International cinema: France and Italy

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With more and more international films recognized by a wider audience in recent years, world cinema is finally starting to get the attention it deserves. Different from what Hollywood is used to in many ways, movies around the world have a lot to offer. That’s why we’ve decided to launch a series of feature films, showcasing and recommending our favorite films from different parts of the world, starting with those from France and Italy.

Love (2012) – Michal Wasilewski

Good that Love won the award for best foreign language film at the Oscars for Austria, it is technically a French film – shot in Paris, starring French actors and being entirely in French.

The story is simple and straightforward, as we follow the daily ordeal of an elderly couple after the wife (Emmanuelle Riva) suffered a stroke and her husband (Jean-Louis Trintignant) decided to take care of her.

Raw, uncompromising, heartbreaking and devastating, Michael Haneke’s masterpiece tackles both mundane and philosophical subjects like not many other films. It shows the transience of life and the power of true love in a way that modern cinema seems to avoid – without compromise and without forced optimism. It’s not an easy watch, but a watch that will stay with you for a long time – or maybe forever.

Watch the trailer here.

Good work (1999) – Ennis Barnett

Good work closely follows the lifestyle of a group of French Legion soldiers based in Djibouti. The audience attends intense training exercises which take on an almost lyrical quality. At the same time, director Claire Denis draws our attention to the small and banal obligations of soldiers, such as making a completely clear bed or ironing uniforms.

Nonetheless, the film’s central conflict takes place between the second in command, the narrator, and an exemplary Legion air soldier named Giles Sentain. I find this film extremely fascinating due to the fact that the audience is positioned with the narrator who is a classic villain but extremely complex. This allows the audience to observe the themes of jealousy and conflict between the old and the younger generations.

Good work is beautifully photographed by cinematographer Agnes Goddard, aided by Djibouti’s distinctive and diverse landscape. The slow but extremely effective study of the film’s power and masculinity will be enough to leave you speechless.

Watch the trailer here.

Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962) – Immy Smith

The French New Wave was a pivotal movement in the history of cinema. There were, however, only a handful of women highlighted despite many working in production and on set. One of the rare female directors from this period is Agnès Varda.

Cléo from 5 to 7 is one of his best-known works. The 90-minute film follows Cléo, a beautiful and arrogant French singer, as she awaits a cancer diagnosis. Wandering the busy streets of Paris, Cléo contemplates his existence and purpose, bumping into friends and strangers.

Characteristic of the movement, the cinematography emphasizes the tracking shots, overall underlining Cléo’s nascent feeling of being watched. Feminist themes emerge from the film, sparking conversations about female agency and the male gaze.

Watch the trailer here.

The Great Partage (2015) – Sofia Adamopoulou

As the winter cold becomes unbearable, the French government takes an unprecedented decision. Until the end of the cold winter, well-housed people will be officially obliged to accommodate fellow citizens who cannot afford a house.

Thus, the Bretzels (socialists) and the Dubreuil (conservatives), residents of a three-story building in the heart of Paris, panic. Despite their beliefs and previous verbal support for the poorest, the idea of ​​welcoming the homeless seems terrifying. They think there is no reason for them to provide any real help.

This is exactly the message of the film. Each theory seems simple, but when it needs to be implemented, many supporters are eager to abandon it. People often present themselves as heroes, revolutionary spirits who wish to offer and show their support to those in need. Ultimately, however, they are simply looking for a way to boost their egos by superficially pretending to be benevolent.

Watch the trailer here.

I lost my body (2019) – Will Jones

Jérémy Clapin’s animated film I lost my body (or as I like to think about it, The Adventures of the Handyman and His Hand) follows the story of Naoufel, a young man living in Paris who cannot find his place in the world. Simultaneously, the film documents the struggles of a disembodied but animated human hand, surviving the Parisian underworld. For me, the movie works best when viewed as a dark version of Ratatouille, but instead of a rat, she’s a severed hand and instead of cooking, she lets go of an intense emotional baggage.

The film was a commercial and critical success around the world, earning it a nomination for Best Animated Feature at the 2019 Oscars. Now available on Netflix, I lost my body not to be missed for fans of “adult” animation or French cinema.

Watch the trailer here.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) – Florrie Evans

French director Céline Sciamma brought us some beautifully intense romance in February 2020. Portrait of a Lady on Fire explores the relationship between two women. One of them is a painter, pretending to be a companion while secretly painting the beautiful Héloïse, who is forced to marry.

The story takes place in the 18th century, when a woman’s voice was rarely, if ever, heard. Sciamma has created a beautiful narrative of the female gaze – something we can’t find in Hollywood. Winner of Best Screenplay at Cannes, it clearly shows a woman’s desires and creates a calm, focused narrative of a relationship.

It fits perfectly with Claire Mathon’s cinematography. Using a platform to light the house from outside the windows, she creates a bright portrait of the love story, perfectly illustrating the dynamics and tension in the shots. The score perfectly reflects Heloise’s imprisonment and lack of choice, using silences to underscore her desire to see an orchestra perform Vivaldi. It is a true and immersive story of forbidden love.

Watch the trailer here.

Salò, or the 120 days of Sodom (1975) – Michal Wasilewski

Pier Paolo Pasolini Salò went down in history as one of the most controversial films ever made, being banned in many countries around the world. It is set in fascist Italy and depicts 120 days of mental, physical and sexual abuse of a group of teenagers by four senior officials.

Although basing the film on an already highly controversial 1785 book, Pasolini took it one step further by adapting the source material. He limited the role of the plot to focus on perverse sexual exploitation and brutality in an attempt to showcase his views and the message being conveyed.

For many viewers who will be overwhelmed by the shock value of the film, Salò will simply be a disgusting and unpleasant cinematic experience. For those, however, who manage to see behind the brutality, it will be one of the smartest and most insightful explorations of human morality, sexuality, social norms, totalitarianism, capitalism, political corruption. and the rejection of civilization in the history of cinema.

Watch the trailer here.

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