‘The Place Beyond the Pines’: Greco-Biblical Epic in Neo-Noir Clothing

Warning: This article contains spoilers and is intended mainly for those who have already seen the film.

“The sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the sons” (Exodus 34:7). Were this the only subtext in Derek Cianfrance’s multigenerational saga of twisted fate and broken dreams, The Place Beyond the Pines might be taken simply as an updating of Elia Kazan 1953 adaptation of John Steinbeck’s modern-day reworking of the Cain and Abel tale, East of Eden. Instead, this densely packed film manages to stitch together the Tanakh and Greek myth and tether both to a modern-day crime drama set in an American burg beneath whose idyllic exterior, a la Hitchcock (and Freud), reside swine. Schenectady, New York, provides the serenely sinister backdrop—a name that instantly conjures Charlie Kaufman’s solipsistic brain-twister with the devilishly allusive title Synecdoche, New York (2008). The result is a neo-noir with more cinematic panache and multi-layered resonance than any since Roman Polanski/Robert Towne’s magisterial Chinatown (1974). Continue reading “‘The Place Beyond the Pines’: Greco-Biblical Epic in Neo-Noir Clothing” »

Interview: Filmmaker Jackie Raynal

The Mediascape Blog is proud to present an interview with French filmmaker Jackie Raynal. During a recent visit to UCLA, Mrs. Raynal discussed her pioneering experiences as a female editor working in the postwar French film industry, her collaborations with Eric Rohmer and other New Wave artists, and her career as a director and curator. The interview was conducted by students in the Cinema and Media Studies department and graciously sponsored by Dr. Janet Bergstrom. Special thanks to Shannon O’Kelley, director of the Billy Wilder Theater in Los Angeles, whose presence during the interview immensely enriched the conversation. The interview can be downloaded or listened to below. 


Click to download “JackieRaynal.mp3” (81 minutes, 38 MB)

ColCoa Roundup: ‘Augustine’ Review

This week the Mediascape Blog is running a series of posts by Laura Swanbeck on the 2013 ColCoa Film Festival.

Audacious and complex in its depiction of a young woman suffering from hysteria in 1890s Paris, Alice Winocour’s debut feature showcases the impressive talents of acting veteran Vincent Lindon (A Few Hours of Spring) and compelling newcomer Soko (born Stéphanie Sokolinski) as the eponymous Augustine. Based on a real-life case, the film opens with French maid Augustine suffering an epileptic seizure right in the middle of working a lavish dinner party. Following this unseemly event, she is swiftly sent to Salpêtrière, an asylum where she encounters French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot (Lindon), who is intrigued by her debilitating symptoms, which include oscillating paralysis of half her face as well as her limbs. Charcot, most prominently recognized as the teacher of William James and Sigmund Freud, takes her on as a patient, motivated more strongly by his ambition to introduce a breakthrough study in medicine than any altruism on his part. Continue reading “ColCoa Roundup: ‘Augustine’ Review” »

ColCoa Roundup: ‘Hold Back’ (Rengaine) Review

This week the Mediascape Blog is running a series of posts by Laura Swanbeck on the 2013 ColCoa Film Festival.

Plot spoilers below

Opening at the Directors’ Fortnight at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Rachid Djaïdani’s feature film Hold Back (Rengaine) exemplifies a new style of guerrilla filmmaking in France and is also a contender for my favorite film of ColCoa. Starring Sabrina Hamida and Stephane Soo Mongo as a couple whose families object to their engagement based on their divergent races and religions, this provocative film explores the prejudice and hostility between different immigrant groups in modern-day France.

While this subject matter might make the film sound self-righteous, it is far from it. In fact, Djaïdani, who worked as a novelist and a boxer before making his feature film debut, has managed to craft a social issue picture that retains its sense of humor. Much of this comedy comes in the shape of Dorcy (Soo Mongo), a struggling actor who answers ads in the paper for jobs ranging from the absurd to the disturbing. Djaïdani seems to take pleasure in satirizing the film world, using Dorcy’s string of auditions as fodder for a critique of eccentric directors who want their actors to literally suffer for their art. Shot over the course of nine years, the film finally came to fruition once acclaimed producer Anne-Dominique Toussaint (Cycling with Molieré, The Hedgehog, Caramel) lent her support to the project, allowing Djaïdani the opportunity to translate his vision to the screen. Continue reading “ColCoa Roundup: ‘Hold Back’ (Rengaine) Review” »

ColCoa Roundup: ‘Populaire’ Review

This week the Mediascape Blog is running a series of posts by Laura Swanbeck on the 2013 ColCoa Film Festival.

Plot spoilers below

Catching a glimpse of a shiny typewriter in her father’s store window, young Rose Pamphyle (Déborah François) hatches a plan to escape her provincial life and transform herself into an independent and intrepid modern woman in Populaire, Régis Roinsard’s highly stylized debut that tips its hat to the 1950s heyday of Rock Hudson and Doris Day. Embarking on a trip to Lisieux, Normandy, to interview for a secretarial position at Échard and Sons Insurance, Rose encounters glorified bachelor Louis Échard (played by dashing French actor Romain Duris), who takes pleasure in scoping out the comely applicant pool until Rose’s preternatural typing ability stops him in his tracks.

Clearly impressed, he offers her a job on the spot, although he soon discovers she makes a terrible secretary, often accidentally shredding documents and using his arm to take messages when pen and paper are scarce. Taking Rose aside, Louis confides that there is only one way for her to save her job. Indignant after mistakenly presuming that he’s trying to take advantage of her youth and naivety with an illicit ultimatum, Rose soon discovers that Louis merely intends to transform her into a champion speed typist. Continue reading “ColCoa Roundup: ‘Populaire’ Review” »

ColCoa Roundup: ‘Cycling with Molieré’ (Alceste a Bicyclette) Review

This week the Mediascape Blog is running a series of posts by Laura Swanbeck on the 2013 ColCoa Film Festival.

Lambert Wilson and Fabrice Luchini star in Cycling with Molieré, a pithy comedy of manners about Gauthier Valence (Wilson), a charismatic TV star who travels to Île de Ré to convince self-imposed recluse and former friend Serge (Luchini) to come out of retirement for one last performance of Molieré’s The Misanthrope. While Serge’s stubbornness and reluctance is worn down, the two men’s bickering and bantering continues as they set up shop in Serge’s cluttered country home and proceed to try to best one another in their pursuit of the lead role of Alceste.

To the credit of director Philippe Le Guay, who also collaborated with Luchini in his last film, The Women on the 6th Floor, the dramatic read-throughs are some of the strongest and, surprisingly, most cinematic scenes in the film. Consequently, these scenes reveal the beautiful rhythm of Molieré’s work and also serve as clever commentary on the debate between faithfulness to the original material and freedom of interpretation as Serge comically lectures Gauthier for swallowing up his syllables. Continue reading “ColCoa Roundup: ‘Cycling with Molieré’ (Alceste a Bicyclette) Review” »