“The Apparition” sounds like the title of a horror movie, and this is not a case where the United States distributors of this French film have goosed up the original language title, which was, yes, “L’apparition.” There are several points in the movie during which the viewer can see the story line veer into genre territory, as when some of the characters, a disparate group convened for an investigation, discuss the possibility of working with an exorcist.
But the movie, directed by Xavier Giannoli, in fact aims for tragedy (which it nearly achieves) and enigmatic spirituality (and here’s where there’s a problem). Vincent Lindon plays Jacques, a journalist whose best friend and colleague is killed, practically right next to him, in the Middle East. At home nursing a blown-out ear, and PTSD, he is summoned by a Vatican representative. A young woman in rural France, Anna (Galatéa Bellugi) has seen a vision of the Virgin Mary, and is being celebrated by locals — and now, tourists on pilgrimages — as a potential new Bernadette of Lourdes. The church wants an investigation, to which the local priest sheltering Anna has strident objections.
Mr. Lindon, who carries his powerful masculinity with canny reserve, is superb as a man inquiring into a faith he had previously thought had nothing to do with him. But Ms. Bellugi is a real find; she inhabits her character, who, even as she hides her secrets, is so genuinely beatific that you can hear it in her breathing. Which makes it even more of a shame that the movie, which for two hours is an absorbing, detailed procedural, becomes so willfully diffuse in its final 20 minutes.
Etienne (Andranic Manet), a serious and impressionable shaggy-haired young cinephile, leaves behind his steady girlfriend (Diane Rouxel) in Lyon to study film in Paris. Settling into a dingy flat with a rotating cast of roommates, he immerses himself in a bohemian world of artists, intellectuals, and fellow film geeks who excitedly share their passion for Bresson, Ford, and obscure Russian directors. It’s a seemingly idyllic life of the mind—until more complicated matters of the flesh, as well as jealous creativity, intrude. Shooting in timeless black and white and interweaving references to philosophy, music, and cinema—from Pascal to Mahler to Parajanov—Jean Paul Civeyrac conjures a bittersweet ode to the heady days of student life that evokes the films of the French New Wave
A Paris Education (Mes provinciales)
Written and directed by: Jean Paul Civeyrac
Cast: Andranic Manet, Diane Rouxel, Jenna Thia
Runtime: 136 mins
In French with English subtitles
Released by: Kino Lorber
Un beau soleil intérieur, the film’s French title, is part of a piece of advice given by a clairvoyant (Gérard Depardieu, in a surprise 15-minute cameo at the end of the movie). Try to find the beautiful sun within, he tells Isabelle (a glowing Juliette Binoche) and be “open” (he uses the English word). His huge, dented face seems to take up most of the screen. Isabelle, a lonely, recently divorced artist, who wants him to tell her which of her potential lovers is the best bet, laps his words up tearfully. Any port in a storm.
Whether you enjoy this film by revered director Claire Denis (Beau Travail, White Material; High Life, her first English-language movie, co-starring Binoche and Robert Pattinson, comes out later this year) depends on your tolerance for middle-aged Parisian bobos (bohemian-bourgeois) who flit from gallery to restaurant to loft, having hesitant, repetitive conversations that go nowhere. “What do you want me to say?” “I don’t know,” is a typical example. “It feels so good to stop all this talking,” says Isabelle as she falls into bed with an actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle). You have to agree.
It’s not quite a comedy, not quite a parody; perhaps it’s a meta romcom. The performances are impressive and there is, no doubt, immense skill in Denis’s elliptical, naturalistic, fragmentary direction. This non-linear approach must owe something to co-scriptwriter and collaborator Christine Angot, whose incantatory repetition in her plays and novels is her trademark style. But it’s just that – like life, perhaps – this plotlessness doesn’t result in anything very satisfying. Isabelle, volatile and seductive in stiletto-heeled thigh-high boots, goes from one unsuitable man to the next, swayed by the breeze, and we get to know none of them. As for her ten-year-old daughter, waiting in the car for her dad to finish arguing with Isabelle over his right to keep the keys to their apartment, we see her for about ten seconds [ . . . ]
Adele Haenel stars as a French Riviera detective who tries to make amends after discovering her late husband was a crooked cop in Pierre Salvadori’s screwball crime romance.
hanks to crime capers like the Taxi franchise, Marseilles is no stranger to cartoon violence and unorthodox police work. Pierre Salvadori’s The Trouble With You echoes those elements but is less interested in accelerated action than in the daffy romantic entanglements that ensue when the female protagonist starts spinning well-intentioned deceptions. That character is played with a collision of heedless irrationality and loopy integrity by a very funny Adele Haenel, flanked by appealing co-stars. If the movie overloads on the quirks, it has enough disarming absurdist elements and directorial brio to bolster its domestic profile.