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SFFS French Cinema Now 2012: 'Camille Rewinds,''Sister,' 'Louise Wimmer'

Photo of Meredith Brody By Meredith Brody | Thompson on Hollywood October 31, 2012 at 5:45PM

The San Francisco Film Society steps up to a radically reduced reality of foreign film distribution by programming a number of focused mini-fests, including Hong Kong Cinema, Taiwan Film Days, and the upcoming New Italian Cinema. While contemplating the ten-film line-up of French Cinema Now, I asked myself how many French films I’d seen in the past year locally, in general release, outside of film festivals.
'Louise Wimmer'
'Louise Wimmer'

Corinne Masiero was striking in the unglamorous title role of Cyril Meenugun’s “Louise Wimmer,” as a homeless woman living in her car and working part-time as a hotel housekeeper, self-medicating with alcohol, cigarettes, and sex, as she hopes for her own apartment in public housing. 

Two feckless unemployed young men try to escape living with their parents by buying the “Mobile Home” of François Pirot’s film title, intending to go on the road, but somehow staying stuck in their small Belgian town. 

Five elderly friends decide to live together in Stéphane Robelan’s “All Together,” featuring 74-year-old Jane Fonda as well as Geraldine Chaplin and the venerable French stars, all in their 70s or 80s, Guy Bedos, Claude Rich, and Pierre Richard. A couple of youngsters are thrown in, and featured in a not-entirely-gratuitous shot of bare-breasted sex. Apparently all sex in the world of “All Together” was performed with the woman seated on top.

A young French Jew feels that his only option to escape his dead-end life as a Parisian drug-dealer is to join his cousin in opening a restaurant in Tel Aviv in Elie Wajeman’s “Aliyah.”  

The only upper-class life was led by Isabelle Huppert as a well-off, well-dressed, well-housed bourgeois art gallery director, who finds her match in a homeless Belgian handyman played by Benoit Poelvoorde at his most boorish and obnoxious and the titular “My Worst Nightmare” by Anne Fontaine.  “My Worst Nightmare” is one of the few films of the program scheduled for an upcoming release (from Strand Releasing), along with “All Together,” (Kino Lorber) and Bruno Dumont’s typically dark and unsettling “Hors Satan” (“Outside Satan,” New Yorker Films).

But such discoveries as Guillame Brac’s charming 54-minute “A World Without Women,” about a hapless, sweet loser and his interactions with a mother-daughter tourist pair visiting his coastal village (shown with a 24-minute 2009 short, “Stranded,” featuring the same character), and “Donoma,” a 136-minute film featuring several intertwined stories of young people in multiracial Paris, shot digitally for 150 euros (and suffering from what seemed to be a little too much improv and insufficient psychological reality), would be impossible to see in today’s movie theaters.

If you’re starving for French films – and I am – it’s painful to pick up the brochure of one of French Cinema Now’s sponsors, TV5Monde, to see their movie-rich lineup – at least two French movies programmed a day, both recent and classic. TV5Monde is available in my area on Comcast cable and Dish Network. I, alas, am a DirecTV subscriber, who was recently heartened by its addition of a channel called Cinemoi, which Wikipedia describes as “a pay-TV digital channel screening French films,” as it appears to in the UK. But it seems that Cinemoi has decided that its American audience would prefer vintage American films – the only French films it has programmed so far are “Breathless” and “Contempt.” The only upside is that my DVR is considerably less overworked than it would be if I did indeed subscribe to TV5Monde.

This article is related to: Festivals, Festivals, Reviews, Reviews

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.