L'Homme du train
starring Jean Rochefort, Johnny Hallyday, Jean-François Stévenin, Charlie Nelson
screenplay by Claude Klotz
directed by Patrice Leconte
starring Catherine Frot, Vincent Lindon, Rachida Brakni, Line Renaud
written and directed by Coline Serreau
AND NOW... LADIES AND GENTLEMEN...
starring Jeremy Irons, Patricia Kaas, Thierry Lhermitte, Alessandra Martines
screenplay by Claude Lelouch, Pierre Leroux & Pierre Uytterhoeven
directed by Claude Lelouch
starring Olivier Gourmet, Morgan Marinne, Isabella Soupart, Nassim Hassaïni
written and directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne
by Walter Chaw After a brief period where French cinema seemed exclusively interested in the ugliness and violence festering in its anti-Semitic margins, what with pictures as variegated as Baise-moi, Trouble Every Day, My Wife is an Actress, and indeed, Gasper Noé's sensationalistic Irréversible (which demonstrates a continuing fascination with a tumultuous French cinema in extremis), the old guard begins to reassert itself with its own tales of the underbelly of life displacing the façade of the comfortable upper class. Patrice Leconte's new film Man on the Train (L'Homme du train) is reserved and slight while Chaos by Coline Serreau (who was born the same year as Leconte, as it happens) tries to soften the cruelty of much of modern French cinema by overlaying it with a patina of feminist uplift and misplaced social satire. Films like Rohmer's The Lady and the Duke and Godard's In Praise of Love attempt to draw a line between the nouvelle and the digital age (and Chaos is shot in ugly DV), and pictures like Rivette's wonderful Va Savoir and now Claude Lelouch's And Now... Ladies and Gentlemen... act as surveys and auto-critique of the medium itself. With these three pictures, the meta-critical instinct--something of a hallmark of French culture in general and cinema in particular--finds a new voice in, ironically, its older generation of directors. Somewhat apart from all of that is the Dardenne Brothers' The Son (Le Fils), which is on its own stylistically but looks thematically for common ground in its own tale of obsession and reconciliation.