Martine Thérouanne's White Card : Surrogate Woman by Im Kwon-taek
Im Kwon-taek is a prolific director with 104 feature films to his credit.
Vesoul previously screened ten of them, including Surrogate Woman, which was shown at the Festival’s fifth edition. Its surprisingly modern and moving subject matter appeals to all audiences, whether men or women, mothers or fathers.
A perfectly styled period drama about maternity, love, the couple and social conventions, Surrogate Woman is carried by the luminous beauty of its main actress Kang Soo-yeon, winner of the Volpi Cup best actress award at La Mostra in Venice in 1987.
Released in French cinemas during the early 1990s, “Surrogate Woman” was one of the first Korean films to be distributed in France.
Wafa Ghermani's White Card: The Housemaid by Kim Ki-young
I stumbled on The Handmaid quite by accident while attending the Rencontres Internationales du Cinéma in 1999.
I had never even heard of the director Kim Ki-young and knew nothing about 1960s Korean cinema.
But one plunges with pure pleasure and delight into the increasingly dark and nightmarish atmosphere of this film. Hitchcock’s influence is palpable in some of the anguishing, yet enticing moments of this downward spiral into hell.
When confronted with the unexpected ending, one suddenly understands the manipulative powers of cinema and infinite pleasure of dropping our guard and allowing ourselves to be caught.
Martine Armand's White Card: Taste of Cherryby Satyajit Ray
In 1992, I chose The Big City to open the Satyajit Ray retrospective that I organised at the French Cinematheque.
I was deeply moved by Ray’s first contemporary film - the sensitivity and economy of its mise en scene, the film’s power and rigour, and the audacity of its subject matter never dealt with before in Indian cinema.
And then there were its extraordinary actors, in particular a brilliant Madhabi Mukherjee as Arati, in her debut film for Ray and to whom he would later offer the role of the unforgettable Charulata.
The Big City is a subtle and humane portrait of Ray’s birthplace, Calcutta, a city he never left.
Gönul Donmez-Colin's White Card: Taste of Cherry by Abbas Kiarostami
A rare film about death that celebrates life, Taste of Cherry was special for the great master Abbas Kiarostami for winning the Golden Palm, but also for reflecting a certain period of difficulties in his life.
“So many essential elements in life are forced upon us” he explained to me.
“We do not choose our religion, our sex, our nationality, our culture, our parents, or our date of birth. It is as if we are thrown into a movie theatre without choice. You may like the film initially, but if you are forced to stay, you may not like it anymore. Only the EXIT sign holds you there. The motto. Remembering this motto gives you an option in life”.
Shahla Nahid's White Card: Foxtrot by Samuel Maoz
Samuel Maoz won the Golden Lion for Lebanon and the Silver Lion for Foxtrot at the Venice Film Festival, two films about two different versions of the same reality, that of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In Lebanon, Maoz emphasises the psychological state of the invading Israeli soldiers in a tank and the experienced by Palestinian victims seen through the tank’s viewfinder. Whereas in Foxtrot, Maoz focuses on an unintentional error committed by the Israeli army, one that has drastic consequences for a family, and by extension, reminds us of the tragedy of all unnecessary wars.
Foxtrot is a portrait of a tormented Israeli society that is permanently at war. A moving film that shocks and fascinates.
Max Tessier's White Card: Sound of the mountain by Naruse Mikio
Naruse Mikio (1905-1969), a filmmaker literally unknown in France for years, made many masterpieces, but one, Sound of the Mountain (Yama no Oto, 1954) holds a special place in his canon.
Adapted from a novel by Nobel-prize winner Kawabata Yasunari, the film concentrates less on a single female character than on the emotional relationship between Shingo (So Yamamura) and her daughter-in-law Kikuko (a magnificent Setsuko Hara), who’s faced with a cold and egotistical husband (Ken Uehara).
Shot in the narrow streets of old Kamakura, in the subtle tones of gray so typical of Naruse’s films, Sound of the Mountain forays into emotions and attitudes long forgotten today, modesty / reserve and unexpressed feelings. Their full expression is found only in the film's beautiful Nô mask.
(My warmest thanks to Carlotta Films for this remastered box set)
Bastian Meiresonne's Wild Card: Grave of the Fireflies by Takahata Isao
If I had only one animated film to recommend to animation-movie-skeptics, it would be Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies, my most devastating cinematographic trauma after Bambi’s mother got killed and Snow White chomped on the poison apple.
The transposition of Akiyuki Nosaka’s semi-autobiographical short story to the screen is perfect: an authentic moment of cinema, where style never overrides content or the films hyper-realistic details, and where the gestures of the child Setsuko were modelled on those of Brigitte Fossey in Forbidden Games.
A crucial reminder of the disastrous effects wars have on children.
Eugénie Zvonkine's White Card: The Adopted Son by Aktan Arym Kubat
Perhaps Aktan Arym Kubat’s finest film, and undeniably one of the best films to emerge from Central Asia, The Adopted Son is story of adolescence, but one very unlike its western counterparts.
The 400 Blows is all about escape and rebellion; Azat’s dream is to find his place in the community. From time to time instances of colour slip into the film’s luminous black and white photography – privileged moments outside of time, as if a particular memory, a flavor or a smell had returned to us from childhood.
More than ever before, Aktan Arym Kubat sees the world with wonder and benevolence, capable of treating the deadly serious with gentleness.
Jean-Marc Thérouanne's White Card: Insiang by Lino Brocka
I first learned about legendary filmmaker Lino Brocka while reading Positif and Cahiers du Cinéma as a teenager. He was the first Filipino director to have a film selected in Cannes, which screened Insiang in 1978 at the Directors’ Fortnight, with the beautiful actress Hilda Koronel in the main part.
Set in a Manila shanty town, this social realism film is about a teenage girl in the clutches of her domineering mother and confronted with the sexual violence of predatory men, including her mother’s young lover, a gang leader of petty thugs. The art of Lino Brocka lies in drawing viewers into the ever-rising dramatic tension of unalterable destinies, made all the more oppressive by the palpable heat of its tropical setting.
Insiang put Philippine cinema on the international cinema landscape. I would have spent a lifetime looking for a way to see this film until May 2015, when the 68th Cannes International Film Festival gave me my chance: it screened in Cannes Classics.