out decades ago.  So why  is there still talk about it today?

 

Looks as if I am going to have to have venture a bit further if I want to find Shangri-La.

 

It turns out that French New Wave has left its imprint on much of the cinema world today.  One of Quinton Tarantino’s favorite films is Band of Outsiders by Jean-Luc Godard, a highly influential New Wave director.  Pulp Fiction’s diner dance scene is replicated from Band of Outsiders’ café scene, and Tarantino’s production company, A Band Apart, takes its name from Godard’s French title for his film, Bande à part.  But Tarantino isn’t the only high profile director branded by the techniques of French New Wave Cinema.  Martin Scorsese has been highly influenced by French New Wave and has incorporated it into many of his films.

 

Tarantino and Scorsese are great, but this topic really hit home when all of my searching suggested that one of my personal favorites, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, is considered a modern French New Wave film.

 

 

 

It’s difficult to explain on paper, but look at the examples.  Do you like them?  Do films that you like have similar scenes?

Does French New Wave truly have an influence on today’s movies or were the Twitter Search results just incidental?

French Cinema’s Rite of Passage

What do you think about when you hear the words “French Cinema”?

 

Perhaps you become preoccupied by the word “French”.  Or if you are me, you are wondering how much of the film will actually be spent watching the motion picture instead of reading the subtitles below, or if the subtitles are accurate translations, or if watching a movie in a foreign language will give you a headache, or…

 

The list could be endless.

 

Recently French Cinema has been making a name for itself, and not just on a domestic level, but also on international soil.  But what about all of those concerns that I mentioned earlier?  Who wants to spend their movie watching experience reading words at the bottom of a screen?  French cinema has introduced a movie that will quell such concerns, and a mighty fine one at that.  The Artist, by Parisian director, Michel Hazanavicius, takes place in 1920’s Hollywood.  Hazanavicius whisks us back in time in his black and white French film about the era between silent films and talking pictures.  Oh yeah, and the film, itself, is silent…so prepare.

 

Okay, so I will be the first to admit that I have yet to see the movie, although it is on the top of my list of “films-to-see”.  But whether or not I have seen it, this film’s accolades are a testament to how great it actually is.  Winning five out of ten nominated Oscars earlier this year at the Academy Awards, the film rises beyond any other French film by earning France it’s first Best Picture and Best Actor.  Perhaps the best aspect of the entire film and its recent awards is best summarized by a blogger named Raquelle, who was happy to see the film win Best Picture: “What The Artist demonstrated is that a contemporary film doesn’t have to be American, doesn’t have to be in color and doesn’t have to be a talkie.”

 

Okay, so you may be wondering why this all matters.  I certainly was until I came across a string of sites excited to proclaim that France has produced yet another great film that has gained even greater international attention.  The Intouchables came out and sold over 40 million tickets worldwide.  According to the Periscope Post, which comments on The Artist’s recent success, The Intouchables is to be France’s submission to the upcoming Academy Awards.

 

This past Saturday, French director, François Ozon won the top honor at the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain for his film Dans la maison.  The psychological thriller of a film is about a sixteen-year-old wunderkind who obsesses over one of his teachers.  Ronald Bergan of Slant Magazine compares Ozon’s film with recent works from Woody Allen and writes, “In many ways, this is exactly the sort of film Woody Allen has been trying to make lately, but has come up short.”

 

So why are these films popping up on the international scene?  It’s hard to say but perhaps France has been pushing the boundaries for its film industry; producing films that not only have a magnetic plot but also play with our emotions in a way different from the norm.  The Artist certainly pushes those boundaries and introduces a film that has no equivalent in today’s time.  Whatever France is doing, it should keep doing it because it appears to be working.

Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec…: A French Director’s Question to Israel

The idea is simple.  Take a camera around Tel Aviv and ask people a very intimate question.  If you were an Israeli Jew it is, “Would you have sex with an Arab?” and if you are Palestinian the question is the opposite.  Then you wait for the response…

Tel Aviv

 

Yolande Zauberman, a French director popular for her eye-opening documentaries, asks the unthinkable in a country where disdain for the “other” ethnicity is seemingly genetic in her recent film, Would You Have Sex with an Arab?  Zauberman, sauntering around bars and nightclubs in Israel’s most populated city, asks Tel Aviv the daunting question that makes people think about their personal opinions and reservations.  As a spectator the range of responses seem confusing, sinister, even backwards perhaps.  From, “If I find some Palestinian girl beautiful, why not?” to “It’s almost a crime to be a mixed couple.”  Sarah Rashidian, a French speaking blogger, comments on the phenomenon that occurs with those who answer in the negative to the title question:  “the viewers face an awkward moment where the interlocutor is torn between the obviousness in which he gives his answer and, at the same time, the lack of suitable explanation or logic that c(h)aracterizes it!”  This film a huge conflict and breaking it down to the individual level, asking a very intimate question, and exploring the root on the answers given.

 

But perhaps latent meanings become overlooked when watching a film in an area reigned by political conflict.  Alongside the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there exists, in my opinion, a more universal message: “Could you love someone you aren’t supposed to love?”  Deep into the upbringing of the individual, this question asks a very difficult idea for someone to think about, and essentially Zauberman does it in an area laden with prejudice.  But I honestly believe that a similar question can be posed to any of us and for a lot it would be a question too easily answered.  I do, however, agree with Pierre Haski from Rue89, an online French media website, when he points out that the film isn’t about the “make love, not war” movement of the hippies, but instead is trying to stir up prejudices within individuals that transcend upon the world.  It’s these prejudices that make loving, let alone liking, someone so difficult.

 

But perhaps this question is just over many of our heads because our situation is a bit different for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and therefore the question should only pertain to this area.

 

What do you think?  Should evaluate similar questions in ourselves if we are removed from such an ethnically-contentious environment?  Or do you believe that there are still strong ethnic boundaries to who we love?

My final question is, based off your knowledge of the documentary what is Zauberman trying to accomplish?

 

 

The Intouchables: A Heartwarming Film with Racist Undertones?

It’s a story about two unlikely people who end up connected in a way only reality could conjure up.  Philippe (Francois Cluzet), an affluent man, has the world piling up on his shoulders when tragedy strikes in a paragliding accident leaving him paralyzed in the second biggest French movie ever- The Intouchables.  A man accustomed to his independence now finds himself in a state that compromises his previous lack of relying on people.  He stumbles upon Driss (Omar Cy), a young Algerian immigrant who has familiarized himself with the world of petty-crime, and the rest is a comical, heart-wrenching tale of how these two helped each other.

But outside of the fabulous plot there are some who claim that the film has a particular air of racism about it.  Daphanee Denis of slate.com addresses such issue in her post Is the Intouchables Racist?  Although not adhering to the affirmative of her title question, she does bring up some interesting aspects that need to be evaluated when looking at this film.  Some American critics like Jay Weissberg of Variety claims that the movie gravitates toward traditional racist roles in which the black man is subservient to the rich white man.  But many would say that this critique is too critical particularly because it is based off a true story recounted in the book, You Changed My Life, by Abdel Sellou who lived the story told in the highly acclaimed French film.

Most blogs critiquing The Intouchables don’t even trek into the realm that the film might have a tinge of racism in it, but instead focus on the heartwarming feelings that give people hope in the world.  Claude Cassangne in his blog of the same name retells his experience of the movie in his post, Les Intouchables- un des meilleurs films (Francais ou autres) que j’ai jamais vu!  His subtitle, which translates to “one of the best films (French or otherwise) that I have ever seen,” describes this French born New Jersey inhabitant’s feeling toward the film best.  Never once does he bring up the allegations that this film could even have a pinch of racism in it, but instead looks beyond skin color for the facts that it is a great movie and a true story.  But is it possible that this film has some latent racist circumstances?

Personally, I would align my opinions with David Berreby of bigthink.com: “The French reaction to this reaction (American film critics assertions of the film being racist), as described by Sotinel, must strike Americans as pretty funny. It amounts to this: Oh, yeah, that one guy is black. Leave it to you race-obsessed Americans to pick that up; we hadn’t noticed. We didn’t really notice that.”  Americans do tend to look at things as black and white, rich and poor, good and bad.  We polarize the world and when we join the poles together it becomes a world that is no longer politically correct.  Perhaps there would be more of a foundation to make such claims if the movie were purely creative and not based off true events, but that isn’t the case and therefore we should set aside our preprogrammed minds and look the disparity as something endearing and hopeful.