An Update on Jafar Panahi and Some New Films

There hasn't been any movement in Teheran on the arrest of Jafar Panahi, as far as anyone here can see. However, The New York Times has a report on one new development involving a fellow filmmaker, the great Abbas Kiarostami, a frequent collaborator with Panahi.

And my latest offering in Jewish Week is a piece on the Rendezvous with French Cinema at the Walter Reade, IFC Center and BAM. In addition to the two Jewish-themed films, I saw several other items from the series and would like to draw your attention to two personal favorites. In the Beginning, by Xavier Giannolas, is a nice, tight little morality play, based on real events, about a professional conman (Francois Cluzet, who looks enough like a slightly younger Dustin Hoffman that I found it a little unnerving) who embarks on a wildly ambitious project to revive an abandoned highway project in a severely depressed region. He becomes involved both politically and romantically with the local mayor (Emmanuelle Devos) and things become quite complicated. Giannolas keeps the film moving at such a brisk pace that you hardly realize it's two hours long. This one strikes me as a highly commercial but thoroughly worthy item, and I'm hoping someone will pick it up. Mademoiselle Chambon, by Stéphane Brizé, is even better, a warm and intelligent drama about a 40-something husband who becomes involved with his son's grade-school teacher. Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kiberlain are charming as the mismatched couple, and Brizé handles the material with a minimum of melodrama so that the complexities of the emotions stand on their own. The result is quite a lovely and nuanced film and one that I hope will find a distributor pronto.

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