New French Connection at BAM


With one of its strongest lineups, this year’s Gallic mini-cinefest at BAM features a breezy rom-com, a solemn redemption song, a quiet celebration of the quotidian, and an opulent time-and-space oddity.
Olga’s Chignon, the feature debut of Jérôme Bonnell (whose Pale Eyes is also in the series), may be Rohmer lite, but its take on familial and romantic attachments avoids mawkishness thanks to the wonderful Nathalie Boutefeu, the tap-dancing gal pal of Julien (Hubert Benhamdine), the film’s emotionally stunted center. Jean-Pierre Denis’s far more somber La Petite Chartreuse is also elevated by the performance of one of its stars: Olivier Gourmet, playing a recovering alcoholic who becomes devoted to the small girl he injured in a car accident.

Finding magnificence in the mundane, Raymond Depardon exhibits tremendous curiosity and patience in his documentary Profiles of Farmers: Daily Life. With his own offscreen voice ever present, Depardon thoughtfully asks his subjects about the EU, illness, death, and marriage. “A camera can break down at just the right moment,” Depardon says early in Profiles. So too can narrative structure, as is the case with Claire Denis’s delirious The Intruder. The film’s “events,” whether actual or hallucinated, center around Louis (Michel Subor), a weathered barrel of a man. Louis needs a new ticker—but for himself or his son (Grégoire Colin)? Or for the son Louis may or may not have sired in Oceania? Bloody organs are found in the snow, bodies are frozen under ice, Louis croons “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” with a stranger in a Pusan bar—each elliptical moment offers its own aural and visual pleasures, privileging sensory response over humdrum linearity.