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Comme ci, comme ça

No wave in sight at the Boston French Film Festival
By MICHAEL ATKINSON  |  July 10, 2007

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FLANDRES: Bruno Dumon returns to the uncommunicative, working-class lowlands.

The 12th Annual Boston French Film Festival | Museum of Fine Arts | July 12-29
A massive cross-section survey of what’s current and courant in French filmmaking as of early this year, the 2007 Boston French Film Festival adheres to a mainstream through-line — the menu bops between feel-good indies and full-on commercial fare, with a few seasoned auteur numbers thrown in like rosemary twigs. Which is to say, few risks are taken, mush-minded Hollywoodized entries already slated for stateside release proliferate, and a sense of homogeneity is inescapable. It may be France’s fault — now that the mildly celebrated New New Wave of the mid ’90s has cashed in and lost its mojo (think of the progressively less interesting work since then of Benoît Jacquot, André Téchiné, Jacques Doillon, Olivier Assayas, Cédric Klapisch, et al.), Gallic cinema seems to have little original or dangerous to share with us. As Michael Haneke’s Caché|Hidden and Philippe Garrel’s Les amants réguliers|Regular Lovers recently demonstrated, it’s not for lack of cultural dark materials — guiltily historical or otherwise. But the election of Nicolas Sarkozy may well be indicative of a recessive swale in the French temperament, a conservatism that has taken at least a momentary hold. Earnest, professional lint like Patrice Leconte’s opening-nighter, Ma meilleur ami|My Best Friend, is de rigueur, along with the evident desire to cash in with a US remake.

So, middle-class dramedies — dressed up with harmless sexual confusion — are numerous. Thierry Klifa’s LE HÉROS DE LA FAMILLE|FAMILY HERO (2006; July 15 at 5:15 pm and July 26 at 8 pm) centers on a wacky family’s efforts to save a bankrupt tranny cabaret; Rémi Bezançon’s MA VIE EN L’AIR|LOVE IS IN THE AIR (2005; July 14 at 4 pm and July 19 at 4:10 pm) dallies on the love life of an aviophobic pilot evaluator; Malik Chabane’s VOISINS VOISINES|NEIGHBORS (2005; July 19 at 6:15 pm and July 22 at 5:30 pm) focuses on a rapper bringing life and love to a snobby apartment complex. The rhythms throughout rarely vary from the distinctly French balance between Nora Ephron pandering and art-film restraint — an equilibrium better than what we ordinarily get from Burbank, but by now a tiresome half-measure that demonstrates only a modicum more audience respect. From a different school, Guillaume Nicloux’s LE CONCILE DE PIERRE|THE STONE COUNCIL (2006; July 28 at 6 pm and July 29 at 11 am) is a French-fried neo-gothic-conspiracy-thriller pulp-o-matic, roping in Siberian folklore, murderous international conspiracy, contemporary politics, the once-every-30-years-God-knows-why appearance of a miracle child, and a sniffly Monica Bellucci in a bob. Alternately nutty and sludgy, the film otherwise strives only to be a Sixth Sense/Da Vinci Code wave rider.

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Related: Saving bonds, French disconnections, Regular Lovers | Les Amants Réguliers, More more >
  Topics: Features , Culture and Lifestyle, Relationships, Laurent Lucas,  More more >
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