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5 to Watch: French Kisses and Kicks (to the Head)

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Jean-Luc Godard's Goodbye to Language 3D

Wine buffs have already inked their calendars for the third Thursday in November, when this year’s batch of Beaujolais nouveau will be decanted, devoured and discussed. (And priced at a hefty premium for vin ordinaire, but never mind.) Perhaps it’s merely a curious coincidence, but this month also brings a veritable deluge of new (and vintage) French movies to the Bay Area. Francophiles certainly aren’t complaining, and neither should you. Nobody loves cinema more than the French, from fatalistic ‘50s noirs to Godardian de- and reconstructions to breezy dramas of angst-tinged yet impeccably dressed Parisian millennials. Don’t forget your raincoat, or your beret.

Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria
Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria

French Cinema Now (Nov. 6-9), the San Francisco Film Society’s annual survey of contemporary Gallic movies, adopts a new venue (the Vogue Theatre) to present its trademark mix of household names and relative unknowns (at least to U.S. audiences). Superstars Juliette Binoche (playing a conflicted actress in Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria, Nov. 9) and Marion Cotillard (as a desperate, newly laid-off factory worker in the Dardennes Brothers’ Two Days, One Night, Nov. 8) light up the marquee, along with Alain Delon in the 1980 crime yarn Three Men to Kill (Nov. 9). Those with a yen for discovery have lots of choices, including The Easy Way Out, a brisk, bantering drama of three adult brothers navigating problematic relationships with their partners and parents. For more information, visit sffs.org.


The San Francisco Dance Film Festival (Nov. 6-9) pirouettes into the Brava Theatre this weekend as well, showcasing a stunning array of movies that bring the motion to motion pictures. The French short Vertige, with choreography by Rami Hassoun, sets the pitched emotions of a heightened love affair in the great outdoors while Mimi Cave and Casey Avaunt’s locally produced Magic Man music video Paris (its title warrants its inclusion here) finds inspiration in unexpected Bay Area locations. For more information, visit sfdancefilmfest.org.

Jean-Luc Godard's Passion
Jean-Luc Godard’s Passion

The latest leg in the Pacific Film Archive’s ongoing retrospective, Jean-Luc Godard: Expect Everything From Cinema (Nov. 8-Dec. 13), revisits eight gorgeously provocative films from the 1980s and ‘90s. The uncompromising enfant terrible of the Nouvelle Vague has not aged gracefully; he is as radical, political, confrontational (more than fellow European social critics Michael Haneke and Lars von Trier), pioneering and anti-American as ever. It’s easy to hate the man and love his astonishingly beautiful films, which challenge and not infrequently insult the viewer while questioning and reinventing the language, nature and purpose of cinema. For more information, visit bampfa.berkeley.edu.

Godard's Goodbye to Language 3D
Godard’s Goodbye to Language 3D

Godard’s latest film, Goodbye to Language 3D (Adieu au Language) revolves around a married woman, a single man and a dog. Philosophy, nudity, the perpetual dilemma of human relationships (interpersonal and geopolitical) — ideas galore, without the comforting bourgeois convention of a “story.” In other words, a work of confounding genius whose pleasures are not the usual ones. Goodbye to Language opens Friday, Nov. 14 exclusively at the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael. For more information, visit rafaelfilm.cafilm.org.

Julien Duvivier’s Voici les Temps des Assassins
Julien Duvivier’s Voici les Temps des Assassins

Who can resist black-and-white melodramas with conniving (and gorgeous, and doomed) protagonists? Really? What if they’re dressed to the nines and weaving their seductively articulate webs in French? Exactly. The French Had a Name For It: Classic French Noir from the ‘40s through the ‘60s (Nov. 14-17 at the Roxie) is packed with delicious gems such as Julien Duvivier’s Voici les Temps des Assassins (Deadlier Than the Male, Nov. 16), a 1956 potboiler starring the marvelous Jean Gabin as an accomplished chef and restaurateur who falls for his despised ex-wife’s daughter. Danièle Delorme plays the scheming femme fatale (the French had a word for it, alright) with enough icy, charming menace to chill Barbara Stanwyck’s blood. For more information, visit roxie.com.


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