Sunday, November 12, 2006

AFI Fest 2006 - Greetings

AFI Fest 2006 - Awards

Grand Jury Award for International Feature: GRBAVICA (Special Mention: THE ART OF CRYING)
Grand Jury Award for International Documentary: BUDDHA'S LOST CHILDREN (Special Mention: BACK HOME)
Grand Jury Award for International Short: DISAPPEARING (Special Mention: SILENCE IS GOLDEN)
Audience Award - Feature: VITUS
Audience Award - Documentary: BLINDSIGHT and SCREAMERS (Tie)
Audience Award - Short: FAIR TRADE

Saturday, November 11, 2006

AFI Fest 2006 - Transylvania Goats & Bugs

While seeing a vibrant Asia Argento in Transylvania was a treat, I’m still laughing about Feast of the Goat, which truly deserves a Razzie nomination.

The night ended with Bug, which marks the great return of William Friedkin.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

AFI Fest 2006 - Morning Glory

After getting stuck in traffic, like a lot of people that night, I arrived to the screening of Days of Glory 30mn late. The film about North African soldiers who fought alongside Americans during WWII is far from being a good movie but carries a strong message that deserves to be seen.

With Come Early Morning, First-time director Joey Lauren Adams has crafted a honest and heartfelt look at the lives of women in middle America. Ashley Judd is here truly incandescent and, I can attest, was truly gorgeous at the premiere.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

AFI Fest 2006 - Afterlives

If you ever wondered what would happen if David Lynch had directed Jackass: the movie, check out After, or rather don’t see at all and save your $ for something more “interesting”, like a frozen pizza. As for The Lives of Others, this isn’t surprising that this film has become a fave on the international festival circuit – it has all the ingredients to become some mainstream foreign classic (reviews coming).

Saturday, November 04, 2006

AFI Fest 2006 - Next

In Next: A Primer on Urban Painting, filmmaker Pablo Aravena documents graffiti art around the world, from the gritty streets of New York to the dark catacombs of Paris. While the journey is visually exciting, Aravena’s vision remains too subjective.

Friday, November 03, 2006

AFI Fest 2006: The Banquet & The Host

Call me retarded but for having misread AFI Fest’s film guide, I missed the film I was looking forward to see, because this was a gala screening which required a ticket, even if you were a pass holder. Rather than experiencing 3 hours of postmodern mind-twisting cinema, my night unexpectedly turned into Asian night, with the screening of two widely different films, The Banquet & The Host.

Set in the Chinese empire, The Banquet, the transposition of Hamlet’s Night Banquet, was a welcome surprise, as I had lost interest for the epic films, following the saturation of overdone productions such as Hero. While visually stunning, what differentiates The Banquet from the latest works from the genre is that its violence is made of brutal—rather than cartoonish—ballets and that the plot is twisted and filled with strong characters.

As for The Host, you probably will read everywhere – including on this site in French – how great it is, but after some film-geek-student type programmer introduced it as one of the best films of the year, I suddenly wasn’t sure if I was at a serious festival or at the American Cinematheque, for one of their recurring Asian Monster retrospectives. I guess a good definition of The Host would be Little Miss Sunshine meets Alien with a slightly satirical political background, but neither did I find this film amusing nor menacing. However, if you’re an Army of Darkness-type nerd, you will probably love The Host.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Winners of the 2006 LA International Latino Film Festival

It came and went quickly, leaving some good films in its dust. All in all, the festival didn't offer lots of "WOW"s but there were a few gems. Competition is now fierce with AFI and the Los Angeles Film Festival.

The following are winners of the 10th Annual Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, presented at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood:

Best Film - Rita Award
Winner: Un Mundo Maravilloso Director: Luis Estrada Country: Mexico

Best Screenplay
Winner: Iluminados por el Fuego Director: Tristan Bauer Country: Argentina

Best Director
Winner: Barrio Cuba Director: Humberto Solás Country: Cuba

Special Mention- Best Actor
Damian Alcazar, Un Mundo Maravilloso Director: Luis Estrada Country: Mexico

Special Mention
Your Name is Justine Director: Franco de Peña Country: Poland

Winner: 7 Vírgenes Director: Alberto Rodriguez Country: Spain

Best Documentary
Winner: En el Hoyo Director: Juan Carlos Rulfo Country: Mexico

Special Jury Award
De Nadie Director: Tin Dirdamal Country: Mexico

Special Jury Award
Habana: Arte Nuevo De Hacer Ruinas / Havana: The New Art Of Making Ruins

Honorable Mention:
From Mambo to Hip Hop: A South Bronx Tale
Director: Henry Chalfant
Country: USA

Winner: Elsa y Fred Director: Marcos Carnevale Country: Argentina

A Maquina

Friday night's Brazilian feature, A Maquina, was as inventive as the main character. Tired of life in a crappy village (a recurring theme in this year's fest, see Flores de Otro Mundo post), the village beauty convinces the local mechanic to bring the world to her, Fox News style. Media madness ensues when he promises to go forward in time and see the future. Creative, colorful and fun, A Maquina was a great surprise.

Lucio Cabanas: La Guerrilla y La Esperanza

Thorough and well researched study of the great Mexican peasant leader of the 70's. Directed by Gerardo Tort (De La Calle), La Guerrilla y La Esperanza may be overly long and meandering but it's certainly complete.

Flores de Otro Mundo

Tuesday evening's Flores de Otro Mundo from Spain was a sobering yet tender look at immigration in Spain. When a village devoid of women throws a party to invite some possible future female companions, a Dominican, a Cuban and a woman from Bilbao find romance among the ruins. A hard look at the true repercussions of marriage, immigration and love.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Lalo Guerrero: The Original Chicano!

The LALO GUERRERO:THE ORIGINAL CHICANO! screening on Saturday afternoon meant a room full of love, tears, happiness and nostalgia as fans came to watch this moving tribute to the father of Chicano music who died last year. Written and produced by his son Dan Guerrero and Nancy de los Santos, this made for TV documentary covered the highlights of Lalo's 70+ year career, from Zoot Suits to support for Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers, Las Ardillitas and more. From heartbreaking boleros to marijuana boogie tossed with a couple of rancheras, Lalo did it all and this doc captures it beautifully. During the Q & A and at the afterparty, Dan Guerrero shared several anecdotes about his father and for those who had the privilege of seeing him perform live, it's hard to believe he's gone.

Director, producer and son of Lalo Guerrero, Dan Guerrero.

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East Side Story Kicks off Friday Night at the Egyptian

EAST SIDE STORY, a hilarious and heartfelt gay love triangle with an unnatural heterosexual twist set in East LA and directed by Carlos Portugal, kicked off the festivities Friday night. Portugal's debut feature had the audience in stitches as he covered such themes as gay love in East LA, gentrification, family business politics and more. A treat (and veritable feast for the eyes).

Director Carlos Portugal (far right) and cast at the Q & A following the screening of East Side Story.

Actor Steve Callahan, one of the leading men of East Side Story, and Tonnie Ponce de Leon at the afterparty.

The soundtrack of East Side Story was featured homegrown musicians who played at the afterparty in the Egyptian courtyard. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 08, 2006

L.A. Latino International Film Festival 10/5-10/15 2006

Plume Noire Picks at the 10th Annual Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival

Along with the heatwave, the crappy summer blockbuster season is over, the air is crisp, and festival season is in full swing. October means films from Latin America & the U.S. at the historic Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. This year's line up proves promising with a few thrills. Thrill #1 is a tribute to Antonio Banderas on October 14. Thrill #2 is Jorge Perrugoria, the Cuban actor who returns with Barrio Cuba. Here is our partial list of picks for the 2006 festival.

LALIFF always features Latin American music, composers, singers & musicians and this year is no different. Just take a look at the diversity:

Son Dan Guerrero produced and cowrote this documentary about his legendary father, who died last year.

A doc about the Texans who went from playing cantinas to getting airplay all over the States.

An inside look in to the life of the Brazilian poet and singer who wrote the classic bossa nova hit "Girl from Ipanema" and whose play "Black Orpheus" was the basis for the film.

A doc by Caroline Neal about the search for the real maestros of tango's golden age.

CUBA CUBA CUBA films are always at the top of my list and LALIFF always brings a good selection that showcases their rich culture, history, music and sense of humor.
Barrio Cuba, directed by Humberto Solas and starring Jorge Perugorria (who was here L.A. last year for the hilarious screening of Frutas en el Cafe) takes a look at living in modern Cuba.

El Benny, directed by Jorge Luis Sanchez chronicles the life of one of Cuba's most famous singers, Benny More, who changed love songs forever with his classic tune "Como Fue".


We can always count on the Brazilians for their smart combination of sexy and hilarious. In SE EU FOSSE VOCE (IF I WERE YOU) a tired married couple switches bodies.


Illegal (& legal) immigration and the wretched results of globalization were, are and continue to be on the forefront of most political discussions this year.

Two Spanish films take a look at illegal immigration. LAS CARTAS DE ALOU (LETTERS FROM ALOU) chronicles the struggle of an African immigrant while FLORES DE OTRO MUNDO (FLOWERS FROM ANOTHER WORLD) features a Dominican and a Cuban trying to survive in Madrid.

The documentary CROSSING ARIZONA examines immigration and border policy from both sides of the fence. MAQUILAPOLIS (which screened for free at the L.A. Film Festival earlier this summer) takes a hard look at the transnationals along the border in Tijuana and the disaster they create in the communities around them.

The struggle of the South Central Farmers of Los Angeles has been chronicled in three documentaries: SOUTH CENTRAL FARMERS, SAVE THE FARM & AQUI ESTAMOS Y NO NOS VAMOS.

While I can understand why ALAMBRISTA! (THE ILLEGAL) starrring Edward James Olmost is in the program this year, it doesn't explain why BATTLESTAR GALACTICA was added as a screening. It would have been better to screen a classic episode of Miami Vice with Inspector Castillo.....

Monday, July 03, 2006


And a quick listing of the winners of the Los Angeles Film Festival:
NARRATIVE AUDIENCE AWARD: Ira & Abby written by (and co-starring) Jennifer Westfeldt and directed by Robert Cary
BEST DOCUMENTARY AUDIENCE AWARD: Mario's Story by Jeff Werner and Susan Koch
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM AUDIENCE AWARD: the documentary Paper Dolls by Tomer Heymann from Israel

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE AWARD: ensemble cast of Mike Akel's Chalk

Short Film Winners:
BEST NARRATIVE SHORT: Gustavo Taretto's Side Walls
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: Cedar Sherbert's Gesture Down (I Don't Sing)
BEST ANIMATED/EXPERIMENTAL SHORT: Adam Parrish King's The Wraith of Cobble Hill
AUDIENCE PRIZE FOR BEST SHORT: Diego Quemada-Diez's I Want To Be A Pilot

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Sex Pistol on Hollywood - pictures

Here are some pictures:

Steve Jones

The Like

Tim Burgress


A Sex Pistol in Hollywood

The day couldn’t have started or ended better. After watching my fellow Frenchmen give the Brazilians a good spanking – I’m talking about the World Cup, not about some of my friends’ habits – I headed to Hollywood for a special evening hosted by the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones, which would turn to be the highlight of the festival, as it’s no secret I’m a big Pistols’ fan.

Now a DJ on local cult radio station Indie 103.1, Jones broadcast his show Jonesy’s Jukebox live with guests including The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess, the cute girls from The Like, Mr. “Obey”, The Vacation, etc… The talented Like performed some Pistols’ songs as well as a couple of cuts from their album, followed by a group of musicians offering violin-based versions of some of the punk band’s tunes. Jones introduced the screening of The Filth & the Fury directed by Julien Temple and at the end of the documentary we were “gratified” with another round of covers by, this time, the Vacation. While it was a bit disappointing that Jones didn’t join the Like with his guitar or that Burgess didn’t step behind the mike, more troubling was Indie’s insistence on promoting The Vacation, a bland band with poor singing – even Jonesy told them they sucked when they came on a previous show. It was time to say au revoir to the festival, which is always kinda sad, but this time, it certainly ended on a strong note. In pure LA tradition, we ended the night at Canter’s on Fairfax for a midnight dinner…

Click here for the pictures of Jones and other attendees

East of Havana and West of Logic

I'll just say it: I expected a lot more from East of Havana, a documentary about "El Cartel", a group of rappers in Cuba. Directed by Jauretsi Saizarbitoria and Emilia Menocal and produced by Charlize Theron, the pivotal focus is the Special Period in the 1990's when the Soviet Union collapsed and the U.S. further tightened the embargo against Cuba. Thing is, in the documentary they forget to mention the tightening of the U.S. blockade and how it has affected life in Cuba. The focus instead is how bad Fidel is. Of course the filmmakers have every right to take their position, but it's not a complete, multifaceted picture.
We follow the three rappers and meet their families as they try to put together a rap festival. One rapper has had her brother jailed for stealing and her sister has been jailed for prostitution. Another lives with his grandfather and helps to take care of him. There are some spectacular shots of Havana and it's fascinating to see a new musical genre take its form in Havana--you know if Cubans do it, it'll be fantastic..... Inexplicably, the film loses it's focus as we meet the brother of one of the rappers, whose departure in the 1990's to the states caused the family much pain. Instead of watching the details of putting on an international rap festival we see him weeping over pictures of his family. It's heartbreaking but doesn't move the story along...
Charlize Theron and the directors were on hand to answer questions about the film. They've got the distribution deal & a book deal and it should be a big hit in Miami. Theron didn't go as far to say that the Blockade against Cuba should be lifted but she did make the point that censorship in the US also exists....the filmmakers also made the comment that everyone in Cuba goes to jail, but that's just ridiculous and irresponsible to say. While the film wasn't as nuts as Andy Garcia's The Lost City, it could have gone deeper.....

Friday, June 30, 2006

Homie Zombies, Echo Park and the Argentinean jungle

Do we need another zombie movie and another variation on Assault on Precinct 13/Rio Bravo? No, we don’t and the obnoxious Last Rites, set in gang-infested downtown LA, doesn’t even feature Milla Jovovich in spandex to at least provide some dose of excitement in third-rate zombie-land.

A local film about Echo Park microcosm Quinceanera, the centerpiece premiere, was fresh, funny and heartfelt, even daring a quite provocative happy ending, in terms of morality (listening to the contrasting reactions of old conservative Mexican men and gay couples in the audience provided entertainment as well).

Los Muertos, a contemplative and naturalistic work from Argentinean director Lisandro Alonso offered a moment of rare beauty, following the odyssey of an ex-con going to see his daughter after getting released from jail.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Scanner Darkly Premiere

After having diner on Hollywood Boulevard at a sleazy French restaurant appropriately called Les Voyous – it means “thugs” – as they blatantly rip you off, serving you plates that don’t match the menu and then making up some bullshit excuses to still make you pay the full price – but don’t worry Voyous, you’re gonna be featured soon in our brand new LA restaurant section – we headed to the Scanner Darkly premiere, or rather to the Universal City metro station parking lot as the Ford Theater lot was full.

The screening started an hour late, after the arrival of actors Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder. While visually fun, this adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel spent too much time on stoner-type comedy stints and not enough on the conspiracy aspect of the story.

Monday, June 26, 2006

How to get down in L.A.

Hot partygirls & trashy LA scenesters showed up in force for the screening of Paul Sapiano’s tongue-in-cheek The Boys' and Girls' Guide to Getting Down, a hilarious and raunchy guide giving you all the secrets on how to party in LA, from getting into exclusive nightclubs, to getting laid and scoring some good dope. Without a doubt, the most fun I had at a screening here this year, this film mostly aims at an LA audience but definitely has a Brit vibe – think 24 Hour Party People, Trainspotting. If you’re into that scene or into partying – and I must admit I am familiar with some of these situations and clubs – you will enjoy that film. If you’re a constipated OC-type conservative, you will find it disgusting and scandalous.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Dorkon Kingdom & Poetic Landscapes

Saturday was without a doubt a day of contrast, theme-wise.

Werner Herzog’s Wild Blue Yonder offered yet another experiment from the German master, mixing documentarial footage and science in this humorous fiction about the exploration of space and underwater universes. Slow-paced and contemplative, the film featured moments of great beauty—mostly the underwater sequences—but bordered on boredom while in outer space.

Advancing at a similar pace, Before Born, an enigmatic Chinese entry with a European feel, proved to be haunting at first, but dragged toward the end.

However, Darkon, a documentary about nerds playing medieval role games, was a sure treat, offering an amusing inside look at this group of social freaks without being condescending – some protagonists were there for the Q&A afterwards.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Going to Hell at the—great—LA Film Festival

I’ve seen Hell and it looks like a midnight screening of The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell. Post Apocalypse America according to writer/director Kevin Wheatley looks like a bunch of mongoloids beating each other up with hammers. As much as I support indie filmmaking and hate mainstream crap, there should be some kind of filmmaking law that would prohibit geeks from making movies. The festival catalog stated it was entertaining – I probably be more entertained by a documentary about the sexuality of snails.

Talking about sexuality and snails—which is a French delicacy—French sleaze master Francois Ozon—was there to present his new film, Time to Leave. While lightly bordering on pathos, this new entry in his “death trilogy”—the first one was Under the Sand—was quite satisfying, mostly thanks to a great performance by Melvil Poupaud. As usual, there was plenty of gratuitous nudity and sex, but this time gorgeous French creatures have been replaced by gay guys!

And now to get back to the festival itself, with its new home in Westwood, the festival has turned into a large-scale event, which might overshadow AFI fest. Using great venues such as the Crest, the Hammer museum, street screenings (last night I saw bits of West Side Story), an upscaled Target room & lots of parking, the festival went from intimate fest to an established event, without losing its rock n roll spirit. God Saves The LA Film Fest!

The Harder They Come & Sammy Dreadlocks

Last Sunday night we headed to the Ford Amphitheatre for a screening of The Harder They Come, Perry Henzell's 1973 film starring Jimmy Cliff as a Jamaican country boy turned Kingston gangster who'll stop at nothing to make an album and die a legend. I was born in 1973, and from the looks of it Quentin Tarantino has seen it more than once. The most memorable line was Jimmy Cliff yelling "Don't fuck with me!", with each syllable accentuated by the knife in his hand cutting up the face of his former boss.
The film itself was enjoyable, starting off as a study of life in Kingston in the seventies and then turning into a crazy gangster movie that, while dramatic, doesn't seem very plausible.
The screening was preceded by a concert by the Melodians, a Jamaican band invited onstage for a few songs to set the mood. But they played, beautifully, for over an hour. It was impossible to get them offstage though, and once they invited their friend, Sammy Dreadlocks, I thought we would never get to the film. It finally started, though there was probably more potsmoking at this screening at the Ford than what the ushers are normally used to.
It's almost impossible to have a bad night at the Ford Amphitheatre and this screening was no exception.

The Los Angeles Film Festival 6/22-7/2

The Los Angeles Film Festival is back with a new home in Westwood! Though this list is by no means comprehensive, here are Plume Noire’s picks at the Los Angeles Film Festival:

Several exciting screenings will take place at the Ford Amphitheatre. For Angelinos who listen to Indie 103.1 and can’t let their punk past go in spite of their day jobs, watching Steve Jones present The Filth and the Fury Live! will border on ecstasy. Another definite highlight is Richard Linklater’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi novel A Scanner Darkly, in the animation style of Waking Life. Starring Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., and Woody Harrelson. The Harder They Come, a Jamaican classic starring reggae great Jimmy Cliff, will also screen.

One night will mean choosing between An Inconvenient Truth presented by Al Gore himself at California Plaza or Leonard Cohen I’m Your Man with Leonard Cohen in a rare public appearance. Thirty-somethings can revel in their memories of the 80’s in The Lather Effect, starring Tate Donovan and Ione Skye. Those who enjoyed Kissing Jessica Stein should check out Ira & Abby, a comedic look at dysfunctional relationships. In Quinceañera, gentrification, teenage pregnancy and a Mexican tradition meet at the crossroads of Echo Park, a Los Angeles neighborhood.

While there aren’t tons of Latin American films this year, the documentary East of Havana, produced by Charlize Theron, takes a look at Cuban rappers and the Brazilian film House of Sand, unites stunning actress Fernanda Montenegro and her daughter Fernanda Torres along with Seu Jorge, who sang David Bowie songs in Portuguese in The Life Aquatic.

If eating Frankenfood freaks you out, then Our Daily Bread, an Austrian film that details the food manufacturing plants, will likely haunt you and force you to plan your organic garden immediately. The documentary Matthew Barney: No Restraint features Bjork and deconstructs his life and art.

The Los Angeles Fim Festival’s Guilty Pleasures series includes Snoop Dog’s Hood of Horror and the Tae Kwon Do comedy The Foot Fist Way.

The Free Screenings include the aforementioned An Inconvenient Truth, the classic love story West Side Story, a movie about how movies are made: Cinematographer Style, and Maquilápolis (city of factories), a documentary that probes corporate exploitation of Mexican workers and the labor movement growing along the border. Like last year’s Romantico and Maid in America, the Los Angeles Film Festival has chosen another film that chronicles the complex immigration issues in this country.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Locked Out & Heading South

From the crazy antics of actor/director Albert Dupontel to male prostitution in Port aux Princes, the last night of the festival offered quite a contrasted showcase of the various facets of French cinema.

On a side note, if you attended the festival, you might have noticed how the shorts introducing the films had been finely handpicked, perfectly matching the tones or themes of the main features. Stéphane Le Lay’s The Kiss, adequately opening for the weirdest entry of this 10th edition of COLCOA, proved to be the most imaginative short and my favorite here.

It’s not a secret that I’ve always been a fan of Albert Dupontel — whether as an acerbic stand-up comic, an actor or director — and I was pretty amused to hear that what he had told the program director was exactly what he had told me a few years ago when I met him in Hollywood, that “he felt closer to Hollywood than to the French New Wave” (actually, his exact words were a little more “colorful” at that time).

What’s interesting in Dupontel’s work is his propensity to push the boundaries and that’s exactly what he did in Locked Out, creating a sort of live-action-cartoon — think mean spirited Tex Avery — filled with Buster Keaton-like stunts. Pretty trashy and outrageous, his latest film is certainly not a spectacle with mainstream appeal — some uptight “expats” left during the screening — but I personally find it pretty amusing and more refreshing than any — good or bad — formulaic French comedy I’ve seen here. It’s hard to judge comedies, as humor is more emotional than cerebral, and while Locked Out is not a great movie — by critical standards — this is a unique and original work that is undoubtedly worth seeing. Will you enjoy it? I’m not sure but this one of my two picks at COLCOA this year.

Heading South, a film about middle-aged women going to Port aux Princes to have a good time with the young natives, remains more problematic for me as I still haven’t been able to decide if I liked it or not. Is it a good film? Probably, but I wasn’t able to identify with the point of view of these women — though admittedly it’s pretty hard for a 30-something punk to get into the head of a middle-aged woman and figure out if this film is an accurate portrait or not.

One thing I noticed though — and before entering the screening I had forgotten what the film was about — was the great number of solo middle-aged women who came for this showing. I don’t know if I was still under the influence of the heavy pastis I had just before — I know you’re going to think that I spend most of my time at festivals drinking — but it seemed that the old Hollywood-type woman next to me kept looking at me and tried to make conversation — maybe I could have had the chance to make a few bucks!!

A Q&A with Laurent Cantet followed and it was a treat to see an unpretentious French director who spoke good English and wasn’t afraid to give candid answers to any questions he got (he actually pissed off a woman in the audience). Cantet honestly said that his film aimed at showing the point of view of women but was made from a man’s perspective — his, his fellow screenwriter and the author of the novels that inspired this film — which confirms that a woman, rather than a man, would be a better a fit to fully assess Heading South.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Flying Low with the Film Editor of a local paper

As I was sipping my espresso this morning, I stumbled on a piece in the LA Weekly called "Air France", where its Film Editor encourages readers to go see cinematic slush such as Sky Fighters despite admitting they’re bad. His take is that they’re commercial, accessible and might be turned into Hollywood remakes while he slams other films for being too pretentious. His article ends on a word of praise for his own Black Box — probably the most Americanized film of the festival — that he interprets as a cynical portrait of a corrupt society — I didn’t see that but maybe the subtitles came from a different film.

I don’t know how much of an authority he is on French films — even though he seems to have great credentials — but not only does he not seem to understand the identity of French cinema but he wrongly assumes LA Weekly readers will go to a French festival to see American-style pop-corn flicks rather than — possibly pretentious — psychological works. No, in a city like LA, American film-goers will want to see genres where the French excel: comedies, psychological bores and edgy sex-fueled fares. As for products like Sky Fighters, it’s actually the French who will go see them. So please, stop sending your readers to the wrong films.

Film Noir Night: Don’t put your Hands in The Black Box

Last night was Film Noir night, which has been one of my favorite parts of the festival since I’ve been attending it – I just realized it’s already my 5th year at COLCOA. As usual I missed the 1st screening, as I was stuck in traffic — yeah, I know, I live behind the Orange Curtain.

While the crowds were gathering for Sky Fighters, another “marvel” from the Michael Bay à la française, Gérard Pirès, the smaller theater was showing The Black Box, a dark thriller by actor/director Richard Berry (also starring in The Valet featured at the festival). Even though I’ve never been a fan of Berry as an actor, I was looking forward to this film but ended up fairly disappointed with this David Fincher-style take on loss of memory. Narratively far-fetched and visually impersonal, The Black Box was mostly worth it for another great dark and intense against-type performance from José Garcia, probably the best comedic talent coming from France. Mr. Berry was there to introduce the screening but nowhere to be found for a Q&A. Before the screening he stated that “he makes films because he doesn’t like to make speeches”, which I understand — others use words in songs, websites and blogs to say what they have in mind! — but when a festival flies you from The Land of the Never-ending Strikes to introduce your film, the least you could do would be to answer questions from the audience afterwards, rather than sipping champagne in the VIP area.

After sacrificing myself and hitting a couple of glasses of champagne, tartare toasts and a cigarette during the break, I was going back for a Noir encore with Anne Fontaine’s In His Hands starring the great Benoît Poelvoorde and the always cute Isabelle Carré. This thriller centered around the unexpected affair between a young married woman and a middle-aged weirdo, with a serial-killer sub-theme in the background was the highlight of the night, focusing on this woman’s dark attraction to danger, rather than on exploitation-type scenes. Some people, who were probably expecting a slasher-type thriller full of Paris Hilton-like bimbos in short shorts getting slaughtered, were complaining that the film dragged. But since it was aiming at offering a different angle from the victim’s perspective without any judgmental consideration, the film was exactly in the right format and delivered what it was supposed to.

As I always look for recurrent themes in films and programs — not that I’m one these 60 year-old pseudo-intellectual bores, it’s just that here at Plume Noire we read films rather than review them — the new thread that came to mind is to wonder what makes French-speaking best comedic talents such as José Garcia, Benoît Poelvoorde and Albert Dupontel so good for these dark and intense roles? (If Berry had done a Q&A, as an actor/director he could have answered that question.)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

How Much Do You Love Monica Bellucci?

Wednesday night offered the opportunity to experience two styles of French comedy, the light tones of the Parisian show-biz world with Orchestra Seats and notorious director Bertrand Blier’s poetically wacky take on the inner nature of women as prostiutes in How Much Do You Love Me?

After watching The Valet a couple of days earlier, it was refreshing to see a mainstream Parisian comedy which succeeded at alternating between cuteness and humor, mostly thanks to its writing, fueled with gentle irony and its enticing gallery of characters embodied by great actors such as Valerie Lemercier, Albert Dupontel, Cécile De France and—director—Sidney Pollack among others. A Q&A with Writer/Director Danièle Thompson followed the screening.

While I didn’t know what to expect from Bertrand Blier’s new film, especially after his indigestible Côtelettes, I was highly disappointed to learn he wasn’t going to attend the screening as planned, since I was looking forward to the Q&A with my bag of tricks. However, his new film was far from being disenchanting. On the contrary, it showcased a softer side of the controversial filmmaker who offered a beautiful but rough hymn to the beauty of women. There certainly isn't a better choice to incarnate women than Monica Bellucci—probably the most beautiful woman in the world—but his ode certainly had a sharp edge: “les femmes sont toutes des putes” (all women are whores) while real prostitutes at least assume their true nature.

While I won’t comment on this, especially after having experienced dating in Orange County, I was kinda amused to notice a similarity in themes between The Valet, How Much Do You Love Me? and Orchestra Seats, these 3 films emphase that women can be bought; I remember asking the program director if there would be a theme to the festival this year but I’ll guess I’ll have to ask again, just to make sure!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

COLCOA 2006 Opening Night Gala

City of Lights, City of Angels: French Film in Los Angeles
COLCOA's opening gala on Monday night featured Francis Veber’s The Valet. While I won’t be able to comment on the food, wine or some cool encounters I could have had, as I got there an hour too late because of some excess baggage — by that I mean "guests" of mine who kinda invited themselves to come along and will now be added to my notorious do-not-invite-black-list — , the festival was introduced by a few significant personalities, from great director Michael Mann to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Followed by several tedious speeches, which left yours truly with enough time to go out for cigarettes and chit-chas and come back just in time for The Valet, an amusing, cute but fairly weak and lazy entry in Veber’s filmography— compared to his major works, this one definitely had a TV-movie feel. Veber and his star were there for a Q&A, and their French wit certainly provided more entertainment than the dull self-important questions from the audience.