The Varilux French Film Festival is a Brazilian movie festival that started back in 2011 through the Alliance Française. Even though it’s an event that goes back more than five years, I’ve only discovered this preciosity last year where movies like Rock’n Roll, Heal the Living, Frantz, From the Land of the Moon and Staying Vertical were screened in more than 50 cities throughout Brazil.
This year, the festival comes back way bigger and with better films. It’s not already considered the biggest French film festival of the world, but its line up comes with Cannes and Cesar’s nominees, like François Ozon’s L’amant Double, that competed for the Palm d’Or; Xavier Legrand’s Custody; Anne Fontaine’s Marvin, that got a Best Actor Cesar nomination for Finnegan Oldfield; Eric Barbier’s Promise at Dawn with Pierre Niney and Charlotte Gainsbourg; among other films.
Papiro & Mint returns to cover part of this festival with a special night where we’ve met Jérémie Renier:
The Double Lover (2017) by François Ozon
Considered one of the sexiest films competing for the Palm d’Or at 2017 Cannes Film Festival, The Double Lover is Ozon’s latest work after delivering incredible films such as Frantz, In the House and The New Girlfriend. Being a mixture of 50 Shades of Grey meets Dead Ringers, this Cronenbergian psychological drama tells the story of a woman who searches a psychiatrist to try to fix her so-called psychological belly ache. After several sessions, the psychiatrist and the patient end up falling for each other and as they start to live together, the woman starts discovering secrets from his past, including the hidden existence of a twin brother.
Constantly playing with the archetype of “the double”, François Ozon delivers a provocative film that is more concerned in playing with the audience’s feelings than answering their questions, which even though it works most of the time, it still has its flaws. Rernier and Marine Vatch are as good as sexy, especially for Jérémie who plays two characters with very different personalities. Not only that, I had the privilege to re-watch the film with the presence of the actor where he told some curiosities like the film was first shot focusing on one character and then the other. Here is a little picture I got at the end!
Marvin (2017) by Anne Fontaine
From the same director of the outstanding The Innocents, Marvin is Anne Fontaine’s loosely inspired biographical film from the novel by Édouard Louis, a young French writer who became famous for his book En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule that tells the story of the difficulties he faced growing up as a homosexual wanting to be an actor. Finnegan Oldfield is the one who plays Marvin, the character inspired by Eddy and delivers an amazing performance after having already demonstrated an interesting presence in Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama. Even though is a touching film where the story and the narrative serve as inspiration for Marvin’s work later on the plot, I missed the presence of the theatrical subject on the script as this is an important element in Marvin’s life. This gets a special treatment, however, when Isabelle Huppert appears playing herself. The curiosity to know what is real and fiction rises, and even though Marvin’s (or Eddy’s) history isn’t remarkable, Anne Fontaine and Finnegan Oldfield’s work is strong enough to leave an impression.
Custody (2017) by Xavier Legrand
Through lawyers, a couple fights over the custody of their son, Julien. The mother claims the father is crazy, brutal and a stalker. The father claims the mother is a liar, that he only cares about his son’s well-being and that he has every right to see Julien every other weekend. What is about to happen throughout the next 90 minutes will shock you – which doesn’t mean that Custody it’s an outstanding film. Given the award for Best Director at Berlin Film Festival, Xavier Legrand’s debut film is an extremely realistic movie that suffers from inconstancy in its script, and despite having outstanding performances, we can’t ignore the feeling that something is missing when the credits start to appear. We never really get to know who is this family and what they’re up to, except the father’s behavior towards Julien and his mother. The naturalism that Xavier chooses to compose his mise en scene seems to contradict the movie by playing more with the audience’s feelings than being concerned in telling his story in unbiased point of view. This decision ends up having an extremely strong effect by the end of the movie, which in my opinion is where the power of the movie lives. Only a few films made me feel so uncomfortable and angry at the end as this one did, but the feeling that the whole movie should have been as good as that last scene it kind of annoys me little.
See You Up There (2017) by Albert Dupontel
Based on the surreal novel by Pierre Lemaitre, this five times Cesar Award winner is a beautiful, absurd and comic-like adventure about a man who loses half of his face during the war and decides to set up a major scheme of revenge against his father and the lieutenant that fought with him against the war. With a very loose script, See You Up There is a film more for the eyes, with an outstanding production and costume design. Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, who never says a word in the film, is brilliant with his big green eyes that express so much behind the creative and carnivalesque masks that his character creates. Maybe you won’t understand everything that happens in the film, but the way this story is told is so strange and full of caricatures that it’s impossible not to deny the craziness and absurdity is part of the film and you go along with it in a very pleasant way.
Promise at Dawn (2017) by Eric Barbier
Watched at the last day of the Varilux French Film Festival, Promise at Dawn is a moving biopic based on the life of the writer Romain Gary and his hard relationship with his mother. Spending his youth in several places and facing hardship at the army for being a Jew, Romain had always suffered through his mother’s demands to be a famous writer, diplomat, and patriot. Eric Barbier shows us his story through a memorable production and cinematography that covers Poland in pre-WWI and the great big war. The best of the movie, however, still lies on the remarkable performances of Pierre Niney and Charlotte Gainsbourg, whose latter plays a character that we’re not used to seeing her perform: a devoted and intense mother. It may not be the best movie of 2017, but Promise at Dawn has so many precious qualities that are impossible not to remember it after the credits start to appear.
Movies in order of preference:
01. The Double Lover
02. Promise at Dawn
05. See You Up There