Languages, Literatures, & Cultures

2nd Annual Tournèes French Film Festival
Muhlenberg College

September 26th and 27th, 2008
Lithgow Science Auditorium (Trumbower 130)

All films shown in digital projection with English subtitles.
All screenings are open to the public.

Friday, September 26

7:00 pm

La Faute à Fidel (Blame It On Fidel) (Julie Gavras, France/Italy, 2006, 99 min.)

Anna is a precocious nine-year-old girl. Her family is wealthy, she goes to a private religious school and often visits her grandparents who have a wine estate in Bordeaux. One day, her aunt is forced to leave Spain – Anna’s uncle has just been killed by Franco's police force. This event is experienced as an electroshock by Anna's parents and they change their political views radically, becoming left-wing revolutionaries. Anna's stable life goes awry. Women's rights, freedom of speech, democracy and demonstration are now at the forefront of her parents’ lives. Anna strives to hold on to the comfort she is used to and is very unhappy when the family moves to a smaller apartment. She also has to adapt to her parents' new lifestyle as they have less time to take care of her. Yet, she also tries to make sense of the larger political events that shake her life and does not settle for the simplistic answers that adults give children.

"One of those rare films that maintain unwavering fidelity to a child's view of the world (a lineage that includes 'The 400 Blows’). It's not [merely] a snapshot of the revolutionary politics of 1970-71; it's about the upheavals of childhood, which are timeless and universal."
-- Time Out New York

9:00 pm

Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud, France, 2007, 95 min.)

Persepolis is the poignant story of a young girl coming of age in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Through the eyes of Marjane, we see a people's hopes dashed as fundamentalists take power - forcing the veil on women and imprisoning thousands. Clever and fearless, Marjane outsmarts the "social guardians" and discovers punk, ABBA and Iron Maiden. Yet when her uncle is executed and bombs fall around Tehran during the Iraq/Iran war, the daily fear that permeates life in Tehran is palpable. Her parents decide to send her to school in Vienna when she turns fourteen. Vulnerable and alone in a strange land, Marjane has to combat being equated with the religious fundamentalism she is trying to escape. Over time she finds acceptance and but remains terribly homesick, and must decide where, if anywhere, she belongs.

"The same history translated into a live-action drama could never be depicted with the clarity and narrative drive that bold, simple animation encourages."
-- Stephen Holden, The New York Times

Saturday, September 27

4:00 pm

Le Voyage du ballon rouge (Flight of the Red Balloon) (Hou Hsiao-hsien, France, 2007, 113 min.)

A mysterious red balloon affectionately follows Simon, a wide-eyed seven-year-old boy, around Paris. His mother Suzanne is a puppeteer who uses her vocal talents to bring life to the shows she writes. Completely absorbed in her new show and overwhelmed by the complications of modern daily life, she decides to hire Song Fang as Simon's nanny. The young Taiwanese film student in Paris will be a companion to an inquisitive, gifted and very lonely boy. Simon and Song watch as the adults around them come apart at the seams with joy and anguish, love and hatred. They come to form a unique extended family, thoroughly interdependent yet all lost in separate thoughts and dreams. Inspired by Albert Lamorisse's classic 1956 short The Red Balloon, the fluid, unparalleled elegance of Hou's first French-language film finds grace in the simplest details, and gently discovers a Paris previously unseen.

"Mr Hou introduces us to three fully inhabited people who embody the careless joys of childhood, the hopes of young adulthood and the burdens of older age. Mr. Hou arranges these bodies with his usual tender touch; his mastery of film space remains assured as ever, even many miles from home, as does his work with actors… lovely, lovely film…"
-- Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

7:00 pm

La Tourneuse de pages (The Page Turner) (Denis Dercourt, France, 2006, 85 min.)

The Page Turner is a compelling and subtle psychological thriller worthy of 1940s-era Alfred Hitchcock. Mélanie, a meticulous ten-year-old girl, assiduously practices in order to audition for a prestigious piano school. Her playing is faultless until Ariane Fouchécourt, a renowned concert pianist who conducts the audition, stops listening to her in order to sign an autograph. Mélanie loses her concentration and the rest of the audition is such a disaster that she decides never to play the piano again. Years later, Mélanie manages to work her way into Ariane's private life when she becomes her son's babysitter during the holidays. Ariane does not recognize Mélanie and this time the balance in the relationship has changed. Mélanie is a grown up and Ariane is no longer the successful pianist she once was. Slowly, Mélanie becomes essential to Ariane's work, as she turns the pages of the partitions Ariane plays. An intricate, unhealthy relationship begins between the two women as Mélanie is set to take revenge.

"Dercourt's cool, extremely elegant and often witty film [is] a meticulous piece of work, beautifully shot by Jérôme Peyrebrune, and assembled with a proper understanding of music and the important role it can play in people's lives. In building both narrative tension and psychological resonance, Dercourt is helped no end by the excellent performances."
-- Time Out London

9:00 pm

Rêves de poussière (Dreams of Dust) (Laurent Salgues, France/Canada/Burkina Faso, 2006, 86 min.)

Mocktar is a Nigerian peasant who arrives in Essakane, a dusty gold mining town in Northeast Burkina Faso, to look for work and to forget the past that haunts him. He is quickly introduced to the small community of miners and begins working in the dangerous tunnels of the mine. Little by little, Mocktar discovers that the gold rush ended twenty years before, and the inhabitants of this wasteland manage to exist simply from force of habit. In Essakane, the life of the whole population revolves around the irrational expectation of finding gold. Among the inhabitants, the beautiful Coumba is still courageously struggling to raise her daughter. As he falls in love with Coumba, he fights not only to survive, but also to provide a better future for her and her child.

"Depicting an African hell on Earth where ant-like men burrow deep into the desert and risk their lives to mine gold, ‘Dreams of Dust’ relies on hypnotic widescreen photography to bind viewers to its grim drama. Salgues' screenplay is perfectly crafted in the Western tradition, while Crystel Fournier's striking cinematography connects the film to a broad African vision."
-- Variety