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French disconnections

By PETER KEOUGH  |  July 7, 2009

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RUMBA And this one’s near-silent deadpan style and intricate physical gags owe a lot to Aki Kaurismäki and Jacques Tati.

And reducing the issue ad absurdum are the schoolteachers in RUMBA (2008; July 16 at 5:45 pm, July 18 at noon), a film from the writing/directing/acting troika of Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy. Dom and Fiona rush from the schoolroom to practice the title dance. They win a contest and then experience more unlikely black-comic tragedies than you'd find in all the above movies combined. Rumba's near-silent deadpan style and intricate physical gags owe a lot to Aki Kaurismäki and Jacques Tati, but I'm not complaining.

It sure works better than the desperate whimsy of Jean-Michel Ribes's A DAY AT THE MUSEUM (2008; July 17 at 8 pm, July 23 at 5:30 pm), which is kind of what Night at the Museum might have been like had it been scripted by Jacques Derrida. Its star-studded allegory of art versus nature taking place in one apocalyptic day at a museum is silly, but no sillier than some aspects of contemporary French literary theory.

Fortunately, the deconstructionist jargon of Nicolas Saada's SPY(IES) (2008; July 11 at 8 pm, July 17 at 3:30 pm) goes no farther than the title. The petty thievery of Parisian baggage handler Vincent (Guillaume Canet) blows up in his face and he's forced to cooperate with British and French intelligence (with Stephen Rea assigned to MI5) to track down Middle Eastern terrorists. Dispatching politics with cynicism and bracing Hitchcockian romance and intrigue, this thriller eclipses Hollywood clunkers like Duplicity.

Nonetheless, Hollywood is the dream of all who toil in the French film industry. Or so you'd have to think from Maïwenn le Besco's ALL ABOUT ACTRESSES (2008; July 23 at 3 pm, July 25 at 4:45 pm). An actress herself, le Besco interviews a range of French thespians ranging from the obscure to the almost-famous — they include Charlotte Rampling, Karin Viard, and Julie Depardieu — with the idea of fusing non-fiction, fiction, and musical numbers into a documentary about what makes them tick. No surprise, the film turns out to be All About Maïwenn, with a final solipsistic twist that would make Derrida proud.

Editor's Note: In a previous version of this article, Stella was listed as playing on both July 19 and July 23 at 7:45 pm. The Phoenix has learned Stella will now only be playing on July 19 at 2:30 pm.

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