Ooh La La! French Film Festival Comes to Smith
Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Updated: Sunday, February 19, 2012 13:02
A new film festival will bring a French flavor to campus.
"The choice of these films is very precise. I chose the theme of the festival, ‘The Representation of the Teenage Girl in French Cinema From 1960 to Today,' especially for the Smith context," said graduate student Pauline Pelsy-Johann, one of the festival's coordinators.
The festival was organized by Pelsy-Johann alongside Christianne Beasley '12, house president of Dawes, and Benjamin Capellari, Dawes liaison and a visiting professor in the French department.
It aims to "attract an audience from all interests and specializations [in hopes] that the festival will serve as an introduction to French cinematographic history and culture," Beasley added.
English speakers need not fear: "[The] films will be shown in French with English subtitles, [so that] the event is open not only to Francophiles at Smith, but to the Smith and Five College community as a whole," Beasley said.
Pelsy-Johann has produced her own short films and videos in addition to receiving an undergraduate degree in film. The five movies in the festival showcase the work of France's most important directors, Pelsy-Johann said.
A mix of social criticism and aesthetic beauty pervades the films.
"We open the festival with À nos amours by Maurice Pialat," said Pelsy-Johann. "This movie is one of the first to show the sexual awakening of a teenage girl. As in all other films in the program, the teenage girl is lost in a world she cannot understand, in which she feels excluded, marginalized. The common characteristic between all these films is their evidence of the way young women, struggling with their own weapons, find their place in the world and society."
The second film in the series, Robert Bresson's Mouchette, "is the first movie in French film history to show a young girl as a primary character," according to Pelsy-Johann. "This movie is sad and hard, but very beautiful. It is the first time that a director gives a young woman space in his movie."
Mouchette inspired directors whose work will be viewed later in the series. Rosetta by the Dardenne brothers "is a contemporary adaptation of Mouchette," said Pelsy-Johann, adapting the film to a world thirty years older.
In Agnès Varda's 1984 Sans toit ni loi, the fourth film in the series, the class context of the sequence changes drastically. The date of the movie, 1984, is also the year that a law was created in France designating the homeless by a legal term: S.D.F., Sans Domicile Fixe, or "without certain home."
"The representation of the girl corresponds to a particular socio-politic context in France," said Pelsy-Johann. "We are in [the] post-'70s and in a well-established consumer society. The girl is a marginal person and the movie is very avant-gardiste." Using both actors and non-actors, Varda created a new genre, "a mix between fiction and documentary."
Pelsy-Johann worked as an assistant director and assisted with casting on the set of the final film in the series, Bruno Dumont's Hadewijch.
This film continues in the Mouchette tradition, "but in a 2010 context with questions about religion, faith and extremes in the quest for identity of the girl," Pelsy-Johann said.
Her experience with Dumont's working methods should encourage film enthusiasts and others to attend the discussions in Dawes house from 9 to 10 p.m. following each screening.
À nos amours and Mouchette have already screened. The remaining films in the series will be shown in Weinstein Auditorium as follows: Sans toit ni loi, on Feb. 19; Rosetta, on Feb. 20; and Hadewijch on Feb. 22. All screenings start at 6:45 p.m.
Read more about Smith's celebration of French art this week.