Seize printemps [Spring Blossom] (2020)

Seize printemps
Director: Suzanne Lindon
Writer: Suzanne Lindon
Cast: Suzanne Lindon, Arnaud Valois, Frédéric Pierrot, Florence Viala, Rebecca Marder, Arthur Giusi, Pauline Rugo, Dominique Besnehard, Philippe Uchan
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 28.10.2020

Suzanne (Suzanne Lindon) is 16 years old and in school. But she feels at odds with the other kids her age. Instead she feels drawn to actor Raphaël (Arnaud Valois) who works in the local theater. After observing him for a while, she gathers up her courage to approach him. Raphaël is rather charmed by Suzanne and they keep meeting. But their age difference gives them both pause.

There have been many movies about underage girls falling for older men and/or vice versa (more of the latter, if we’re being honest) but none have done it quite like Seize printemps: leaving the ball entirely in the girls’ court. It was amazing to watch this film unfold and I know it’s one of my favorites of the Viennale already, and one of my favorites of the year for sure.

The film poster showing Suzanne (Suzanne Lindon) standing in a group of girls her age, looking distant.
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Hors normes [The Specials] (2019)

Hors normes
Director: Olivier Nakache, Éric Toledano
Writer: Olivier Nakache, Éric Toledano
Cast: Vincent Cassel, Reda Kateb, Hélène Vincent, Bryan Mialoundama, Alban Ivanov, Benjamin Lesieur, Marco Locatelli, Catherine Mouchet, Frédéric Pierrot, Suliane Brahim, Lyna Khoudri, Aloïse Sauvage, Djibril Yoni
Seen on: 10.1.2020

Content Note: ableism

Bruno (Vincent Cassel) and Malik (Reda Kateb) are best friends and also do the same job: they each run organizations that work with disabled and/or neuroatypical people, mostly autistic teens and young adults that everybody else seems to have given up on. When Bruno’s organization is being inspected again, it just adds to his overall workload and frustration. As if he hadn’t enough on his plate already, trying to do right by all of the children in his care.

I was hesitant about seeing the film, given that Intouchables has a less than great record when it comes to handling disability (I didn’t see it at the time, so my review linked above is very hype-y, but I have learned in the last decade). But since I worked with autistic children myself and since I like Cassel and Kateb, I figured I’d give it a go. I really, really, shouldn’t have. Hors normes is a sanctification of social workers that fails to take into account the perspective of the people they work with for even a second. That’s not how you make a film about such a sensitive topic. Or about any topic.

The film poster showing Bruno (Vincent Cassel) and Mailk (Reda Kateb).
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Espèces menacées [Endangered Species] (2017)

Espèces menacées
Director: Gilles Bourdos
Writer: Michel Spinosa, Gilles Bourdos
Based on: Richard Bausch‘s short stories
Cast: Alice IsaazVincent RottiersGrégory GadeboisSuzanne ClémentEric ElmosninoAlice de LencquesaingDamien ChapelleBrigitte CatillonFrédéric Pierrot
Seen on: 17.9.2017

Joséphine (Alice Isaaz) and Tomasz (Vincent Rottiers) just got married and things should be all rosy happiness, but Tomasz has a mean streak and Joséphine has to take a lot of care not to set him off.
Meanwhile Melanie (Alice de Lencquesaing) has some big news to tell her father Vincent (Eric Elmosnino) but their relationship is difficult and their talk uncovers more and more gaps in their knowledge of each other.
Anthony (Damien Chapelle) looks for love in all the wrong places, but is more preoccupied with his mentally ill mother Nicole (Brigitte Catillon) to really focus on that.

Endangered Species pulled me in and kept me glued to the screen throughout, although I wasn’t quite as happy with the endings to the segment as with the rest of the film.

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Chocolat (2015)

Director: Roschdy Zem
Writer: Cyril Gely, Olivier Gorce, Gérard Noiriel, Roschdy Zem
Cast: Omar Sy, James ThiérréeClotilde Hesme, Olivier Gourmet, Frédéric Pierrot, Noémie Lvovsky
Seen on: 2.6.2016

At the end of the 19th century, George Foottit (James Thiérrée) used to be a well-regarded clown, but his shtick has grown old and he is relegated to the sidelines more and more. That’s when he meets former slave Rafael Padilla (Omar Sy) who works in a small circus in Northern France. Foottit sees potential in him and proposes that they should form a clown duo – and one that defies all expectations, both regarding what clowns can do and what black people can do.

Chocolat tells an interesting story, but keeps to its surface only, nicely flowing along but never really getting to the bottom of it, ultimately complicit in the racism it tries to denounce.

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Les revenants [They Came Back] (2004)

Les revenants
Director: Robin Campillo
Writer: Robin Campillo, Brigitte Tijou
Cast: Géraldine Pailhas, Jonathan Zaccaï, Frédéric Pierrot, Victor Garrivier, Catherine Samie, Djemel Barek, Marie Matheron, Saady Delas
Seen on: 07.04.2015

One day the dead start returning to a small town, without any apparent cause. A constant stream of previously deceased people makes their way through town from the cemetery, walking back to their homes and loved ones. This puts the town’s inhabitants in an awkward position between joy and bewilderment, dragging up old sadnesses without really resolving them. As society tries to integrate the formerly dead again, things become weirder and weirder.

Les revenants is quite unusual for a film where the dead come back to life – so much so that I hesitate to call it a zombie film, even if there are some parallels. But the very particular feel of it didn’t quite work for me.

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Land and Freedom (1995)

Land and Freedom
Director: Ken Loach
Writer: Jim Allen
Cast: Ian Hart, Rosana Pastor, Icíar Bollaín, Tom Gilroy, Marc Martínez, Frédéric Pierrot
Seen on: 17.03.2015

After the death of her grandfather, Kim (Suzanne Maddock) finds a box with letters and a red handkerchief filled with earth. Kim starts to piece together the years just before the Second World War started in the life of her grandfather: David (Ian Hart) is unemployed and very political. Since he feels that he can’t further the communist cause in the UK, he decides to leave Liverpool and head to Spain to fight the fascists. He joins one of the paramilitary groups, the POUM and starts fighting after a very short training. But his idealism and the idealism of his co-fighters is tested in many ways.

Land and Freedom was not so much a great film, as a great political discussion caught on camera. I really enjoyed it, especially since I’m being pushed further on further left with every day that passes. (You’d think that I’d be getting mellower with age, but screw that. You’d also think that you’d grow more cynical and less idealistic with age, but screw that even harder.)

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Elle s’appelait Sarah [Sarah’s Key] (2010)

Elle s’appelait Sarah
Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Writer: Gilles Paquet-Brenner, Serge Joncour
Based on: Tatiana De Rosnay‘s novel
Cast: Kristin Scott Thomas, Mélusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup, Frédéric Pierrot, Michel Duchaussoy, Aidan Quinn

In 1942, the (jewish) Starzinsky family gets arrested in the Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup. In her panic, little Sarah (Mélusine Mayance) hides her even smaller brother in the closet before they all get brought away. While they’re detained, Sarah grows ever more frantic to get back to her little brother.
60 years later, journalist Julia (Kristin Scott Thomas) wants to write an article about the Roundup’s anniversary. But during her research she discovers that her family is a lot closer connected to the events than she originally thought.

The book this movie is based on might actually be good. Kristin Scott Thomas certainly was. But unfortunately both the screenwriting and the directing really were not up for the job.

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