Critics Tryst with Rendez-Vous

Posted by Erik Luers on 3.6.2014


Serge Bozon's Tip Top

Love is in the air! Rendez-Vous with French Cinema has finally arrived and this year's lineup already has critics swooning.

The 19th edition of our annual celebration of French cinema begins its week-and-a-half-long run today. The roster features new works from old pros (Michel Gondry, Agnès JaouiFrançois Ozon) and up-and-coming artists (Justine Triet, Rebecca ZlotowskiNabil Ben Yadir) alike, plus some surprising turns from stars like Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, and Mathieu Amalric.

Having already raked in praise for its fruitful lineup, this year's Rendez-Vous is shaping up to be a critical favorite. We've collected some highlights from the coverage below.

Stephen Holden of The New York Times says that this year's lineup is a departure and explains why that's a good thing.

More than any previous Rendez-Vous, this edition has begun to shake off the series’s longstanding tendency to overindulge in nostalgia. These selections left me feeling that a bubble had been punctured, if not burst, and that rough-and-tumble everyday life was elbowing its way in the door.

Richard Brody of The New Yorker shows love for Serge Bozon's mix of police procedural and screwball comedy in Tip Top.

Under Bozon’s precise direction, Huppert’s virtuosic actorly control becomes part of the story; Esther has a punctilious attention to “protocol” and a sex life that, with its own distinctive rules, has landed her under a cloud of departmental suspicion. Bozon sets the action at the most conflict-riddled crossroads of French politics: the country’s transformation into a self-consciously multicultural society. The investigation into the murder of the informant—a former Algerian policeman who fled Islamist violence in his home country—reveals deep-rooted relations between France and Algeria that transcend the colonial heritage. In Bozon’s view, the integration, in France, of Christians and Muslims is no mere dream but an inescapable and unexceptional fact.


Axelle Ropert’s Miss and the Doctors

Over at Artforum, Melissa Anderson praises Axelle Ropert’s Miss and the Doctors.

Ropert’s film also has a remarkable way of making the most shopworn conventions seem dazzlingly fresh—a skill already on display in her first feature, The Wolberg Family (2009). Like that earlier movie, which astutely explores the thorny struggle of how to carve out an identity wholly separate from one’s kin, Ropert’s follow-up project also addresses blood ties. Set in Paris’s thirteenth arrondissement, the home of the capital city’s rarely filmed Chinatown, Miss and the Doctors concerns two pediatrician brothers, Boris (Cédric Kahn) and Dimitri (Laurent Stoker). So close that they live in the same apartment complex and write prescriptions at desks positioned side by side, the siblings find their bonds tested when they both fall in love with the same woman, Judith (Louise Bourgoin), the single mother of one of their charges, a diabetic preteen girl. Yet this deceptively small project about a love triangle slowly reveals itself to be nothing less than an expansive, deeply compassionate look at universal dyads: physicians and patients, parents and children, immigrants and the native-born, the beloved and the loveless.

As many critics have pointed out, this year's Rendez-Vous is full of fresh faces. Jonathan Romney highlights some in his piece for Film Comment.

As for new talent, this year’s Rendez-Vous is rich in names to watch, some of whom you’ll already know—without necessarily being aware that you know them. A case in point is the second film by director Katell Quillévéré, who made a striking, autobiographical, and somewhat conventional debut in 2010 with Love Like Poison, about an adolescent girl’s religious and familial traumas. The more adventurous Suzanne follows two sisters and their widowed father over several years; one, Suzanne, abandons her son to run off with a petty criminal, while the other tries to hold things together. The adventurousness of the film lies in its fragmentation, in the way that it lets Suzanne herself disappear from the action for long periods, so that the film’s titular subject becomes less a character than a sort of elusive phantasm.

In addition to these complimentary write-ups, The Wall Street Journal included the festival in its Repetory Cinema recommendations and The Village Voice labeled it a Voice Choice. Rendez-Vous with French Cinema opens tonight and runs through March 16. Which films will you be checking out?

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