Claude Lelouch has released a new movie almost every year since his feature directorial debut in 1961 with Le Propre de l’Homme. Of the two films he completed in 2019, Les Plus Belles Années d’une Vie reunites the 82-year-old filmmaker with Jean-Louis Trintignant and Anouk Aimée, both of whom step out of retirement for this sequel to their 1966 Oscar- and Palme d’Or–winning Un Homme et une Femme (A Man and a Woman). It’s a sentimental landmark for all three and anyone else who ever swooned over the trio’s 54-year-old classic.
We have Régis Painchaud and Lorraine Fortin to thank when Les Plus Belles Années d’une Vie gets its local premiere on Saturday (February 8). For 26 years, their Rendez-Vous French Film Festival has filled in the blanks for Vancouverites looking to keep up with French-language cinema. This year is no different: along with the Lelouch flick, topnotch Québécois filmmakers—including Denis Côté (Wilcox), Denys Arcand (La Chute de l’Empire Américain), and Louise Archambault (Merci Pour Tout)—all have their newest works brought here. See below for three new titles that come highly recommended by the Georgia Straight, and visit www.rendez-vousvancouver.com/ for the full program.
Alexandre le Fou (Alexander the Fool)
No fool, Alexander is in reality a wry and thoughtful—not to mention dapper—schizophrenic seeking a more desirable balance between his medication and his condition. At his most stable—that is, his most medicated—Alexander yearns for his authentic self, whatever the trouble. His girlfriend pushes in the same direction. The doc’s central mystery, pondered by Alex’s grandmother: what happened on the South China Sea some 15 years ago that tipped Alexander over the edge? These looming questions might be reflected in the film’s intriguing balance of vérité and artifice, which allows for some gorgeous compositions and moments of obvious authorial intervention. (There’s a credit for “dramaturgical advisors”.) This would invite criticism if it weren’t for the attunement to the project shown by Alexander and those around him, or if this small but remarkable film weren’t so damn moving. Alexandre le Fou is preceded by Denis Côté’s latest, Wilcox, and admission for both is free.
SFU Woodward’s, February 8 (6:30 p.m.)
Des Histoires Inventées (Imaginary Tales)
The “gifted bum of Québécois cinema”, André Forcier, receives an appropriately fanciful tribute with this doc, named after the director’s 1990 feature. In one of that film’s running gags, Louise Marleau plays a glamorous dame constantly trailed by a legion of lovesick men, and they all show up again here, Marleau included, as Forcier is plunked inside re-created scenes from his 50-year filmography. (A small few, like 1974’s seminal Bar Salon, are represented with actual clips.) Now a somewhat grouchy septuagenarian with no stomach for retirement, Forcier is his own deadpan comic foil, observing his career (Michel Côté, Rémy Girard, and France Castel are among the other actors who show up) while addressing such matters as the influence of Jean Renoir and Luis Buñuel and his love of language. He’s at his most solemn about 1983’s Au Clair de la Lune and the emerging “Forcier brand” of Québécois magic realism—this was, obviously, an important work to him—and at his most devout when considering an ideal he can never attain. “Everything needs to be redone,” he says, “from one film to another.”
Fabrique St-George, February 10 (7:30 p.m.)
Ceux Qui Travaillent (Those Who Work)
There’s a similarity here to the great Canadian film How Heavy This Hammer. Both offer claustrophobic portraits of unlovable men consumed by their own unhealthy compulsions, although this Swiss-Belgian-French effort is considerably kinder to its lead, Frank (Olivier Gourmet), a dour, work-dedicated shipping-company manager who makes a snap money-saving decision that costs him his job, his reputation, and the respect of his wife and five kids. Frank’s actions (not to be revealed here) would be considered sociopathic if we didn’t observe his subsequent internal reckoning, which barely registers on the outside after a life of hard emotional constipation. As such, the film lands as a critique of the conditioning we receive inside an industrialized world. There’s a sense of absolution when the fraying man takes his youngest daughter on a tour of shipyards and supermarkets, explaining the international supply chain while he secretly contemplates suicide. In the end, Gourmet’s almost imperceptible bid for audience empathy stands as a small miracle of performance.
Auditorium Jules-Verne, February 15 (7:30 p.m.)
The Rendez-Vous French Film Festival takes place at various venues from Wednesday (February 5) to February 17.