Film: French Cinema Now

Tomorrow evening at the Clay Theatre, the San Francisco Film Society will kick off their new fall series, French Cinema Now. The ten films comprising the series will be presented over five days, and together they provide a comprehensive picture of what’s going on right now in the French cinema, with just a touch of history included.

Three of the ten films are by a single director, Arnaud Desplechin, including the opening night presentation of A Christmas Tale (Un conte de Noel). This was one of the most important French films of 2008. It was nominated for a Palme d’Or at Cannes, and it’s easy to see why: it explores the story of a family who have reunited for Christmas under difficult circumstances, and it stars Desplechin regulars Mathieu Almaric and Emmanuelle Devos, along with Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni, and others. I’ve agreed to keep mum about the details until theatrical release, but I saw it this morning and can attest that the film is wonderful. The director himself will be present at this screening, presumably for a Q&A session. Other films in this series by Desplechin are his classics My Sex Life and Life of the Dead; the latter makes for a fascinating comparison with A Christmas Tale.

A bit of historical perspective is provided by Six in Paris, a 1965 film comprised of vignettes by Godard, Rouch, Chabrol, Rohmer, and the lesser-known Jean Douchet and Jean-Daniel Pollet. In a lot of ways the description reminds me of Paris, Je T’Aime from the other year: it’s an anthology of Paris stories of a particular time.

As for the other six films, check out the full schedule here, and I’ll be posting articles and interviews regarding some of them in the days ahead.

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