Saturday, February 23, 2008

Well, today the Independent Spirit Awards were on IFC: what a raucous event! By the end, the jokes were certainly ribald. I voted online, but i did keep the ballot i was sent, and i marked my choices, so i could see how my vote compared with the majority. (Ok, four of my choices won... but i had a feeling my choices weren't going to be popular; they never are.) There's a cutesy factor to the Independent Spirit Awards which i wish they would lose (the musical parodies and so on) but i did like The Moldy Peaches singing one of their songs included on the soundtrack of "Juno".

Julian Schnabel won Best Director. I'm glad; i think that this year, with all the attention to the Coen Brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson, he was rather overlooked. (David Salle had quite a spirited defense of Julian's film in Artforum.) I have to say i'd hoped that there'd be more recognition for Todd's movie, but i knew it wasn't in the cards. (Cate Blanchett's win as Best Supporting Actress was rather expected.)

In previous years, there was a weighted ballot, where you got to vote from "1" to "5", "1" being your top score and "5" your bottom score. This year, they did away with that system, and you could just vote for your top choice. Anyway, it was an interesting show, and the one (big) surprise was that Jason Reitman didn't win Best Director for "Juno": usually, when a movie sweeps, it really sweeps at the Independent Spirit Awards, and "Juno" won everything else it was nominated for: Best Actress (Ellen Page), Best First Screenplay (Diablo Cody) and Best Film.

Aside from that, this week i finished with the Rendez-vous With French Cinema screenings. I saw "Let's Dance", "Those Who Remain", Cedric Klapish's "Paris" and Sandrine Bonnaire's documentary "Her Name Is Sabine". Yesterday there was a snow storm, and so i missed the very first movie, but made it to "Her Name Is Sabine". I also missed Thursday's screening, because i went to see Laura Dunn's "The Unforeseen" (which won the Truer Than Fiction Award at the Independent Spirit Awards). I have to admit that i went to see "The Unforeseen" after reading about it on Doug Cummings's blog (, and it was often visually quite lovely.

So out of the fourteen films in this year's Rendez-vous With French Cinema, i've seen ten of the films. I have to say it wasn't utterly miserable, but it was not a year of outstanding achievement. The best film (of the ones i saw) was Klapish's "Paris", which was a wonderful movie. Klapish has been doing these multi-character movies since "Le peril jeune" (which i saw as part of the Age of Chevalier series at MoMA) and "When the Cat's Away" (which had been part of New Directors/New Films a while back), and he's become a master at weaving several stories at once. Sandrine Bonnaire's documentary was fascinating and frustrating: there's never a real explanation as to what exactly happened to her sister Sabine. We see film of her when she's able to function, and then we're presented with someone (in the present) who's often totally out of it, who's almost totally closed-up. There's a mention of the fact that Sabine became self-destructive, and hit her head against a wall so hard that there was sufficient brain damage. (We see her do things like bite herself.) There is a therapist who gives a clinical explanation of Sabine's condition, but it still leaves a lot of questions.

One curiosity about this year's Rendez-vous films: there were films which were very explicitly about Jewish identity. Which brought up the fact that the cultural position of Jews within France has been very complicated. In the classical French cinema, most people who were Jewish often... not so much denied it, but tried to ignore it. (Simone Signoret's autobiography, "Nostalgia Isn't What It Used To Be", is very acute about the ambivalence she faced because she was Jewish.) Jean-Pierre Melville and Nicole Stephane never addressed "the Jewish question" (though they were Jewish). Claude Berri dealt with this in "The Two of Us"... it's interesting that of the Nouvelle Vague directors, the one who was the most tolerant (about EVERYTHING) was Truffaut. It's also interesting because, though he wasn't Jewish, his first wife was (and it was her father who put up the money for "Les 400 Coups"). I remember having a discussion about the Nouvelle Vague directors with Steve Harvey, and Steve said that Truffaut's humanism was actually quite radical, and that the formal inventiveness of (say) Godard and Rivette couldn't mask the fact that both of them had rather narrow views on a lot of subjects (hence the homophobic jokes in some of Godard's films, etc.). I can see what he meant. And it's interesting that the directors who were close to Truffaut, such as Claude Berri and Claude Miller, would deal with Jewish subject matter. (I missed Claude Miller's latest movie, which was in Rendez-vous, but i was told it was one of the best films in the series, and that it dealt with Jewish subject matter.)

More later.


Blogger joe baltake said...

If you haven't seen it yet, Daryl, I encourage you to che k out the new Lelouch, "Roman de gare," with which the filmmaker returns to form with a delightfully playful tale.

2:35 PM


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