Judge Brett Cullum sits back and observes a bunch of dysfunctional French people. It's all part of the job!
The acclaimed contemporary French director and four of his best.
André Téchiné is regarded as one of the great contemporary French film directors to pick up the torch and carry it from Godard, Chabrol, and Truffaut. If you're a fan of intensely intimate foreign cinema, then the André Téchiné: 4-Film Collector's Edition from Lionsgate Entertainment should be right up your alley with a quartet of great examples of why Téchiné is regarded so highly. This collection concentrates on the Frenchman's output from 1981 until 1994, and includes two of his collaborations with actress and icon Catherine Deneuve (The Hunger). Téchiné uses a lot of style and often displays peripheral details that many directors would shy away from or edit out altogether. His passions include photography and capturing people on a real level. His films often utilize an Altman quality where he allows the actors freedom to improvise at points to make things ring truer. It may help to know that before Téchiné was a director, he was a film critic from 1964 to 1968, so he avoids cliché elements. He loves truth and beauty above all else, and is obsessed with Catherine Deneuve and sexual ambiguity.
First up we have Hotel America or Hotel Des Ameriques(1981), which examines an ill-fated romance between Helene (Catherine Deneuve), an anesthesiologist, and a mysterious man named Gilles (Patrick Dewaere). She literally meets him by running in to him with her car. He has mommy issues, and soon Helene becomes a sort of surrogate for him. Gilles fills a void left by Helene's husband, who has recently passed away. The film looks at the unhealthy aspects of their relationship and becomes a moody meditation on how people often use love to fill voids. The importance of the film for Téchiné is it is the first time the director allowed his actors to improvise in certain scenes, and it was the first time he collaborated with Deneuve, whom he would use frequently. Hotel America marks his interest in more real films, and we find he is no longer simply a romantic director who follows the rules of cinema. Quite often he observes with his camera, allowing characters to simply be rather than editorialize on them or force narrative along.
I Don't Kiss or J'Embrasse Pas from 1991 follows next. The main focus is on Pierre (Manuel Blanc), who is a young man that searches for and fails to find the meaning of his life. He leaves his small town to head to Paris as an actor, but turns out to not succeed. Pierre then becomes a male prostitute. He falls in love with a female sex worker (Emmanuelle Beart), which turns out to be tragically fated. Téchiné experiments with a loose narrative structure, moody lighting, and impressionistic photography. Everything seems cruel and oppressive, and the film showcases the stylistic poetry of the director. Out of the four films, this one is the most experimental and interesting, as well as the least seen.
My Favorite Season or Ma Saison Préférée from 1993 deals with a pair of estranged siblings (Catherine Deneuve and Daniel Auteuil) brought together after their mother has a stroke. The director described the film as a portrait of the coldness of the modern world juxtaposed with individuality and family life. The film was critically well received when it was shown at the Cannes Film Festival, and it was nominated for Cesar Awards including Best Film and Best Director.
Finally we have Wild Reeds or Les Roseaux Sauvages from 1994, a coming of age drama about four teens staying at a boarding school in Provence during 1962, with the Algerian War serving as a backdrop. Originally, the piece was commissioned for television, but the sumptuous photography and intense subject matter betray the smaller screen intentions. Many people regard this piece as Téchiné's masterwork, and it does capture his essential themes of family, sexual angst, and exile. The film was highly regarded in France, and that makes sense considering the Algerian war was like their version of Vietnam. As a coming of age drama, it works well and focuses on the "outsider" that almost anyone can relate to.
It's interesting that the producers of this collection would choose these four films and not include earlier or later works by André Téchiné. They are solid choices, but somewhat obvious as well as all stylistically tied together. Lionsgate provides us with these films on nicely authored DVDs, but there is no supplemental material for any of the features. It would have been nice to possibly have a career overview of Téchiné to accompany these films, or even interviews with him and the actors. It seems more and more we are getting DVD film sets that simply offer the viewer a logical grouping of films from an actor or director without any extras to explain the collection. The transfers look and sound perfectly fine without any issues to complain about.
André Téchiné is known for looking at people and not
sensationalizing or twisting his narratives to wring out false drama. His films
are calculated studies of real life, and sometimes that means his movies can
feel small or intimate. The works never explain the characters in detail, but
bemusedly observe them while offering no easy answers. Francophilles should find
the release of the André Téchiné: 4-Film Collector's
Edition a reason to celebrate, as it contains four sturdy examples of
Téchiné's work during his most successful period. It's a solid
collection offered with "no frills" for viewers who want to explore
what it means to be conflicted.
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