Giddy Delirium and Spellbinding Mundanity in French Mini-Retro

"Film is such a wonderful art," chirps Marilyne (Hélène Fillières) in Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu's A Real Man, one of five movies in BAMcinématek's New French Connection. The Larrieus show off their own crush on the septième art by opening with a phone company promotion film that Jacques Demy might have dreamed up with Jacques Tati. Boris (Mathieu Amalric), the promo's director and star, glides through his sun-soaked office, singing into his headset about the glories of computer function keys. After such promising delirium, A Real Man crashes back to earth as a ho-hum decade-long love story between Boris and Marilyne. But a few more musical numbers—and a cameo by Michel Piccoli—restore the film to the Demy monde.

The mundane never seemed so spellbinding as it does in Raymond Depardon's documentary The 10th District Court: Moments of Trial. Men and women, immigrants and citizens, the pixilated and the sapient, the impoverished and the solidly middle class stand before magistrate Michèle Bernard-Requin, who presides over her Parisian people's court with astonishing composure—even at 2:32 in the morning. The rare moments when the judge displays pique ("You're not going to teach me the penal code") erupt with tremendous force. Each case unfolds like a tightly scripted drama, sharpened by the eloquent pleas and parrying of the prosecution, the defense, and the accused themselves. Revealing, compassionate, and judicious, Depardon's is one of the best films from France—or any nation—this year.

 
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