The French excel at films focused on relationships: the intricacies of emotional and physical connections. Director François Ozon's "The New Girlfriend" resides wholly in that arena with its focused consideration of best friends Claire and David who becomes Virginia. Gradually and sensitively, the film examines sexual desire and gender identity with an unhurried, thought-provoking inquiry.
Director Cédric Jimenez's "The Connection" details the burgeoning international heroin trade channeled through Marseille, France, mid-1970s into the 80s. Those enmeshed in what we call the French Connection, since it stretched to the U.S., consisted of magistrates, prosecutors, judges, and multiple battling criminal factions. Fueled by greed, bribery and murder, corruption and fear ruled the day.
Based on an astonishing true story, "In the Name of My Daughter" begins in 1976 with the fashionable Renée expertly managing the Palais de la Mediterranée casino in Nice. Trouble arrives as divorcee daughter Agnès, back from Africa, succumbs to a passionate obsession with Maurice, Renée's womanizing legal assistant. He's conspiring with the Mafia's devious scheme to control Renée's casino.
Relationships in "The Blue Room" are complicated, in this case, more than usual. Julien and Esther, married but not to each other, carry on a passionate affair that soon results in two deaths. The question of who murdered whom and how drives the narrative, jumping forward and back in time with relevant events inferred rather than explicitly delineated.
For years, French films have carved out a niche in presenting very personal stories about the ups and downs of intimate relationships. "Populaire" falls into that category with the added quirk of central character, secretary Rose Pamphyle, training for the 1959 high-speed international typing competition. The romance with her boss Louis Échard is as thoroughly old-fashioned as the manual typewriters.
"Rust and Bone" is a suggestive, curious title for an unusual film. Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard stars as Stéphanie, an orca whale trainer involved in a horrific accident. In a parallel and soon intersecting plotline, Matthias Schoenaerts is Ali, an unemployed, single father struggling to keep his and his five-year-old son Sam's lives on track.
Director/co-writer Eric Lartigau’s film “The Big Picture” poses a knotted series of problems regarding identity, anonymity and fame. More a theoretical interrogation than a richly delivered story, the plot begins with self-satisfied Parisian lawyer Paul Exben slow to realize his wife Sarah has enjoyed an affair with long-time friend Grégoire and now wants a divorce.
In French writer/director Christophe Barratier’s “War of the Buttons,” we find ourselves, spring 1944, in a relatively isolated French village. The Nazis have a dominant presence but remain secondary to the turf wars of two groups of boys. Their battles’ spoils consist of buttons and shoelaces, leaving the vanquished with pants falling down and shirts flapping.
For all foodies, the documentary “Step Up to the Plate” is sheer heaven. It carefully, scrupulously, and quietly watches legendary French chef Michel Bras and his son Sébastien create tantalizing, exquisite culinary masterpieces. With only a couple minor digressions, the film devotes its attention to their concocting, preparing, tasting and revising delectable dishes.
Intriguing from its unusual opening to its satisfying conclusion, Nobody Else But You begins with a tantalizing, voiceover conversation. A woman imagines she’s in her mother’s womb. We’ll soon learn she’s Candice talking with her psychologist in a brief exchange that plays as the film’s credits appear over a black screen.