Stranger by the Lake (2013)
Written & Directed by Alain Guiraudie
Franck frequents a nude beach that doubles as a favorite spot for gay men to cruise and hook up. He befriends Henri, an older man recently broken up with his girlfriend. The two chat for a while every time Franck arrives, and he learns Henri appreciates the quiet of this side of the lake. Later, Franck sets his eyes on Michel, an incredibly handsome man who already appears to be attached. On his way home, after a late afternoon tryst with another beachgoer, Franck stumbles upon a strange scene. From his vantage point, he witnesses what appears to be a murder and Franck believes he knows the murderer. The police begin asking questions as Franck and Michel’s relationship blossoms and the beach starts to lose the splendor it once possessed for our protagonist.
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Le Havre (2011)
Written & Directed by Aki Kaurismäki
Marcel Marx is a shoe shiner in the French port city of Le Havre who lives a simple life with his wife, Arletty. Once long ago in his youth, Marcel had ambitions to be a writer and bohemian but time and a need for money put an end to that. Arletty becomes suddenly ill with a dire prognosis that Marcel is kept unaware of. Around this time, a crate of immigrants from Gabon is discovered on the docks and one of them, Idrissa, a young boy escapes the police. Marcel and Idrissa cross paths and the old man decides to house the refugee without question while trying to locate the boy’s family so they can reunite. Inspector Monet is out in the neighborhoods searching for the boy and knows Marcel by reputation as being a scoundrel and liar.
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Monsieur Lazhar (2011)
Written by Evelyne de la Chenelière and Philippe Falardeau
Directed by Philippe Falardeau
At school in Montreal, two students discover that their teacher has hung herself in the classroom. The school works quickly to push the class past this event by repainting & rearranging the room while having a psychologist make periodic visits. A new teacher is found in a rush, Mr. Lazhar, an Algerian man who goes on about his experience teaching at a university in his former home country. Lazhar brings an approach unfamiliar to the students, emphasizing the techniques of grammar and spelling over more expressive forms of learning. He reads Balzac to the children and requires them to take dictation. One student, Alice, expresses her still simmering anger and confusion over the suicide of their teacher in an essay. This outburst causes Lazhar to re-evaluate his methods and the needs of his class.
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Certified Copy (2011)
Written & Directed by Abbas Kiarostami
James Miller, a British writer, travels to Tuscany to give a talk about his book “Certified Copy” wherein he argues that reproductions and forgeries of art are just as relevant to conversations of art as the originals. This is based on his idea that even the original is a reproduction of a model or an idea and therefore all art is a reproduction of something. He meets up with an unnamed French antique dealer who is incredibly enthusiastic about his book, and they discuss his ideas on art while on a drive to a village in the countryside. Miller excuses himself during a stop to get coffee and a barista mistakes Miller and the woman for a couple, and the woman plays along telling a whole story about her husband being so distant and never spending time with their son. Things take a turn for the strange because after the woman tells Miller about the employee’s assumption, they appear to take on the personas of a real husband and wife, devolving into an argument about long-simmering tensions. So what is the reality? Do we see a roleplay or are they a couple? Alternatively, does it even matter? Are two people who are feeling the genuine emotions associated with this type of relationship just as valid a real married couple?
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Happy End (2017)
Written & Directed by Michael Haneke
Teenager Eve Laurent is suddenly thrust into the home of her estranged father and his family after her mother overdoses on antidepressants and ends up comatose. Thomas Laurent, her father, is married to his second wife who has just had their first child together. He’s also involved in an obscene affair with another woman. Anne, Eve’s aunt, owns a construction firm that has come under litigation after an onsite accident has left one of the workers on the verge of death. Anne’s son, Pierre works as the foreman on the site and appears to have emotional issues that might have led to the dangerous conditions on site. Finally, there is the patriarch Georges who is slipping into dementia and contemplating suicide to avoid what this condition will do to his mind, notably forgetting his late wife. Did I mention this is a dark comedy?
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Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Written by James Ivory
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Elio is the son of academics living in northern Italy. He spends his days consuming books and composing piano pieces. He is also in friendship with local girl Marzia where the beginnings of attraction are forming. Summer looks to be a monotonous season until Oliver arrives. Oliver is an American doctoral student who has come to get the aid of Elio’s father in revising his dissertation. Elio finds himself drawn to Oliver and even feeling pangs of jealousy when it appears the older man fancies a woman in town. As Elio explores and discovers himself in this formative year, he becomes aware of his feelings for Oliver. First, with some anger, he tries to push them aside, and finally, he confesses all of this to Oliver who reciprocates.
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Written and Directed by Julia Ducournau
Justine has arrived at veterinary school, like her parents before her and her sister, Alexia, who is in her second year. The family are devoted vegetarians, and Justine attempts to uphold this tradition at the school. However, the hazing of first years leads to her being forced to consume a rabbit’s kidney and being doused in buckets of animal blood. Something begins to change in the young woman, and she finds herself overwhelmed with a hunger for meat, even consuming it raw from the fridge. At momentary slip of scissors beings Justine to a new precipice where she develops a taste for human flesh.
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