Today at the Cinemania festival

A turn of the century anarchist movie and an oddball Dépardieu/Huppert reunion, screening at the festival of French movies with English subs.


Depardieu Huppert

The Cinemania Festival, which presents French films with English subtitles, runs through Nov. 15. Here are two film screening at the festival for the first time today.

Valley of Love

Gérard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert play thinly veiled meta versions of themselves in Guillaume Nicloux’s Valley of Love. They’re a pair of long-divorced famous French actors who find themselves in Death Valley at the behest of their neglected son’s suicide letter. Both Gérard and Isabelle are a long way from the people they were when they met (Depardieu and Huppert actually haven’t shared the screen since 1980), but they decide to honour their son’s wishes and visit various Death Valley landmarks in the hope that, as the letter says, he’ll come back and visit them.

A lot of Valley of Love is a terse, emotional dramedy in which the perpetually disapproving Huppert and the brash, deadpan Depardieu dance circles around each other. It’s the story of a vague, intangible connection being uncomfortably given life again through grief and incomprehension. That itself would be enough for a film, but Nicloux also takes the film into trippier territories, leaning heavily on the hallucinatory nature of the surroundings to infuse the film with Lynchian non-sequiturs. Huppert and Depardieu are so good (Depardieu in particular seems far removed from his current drunken-buffoon image) that we don’t really need the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo. By the time Depardieu has a dream-like encounter with a deformed young woman on a tennis court, I almost found myself wishing the film had taken the more conventional path.

Valley of Love screens at the Imperial (1432 Bleury) tonight, Saturday, Nov. 7, 6:45 p.m. and again on Saturday, Nov 14, 2 p.m., tickets $13


Les anarchistes

I have a real soft spot for Industrial Revolution-set, grease-spattered, turn-of-the-century proletariat hardship dramas. If there are a bunch of shit-disturbing communists or anarchists in it, even better. Les anarchistes checks all of those boxes but remains firmly familiar in its tale of a policeman (Tahar Rahim) who infiltrates a group of rabble-rousing anarchists in Paris. Pretty much an orphan his whole life, Jean finally finds a makeshift family in the close-knit but explosive group, knowing full well that he has a job to do, no matter what.

The setting of Les anarchistes is interesting, but its dramatic core is not: it goes through exactly the same motions as every single undercover cop movie you’ve ever seen in your life, from Serpico to Hard-Boiled to The Departed and even 21 Jump Street (!). Jean goes from cautious to gleeful to sorrowful to guilt-ridden for his hypocrisy and even Rahim’s performance (who was excellent in Un prophète and A Separation) and Adèle Exarchopoulos (as his love interest) can’t really bring the film above its well-trod path.

It’s well-made and executed (though it may be the most aggressively blue-filtered film since Soderbergh’s Traffic), but the only way it could be more disappointingly familiar would be if the protagonist also had a brother who was a priest, signifying the battle between good and evil that lies in the hearts of all men. It’s that kind of movie.

Les anarchistes screens at the Imperial (1432 Bleury) today, Nov. 7, 4:45 p.m. and again on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2 p.m., tickets $13

See the complete Cinemania schedule here.