Moment in Paris

Martin Provost‘s Seraphine, a fictionalized story of painter Seraphine de Senlis that no one talked about during the Toronto Film Festival (certainly not in my circle), has won seven Cesar awards. The ceremony ended in Paris two or three hours ago. It won best picture, best original screenplay (Martin Provost), best actress (Yolande Moreau), best cinematography (Laurent Brunet), best costume design (Madeline Fontaine), best original score (Michael Galasso), and best set design (Thierry Francois).

  • doobiedoo

    Seraphine is a gorgeous film – fully deserving of the wins. Classic arthouse cinema: subtle, impeccably performed. It slipped under the radar at Toronto with media but drew excellent reviews and has sold worldwide. For USA it’s been picked up by Music Box, who did such a great job with Tell No One; another astute purchase.
    Lovely, also, to see Elsa Zylbertsein honoured for her work in ILYSL after all the attention given to KST.

  • Princess of Peace

    And Waltz with Bashir won for Best Foreign Film beating out such heavyweights as There Will Be Blood and Into the Wild.

  • Ephemerinko

    Here we go again. DEPARTURES, and now this. Just because you and your crowd weren’t talking about SERAPHINE in Toronto doesn’t mean it wasn’t being talked about.

    My one rule of thumb in Toronto, as at any festival, is to prioritize work like SERAPHINE over the Hollywood stuff that will open weeks–or even days–after the festival. SERAPHINE richly deserves the Cesars it won, and was amongst the most sublime and moving films I saw on the fest circuit last year.

    I know you feel like you have to be ahead of the curve with studio product in Toronto and elsewhere, it may even be expected of you (or you think it is expected of you). I’m also well aware that the sheer size of Toronto in particular means that movies like this, though meant to be showcased by dint of selection, actually slip through the cracks due to the size of the festival and the publicity triage in effect. Like a tree falling in the forest with nobody around to hear.

    This is a real problem I have with certain larger festivals, but that’s another story.

    Not that I have anything to say about it, but I’d like to see you take more chances with what you see at this festival. Actually, with what you see at all the festivals you attend. True, you gotta kiss a lot of frogs, as they say, but when something like SERAPHINE pays off, there’s no better feeling in the world. This isn’t scientific, but I bet a lot of what you saw in Toronto you could’ve seen back in Los Angeles or New York or wherever it is you live within a month of returning–and still have seen it before a good percentage of the people who hang out here (no offense intended).

    Festivals are about discovery, not being force-fed what the studios want you to see (I call it the AMERICAN BEAUTY syndrome). Your site would certainly be better for it.

    In the meantime, I’ve heard there are subtitled screeners of SERAPHINE floating around. See if you can nab one, well worth the time and effort.

  • TM

    Seraphine is part of the Rendez-vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center. I so wish I could have gotten back to NYC to see several of the movies there this year. A pretty strong line-up.

  • Jeffrey Wells

    Wells to Ephemerinko: Yeah, I could take more chances and kiss more frogs. I could do that. Maybe I should do that. But I feel at root that I have to try and see the films that have a real shot at being distributed and seen by Average Joes in Terre Haute, or at least seen by sophisticated ticket-buyers in New York and other towns that cater to people with actual taste buds.

    That means seeing movies with brand-name directors (and by that I mean guys like Carlos Reygadas, Bela Tarr and Brillante Mendoza, even though their most recent films have been seen by maybe 1% or 2% of the hip moviegoing public) and actors and screenwriters with some distinctive history of accomplishment.

    You have to make choices at film festivals, and you have to file like mad during the eight or nine days you’re there, which usually translates into seeing maybe 18 to 20 films, at best. 25 if you’re superman.

    There’s a decent possibility that the following films will be at Cannes: Agora (no U.S. distributor), d: Alejandro Amenabar; The Road (Weinstein Co.), d: John Hillcoat; Brothers (MGM), d: Jim Sheridan; A Serious Man (Focus Features), d: Joel and Ethan Coen; Bright Star (no US distributor), d: Jane Campion; Whatever Works (Sony Classics), d: Woody Allen; Ondine (no US distributor), d: Neil Jordan; Forgiveness (no US distributor), d: Todd Solondz; Love Ranch (no US distributor), d: Taylor Hackord; Coco avant Chanel (Warner Bros.), d: Anne Fontaine; Nailed (Capitol Films), d: David O. Russell; Inglourious Basterds (Weinstein Co.), d: Quentin Tarantino. Plus Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, Cristian Mungiu’s Tales From the Golden Age, Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void, a new Michael Moore documentary about profligate Wall Street bankers, Fatih Akin’s Soul Kitchen, Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control, Ken Loach’s Looking For Eric, Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus, Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank; and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Micmacs a tire-larigot.

    That’s 22 films, which means I may have to shine two or three of these. Which ones would you recommend not seeing if it comes to that?

    By your standard I should ignore the Tarantino because it’ll be opening in August. My response to that is, “Are you fucking nuts?” Maybe you’d say ignore Taylor Hackford’s film about Nevada prostitution. But Helen Mirren won the Best Actress Oscar a couple of years ago and I suspect HE readers (and those beyond the periphery) would want to hear about this film. But if I followed your thinking, I would say, “Naah, fuck the Hackford and go find a nice little frog that may surprise you and turn into a prince.” Right? I get that way of looking at things because that’s how you discover the odd pearl, but it sure seems ill-advised right now.

    Even the Gilliam film, which I suspect probably delivers in a nutso flipped-around way that even the most Gilliam-friendly critics will have a problem with, is of interest because it has the very last performance of Heath Ledger, which people are naturally interested in. Who wouldn’t be?

    On the other hand you hear things at festivals about films that you hadn’t necessarily planned on seeing (not as a priority) but you go to anyway on a hunch. I hadn’t firmly decided on seeing the public showing of An Education at Sundance, but I decided to go at the last minute because it was written by Nick Hornby and directed by Lone Scherfig. It turned out to be a very good call on my part. Last year at Cannes I decided I had to finish a piece I was working on rather than see Gomorrah. That was a bad call as it turned out, but you’re always juggling, always wondering, always on edge during festivals, always running with or behind your schedule but never ahead of it. You never see everything you wanted to see, and you always miss a couple of really good ones. Happens every time.

    I’ll never forgive myself for failing to see Anton Corbin’s Control during the early stages of the ’07 Cannes Film Festival at the premiere of Un Certain Regard. (Or was ti Driector’s Fortnight?) I just blew it and didn’t go. I could have gone to the second screening but Robert Koehler told me not to bother. Hands down one of the best films of that year, and Koehler told me not to bother! I would up seeing it at the very end of the festival at a market screening on the rue d’Antibes.

    Again, let’s presume that each one of the above films is shown at Cannes. Which ones would you shine, and why? I’d like to hear your thinking on this. Because I don’t think you know anything more than what I know.

  • CitizenKanedforChewingGum

    Jeff – I think your instincts to lean toward auteur-driven films during festivals is pretty sound.

    If I personally had to scratch 3 off that list it would probably be:

    Coco Avant Chanel – even when straightforward biopics are good (i.e. Ray, Walk the Line), I don’t think they ever really strike me as the kind of films that absolutely, positively have to be immediately seen.

    Soul Kitchen – dunno that much about it, honestly…it’s a comedy, right? Given the choice between a new dramatic film by a proven director and a comedy, I’ll generally go with the more “serious” film. Not that I feel that they are less important (it’s arguable that a good comedy is actually harder to make), it’s just that generally most comedies are designed to purely entertain; there usually isn’t a larger worldview or philosophy at work (exceptions exist, of course…Woody Allen, David O. Russell, His Girl Friday, etc.).

    Love Ranch – Has Taylor Hackford ever directed a great film? Decent? Sure. Passable? Yes. But a four-star, instant classic? Not that I see. You could make a strong case for When We Were Kings, but he just produced/edited it.

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