Some Cinemania films worth checking out, and a Q & A with Thomas Cailley, director of Love at first fight (Les Combattants)
With an extended program of 55 films and special guests, the 20th edition of the Cinemania francophone film festival is an opportunity to discover big names or rising stars of the French and Belgian cinema.
You do not even need to understand French in order to appreciate the festival, since all movies will be screened with English subtitles. Cinemania Creator Maidy Teitelbaum’s goal was to launch the first French-language film festival with english subtitles—she had Montreal’s many english speakers in mind.
If you plan on seeing as many of the films as possible, passports are available, allowing you access to the entire festival. If you do not have time to see every film, here are a few of our recommendations.
Price of Fame (La Rançon de la Gloire)
Xavier Beauvois’ latest movie is a pleasant surprise in this festival. The filmmaker of Des hommes et des dieux (2011) and Le petit lieutenant (2007) offers a sublime homage to Charlie Chaplin. The ‘dramedy’ literally makes Chaplin turn in his grave—the movie recounts the story of Chaplin’s coffin being stolen.
In a ‘70s small town on Lac Léman in Switzerland, Eddy Ricaart (Benoît Poelvoorde), fresh out of prison, is welcomed by an old buddy, Osman Bricha (Roschy Zem). Money is scarce for Osman to take care of his seven-year-old daughter and his hospitalized wife, Eddy hatches a wild idea: kidnap Chaplin’s coffin who just died in a neighbouring town and ask for a ransom.
From a real minor item news, (Chaplin’s coffin really was stolen from its grave), Beauvois made a tender comedy around a family, with a touch of love and suspense, and two superb actors. The granddaughter of Chaplin, Dolores, is also part of the cast.
SK1 (L’Affaire SK1)
If you are a fan of thrillers, or even just a movie person overall, you should definitely go see this crime film, which dives into the 36, quai des Orfèvres—the criminal investigation division of French police in Paris. While presenting the real circumstances that lead to the revision of justice in France in the ‘90s, you will face a gut-wrenching story.
We directly jump into a sordid investigation with the newly-recruited police detective Franck Magné (Raphaël Personnaz). He researched and cross-referenced proof of a long-term serial killer perpetrating horrific crimes in the East of Paris.
From performance to staging, all is strongly done to make this a tenacious and efficient movie based on the real 10-year tracking of Guy George (Adama Niane).
To get a taste of the ‘70s and of high-end French fashion, you should try watching Bertrand Bonello’s Yves Saint Laurent biopic. Gaspard Ulliel successfully personifies the famous couturier and his tumultuous life.
The story is built around Saint Laurent’s schizoid personality. He goes from spending his days surrounded by luxury and creativity—supported by Pierre Berger (Jérémie Régnier)—to darkness following his love at first sight, Jacques de Bascher (Louis Garrel).
The dichotomy of Saint Laurent’s life is apparent from the first scene. Filmed from behind with a voice-over, the film opens with Saint Laurent arriving in a hotel as Mr. Swann, and thus immediately displays an unexpected facet of this well-known figure of international fashion’s persona.
The ambiance is clearly aesthetically pleasing, sometimes disturbing, but definitely ‘70s-inspired, with incredible actors and a lot of talent to display.
The 20th Cinemania film festival will be taking place until Nov. 16 at the Imperial Cinema, Cinémathèque québécoise and Cinéma du Parc. For more information, visit festivalcinemania.com.
Love at first fight (Les Combattants) will be the subject of an important gala evening on Nov. 11 that the film team will be attending. A second screening is planned for Nov. 12.
Originality is the best word to describe Thomas Cailley’s first feature. The film was showcased at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes and features Adèle Haenel who won a César for “best supporting actress” in Suzanne (2013). Humor is one important aspect of the dialogue and accordingly balances itself well with the rest of the movie. The stormy weather and other elements of nature following the the two traveling lovers, Madeleine (Adèle Haenel) and Arnaud (Kévin Azaïs), add a sense of complexity and a little je ne sais quoi to the movie. The unusual beauty of this film comes from the setting of the deeply-forested French Gironde region. Arnaud, completely smitten for Madeleine, chases after her.
Director Thomas Cailley spoke to The Concordian about his first full-length movie.
The Concordian (C): In a few words, how do you sum up the story of Love at first fight (Les Combattants)?
Thomas Cailley (TC): It is a love and survival story with a girl waiting for the end of the world and a boy who will offer her the beginning of a world.
C: How did you choose this duo?
TC: I like the duo figure and I immediately wanted antagonistic characters. Antagonistic characters are often very complementary. They have two different life supports. Arnaud struggles for the conservation of his world while Madeleine is a war person, waiting for a fight that does not arrive. While he toughens up, she opens herself to the world; the story is a journey to [each] other. What I like about having antagonistic characters is that it creates conflicting viewpoints; he looks at her, tries to understand her. Eventually they contaminate each other. I do not think the two characters cure each others from this combination. Arnaud speaks like her at the end and Madeleine becomes aware of the necessity to have a partner.
C: How did you choose Madeleine’s character? She is a bit atypical of the image of women in cinema.
TC: The problem comes from the representation of the woman in cinema, moreover in romantic comedies. I am not interested in representing something I do not see in real life. I know a lot of girls like Madeleine. I find her quite realistic and contemporary. And more as an observation, I took my inspiration from Bear Grylls, creator of the U.K. television series Man vs. Wild, to create Madeleine. He puts survival as a top condition of life. Surviving is not living less, but living more intensely.
C: What about the choice of the military background? Is it not in contradiction with the way of living intensely?
TC: Yes, it does not work for her. She goes to the army to find concrete things for her but the army just offers values. This confrontation becomes funny. She is in a such selfish approach, the army could not be hard enough in relation to her self-discipline.
C: The link between natural elements and character development is quite strong. How did you build on this? Is nature a character in itself?
TC: I do not see nature as a character but as an extension of the characters. Roughly, there are three parts in the movie; first, there is Arnaud’s world being an area quite flat in Aquitaine. There is no horizon, there is always something to cut and hide it wherever you place yourself It’s precisely Arnaud’s problem, who can not project himself in the future, thus his absence of “horizon.” Then comes the disrupted world of the army with mountains and assault courses, something with a bit more texture. Finally, with these two worlds resulting in failure for the two characters, they decide to create their own. At first the characters realize that if the world surrounding them does not pleased them, they can create their own with the power of imagination. Then, the further they go into this fictive idea, catastrophes starts to to happen. Those events happen because of Madelaine; you try to help her, you get a storm; you take the train with her, you see fiery tornadoes through the windows; if you go into the forest with her, the forest burns. I like this idea of confusion between the characters and the environment around them.
Love at the first fight (Les Combattants) will premiere in theatres from November 14.
This Q&A has been condensed and reordered for readability. The interview was translated from French.