December 2017, arsenal cinema

New French Cinema

MILLA, 2017

Arsenal is presenting current films from France as part of the French Film Week that have received a great deal of international attention but have unfortunately yet to find distribution in Germany. The focus is on five outstanding works of French cinema from 2013-17 made by artistically uncompromising female filmmakers: Pascale Breton, Léonor Serraille, Claire Simon, Rebecca Zlotowski, and Valérie Massadian, who will be our guest for the German premiere of her film MILLA, which recently picked up prizes at Locarno and other festivals. All five titles have English subtitles and are being shown in Berlin for the first time.

MILLA (Valérie Massadian, France/Portugal 2017, 1.12., screening attended by Valérie Massadian & 6.12.) 17-year-old Milla and her boyfriend Leo have each other and no one else. Using pieces of abandoned furniture, the two drifters set up home in an empty house. The house lies in a small harbor town on the English Channel and the wind whistles through the broken windows. Their love is playful and high spirited. Day after day, I will walk and I will play … When it becomes clear that Milla is pregnant, Leo starts working on a fish trawler. After he dies suddenly, she has no one, subsequently making ends meet as a chambermaid in a hotel, and looking after her baby son alone. Working with non-professional actors, Valérie Massadian directs this lyrical, unsentimental portrait of a young woman simply unwilling to be ground down with a naturalistic undertone that is repeatedly interrupted by moments of artificiality, like poems being read out to camera or a duo performing a Violent Femmes song: Why can’t I get just one kiss?!

GRAND CENTRAL (Rebecca Zlotowski, France/Austria 2013, 2.12.) Untrained worker Gary (Tahar Rahim) finds a new position in an atomic power plant after being in series of temporary jobs. Wearing a measuring device, he works close to the reactor, where the radiation is strongest. He likes his new job despite the risk it poses to his health, as he now has everything he was always looking for: money, friends, and a girl (Léa Seydoux), who is actually the fiancée of his colleague Toni. A fatal love triangle develops, yet Gary fears nothing, neither the forbidden relationship, nor his contaminated workplace, until the emotional meltdown duly arrives … A melodrama that unfolds in the shadow of reactor towers, propelled by the pulsating soundtrack and the subtle contrast between the digital footage from inside the factory and the images shot on celluloid of exteriors.

JEUNE FEMME (Montparnasse Bienvenüe, Léonor Serraille, France 2017, 2. & 6.12.) Paula is bashing her head against a wall, like a grown-up child. Back in Paris after spending some time abroad, all doors remain closed to the the 31-year-old. Her relationship with a photographer is ending, she has no contact with her mother, and even her best friend has had enough of her chaotic ways. Without either an apartment or money and with only her cat for company, she tries to make ends meet in the big city. Jobs as a childminder and lingerie salesperson give this impulsive bundle of energy a degree of stability, as a new beginning gradually emerges from the storm of shifting emotions. This elliptically narrated feature debut lines up scene after scene alongside one another at breakneck speed, each of them with stirring leading actress Laetitia Dosch at their heart. The character study of a woman in crisis, bursting with vitality and wit.

SUITE ARMORICAINE (Pascale Breton, France 2015, 3. & 5.12.) Art historian Françoise (Valérie Dréville) returns to Rennes to teach at the university where she herself studied. Her first lecture is dedicated to a painting by Poussin and the Arcadian idyll. Over the course of the academic year, she gradually reconnects with her past: she meets the people she used to study with, has a Breton dream, gives space to childhood memories and self-examination, and leaves Paris, her partner, and her psychoanalysis sessions ever further behind her. Meanwhile, young geography student Ion falls in love with the blind Lydie and camps out in the university library to escape his homeless mother, who he has disowned – and who used to be friends with Françoise in the 80s. Without a hint of nostalgia and proceeding in fluid, dream-like narrative movements accentuated by classical music and punk rock, this symphonic film layers different temporalities on top of one another and locates Arcadia in the here and now.

LE BOIS DONT LES RÊVES SONT FAITS (The Woods Dreams Are Made of, Claire Simon, France/Switzerland 2015, 4.12.) What drives city dwellers into the woods? A homeless man fills up plastic bottles at a fountain. Joggers, cyclists, and football players get some exercise. A bleary-eyed dancer turns one of the lawns into a disco. Cambodians living in exile celebrate the new year. A prostitute shows her imaginary brothel room. A voyeur explains himself, a former parachute jumper gives a tour of his fitness room, and Emilie Deleuze must verify that there is nothing left of the university where her father used to teach philosophy. It is a broad spectrum of people that filmmaker Claire Simon comes across in the "Bois de Vincennes", one of the two city forests of Paris designed as a landscape park. She is there for a whole year, across the seasons, by day and by night, observing, asking questions, and expressing her flaneur-like musings in voiceover. The forest is revealed to be a place for everyone, a paradise still reachable by metro. (bik)

An event in cooperation with the French Film Week Berlin and the Office for Film and Media of the Institut français Germany. With thanks to Emilie Boucheteil and Anne Vassevière.

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Homage to Magritte

From the Notebook of …

Cat on TV

Filmstudie

3 Nichten und 1 Neffe

John Macfadyen

*Homage to Magritte Anita Thacher USA 1975 16 mm 10 min
From the Notebook of … (excerpts) Robert Beavers Italy/CH 1971/1998 DCP 3 min
Cat on TV Guy Sherwin UK 1977 16 mm 3 min
*Filmstudie Hans Richter Germany 1925 16 mm 4 min
3 Nichten und 1 Neffe Ute Aurand Germany 1997 16 mm 2 min
John Macfadyen Margaret Tait UK 1970 16 mm 3 min

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Down by Law

Down by Law Jim Jarmusch USA 1986
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DCP OV/GeS 103 min

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Angel

Angel USA 1937 With Marlene Dietrich
35 mm OV with Spanish ST 98 min