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New York City, NY 10002
December 1 - December 31, 2023
We’ve rounded up a selection of French films and co-productions that will be screened at Metrograph (NYC) in December.
“Maria Schneider, 1983” (2022) – December 2 & 3
Directed by Elisabeth Subrin
In Maria Schneider, 1983, actresses Manal Issa, Aïssa Maïga and Isabel Sandoval recreate a 1983 French TV interview with Maria Schneider, which takes a turn when she’s asked about the filming of Last Tango in Paris with Bernardo Bertolucci and Marlon Brando a decade before. Taken together, they not only perform Schneider’s words and gestures, but inhabit them through their own identities, “bringing this maligned actress into the present, conjuring her into power, throwing their own bodies on the line to salvage hers.” B. Ruby Rich, Film Quarterly). Screens with Shulie, Subrin and collaborator Kim Soss produce a playful, provocative recreation of a 1967 documentary portrait of second-wave feminist writer and activist Shulamith Firestone, made when was still an art student in Chicago.
“The Rules of the Game” (1939) – December 8 & 9
Directed by Jean Renoir
A weekend retreat at a marquis’ country château sets the stage for romantic intrigues and, eventually, murder, in this exacting autopsy of the French bourgeoisie and their servants—the former elegantly costumed by Chanel founder Gabrielle Chanel—produced under the gathering clouds of coming war. Considered one of the greatest of all films by universal decree, The Rules of the Game is the very apex of the delicate, humane art of Renoir, who also features in the ensemble cast, observing: “The awful thing about life is this: everyone has their reasons.”
“The Tenant” (1976) – December 8 & 9
Directed by Roman Polanski
Hell is other people—specifically, one’s neighbors—in Polanski’s aria of urban anomie and psychological persecution, starring the director himself as a Polish-born file clerk who takes over a Paris apartment following the suicide of its previous owner, only to find himself running a gauntlet of abuse provided by the building’s elderly residents, including landlord Melvyn Douglas, concierge Shelley Winters, and archly intolerant fellow tenant Jo Van Fleet. A chilly, claustrophobic nightmare of a film that presents Paris, shot by frequent Bergman cinematographer Sven Nykvist, as a bleak and barren purgatory.
“Taste of Cherry” (1997) – December 1 & 10
Directed by Abbas Kiarostami
Kiarostami’s spare but emotionally complex road movie accompanies middle-aged Mr. Badii (Homayoun Ershadi) as he drives through the hilly outskirts of Tehran, searching for someone to rescue or bury him. Along the way, he picks up three passengers, all from different walks of life, all eliciting different views on choice and mortality, with Kiarostami himself occupying the passenger seat offscreen. Often held up as one of the Iranian master’s finest outings, this delicately alluring meditation on life and death was originally released theatrically in the US by Zeitgeist Films after winning the 1997 Palme d’Or at Cannes.
“About Elly” (2009) – December 16 & 17
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Nine affluent Iranian former college classmates’ holiday weekend visit to the Caspian Sea takes an unnerving turn when one of the party, Elly, disappears without a trace in this enigmatic, Antonioni-esque thriller from A Separation director Farhadi, featuring Golshifteh Farahani as Sepideh, a young mother in the group who harbors a crucial secret. “This superb, suspenseful film opens as a playful comedy… but by the end has become a moral drama likely to corrode your certainties. The film grows more frightening and compelling as it goes.” — The Village Voice
“Chicken with Plums” (2011) – December 22 & 24
Directed by Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi
Satrapi adapted her own graphic novel of the same name for her live-action follow-up to 2007 animated breakthrough Persepolis, a beautifully detailed, tonally eclectic evocation of the disappeared world of the Persian middle class from the 1950s to the eve of the Islamic Revolution, recreated with scrupulous attention to detail and fanciful flourish on the lots of Germany’s Babelsburg Studios. Losing his will to play and therefore to live, musician Mathieu Amalric takes to bed with the intention of waiting for death, and as he wastes away, he is visited by visions of the future and past—including a dream of the woman he’d once hoped to marry, played by a luminous Golshifteh Farahani.
“Pacifiction” (2022) – December 16 & 17
Directed by Albert Serra
Catalan filmmaker Serra’s mesmerizing portrait of a French bureaucrat’s (Benoît Magimel) visit to a French Polynesian island charts the various uneasy relationships that develop between his autocratic yet avuncular High Commissioner and the Indigenous locals who operate under his faux-benevolent thumb, with anxieties recently flamed by rumors of the sighting of a submarine, suggesting the possible return of nuclear testing by the French government. Serra’s slow-building, hypnotic fever dream allows incisive social commentary about the remnants of colonialism to surface through quiet observation, jaw-dropping shots, and sheer aesthetic audacity.
“Beau Travail” (1999) – December 22, 23 & 25
Directed by Claire Denis
Military drills take on the aspect of sacred pagan rites in Denis’s breathtaking, sun-struck study of men (almost) without women, a loose reworking of Melville (and Benjamin Britten’s) Billy Budd set in Djibouti amidst a French Foreign Legion detachment training endlessly for a martial challenge that will never come. With Grégoire Colin as the beautiful boy soldier, and Denis Lavant as the brooding, suppressed superior officer fixated on his charge, who finally self-immolates in one of the greatest closing shots of all time.
“Pola X” (1999) – December 23
Directed by Leos Carax
Carax takes on Herman Melville’s most challenging (and virtually career-killing) novel, Pierre; or the Ambiguities, in this mournful full-blooded melodrama starring Guillaume Depardieu as a fashionable and well-off novelist who takes a headfirst plunge into incestuous amour fou and lowlife danger after meeting a half-wild war refugee from Eastern Europe (Yekaterina Golubeva) who proclaims herself the sister he never knew he had. Featuring a Scott Walker score, Sonic Youth cameo, graphic sex scenes, and an abiding air of outraged anguish.
35mm print courtesy of UCLA Film & Television Archive
Part of Yuletide Sublime: Foreign Holiday Films
“A Tale of Winter” (1992) – Dates coming soon
Directed by Éric Rohmer
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