Salut! The 14th Annual City of Lights, City of Angels film festival


The Franco-American Cultural Fund (FACF) presents the 14th Annual City of Lights, City of Angels film festival (COLCOA) April 19-25 at the DGA.
COLCOA presents 32 feature films and 20 shorts, including nine U.S. and North American premieres, and four International Premieres.

The opening night film, Pascal Cameil’s romantic comedy “Heartbreaker” (L’Arnacoeur) stars Romain Duris and Vanessa Paradis.
Two music related flicks, Joann Sfar’s biopic “Gainsbourg: Je t’aime…Moi Non Plus” (haunted by the suicide of star Lucy Gordon) and Radu Mihaileanu’s “The Concert” are anticipated highlights of the fest.

Xavier Giannoli’s exceptional “In The Beginning” (official selection-Cannes 2009) is in competition with films by writer-directors featured at prior COLCOA years: Nicolas Boukhrief (“Sphinx“), Stéphane Brizé (“Mademoiselle Chambon“), Albert Dupontel (“The Villain)”, Christophe Honoré (“Making Plans for Lena“), Anne Le Ny (“My Father’s Guests”), Claude Miller “(I Am Glad That My Mother is Alive“) and Emmanuel Mouret (“Please, Please me!“).

Premieres of three documentaries about the history of French Cinema will delight cinephiles: Serge Bromberg’s Cesar-winning “Inferno“, about Henri-Georges Clouzot’s disastrous attempt to film his experimental hallucinatory study of jealousy (starring Romy Schneider): ‘Irene, Alain Cavalier’s portrait of his wife actress Irene Tunc (who was killed in an auto accident); and Emmanuel Laurent’s portrait of the Nouvelle Vague friendship of Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut.

The COLCOA Classics series features the restored “Pierrot Le Fou.”
Anna Karina and Cinémathèque Française director Serge Toubiana will participate in a panel on the French New Wave after the screening.
The series also features Rohmer’s “Pauline at the Beach” and ” The Little Thief” by Vet director Claude Miller, this year’s Focus on a Filmmaker honoree.

The festival’s popular “After 10” series includes a mini Horror series-the International premiere of “In Their Sleep” and the North American premiere of the action-driven zombie pic “The Horde.”

New-this year: COLCOA offers a “Blind Date with a French Film”, a complimentary surprise screening of a North American premiere on Tuesday, April 20th. ELMA (European Languages and Movies in America), co-sponsor of the COLCOA High School screenings, will sponsor a new COLCOA master class for film students and professors.

Xavier Giannoli’s fascinating “A L’Origine” is based on an unbelievable true story. Giannoli read an article in the paper about an imposter who conned an entire town into building part of a national highway. Unlike the typical con-man story, something more than money seemed to motivate the crook who stayed around after he hustled the bank loans to complete the road. Overcoming almost insurmountable odds, his team’s road passed all the national safety regulations but was rebuilt for legal reasons.

Giannoli tracked down retired Judge Leguevaque (who became one of the film’s consulting advisors) and visited the grifter in prison trying to understand the psychological complexities of his character. Ultimately interviews with town locals helped him flesh out the contradictory nuances of his unusual protagonist. In production long before the economic crisis, Gianolli’s film seems prescient.

As with Depardieu in “The Singer“, Giannoli draws a nuanced performance from François Cluzet as the marginalized loner who impacts a community. His anxious body language and hyper vigilant glances morph into the fixed stares of an obsessive workaholic. Good guy and jerk in one, Cluzet elicits our sympathy for the amoral grifter who finds an unexpected meaning to his life.

Using the moniker Philippe Miller, Paul criss-crosses the country pilfering and fencing construction equipment. Dropping names he copies from construction signs, doctoring his van with different company names, and passing fake stationary, he “rents” equipment and sells it off, amassing cash which he irons in his motel room before moving on. The film’s first 10 minutes is a crash course on the grift.

Coming across an abandoned highway project, Paul’s machinations get him in deeper than he expected. Posing as an agent of CGI (the construction corporation who pulled out of the project) he scams some valuable equipment. Prompted by the Mayor, the locals start offering him kickbacks to participate in the project they assume is coming. In one funny scene, an awkward Paul is steam rolled by local businessmen desperate to bring jobs and money to the depressed town.

Inventing a CGI subsidiary, using forged order forms he and his assistant float for services, Paul starts the project up, hiring workers and equipment on the 90-day plan. Planning to light out with the cash before the project starts, Paul can’t resist Stéphane, the attractive Mayor who he begins sleeping with, nor the respect he gets wherever he goes. We watch him trap himself, dreaming of the stable life he might have lead.

A local bank offers him cash advances. Stalling the bank manager who presses him for authentication from the parent company, Paul stays too busy to reach. He manages to get trucks laying road, while suspicious unpaid locals begin to mutiny. Protective Monika covers his back even she puts two and two and two together. Eventually Paul spends his booty bankrolling the project, driving himself and his workers to complete the project in time.

In the end the corporation and the police close in on Paul’s finished highway to nowhere. Giant balloon lights, rigged to complete the night shifts, illuminate his achievement. Jubilant Paul sits on the slope overlooking his masterwork, the banner of his non-existent company gaily waving.

Even the shoot was an atypical adventure. When the original construction site cancelled their contract with the production company, the films was left without a location. A chance meeting with Raymond Legrand, a visionary owner of a plant-hire company found Giannoli a surprising partner. Legrand became an advisor. His machinery and staff (cast in the film) built the highway, facing all the challenges detailed in the film.

Christian Carion’s Cold War espionage thriller “L”affaire Farewell” brings to life the cynical hall-of-mirrors atmosphere first introduced to audiences in “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold.” Sterling production design and a tight script recall the paranoid posturing of both the USSR and the US, on the brink of nuclear warfare.

The astonishing true story is based on Serguei Kostine’s 2009 book “Bonjour Farewell”), which finally revealed how KGB man Vladimir Vetrov toppled the Soviet Union by leaking spy secrets to the west.

Eschewing flashy stunts, Carion places the historical event in its ideological context, using the esthetics of spy films of the time to bring the Cold War to life for a new audience.

Guillaume Canet (“Joyeux Noël“) stars as Pierre Froment, a French electronics executive reluctantly tapped by his boss to serve as a conduit between a Russian spy and the French secret service. Believing communism had been betrayed by the corruption of the Soviet system, Idealistic Colonel Grigoriev (Emir Kusturica) leaks state secrets about Soviet penetration of Western intelligence, in order to bring down Brezhnev and Andropov’s regime.

Hoping for a revolution, he risks his life to leave a better USSR for his teenage son Igor (Evgenie Kharlanov). Scornful of his father’s KGB work and unaware of his courageous sacrifice, defiant Igor is always on his father’s case.

All the ex French-translator asks for in exchange are good French Champagne, Queen Cd’s for his son and a book of French poetry. The inscribed book, that once belonged to Pierre’s wife, leads to his discovery.

Goaded by heads of state, the unlikely pair topples the regime as the loss of their moles and the enormity of the leaks push the Soviets towards perestroika.

Pierre and family live in a French compound in Moscow. He assumes the materials he’s passing to his boss are of middling interest. Imagine his surprise when he’s summoned by Vallier (Niels Arestrup), the head of the French Secret Service. Grigoriev’s high-level materials reveal how deeply the Russians have penetrated Western military secrets. They have complete engineering plans for the space shuttle and even the door codes for the White House.

Canet (who directed “Tell No One“) subtly limns the anxious bourgeois family man who rises to the occasion. While Pierre plays down his involvement to his wife Jessica (Alexandra Maria Lara (“The Baader Meinhoff Complex“), Mitterand (Philippe Magnon), decides to share the information with Ronald Reagan. Uneasy working with the French socialist premiere, once Reagan realizes the CIA is riddled with KGB moles, he calls in the agency, represented by Willem Dafoe’s Agent Feeney. The CIA’s desire to identify agent “Farewell”, leads them to shop Grigoriev to his superiors.

Ironically, as the stakes rise, Grigoriev becomes more reckless in his spying. He passes materials in daylight in public. He carries a briefcase stuffed with papers through his office or sits at his boss’s desk to snap copies of documents.

Unable to come clean at home, Grigoriev has an affair with sexy KGG co-worker Alina (Dina Korzun). The nervy pair boff in the archives. Under the pretext of answering an ad in the paper, Alina comes to his house to scope out his family life and wife Natasha (Ingeborga Dapkunaite.) Igor observes a stolen kiss and lays into his adulterous father.

Playing the disillusioned patriot Grigoriev, willing to betray his country to see it regain it’s ideals, charismatic vet director Emir Kusturica is the heart of the film, turning in a wrenching performance as a man, betrayed by his handlers, who pays the highest price for his ideal. His pug -ugly sexiness gives heart and brio to the film.

Looking nothing like the man, Fred Ward channels Reagan. His verbal flourishes and physical tics recall the Great Communicator in his prime. Amusingly, Reagan repeatedly screens scenes from John Ford’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”, as if he learned realpolitik from the movies.

Eric Raynaud’s no nonsense script details the somewhat shabby day-to-day realities of a spy in which no one, including those you spy for, can be trusted.

Using Ukranian and Finnish locations Carion’s captures the high Soviet Style, the wedding cake buildings and Lada-lined streets.

Winner of the Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, Mia Hansen-Love’s “The Father Of My Children” (Le Pere De Mes Enfants) studies a family in disarray. IFC will release it in the US.

Paris-based film producer Grégoire Canvel (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) juggles his passionate work as a producer with his family life, celebrated on weekend stays at their country home. He seems to be the man with everything: an apartment in town, a country cottage, a loving family and a series of important films in production. He’s proud of the directors he’s discovered and his track record of uncompromising auteur films.

A vivid extended opening sequence tracks cell-phone schmeering Grégoire (a one man mobile studio) from place to place; office, street, ultimately a road trip to the country home where his wife and children wait for him. He’s arrested for speeding. His license is impounded, and his family picks him up. All the while he jokes and motormouths his way through the constant travails of independent producing. The fact that he has to take a bus to work only energizes Grégoire more. He discovers young talent on his way to work

Alas, his Moon Films is over extended, involved with high-risk directors and sinking in debt. Even at this critical point, Grégoire can’t help discovering a young director, toying with producing his first film. Unwilling to sell his film catalogue (his life’s work), unable to listen to his banker, lawyer or partners, he self-destructs.

“He’s a genius,” Grégoire says defending the €20,000 a day auteur director Stig is costing the failing company.

Grégoire assures everyone, partners, creditors and wife that he will find a solution, yet he’s too proud to go to his wealthy parents for a loan.

Unwilling to discuss his problems at home, he seeks the solace his family weekends bring. Grégoire’s as inspiring a father as he is a producer. Everyone is galvanized by his presence.

He’s playful and focused with his precocious daughters, but his constant business calls fatigue wife Sylvia (Chiara Caselli). Despite his financial worries Grégoire takes the family (save eldest Clémence) to Italy. Watching him teach his daughters about architecture, we see the artist in him that drew him to his work.

Shielding his family (and the audience) from the force of his despair, we are stunned by his suicide, witnessed from a clinical distance. He takes a nap at work, wanders out for some air, and as if an afterthought shoots himself on the sidewalk. Avoiding melodrama, the way Hansen-Love shoots the act cuts us to the quick.

Wife Sylvia is forced to take the reins of his company in an attempt to complete his projects. When the larger than life Grégoire leaves the picture mid way, the film shifts to another tone, as the family experiences all of Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief. Bit by bit, they pick up the traces, culminating in Sylvia’s visit to Swedish set of the runaway project.

It’s a bold but successful decision on the part of Hansen-Løve to flip the film half way. As sad as the death is, Hansen-Løve stresses the life embracing qualities that Grégoire inspired in his family and co-workers. Her fly on the wall approach to the minutia of his home and work life makes the drama so much more compelling.

We feel Clémence under our skin. She exorcises her anger at her father by uncovering his secret life. After her first sexual encounter, she sits in a cafe, orders a cappuccino, musing to a Lee Hazelwood tune.

When the youngest girls satirize their father in a play they put on, the scene is as startlingly real as Truffaut’s “400 Blows.” They are completely original and full of life. Watching little Billie stride to keep up with her parents on a walk is perfection. Saddest of all, after the morning, the solemn, maturing girls say goodbye to the staff of their father’s company.

The film is a Film- a clef, based on the brilliant Humbert Balsan and his loyal wife Donna Balsan, who tried to save Ognon Films. The demanding Swedish director Stig Janson is based on Bela Tarr. The novice director Arthur who hands Grégoire a script on the bus (Hansen-Løve’s proxy) is played by her brother Igor Hansen-Løve. The script he hands him represents Hansen-Løve’s first feature.

The cast seems to be a family affair. Besides the use of her brother as Arthur, Hansen-Løve cast Louis-Do de Lencqueseing as the seductive producer and his daughter Alice de Lencquesaing (“Summer Hours’) as the eldest daughter Clémence who discovers her father’s secret life and prematurely steps into adulthood propelled by a dramatic push from fate.

Valentine (Alice Gautier) and Billie (Manelle Driss) the younger sisters shine in the various seaside sequences. Caselli aptly plays the wife who finds her self in his shoes, working long hours at the business she resented when it kept her workaholic husband away from home. She’s able to communicate subtle nuances of her journey of recovery as well as the contradictory attractions of work to a housewife in transition.

Eschewing sentimental moments or Pop platitudes, Hansen-Løve watches her characters in intimate daily moments. Unforced naturalism gives the film a quiet assurance. You’re left wondering about her characters, long after the film is over. Pascal Auffray’s cinematography is liquid.
Named one of Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch”, Mia Hansen-Love (“Everything Is Forgiven”) appeared in “Late August, Early September” directed by her partner Olivier Assayas. A MUST SEE.

Stéphane Brizé’s subtle “Mademoiselle Chambon” details the hesitant romance of an “old maid” teacher and a strapping construction builder. Brizé worked with Eric Holder adapting Holder’s 1997 eponymous novel.

Set in a town in the French provinces, the realistic film treats it’s fragile romance without excess sentiment, capturing the “what if” quality of these adult lovers through the smallest of eye movements and passionate glances.

Brizé builds up his story with a documentary like control, Mademoiselle Chambon fills her spinster hours dutifully grades paper or reading. Jean does his masonry thoroughly (“to last”) and cares for his aging father with the same care. Brizé portrays Jean’s wife Anne-Marie at the factory or the wearing duties of running a family.

In a delightful scene, Brizé introduces the working-class couple of Jean (Vincent Lindon) and wife Anne-Marie (Aure Atika) as they struggle to help young son Jérémy (Arthur Le Houerou) with his grammer homework. When Anne-Marie hurts her back at the printing factory where she works, Jean picks up Jérémy at school. Mademoiselle Véronique (Sandrine Kiberlain) asks the shy Jean to fill in for another father, sharing his work experiences with her class. On the day, tactiturn Jean blooms under her attentive glances and the kid’s active interest in his work experiences.

Véronique asks Jean if he can find her someone to fix her rattling French windows. He offers to do the job. She dozes as he works. Rather than wake her, he tenderly lets her nap. Waiting in the gathering dusk, Jean studies the snapshots of her cultured middle class life.

Noticing her concert portraits (she was a violinist) Jean persuades her to play a tune he heard on TV. Charmed by the gruff, shy man, Véronique plays one of her favorite pieces, although she hasn’t played for people in a long time. Watching him lost in the music, she begins to fall in love. Both come alive through this wordless exchange. Eagerly she lends the uncultured Jean CD’s of the piece he admired. Soon they are meeting to exchange CD’s.

Running into each other in town, wary Jean guards himself from acting on his attraction. All he can do is borrow CD’s he doesn’t listen to. Mademoiselle is a peripatetic teacher transferring from school to school at the behest of the school system. Jean prides himself on building things to last, including his family. Yet Véronique’s delicate feelings get deep under his skin.

Two wordless scenes deepen their relationship. Playing her favorite piece of chamber music for Jean, the two trade covert glances, as hesitant as pre-teens then hold hands, and finally hold each other. This passionate scene leaves more of an impression than their one lovemaking episode. Lindon (“Vendredi soir”) and Kiberlain (“La Vie d’artiste“) were married and their easy chemistry is a marvel of delicacy and deep feeling.

The school year is ending. Véronique accepts an offer to replace a local teacher resolving to stay near him and put down roots. When Jean explains his wife is pregnant (a bombshell dropped by Anne -Marie) proud Véronique decides to leave town, packing up as soon as possible. Before she leaves, Jean invites Véronique to play violin for his aged father’s birthday. Normally stolid, conservative Jean wouldn’t risk such a move, but his feelings are carrying him away- he sees a road not taken and longs to walk it.

Prim Véronique plays her violin, her soul visible to anyone watching her face, Eye’s closed, she sours. Staring at Jean’s rapt face, Anne- Marie reads the situation, but says nothing. The delicacy of this scene is exquisite. The pair plan to leave together but rooted Jean’s family ties prove too strong. It’s a realistic ending to a delicate romance.

A wish-fulfillment romance for art-house audiences, Mona Achache’s “The HedgehogLe hérisson“) is an ingratiating adaptation of Muriel Barbary’s international bestseller “The Elegance of the Hedgehog.”

Precocious Paloma (Garance Le Guillemic), 11 -years old and already jaded, plans to suicide on her twelve birthday before she’s trapped in the “fishbowl” of conformist adult life. She steals one of her mother’s anti-depressants daily, stockpiling them for the act.

Filming her snob bourgeois family in a aggressive video diary which she plans to leave as her document, she narrates her disdain with the conformist lifestyle she’s expected to adopt. Her spaced-out mother, in perpetual Freudian Analysis, drifts through life stoned on antidepressants: her narcissistic older sister, who rags on Paloma ceaselessly, her type-A politician father, none of these self-involved characters have time for the ironic braniac girl who lives in their midst. Besides waxing philosophic (author Muriel Barbary teaches philosophy in Japan) the gifted pre-teen also creates exquisite drawings and pop up portraits of her life, which seem too accomplished for her skill set.

The poor little rich girl returns Léo the Concierge’s missing cat. Catching a glimpse of the book-lined study hidden in dumpy Madame Michel’s back room, she realizes she’s found an ally. Soon she has permission from mom to hang out with Renée Michel (Josiane Balasko). Their relationship is one of the charms of a film that would otherwise float away on a cloud of improbability. Renée drops her Concierge act with Paloma. She’s a literate isolate, with a lavish library, who spends her off time curled up reading the classics.” Nobody wants a concierge with pretensions,” explains Renee, making herself invisible to her tony residents.

Paloma, on the other hand, sees Renée as a hedgehog “spiky on the outside, but elegant within” who’s found the “perfect way to hide.”

When an old tenent suddenly dies (mourned by everyone in the exclusive building) the fascinating Mr. Kakoru Ozu (Togo Igawa) moves in, a rapidly transforming his apartment into an elegant minimalist Japanese showplace. Showing discernment Ozu joins the club of outsiders, Paloma charms him by practicing Japanese. Discovering Renée’s cat is named Léo, he guesses it’s for Tolstoy. He quotes a famous line and Renée completes it.

Achache tends to spoon feed the audience. To make sure we understand that Renée quotes a line from Anna Karenina to Mr. Ozu, we watch her look up the quotes in her copy of the book. But wily comedienne Balasko is so immersed in the role, she makes us forgive Achache’s mistakes.

The lonely widower woos the hidden bibliomane: first a book, then a home cooked meal, a video date in his home theatre. (Renée turns him one to her favorite Japanese classics, finally a Sushi date (with fashion accessories). Renée’s friend loans her a couture dress from the cleaners where she works and gets her an appointment with a star hairdresser.

Satirizing the class underpinnings of the Cinderella theme, a snobbish resident schmooze Mr. Ozu’s date, not recognizing the Concierge she’s relied on for years. Paloma’s mother can’t even remember her name, as we see in a black comedy moment near the end ( quite a shock for those who haven’t read the book).

Both Igawa, as the idealized romantic suitor and Le Guillemic, as the wise-aleck Paloma play well with beloved comedienne Josiane Balasko, whose film this is.

Set in a tranquil seaside community that recalls her earlier “Bord de mer”, Julie Lopes-Curval’s “Hidden Diaries” sophisticated script hides a thriller within a dysfunctional family drama. Lopes-Curval essays women’s role in society through three generations of a provincial family, using the kitchen (the center of a woman’s world to generations of wives and mothers) as the underlying metaphor of her film.

When proper husband Gérard presented her with a state of the art kitchen, rebellious Louise left home, leaving her family behind, never to be heard from again. Daughter Martine, left with the responsibility of raising herself and her younger brother (and playing helpmeet to her abandoned father) became an iron-willed doctor. Martine ignores the kitchen, letting her supportive husband Michel run the home. Granddaughter Audrey, who doted on her toy appliances, grew up to run an appliance firm in Toronto.

Independent Audrey (Marina Hands) relocated to Canada, perhaps to spare herself the painful relationship she has with her mother, the ambitious, well-respected village doctor Martine (Catherine Deneuve.)
As ambitious as her frosty mother, Audrey is a top executive whose firm in Toronto cannot manage without her. Secretly pregnant, she’s returned to spend a few weeks with her parents to mull over whether she will keep the child. Impregnated by her pal Tom (Romano Orzari) she hasn’t mentioned the fact to him either. After a few days her sensitive father Michel (Michel Duchaussoy) figures it out and confronts her.

On the first day of her visit, the anger between mother and daughter surfaces. Audrey seeks refuge in her grandparent’s nearby home a charming villa, untouched since her grandfather died. Martine reluctantly gives Audrey the keys. While installing a dishwasher Audrey discovers her grandmother’s recipe book/diary, and begins to unravel the family’s tormented history.

Martine and brother Gilles (Gérard Watkins) nursed their grudges after their mother walked out on them. Their punitive father destroyed all of their mother’s things, leaving no record of the legendary adventuress who abandoned her family, seeking freedom.

As Audrey pours through the book, a different story emerges. In the most organic way possible, her grandmother Louise (Marie-Josée Croze) appears in her imagination, enacting her life before Audrey’s eyes, and offering occasional advice

Louise, the bandbox perfect 50’s wife is married to Gérard (Jean-Philippe Écoffey) an exacting old school designer tailor. Gérard dresses her, a living testament to his design skills. In one chilling scene, tradition-bound young Martine scolds her mother for wearing one of his creations to the beach. It’s clear she has already taken up the reins of the housewife role depressed Louise is in the process of abdicating.

Gérard’s business is dependent on pleasing his well-heeled local customers. To satisfy propriety, he forbids Louise to work with him in the shop, take photography classes with a local photog, or ride the bus alone (heaven’s forfend) to music lessons in a nearby town. What’s more, he expects Louise to host ladies’ lunches in their showplace home and state of the art kitchen. Louise, who comes from a working class family, whose women have always worked, chaffs at the restrictions and begins to implode in her gilded cage.

Michel Duchaussoy is a marvel as the co-dependent father, caught between the two estranged women he loves. Devoted to his daughter, he suffers realizing he will never be as important her as her withholding mother. Deneuve is spot on as the demon-ridden doctor who is the soul of compassion to her patients, and strangely cut off from her family members. Marie-Josée Croze establishes the period with each of her troubling scenes. Jean-Philippe Écoffey plays the elegant, demanding designer Gérard.

Director-writer Léa Fehner’s “Silent Voices” uses an Altmanesque mosaic interweaving the back-stories of three families visiting a Marseilles prison.

In an opening sequence, visitors outside the prison watch a hysterical woman melt down on the ground. As the desperate Immigrant proffers a paper, screaming for information about her missing husband, the crowd stares inpassively. Faces in the crowd will figure in the braided storylines to come.

Shifty Stéphane (Reda Kateb-“Un prophète“) is humiliated by his mother (Edmonde Franchi), who lends him money, and harangued by his girlfriend Elsa (Dinara Droukarova). A chance meeting with shifty businessman Pierre (Marc Barbe-“The Duchess of Langeais”) leads to an offer he can’t refuse.

Stéphane is a dead-ringer for Pierre’s associate currently serving a 25-year prison sentence. Pierre and his mob friends begin coaching meek Stéphane in the macho body language of a prison top dog. All so he can swap clothes with the prisoner on visiting day and impersonate the thug long enough for him to escape. Alas, Stéphane has no talent for the job. Pierre bounces him in disgust. When Stéphane’s motorbike is swiped, putting him out of work, he takes up Pierre’s offer.

Rebellious Laure (Pauline Etienne), a sixteen-year-old ‘jeune fille bien élevée” falls for the wicked older squatter Alexander (Vincent Rottiers-“Les Diables” & “À l’origine“). Resisting a cop, Alexander winds up in jail. Underage, pregnant Laure needs an adult to accompany her to the prison. Rather than tell her mother, Laure convinces cynical young lab doctor Antoine (Julien Lucas-“You Belong To Me“) to escort her. The edgy scenes of the enforced three way visits are one of the highlights of the film. Lucas’s expressions satirize the increasingly melodramatic encounter.

Zorah (Farida Rahouadj) leaves her home in Marseilles to recover the body of her dead son. Swamped with guilt that he went to France at her insistance, Zorah needs to know why young Francois (Michaël Erpeling) killed her beloved son.

The papers report that the murderer hid at his sister’s house, before surrendering. Zorah tracks down the sister Céline (Delphine Chuillot) a bourgeois realtor. Meeting her, as if by chance, on the day of Céline’s latest breakdown, the two women bond and Céline (Delphine Chuillot) hires maternal Zorah to watch her little boy.

Zorah lavishes her motherly affection on Céline’s son. She convinces Céline to let her visit her brother in prison. As judgmental as Zorah is, she learns uncomfortable truths about her son and his jealous lover. Céline discovers Zorah’s deception but allows her to make the prison visit.

I have reservations about multiple story lines, the second act, as in this film, often ends up feeling over-determined. Both Celine and Stéphane have second thoughts conveniently around the same time in the second act, allowing the drama to unfold. Léa Fehner was a prison social worker, which lends the visiting scenes (in side by side cubicles) its edgy force.

Fehner makes up for the coincidental excesses of her story structure with her sure hand guiding performances from her impressive cast. Reda Kateb is riviting in his transformation from sullen wimp to prison lifer. Pauline Etienne (Laure) won the 2010 Lumière Award – Most Promising Young Actress. Jean-Louis Vialard’s doc-like lensing gives the film a proper gritty feel.

COL•COA is sponsored by Air Tahiti Nui, Dailymotion, TV5MONDE (Official Sponsors), Catherine Malandrino, Nouvelle Vague (Premier Sponsors), Airstar, Club Culinaire of French Cuisine, European Languages and Movies in America (ELMA), LA Weekly, Vins de Provence, Sunset Marquis Hotels & Villas, Variety (Major Sponsors), Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte, Eclair Group, Ile-de-France Film Commission, indieWIRE, St. Germain, San Joaquin Valley Winegrowers Association, Titra Film Paris, Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards (Platinum Sponsors) and Arthouse Shorts, Cannes Film Market, Hollywood Blonde, JK Wine Company, Lionsgate/StudioCanal, Michaud Vineyard, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Rosenthal Surfrider Wines, Salisbury Vineyards, Saint-Géron, Starros, St. Supéry Vineyards, Valrhona and Volvic (Supporting Sponsors).

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About Author

Robin Menken

Robin Menken Robin Menken lives in Los Angeles. She was the Artistic Director of the Second City Workshops, taught at UC Berkeley, USC, Barcelona\'s Ateneu and the Esalin Institute. She was Roberto Rossellini\'s assistant, and worked with Yevgeny Vevteshenku, Glauber Rocha and Eugene Ionesco. She sold numerous screenplays and wrote the OBIE winning The FTA SHow (touring with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Ben Vereen.) She was a programming consultant and Special Events co-ordinator for numerous film festivals, including the SF, Rio, Havana and N.Y Film Festivals. Her first news outlet was the historic East Village Other.

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